Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Smart People PR Not So Smart

Today's obnoxious PR was an interesting one. I get a lot of e-mail about film and TV in general sent to my Frames Per Second inbox, which sorta makes sense because of the name. But if you spend even thirty seconds actually looking at the site, you'll see that it's all about animation.

Still, I get a lot of irrelevant stuff that's just blasted out impersonally. Today, however, I got one courtesy of Mammoth Advertising, promoting an upcoming film. Here's a redacted version of the message body:
I noticed that your site has posts about Independent Film and wanted to reach out! I work for a digital PR firm (Mammoth Advertising in NYC) and am reaching out to sites interested in [celebrity] and [movie] to spread the word about the April 11 release. I know your site focuses more on red carpet and celebrity events more than just film, but I wanted to email you anyway -- I work with a few different studios so if you ever need information or materials for a specific film, please feel free to email me anytime!
It's a bit of an odd nut. It's written as if the person who sent it actually took the time to look at the site, but they clearly haven't. Here's my sentence-by-sentence reaction:
I noticed that your site has posts about Independent Film and wanted to reach out!
Okay, the site's about animation, but we do post a lot about independent animation, which is still independent film. You've apparently taken the time to look at my site, so you've already built up some good will. I'm listening.
I work for a digital PR firm (Mammoth Advertising in NYC) and am reaching out to sites interested in [celebrity] and [movie] to spread the word about the April 11 release.
Huh? Why would I be interested in [celebrity], whose only animation credit is a single voicever almost thirty years ago? And why would an animation site be interested in a live-action movie? You've just thrown away the good will, even faster than you'd gotten it.
I know your site focuses more on red carpet and celebrity events more than just film, but I wanted to email you anyway -- I work with a few different studios so if you ever need information or materials for a specific film, please feel free to email me anytime!
Really? You "know" my site focuses on these things? In the 16-plus years since I launched the magazine, Frames Per Second has covered exactly one red-carpet event—the premiere of Barnyard—as part of a broader look at how Hollywood studios court the press for animated features. And don't get me started on celebrity culture.

I don't know what's worse: a press release that's obviously mass-mailed with no regard for a publication's particular bent, or one that pretends to be tailored, but is just as oblivious or unconcerned. I do know who's a candidate for my spam filter, though.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Yes, There Is Such a Thing as Bad Publicity

Last October Wired editor Chris Anderson made waves when, fed up with mountains of press releases sent to him by public-relations (PR) people who clearly hadn't bothered to see if he'd actually be interested in what he had to say, he posted the e-mail addresses of 30 days' worth of culprits on his blog.

While I don't agree with his response, I definitely understand what drove him to such lengths. While journalists can request to be placed on a PR mailing list, many, if not most, press releases are unsolicited. As technology has made it easier to harvest e-mail addresses, however, working journalists are discovering that most of the press releases the see may as well be spam.

Last September, I was in a heated debate with a friend who works in PR about why people like me delete most of the press releases we get within two seconds. When Anderson's post hit a month later, I considered blogging regularly about the crap I get in my inbox, but never got around to it because he'd dramatically brought the issue to light.

Apparently, he wasn't dramatic enough.

When I checked my inbox this morning, I got a press release about a music website for independent artists. Here's an excerpt:
IACmusic.com is an indie all-star site, it recently got mention in Rolling Stone, and has been called the online world's most innovative music portal. Cashbox found the quality of music on the site so outstanding that now all content on their Indie Charts comes directly from IAC. Our traffic is huge and growing, word of mouth is off the hook, and our station set-up is years beyond any other music site. Meanwhile, our community is thriving with station managers who actively pounce on the new releases and will help promote your songs for you. Also, IAC stations will soon be available to listen to via any cellphone with our recent move into that arena.
Mm-hm, yeah, uh-huh.

Now, I want you to make note of the website: IACmusic.com. Got that? IACmusic.com. I hope you remember the name, because of one little detail I didn't mention before.

Toby, the author of the message and IACmusic.com's A&R, didn't send the press release to any of the e-mail addresses that's associated with my writing work. Nope. Toby has the distinction of being the very first person to spam me at Heal Emru, the website I maintain as part of my search for a compatible bone marrow donor to help fight my leukemia.

Now, it does say on the site that I'm a media and technology writer. And I've made no secret of the fact that I'm still working, even when I'm in the hospital for chemotherapy. However, that implies that Toby actually stopped and read the site, but didn't take the extra few seconds on Google to find the appropriate e-mail address for press material. The address he sent it to actually goes to more than one person, and is used to keep track of information people send us from around the world to help, well, heal me.

I rarely use boldface in my writing, but this is important: IACmusic.com, through Toby, wasted time from the part of the day I devote to trying to save my life. My sister suggested earlier that I shouldn't waste more time by posting about this. I couldn't disagree more. They wanted me to mention them, and now I have. I hope the few seconds Toby saved were worth it.

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