Dear No Name (or, How to Get Blacklisted by a Journalist)

The one guy who might read an email to No Name.
Last month I received an email from a job-matching company who shall remain nameless (you'll see why in a moment). Now I usually don't read emails with the subject line "Build Your Candidate Pipeline" since I'm hardly a recruiter . . . but for some reason I opened it and was greeted by the words:

"Dear No Name,"

Wow. Really?

Obviously something went haywire in the mail merge, so I sent a quick reply gently informing them of their goof  -- and said a little prayer that they hadn't blasted this same greeting to 50,000 people.

What's sad is that "Dear No Name" is hardly the most painful pitch I've encountered in the last 10 years. No, that honor goes to the HR companies that email their news releases to journalists with a subject line that reads only "Press Release." Or their company name. Or "HR."

If by some miracle these pitches aren't deleted instantly, the fun continues in the greeting above the press release, which is supposed to A) sum up the news and B) tell the media person why they should care. Some greetings have typos. Some pitches don't bother with a greeting. Some don't bother with a greeting or a headline -- they just begin with the first paragraph of the press release.

Even on those emails that exceed the above criteria, most don't bother to use the name of the person who's supposed to read their news. These emails might as well start with "Dear Mass Mailing Victim."

For all the days, weeks (and sometimes, God help us, months) we spend writing, crafting, rewriting and approving a press release, it boggles my mind when a company devotes little or no though to the distribution.

Try this article pitch, sent last month to our blog (typos are preserved):

I would like you to consider my article "Picking up vital signs of impending employee resignation" for publication. I have not found much on this subject online or in print, so this subject will be useful for your readers. All the necessary publication info is in the attached document. Look forwad to hear from you."

Really, is there any doubt this was a mass mailing? Maybe the "marketing" part of our name wasn't clear enough.

That's why we just released a new white paper, "Social Influence: Thriving in a New World of Media Relations." The playing field has expanded from journalists and analysts to include bloggers, tweeters, and industry personalities whom you may never have heard of, but who nevertheless have a devoted following. If you're trying to tell your company's story, you cannot afford to send impersonal, shotgun pitches . . . or to blow off building relationships with the people who write about your space.

The article is free (no registration!), so download a copy here. You'll learn about brand visibility, content marketing, media analytics tools like SocialEars, and the importance of relationships. At the end there's a checklist of media relations tips. Even if you jet-ski over everything else, read the checklist before you send another pitch. Believe me, you don't want your pitch to show up in someone's PR failblog.

Posted by Elrond Lawrence, vice president of media relations

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