Should We Be Nicer to PR People?

newsweek_premailsThis week, Newsweek published the diary of a journalist who read and replied to every PR email that came through his inbox for a week.  I clicked on that headline like the sucker I am, though I am usually against* “I Did X For A Week” pieces that seem to be coming more and more popular. From talking to strangers to doing your kids homework, they usually scroll a few digital pages (click! click!), are formatted journal-style to make them easy to read, and often include just the right amount of snark and existential anxiety that make them easy to finish, comment on, and share. They’re digital publishing stunts.

But, anyway, could you imagine replying to every PR email you received?

I’m just a lowly blogger. I don’t know that it would actually set me two or three hours behind each day to answer all the emails and invites I get. Maybe half of an hour. But I still get a lot of them, and usually ones that make no sense to me. Why is it that so many PR emails are so wrong?

Assumption 1) Because PR is actually a skill that too many people think they have. And too many startups or party planners or grad students with a cool Kickstarter idea are just hijacking friends or broke college grads to do it. Sometimes even when a pitch is just remotely related to something I write about, if it’s well done, I’ll consider it for a minute. Good PR is sort of like porn, hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

Assumption 2) PR people think journalists are jerks. Just like we host a series of bad PR pitches on our websites, they think we are so desperate for fodder and clicks (insert awkward emoji face here) that we’re going to just up and write about their e-commerce app, even though you’ve never written about apps, or e-commerce, or technology anywhere on the Internet. They think they’re doing us a favor.

Assumption 3) Gmail algorithms should be able to fix this. Remember when they separated our inboxes and marketers flipped out? What ever happened to that easy “unsubscribe” button?

Instead of responding to every PR email and giving that poor kid (in my mind, they are usually kids, because it’s too sad to imagine anything else) a false hope that he’s going to get a write-up on Newsweek, we should blame Google. If it worked well, I would never have to see emails with multiple exclamation points or semi-colons in the subject line.

What about you — do you respond to pitch emails to say “thanks, but no thanks,” or are you a real jerk and “report as spam,” even though there’s probably a human on the other end? Let us know in the comments or @10,000Words.

*I know, I’m also against against X pieces in general, too.

Image via Newsweek