If you get close enough to Silicon Valley and its associated industries and companies to meet someone in the tech public-relations game, you’ll hear at some point about how much better and smarter PR is now that we have email and social networking and other electronic magic wands with which to communicate a marketing message.
About three years ago, I contributed to a blog focused on IP telecommunications. I had done some reporting on VOIP — voice over Internet Protocol, the technology behind Vonage and other Net phone companies — and a friend who had started the blog offered to pay me pretty well for posting. But the gig didn’t last long. What did last is the appearance of my name on the blog, along with one of my email accounts.
After I stopped posting altogether, a trickle of email pitches and press releases started to arrive; the trickle turned to a stream and the stream into a torrent. The messages, with subject lines like “Symmetricom Technologist Featured Speaker at SCTE’s Conference on Emerging Technology”* and featuring companies with names like Voice-a-Roni UltraCom**, just keep coming. The people behind them, like Tammy Snook and Lindsay Whent and Julie Nicholson (to name three who are in my trash right now) don’t seem at all discouraged that I’ve never ever responded to their messages.
Not that they would be discouraged. I am loaded into an email address list with hundreds of other people who have made the mistake of showing the faintest tremor of interest in a topic and talking about it publicly. All of us get spammed on the slim, slim chance that someone, somewhere might write about Symettricom or Voice-a-Roni.
In the grand panoply of events, it’s a minor annoyance. But it illustrates one of my gripes about the way technology is used. PR people are famous for asking journalists about how they like to have stories pitched. They usually mean: would you like to get our news release by fax, phone or email? But that’s beside the point. What no decent journalist wants is some boilerplate message blindly shotgunned into the void. What each good journalist wants, if they’re open to a pitch at all, is a pitch from someone who knows what the journalist is interested in and what the journalist has written on the subject. That takes research and social skill and real interest in the recipient of one’s message. Without that thought and interest, email and the other “tools” are just dumb and robotic.
*Actual subject line
**Not a real company