This is a real email I received a couple of days ago:
I came across your company Shonali Burke Consulting and wanted to connect with you with regards to how you handle your issue/topic tracking in the media. Recently, I have worked with organizations who have needed help during issues or major events in their history to promote and protect their brand.
<REDACTED> has worked with similar large organizations such as Disney and Burger King to support their efforts to effectively manage their brand. I would like to set up a 15 minute phone call with you to demonstrate how <REDACTED> helps with:
Please let me know when would be a convenient time to set up this call. If you are unable to connect; however, feel there is another individual who would be more appropriate to connect with please let me know and I will connect with them appropriately. Thank you in advance.
Additionally, I will be sending out periodic communications regarding this topic – please feel free to unsubscribe at anytime.
To which I replied:
Since I have not opted into any communications from you, I shouldn’t have to “unsubscribe.” You do not have my permission to put me on any mailing lists. So please don’t.
Also, it is clear to me that in “coming across” my company you haven’t done any further research on who I am or what I do, else you would know that I am an agency of one (which is clearly stated on my website, had you taken the time to read it/do any research), so therefore there is no other “individual who would be more appropriate to connect with.” Or that my business is nothing like a Disney or Burger King.
At this time I am not interested in a <REDACTED> demo. If I am, I will get in touch with someone.
I get a couple of emails like this almost every day. You probably do as well.
And what floors me (though maybe it shouldn’t) is that it’s not just bad publicists whose pitches suck.
It’s people like this – business development managers, and so on, who find our names on some list, or maybe see them on Twitter and, in their urgency to check off as many boxes as possible on their prospect list, do so in the most ham-handed fashion ever.
I get that, as businesses, you have to keep looking for new business, keep trying to open new doors, keep trying to form those relationships that will one day lead to a sale, or a new customer.
But this is not the way to do it.
If you’re going to personalize your email (at least it wasn’t an HTML email, thank God), then how about actually personalizing it, showing the recipient you understand who they are and what they really do?
And if you don’t know, even something like “I’d love to learn more about what you do and see if _____ might be of interest to you” would have been better.
Junk the “it’ll only take 15 minutes” line. That’s a lie. It always takes more than 15 minutes.
And for heaven’s sake, don’t ever ever EVER presume that anyone is going to want to be on an email list they never opted in to in the first place.
Pitching isn’t just for publicists
When we talk about how to pitch or not to pitch, we often focus on the media/blogger pitches we receive/hear about. But the truth is that the ability to write a good pitch is a skill that everyone in your business needs to develop.
And it’s not just email pitches that you need to learn how to write; it’s how to pitch people on social networks, such as Twitter, as well.
Just this morning, I saw a DM from someone I only “talked to” for the first time yesterday during #VocusChat. I followed this person because it seemed we were interested in the same things. Next thing I know, I get a DM from her (the first one ever) which seemed suspiciously automated, inviting me to tell her more about me and “like” her Facebook Page.
Come on. Really?
You want to open new doors to your service or product? Approach the people you’re pitching as if they’re human beings. Because, shock and awe, they are.
Focus on building community. Be polite. Be patient. Be persistent but recognize when “no” means “no”… though if you are smart and stay in touch with a delicate hand, you’ll convert that “no” into a “Sure, I’ll take a look at it,” and maybe you’ll create a devout fan. At the very least you won’t be the bile that rises in their mouth any time they hear your business’ name.
That’s how Courtney Vaught approached me regarding Traackr. It took several months before I tested the system, and now I can’t say enough good things about it.
The spray and pray tactic may work for a while, but increasingly, it won’t. And if you’re not going to take the time to get your relationships off the ground in the right way …
… well, that’s how to fail in business without really trying.
What do you think? Have you had similar experiences? If you work with businesses regularly on honing their pitching skills, what tips can you leave? Do share.
Image: clasesdeperiodismo via Flickr, CC 2.0
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I didn’t say I ‘worked’ with Disney and Burger King, I said I had ‘been’ to both. And when I asked if you weren’t the person to talk to I was hoping you were going to get on the phone with your deep, sexy voice acting like you were someone else………..
In my day job, we are all about business development. The majority of our new business development is through referals or people we know. We don’t advertise per se and our ‘brand’ has been developed through consistent performance and reputation over the last 70 years.
Having said that, we do bring new people on and they have to find a way to reach out to develop new business. Personally, I have found just about all e-mail and direct mail pre-approach correspondence is not very effective regardless of what you say or make it look like………….unfortunately.
Because we are much more specific in our target audience we wouldn’t do much mass mailings anyway, but it is very tough for the new people starting out so don’t beat up the ‘rookies’ too bad, we were all there once, huh?
Since you do receive a lot of this, have there been any that did catch your attention? And if so, was it because of the message and the way it was presented?
@bdorman264 You’re just lucky I didn’t pass you along to Suzy Q. Her deep, sexy voice can sound quite menacing at times…
Honestly, when I receive emails like this one I usually ignore them. What steamed me about this one was the reference to the emails he’d be sending out and I should “feel free to unsubscribe.” I understand the cold calling/emailing part of biz dev (though I think even then there is a smart way to do it) – the mass approach just doesn’t work for me. If he hadn’t written that about the email, I would have just ignored it. But to even imagine yet another email coming in without my asking for it just sent me over the edge.
A while back, someone sent me a one- or two-sentence email about why he’d be the perfect person to ghostwrite a book for me. It was REALLY well written, and funny, and I remember thinking that if I ever needed it, he’d be the person I’d call. But now I can’t find the email…
@Shonali It was written in invisible-ghost ink, that’s why………:)
@bdorman264 Yet another super-power I have yet to master. Maybe @NancyD68 can give me tips on unleashing my inner superhero!
@jruthkelly Thanks so much.
Well, you know how I feel about this. A couple of months ago, I received an email from the biz dev person at a competing PR firm. The email talked about how important content and social media is to a company and then offered to help do that for us. Because I know their CEO, I called over there and suggested his biz dev person should take a look at the list again. I think I even got a little snotty by saying something to the effect that we clearly know what we’re doing in the content and social areas. My point is, you’re right. Bad pitches isn’t just for bad publicists. Let’s get it together, people!
@ginidietrich That kind of thing has happened to me too… or, someone pitches me their CEO for an interview and I actually know the CEO really well. It would be like one of your AD peeps pitching me an interview with you. I remember I forwarded the email to the CEO and (in a nice way) suggested s/he have a talk with this person about doing more research. The CEO was mortified.
@potterfg @justinthesouth Thank you!
@shonali You know it!
@jocmbarnett @VoxOptima Thanks so much for sharing.
@shonali Our pleasure; we enjoyed the article. Have a great weekend!
@theprcoach Thank you for sharing!
@shonali You’re welcome Shonali
@shakirahdawud @ericamallison Thank you!
It seems as if the directions are in the title, Shonali. Excellent! I don’t get a lot of these, but the number has increased in recent months.
@ShakirahDawud They are SO irritating. And you can probably blame your Klout score for that. :p
@jimmyvinicky That’s a good point, a lot of people are told they HAVE to get these out. But… they can still research, no? @MattLaCasse
@shonali @mattlacasse Was my first job & I was naive. The company was very successful & I trusted their approach. I bet this happens often.
@shonali @jimmyvinicky First of all. Ham-handed? Thanks for making me hungry. ;) 2nd of all. I feel like pitching should be a skill taught..
The “spray and pray” tactic…OMG. Priceless. As to the rest? No comment. So done with the peeps who claim to be in public relations lending our field such poor cred.
@Soulati | PR Thanks! I don’t think I came up with spray and pray, though, so can’t really take credit for it. I wish I could remember who did.
They should have written something like: “To the Lovely Shonali, goddess of all that is good and a gift to the PR world.” You would have shaken your head, rolled your eyes and kept reading just to see what else was in it….maybe.
The problem is that people buy into the idea that sales is a numbers game and treat it as such. If you send out a bazillion notes eventually you will get someone to sign on the dotted line.
But that personal touch always makes a difference in establishing real and effective relationships. Those are the ones that yield real dividends.
@TheJackB “Goddess of all that is good…” what have you been drinking, LOL?
Yes, I think @Tacamor are on the right track – a grumpy note from someone like me is a small price to pay for the hundreds that wouldn’t care. It will be interesting to see how this company does in the long run.
@Shonali I only wish that I had a drink. It is still early here and there is much work to be done. The hard part is that it is 80 outside and beautiful.@Tacamor
Wow. The thing that alarmed me is that this isn’t rocket science. I did 8 blogger campaigns for this one company. They kept getting hundreds of bloggers to talk about their clients so they kept hiring me. One day, they asked me if I would tell them my secret. Basically, make myself obsolete.
I named my price, they didn’t take it. It was really two small tiny little things, and they’re both covered in your post. I so wanted them to hire me so I could go to the meeting and say “build real relationships”. And then just walk out. Yes, it takes longer. But it’s worth it.
@Tinu OMG, I wish you *had* been able to walk in, say three words, and walk out. That would have been priceless.
That’s the thing – this ISN’T rocket science. It’s almost as if the more technology makes communication easier, the less commonsense they apply. In fact, I think it is. Because it’s easy and free, they think nothing of it. If, on the other hand, they had to spend a ton of money on acquiring names & addresses, they’d probably be a lot more careful about how they used it.
@lornepike Don’t give me a swollen head. :) Thank you for sharing!
@kdillabough @joey_strawn Thank you for sharing!
Other business owners add me to their emailing lists all the time. It’s very irritating because I’m suddenly receiving emails about office furniture and wondering how and why I’m receiving the emails and trying to find the unsubscribe button. I have an e-letter, and I’m trying to grow the subscriber list but I always ask people if they would like to be added to the list. I’ve worked with people who don’t do that, and guess what? Their e-letter provider locks their account because of spam complaints.
@Erin F. This is one of the reasons I’m almost petrified of handing my business card out at networking events, because more often than not, someone I’ve just met for the first time will add me to their email list. I don’t even think they know what they’re doing is a no-no, let alone spammy, because they seem to be nice, decent people. And I’ve heard the same thing about e-letter accounts being locked because someone was added without their consent and complained about it as spam. I’ve been thinking of starting up an e-newsletter, but I’d be very very careful about how I did it!
Thanks for being patient with me yesterday, Erin. :)
@Shonaliginidietrich led me through the correct way to launch an e-letter campaign. :) I know it’s going to take time to grow my list, but I’m sure it will as I start to send more e-letters. I’m getting ready to send the second one in a few weeks.
Thanks, Shonali. I’m afraid it’s just fishing with a big net. They get a lot of small fry that they don’t want, but they don’t care; they’ll just toss ’em back or ignore them altogether. As long as they get their big fish every now and then, the cost of making sure they don’t get any small ones in the net is just part of doing business. From a pure cost-analysis point of view, there may even be some merit in that. But from a PR, care-what-you-look-like-and-how-you-affect-others point of view, there is indeed a cost to this type of sales activity, and it’s a lot more than they ever want to admit.
@Tacamor I think you’re absolutely right. They’re doing a cost-benefit analysis (even if unconsciously) and so they’ll keep spraying and praying. I know one thing – I will be looking closely at this company in the time to come to see how they actually do.
Thanks for taking the time to comment!
@Shonali@Tacamor Wow, maybe you should talk about this from a cost-benefit analysis standpoint. Because including lost business in those figures turns that model on its head.
I get that these are bad pitches. I am wondering about something different. I may be totally off base, but is it really something to spend all of our energy on? Should we maybe take the time to talk more about what works than what fails?
As someone starting out, I read these posts about how pitches fail, and I am terrified to pitch anything to anyone. Terrified. All I have is the fear of God (pardon the expression) struck into me that anything I send may be seen as spammy and therefore, a failure.
I think many of us who want to establish ourselves know not to send pitches blindly, but maybe we could discuss what TO do instead of what not to do.
Maybe I am wrong, and maybe I am too small to say anything, and you can feel free to ignore this as pure nonsense, but we talk a lot about what fails and do not talk all that much about what works and I am wondering why.
Just my 0.02 on a rainy Thursday here in Jersey.
@NancyD68 1) You’re not wrong (IMHO) and 2) you’re definitely not too small to say anything!
You’re absolutely right, Nancy. We do focus a lot on what is bad/what doesn’t work. Why? Because these are the things that get us riled up (and fired up enough to write about), and frankly, I think everyone likes a good bitch-fest now and again. But I’ve been trying not to do too much of that, as I hope you’ll see if you go through WUL posts over time – it takes a LOT for me to do this. I don’t typically respond to these kinds of emails either, unless I’m in a really crabby mood or it’s just completely egregious – what tipped me over, on this one, was the assumption that it would be totally ok to send me emails about this service without my requesting them.
The flip side of the “what not to do” posts is that in between the lines is “what to do.” I can’t teach anyone how to write a perfect pitch, because first, there’s no such thing, and second, a good pitch will be so tailored and personalized that I can’t do it for someone else. Honestly, if you’re going about your pitches/calls in a clear and up front manner, then you have a lot less to worry about.
I completely get what you’re saying about having the fear of God struck into you. I felt like that too when I was starting out (and still do), but at the end of the day, if I’m comfortable with what I wrote/pitched, then that’s that. Someone wants to take it amiss? Fine, that’s their prerogative. But at least I know I didn’t do the “what not to do” bits.
Having said all that, I should write a post on the how to so that I am really walking my talk. :) Is there anything specific you’d like me to focus on? And I will dedicate it to you!
Thank you very much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment. It’s raining here too, btw. Ugh.
@Shonali Well..for me the biggest thing I need to learn is how to be myself, and be seen as a professional. I am in the rut of being everyone’s friend, which is great, but I am not who people think of when they think of great writing or who to call/email to post on their blogs.
So, i guess the “how-to” I would ask for is this “How to be seen as a professional without sacrificing your personality” I hope that makes sense. :)
Now that would make a great post. If not here then on another blog. @NancyD68 @Shonali cough *wgb post* cough :)
@Tinu LOL. I hope that cough doesn’t get too nasty. :p @NancyD68
@NancyD68 I’ve been thinking about your question ever since you posted this, Nancy (I couldn’t comment last evening because Livefyre was down and by the time it was running again, I was knee-deep in writing). I can do that!
The other question I have for you, though, is about what you said here: “I am not who people think of when they think of great writing or who to call/email to post on their blogs.” I do read your blog and it’s very personal, which makes it extremely readable. But I guess if you’re looking for more guest posts, etc., to do, then I’d ask first, why? And second, do you think you’re able to provide the content that fit in with what those blogs provide? If yes, then go for it!
Btw, if you’re ever interested in writing for WUL, I’d love it. The specs are all in the “write” page. :)
@Shonali I do blog about social media as well. I keep my blog personal since I am always working on my writing. I am happy to hear that you read my blog.
I am always looking for guest posts. I will send you something and hopefully you will like it.
@Shonali to answer why am I always looking for guest posts – there are two reasons. First, I want to be able to do this as a sustainable living and having a large portfolio of very varied work is always good.
Second, when I first began working in marketing (I have a sales background) I was told that I stunk at blogging about social media, so I continue to work at it and I no longer stink at it. I blog for a small internet marketing company near my house and that is of course helping me keep my skills up. I post twice a week for them, and now they want YouTube videos!
So, that is why. Because my personal blog is so personal that no one thinks of the fact that I am in sales and marketing. The only way for me to change that is to blog about sales and marketing, but with my take on things. :)
That was a long answer. I have more to say than I thought I did!
@NancyD68 I got your email and it is TOP of my list to reply to!
@NancyD68 Have you thought of starting up your own marketing/social media related blog… or turning your current personal blog into a more social media oriented one? I think it’s great that you’re getting to blog for the company, but part of me feels like the more practice you have, writing for a few different properties, the better it will be for you.
The other thing about your personal blog is that … wait, I think that’s a better comment for email. :)
The dialogue has to start somewhere, is my view. Saying nothing doesn’t seem to fix anything. But no, what you’re saying isn’t pure nonsense. As a community though, we can get past the ranting and come up with solutions.
Shonali spends Most of her time giving so much to the community – for both business and PR – she’s one of the few voices that some of these bigger firms will listen to in this space. Ten of her saying something may turn the trend.
Wouldn’t be the first time. @NancyD68 Love how brave you are to speak up even when you thought your voice was too small. It isn’t.
@Tinu@hackmanj@ginidietrich I guess the post really rubbed me as a rant, and I felt the need to say something. I like to fool around with my fiends that i am small, but I am mean :)
Good things come in small packages. Maybe this is what needed to happen to get us talking about solutions rather than problems
@NancyD68 I’m glad you did feel the need to say something, because look at how far we’ve gone since your original comment! @Tinu @hackmanj @ginidietrich
@Tinu Aw, thank you, Teenz. I’m picky about my communities, though, as you know. :p @NancyD68
It’s really interesting to see how “the pitch” works in business settings, as I’ve only been on the PR-media business of pitches previously. I agree with your point – it’s a skill that is applicable in many settings, not just in PR. I currently work in higher education advancement and development communications, and it’s the same line of thinking for fundraising. I can see how the pitch is just one method of getting your foot in the door, but the relationship-building will go a lot further in the long run.
@Krista What is interesting to me is that “PR people” get beaten up all the time for bad pitches, yet very few people actually call the other folk who are equally heinous at it. And that’s not fair.
@redtype Thanks for sharing!