But Will the Offenders Care?

    January 20, 2006

I wrote recently about Jim Horton’s proposal for calling out PR practitioners who use spam as a means of content distribution.

“Whenever a PR firm spams any PR blogger, we out the firm in our blogs and brand them with a Scarlet S for spammer,” Jim suggested. Fast on the heels of that suggestion comes The Bad Pitch Blog. Outing PR practitioners is the goal, but spam isn’t the focus. As the title suggests, authors Kevin Dugan and Richard Laermer want to expose practitioners who give the rest of us a bad name by making clueless and stupid pitches. (Don’t you love blogs with titles that actually describe what they’re about? What…you don’t think “a shel of my former self” describes a blog about organizational communications?)

My concern about Horton’s proposal was based on the fact that not everything that looks like spam actually is spam. Dugan agrees that fact-checking is in order before engaging in public humiliation. In fact, they’ve implemented a “three strikes” rule:

The author of the bad pitch will remain anonymous until they have sent out three separate pitches that are all deemed to be bad. This rule applies to agencies as well. So if we receive three bad pitches from three different people at Dewey Cheatem and Howe PR, the agency will be outed officially.

Good idea. Kevin and Richard want you to send bad pitches you receive to them for consideration.

The first pitch sets the tone well, an extraordinarly long email sent to list but addressed to FIRST NAME. (The merge function in whatever email app they were using obviously didn’t work.)

Why are Kevin and Richard doing this? They say they’re fed up with an entire industry colored by the actions of a few. “It’s our hope,” they assert, “that the Bad Pitch blog will entertain the true victims of this practice, the PR industry, and it will help the guilty parties improve.”

I’m certain the pair will achieve the first goal, but only hopeful that they’ll achieve the second. After all, do people who practice this kind of PR really care what anybody else thinks of them? A third outcome, though, might be the transparency created when people see the industry pointing a finger at its own transgressors, leading to some of the image rehabilitation we so sorely need.

In any case, I can’t wait to see the bad pitches yet to come. I only hope maintaining the blog with the scads of bad pitches out there doesn’t overwhelm Kevin and Richard and keep them from the day jobs!

Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.