I have increasingly become the target of press releases and media invitations, some sent using a system called Cision, which PR companies subscribe to, and some sent using proprietary lists. I don't mind getting them, to be honest. They are occasionally entertaining albeit rarely - if ever - relevant to me in any way.
Consequently, I'll get updates when the international governing body of aviation is announcing we're flying more now than ever or when a company is launching a new wireless networking adapter for small to medium enterprises and wants me to kindly 'cover' it. At one stage I was getting a lot of press releases about uninterruptible power supplies but these stopped abruptly. I suspect the client took a look at #UAEPR on Twitter, hauled his agency out back of the building and shot them like dogs in the street.
I can't remember if it was I started #UAEPR, @TomPaye or @TheRegos but the hashtag has collected some of the more entertaining examples of witlessness and the occasional sound of a screaming journalist pushed beyond reason. It's a little like having a drum kit in the office, it's therapeutic and cleansing and probably a lot more harmless than what some would call 'direct intervention'.
As well as the almost inevitably irrelevant nature of the announcements and media invites, one can't help to be charmed by their breathless tone. 'Hi. We've compiled an infographic of the density of chewing gum on London's streets and thought it might be interesting for readers of FAKE PLASTIC SOUKS, I've attached it but can send you a hi-res file if you like.' Occasionally the mail-merges go horribly wrong and you get addressed as 'Dear ,' or some such. One highlight was 'Dear , I hope you're having a great day!'
I was until now, yes thank you.
You might think I'm hardly in a position to throw bricks, given the day job. And you may well be right, but I'm not letting it stop me. When the agency I work for used to do a great deal more media relations work than it does now (we hardly do any and we almost never send out press releases. I think we've sent out one in the past year), I like to think we worked to a slightly higher standard, that it was about respecting the people you're dealing with and working to ensure that there was an exchange of value that made the interactions we had personal, pleasant and fruitful.
Of course, being targeted as 'a blogger' or a 'social media influencer' is slightly different. It's harder to do that exchange of value thing, because you're not really helping me to do my job by exhorting me to write about your innovation in right threaded sprockets. I don't run a right threaded sprocket magazine. And all too often you just come across as a user. You want me to write about your asparagus promotion so I can 'influence' the people who read my blog or Twitter feed. Then you can show your client you have been successful promoting their interest and they will give you money. Someone in this seeming trifecta is coming across as a donkey.
Do I like asparagus? You haven't bothered to find out, you've just sent me one of your 'Dear ,' emails. Do my readers like asparagus (do I even know who you guys are?)? Do I wish to serve my readers better by giving them more information about asparagus? Not really house style, is it? You might have a chance if you do a Dubai style three hour Bolly-laden brunch in which every dish is based on asparagus, including the desserts. That'd be worth a post, I'd reckon. And no, I don't actually want to come to your hotel and eat asparagus with you and the communications team pretending to like me.
I'll give Nokia credit, actually their agency, D'Abo, for managing a brilliant intervention when I hurled my Android mobile at a wall one night. Contextually appropriate, timely and sensitively managed, they had my much-beloved Lumia in my hands within the day and handled it so fluidly I barely saw them coming until it was too late. That was something of a rarity, I have to say.
What triggered this self-serving, snotty wee rant, you might ask? I was sent a media invitation to a mobile handset launch last night which commenced with the immortal words 'Dear Blogger'.
Look, if you want access to my tiny and frequently mystified readership, that's no problem. I'll sell 'em for a pebble, honestly. Most of them are cut-purses and charlatans anyway. All you have to do is bother to read the blog. Find out if there's any commonality or relevance to what you're pitching. Work out how likely I am to bite you for calling me out of the blue and suggesting I might like to 'depute a journalist and photographer' to your office opening. Perhaps consider the fact I have a day job and a busy old time outside that because of the writing addiction and never, ever write about the thing you're selling. And then maybe, just maybe, you might decide to pass me by. And that's just fine by me, Dear PR.
I hope you're having a great day.