Give ’em Hell, B.L.

I have been thinking a lot lately about public relations, which either means 1) my medication isn’t working or 2) I have to talk about it soon to a large group of PR people. All things being equal, I wish it were the medication.

A few weeks ago I spoke to a PR class at California State University, Fullerton. The students were using a five-year-old textbook, and until I arrived, the instructor had never used the classroom’s Internet connection (he didn’t even know they had one). Want to hear something really scary? Those students will graduate with degrees in PR and ask some of you for jobs.

Next month my business partner and I will be speaking at a media relations workshop sponsored by the Orange County, Calif., chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). We are trying to decide what to say, how to explain the changes in PR and journalism and the importance of modern communications tools like blogs and RSS.

Moreover, we want to show that it’s not just us who are saying PR people need to change their ways, but other PR people are saying it as well. It turns out you don’t need to look any further than B.L. Ochman.

In a recent post post B.L. admonished – in a way only a New Yorker can – a publicist for an event company who sent B.L. an unsolicited e-mail with a one-megabyte press release attachment. When B.L. went to the publicist’s web site, the site said “under construction.” B.L., who called the offending PR hack by name, politely and publicly requested that someone fire her.

Some who commented on B.L.’s post said she was wrong to call out the publicist, that the post was “heartless” and might hurt the publicist’s career. That’s their opinion. My only comment for the PR world is that if you pitch a blogger, then prepare to be blogged. Do your homework first. B.L. is smart and well respected but she also doesn’t pull any punches and says exactly what she wants, whenever and to whomever she wants.

It’s simple: If you don’t want to be verbally abused by a churlish bully who loves himself more than Donald Rumsfeld loves lying to Congress, then don’t go on The O’Reilly Factor. If you don’t want B.L. Ochman to write about how lame you are, then don’t send her your unwanted press releases.

Others commented that B.L.’s role is to teach PR people the right way to pitch bloggers; B.L. said that’s not her job. I agree, almost – as professional communicators we do need to educate, however we don’t need to baby-sit or make excuses for other people’s laziness or self-imposed ignorance.

There is a certain amount of communications Darwinism going on today, a self-policing, professional “natural selection” that is necessary for PR to evolve. Bad PR people need to “get it” or do something else. Education doesn’t come to you – you first have to want to be educated and then be humble enough to seek it out.

B.L. wants to know why “clueless” publicists still have jobs. I don’t know the answer either, though it’s probably similar to why clueless Americans watch Fox News Channel or why CNN anchor Daryn Kagan can look at Rush Limbaugh and think, “damn, that is one handsome man and I can’t wait to be his fourth wife.” People do strange things – don’t forget Dennis Miller once hosted Monday Night Football.

I’m looking forward to the PRSA talk. I’m going to share B.L.’s post as well as some others from the PR blogosphere. Most of all, I hope the attendees learn something and are among those who survive and thrive in the modern age of public relations.

If all goes well, B.L. will get fewer ignorant e-mail pitches and I will be able to stop taking my medication for good. Sure, I’ll miss some of the more interesting side effects, but the PR world will be a better place, and I would much rather live with that.

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3 Responses to Give ’em Hell, B.L.

  1. B.L. Ochman says:

    Thanks for your very thorough look at this situation. Was I harsh asking that this woman be fired? Yes, I was.
    When curiosity got the better of me and I looked at the ONE MEG press release, it seemed to be about some kind of male escort service for PR events. It had three very fuzzy photos of young men with their shirts off or open and a press release from hell that was unintelligible. That’s when I wrote the post.
    I am sure i will continue to hear from clueless PR people, and to receive press releases from hell. I will keep telling them why they shouldn’t send unsolicited email attachments, particularly 1 MEG attachments. And I will continue to rewrite their releases for the next update of my best-selling report, Press Releases From Hell and How to Fix Them. :>)

  2. david parmet says:

    Actually it is an escort service… out of curiousity I googled the name of the publicist that BL called out.
    Count me as one of the people who thought BL was being a bit harsh although I do agree with the sentiment. I haven’t been at this (PR Blogging) long enough to have received many pitches, let along pitchs with attachments. But I’m still surprised in this day and age to come across PR practitioners – even those doing tech PR – who don’t know that the surest way to annoy reporters is sending them attachments and HTML email.

  3. Jeremy says:

    I like Parmet, as he’s a good guy – but Poshability is a PR firm, not an escort firm.
    PR bunnies, escorts – sometimes during the dotcom era, I wondered, but nope PR firm.

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