The epitome of lazy PR

February 1, 2007 — 5 Comments

In terms of internet PR, it doesn’t get much better than Edelman. Aside from that little flare up with the Wal-Mart splogs, the company has been on the cutting edge of new media since the beginning. Which is why the email posted below was so surprising; it’s from an Edelman employee, but it is absolutely the opposite of how you approach potential ‘connectors’ on the internet and exactly the opposite of what a good public relations guy does.

We (Tucker directly) got an email from Dan Cohen:


From: Dan Cohen [mailto: Dan.Cohen@edelman.com]
Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 10:54 AM
To: Max, Tucker
Subject:  Super Hot Superfan Gets Hooked Up with Super Bowl Tickets

 

Wanted to shoot you a note about Sarah Spain, the die-hard Bears fan and gorgeous girl who tried to auction herself off on Ebay for a Super Bowl date and is now sifting through email submissions from guys who want to be her date. Sarah’s been blowing up the last couple days and has been receiving emails from guys all over the country looking to join her and her hot friends at the game. Check out her MySpace pages at: www.myspace.com/superbowldate and www.myspace.com/spainy.

 Any interest in speaking with Sarah or entering the contest? Also, are you heading down to Miami this weekend? If so, I’d love to put you two in touch. I know she’s hitting up a party or two this weekend, so if you’d like, I’m sure I can get you on a list.

Press Release

Super-Hot Super-Fan Wants To Take You To The Super Bowl!!!

                                                                 Sarah Spain Puts Herself Up For E-Auction, Gets Tickets to the Big Game, Now Looking For a Date 

HER  

STORY:          Sarah Spain wants nothing more than a Chicago Bears Super Bowl win; except maybe a chance to be there in person to do her own Super Bowl Shuffle. Sarah, unofficially crowned Miss Super Bowl XLI, recently put herself up for e-auction to snag a date to Sunday’s game. AXE, the legendary guy’s grooming brand known for hooking guys up with girls, has made her ploy an official reality.  AXE hooked her up with four tickets to the game, one for her, two for her friends, and to completely flip the story, a final ticket for a male date of her choice.Sarah is asking guys from around the country to email their most imaginative pitch about why they deserve to be her date to the big game.  Guys can email her at hotsuperbowldate@hotmail.com to be considered for the final ticket to join her and two of her girlfriends. Want the 411 on this Bears beauty? Come and get it…

                                     

THE HOOK  

UP:                 • Interview opportunities with Sarah Spain

 

                        • Photos of Sarah Spain, her Super Bowl tickets, her lucky girlfriends and more…
                        • Recent press coverage of Sarah’s quest

 

  WHEN:          Phone Interviews: WHENEVER! Call for scheduling

***

Really? You’re inviting Tucker Max to a party? He must like that because he drinks a lot right? The number one rule of PR is KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. Robert Greene calls them ‘marks,’ I believe. Now think about the implied condescension in the email, Cohen is essentially saying: “You’re such a nobody, you need my help to get into a party where the main attraction is a girl selling herself on Ebay.” The last thing you ever want to do is insinuate superiority.

That mistake aside, the idea of Tucker interviewing her is ludicrous. Where would he do it? He’s not even a reporter. Knowing your mark makes these slipups unlikely. Seriously, just a quick scan of any of the Rudius sites would have made that request blatantly superfluous. By leaving it in, you solidify your chances of failure. This is why you need to know a least a little about every person you email. When I email potential people about a site we’ve launched or an article we think they’d like, I try to always include a detail that proves I spent time on there site. “You’re doing a great job, I loved last week’s article on…” or “I check your site each morning” or “I remember you linked to us a few months ago about this…so I thought you might like this…too” Think about it, the blogs are run by two distinct camps: People who do it for fun and people who do it for their livelihood. Neither have time nor the energy to put up with firms that won’t bother to respect them. If I am blogging as a hobby, I’m sure as hell not going to take crap from anyone. If I am blogging as a professional, I’m only going to deal with those who treat me as a professional.

There was just no effort put into this email. It was a joke. Just look at the language. Does anyone actually say “super hot super fan?”–let alone grown men? Tone is crucial. Sure, an email to Tucker is more relaxed than one to Scoble, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to pretend like you two are friends. In fact, tone is another means to solidify the fact that you know your audience. An email to Mark Cuban might be more stream-of-consciousness, as his writing style implies. An email to Perez Hilton can probably be lewder than one sent to Page Six. By adjusting your diction and demeanor to each individual site, you not only increase the likelihood of them respond positively to your request, but you also avoid looking rude.

Here is what I would have done. Written a legitimate email. “Tucker, I love the site, the people here at Edelman keep a close eye on you because you’re one of the hottest people on the internet. We’re repping Sarah Spain as part of an account for Axe Body Spray during the SuperBowl. If you have any ideas for us, I’d like to get you on the VIP list for all the big parties in Miami this week. If it doesn’t work out, maybe we can set something up in the future.

Hope to hear from you,

Dan”

That does two things: One, it’s honest and clearly personalized. Two, it puts the ball in the client’s court, which implies respect instead of disdain. Obviously, you’re talking to Tucker because he can help you, and not vice-versa, you’ll get nowhere pretending otherwise. By being open, and asking for help, you not only open yourself up to approaches you wouldn’t have thought up yourself, but you make the client more willing to respond.

In Made to Stick (great book, btw) they talk about the ‘gap theory’ of the mind–that through allusions you can drum up curiosity. This email does none of that because all the information is right there in plain sight. If you say “Sarah Spain” like she’s someone everyone knows about, then at least to some degree she becomes worth knowing about. Instead, Cohen makes it all to clear that she is just another lab-created viral shill. If he’d left out the Myspace and perhaps even the press release, he could have hooked Rudius into an investigative response, and thus, a dialogue. You need an aura of mystery, or at least the illusion of importance. If you don’t have that, why bother?

I also would have apologized after being called out for my arrogance.

Tucker to Dan:

“In the future, if you want to send me a personalized email, then do it. But do not send me spam. I would think Edelman of all places would understand this.”

Dan to Tucker:

“Sorry, figured you’d want to hear about this girl. I included the “spam-like” elements (media alert) just for your reference”

Let’s review. Bad product. Condescension. Spam. Wasted the client’s time. Won’t admit you’re wrong. Again, this is almost step by step, exactly what you don’t want to do in internet public relations. If you screw up, or–more importantly–if someone you contacted thinks you screwed up–bend over backwards to right that wrong. Every step of the way, this was avoided. In fact, the ball is still in Cohen’s court. Seriously, we’d love to have you email us back.

Edelman really is a great company. I met some of their guys on a Trojan roundtable they set up with Dr. Drew. It was a huge success, and an innovative, grassroots PR move. This, on the other hand, is typical, old-media aloofness. It’s out of touch, a shot in the dark. And worse, it insults a person with a HUGE internet presence. Everyone in PR makes mistakes, ironically enough, I made one on Steve Rubel’s Edelman blog not too long ago. But the point is to try and minimize them, and avoid the cardinal ones. Namely, pimping a product that isn’t interesting, spamming, talking down to people, not apologizing when someone calls you out on it.

Ryan Holiday

I'm a strategist for bestselling authors and billion dollar brands like American Apparel, Tucker Max and Robert Greene. My work has been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google and has been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company.

5 responses to The epitome of lazy PR

  1. I loved this entry. It gave me some insight into the day-to-day dealings of Rudius and expanded on that with a good information about the PR side of things. Not trying to sound facetious either.

    I’ll be checking in for more entries.

  2. I sincerely apologize if I offended you and we truly appreciate the advice. I hope we can work together on something in the future.

    Dan

  3. I don’t know if you’ve been following this story about Lycos and their customer service (link goes to slashdot story) but it illustrates how important it is to cultivate and protect your image.

    It doesn’t even matter who was “right” in the Lycos case. After that kind of press, you couldn’t pay me to open an email account there. I wouldn’t trust them to provide the service and I wouldn’t trust them to take care of me as a customer if something went wrong.

    If you read the comments at slashdot, a lot of people are saying “well, you get what you pay for.” Fair enough I guess, but when someone sits down to open a new email address, who do they go with? The company who sees them as ‘just another free account’ (who is essentially saying that you get what you pay for) or the company who has treated their friends, family and coworkers fairly. You get what you pay for, but I also want the service that’s going to forgive me for little missteps now and again.

    I’m not drawing a parallel between the email exchange you had with Edelman and what the Lycos situation. One (Edelman) is relatively minor and one (Lycos) is a disaster. I just thought it would be a good place to point out how public our failures can be and how important image can be and how ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ don’t always enter the equation.

  4. You’re absolutely right Ben. Although, Cuban’s post today looks at the idea of fanboys–which is the other side of the argument, that people feel too entitled to the companies giving them what they want.

  5. Thanks for this Ryan…you’re a smart dude. I’ll continue to browse and not waste your time with to many inane comments! Cheers DH

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