A CEO Called Me Because I Didn't Respond to His PR Team

4 years ago

Over the weekend I picked up a voicemail from the CEO of a company that had sent me a product for review last November. Curious, I called him back. It seems his PR team told him they hadn't heard back from me when they followed up. I told him he needed a new PR team, and we had a frank talk about how to work with bloggers: Just stop following up.

Credit Image: hyperdashery badges on Flickr

I know the logical thing to do with pitches is to follow up. I started out in public relations, back when PR meant faxing a press release with eighteen different cover sheets and then calling a few days later to follow up. I'm seriously shocked at the number of PR companies still following basically this same strategy now in the era of Everything Is Indexed. The CEO seemed honestly confused, though, and said since his PR people said they couldn't reach me, well, then he'd just call me himself. (My cell phone number is in my BlogHer email signature, in case you're wondering how he got my number.)

I asked if he or anyone working for him had read BlogHer to see if I'd covered his product. I'd put it in a gift guide months ago. He had no answer for this, but clearly the answer was "no." Then I asked if he had a Google alert on the product, or if he'd tried searching on my name and the name of his product. Again, no. I don't write this to shame this CEO, as he seemed honestly perplexed and eager to learn where his team had gone wrong. But seriously? In this day and age when you can set alerts or instantly search through a gadzillion web pages in .04 nanoseconds, why would anyone follow up via email? Either the writer covered it or she didn't, and if it's been four months with no coverage, it's not going to happen. No amount of following up is going to change that.

Then I told this guy how many product pitches I get via both my work email and my personal email every day. And I am not topping out, I'm sure. I can't imagine what someone who routinely covers products (as opposed to my once-in-a-quarter gift guides or very sporadic product reviews) must get. He seemed really shocked to hear the number. I explained when I started out as a blogger, I used to write everyone back, but then the emails piled up higher and higher and higher and I realized that if I took the time to respond to all of them, I wouldn't get any actual work done. It's a hard fact of life, but email has changed the way business communicates. Our inboxes are stuffed to capacity. I sometimes don't answer the emails of people I love talking to because in the name of holding down a full-time job, a husband, a kid, an extended family and a few friends, I barely write on my blog, let alone get through all of my email. And I think I actually get a lot less email than many of my peers thanks to my quarterly UNSUBSCRIBE UNSUBSCRIBE UNSUBSCRIBE freakouts.

I told this CEO all these things. Then I googled my name and the name of his product and emailed him the link to the gift guide. And I hung up.

Has anyone ever called you like this before? Do you write back to PR people who are pitching you article ideas and products to review? How much email do you delete without even reading it? I'm curious. Please let me know in the comments!

Rita Arens is the author of the young adult novel The Obvious Game & the deputy editor of BlogHer.com. Find more at www.ritaarens.com.

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