A private note to PR people

Instead of cleaning up their industry and getting rid of all the people who send me bad pitches, the industry has gone on attack. Shel Holtz has one of the kinder versions of this attack.

This is why I got out of the news business and why I don’t care anymore about getting on Digg or Techmeme. Many PR people have an entitlement attitude. “We will get you to cover our products one way or another.”

Shel: of course journalists want you to pitch them on email. Out of 1000 pitches 995 are crappy. I sure wouldn’t want to get 995 crappy pitches on my phone. Or 995 crappy pitches face-to-face. Email is the most efficient place to get crappy pitches. Actually that’s not true. Twitter is a far better place for crappy pitches. Why? Because they are limited to 140 characters (which actually greatly improves your chances — only 237 out of 1,000 pitches on Twitter are crappy).

I was wrong, though, to paint every PR person with the “PR sucks” brush. There are good ones. I do read every PR pitch, even the crappy ones. Of course I was being obstinate. This is blowback because I get so many crappy pitches for so many things I don’t care about.

I am not the first to ask PR people to both send me better pitches and to not do it in email. Dan Gillmor, a real professional journalist (who worked for the San Jose Mercury News and who was instrumental in getting the DOJ to go after Microsoft) said that long before I did. Back when he did that I didn’t pay attention because the PR industry hadn’t yet started sending me lots of lame pitches. I should have paid more attention. Today Gillmor is no longer a journalist. Note what his contact page says “don’t pitch me.” After being a blogger or journalist many people feel the same way. I have lots of meetings with journalists and they always gripe about the PR pitches they get. Why? Because this industry won’t clean itself up and won’t look at what it’s doing as being caustic. Even good ones like Shel Holtz won’t look internally.

Why is this a private note? Well, my readers don’t care so I wanted to let them know they can just skip this one. They just want me to find the coolest stuff in the industry to hear about and get my video camera in front of them. They don’t care about the private hell that has become my email inbox.

Yesterday I got videos of friendfeed’s press conference. Notice that they did pitch me in email, but pitched me to come to that event. Also note that friendfeed doesn’t have a PR person, they already have my attention so no need to pay $10,000 a month to get more of it. See, if your company is good it’ll probably get my attention anyway. Heck, Zappos has never pitched me (that’s a shoe company) but I am interested in that company because so many of the people I follow praise them. That’s also how I found Feedly and Evernote, two companies I like a lot.

So, how do good PR people pitch me? They do send me email. But they build a relationship with me first and find out what I like to write about. One example? Jeremy Toeman. He tells me all the time that he has clients he doesn’t pitch to me because they aren’t going to be interesting to me or my readers. He protects his relationship with me from crappy pitches.

Because Jeremy both knows me as a person and doesn’t send me tons of crappy PR pitches, when he sends me email I listen. He doesn’t just send me pitches for his own company, either. If I’ve missed something interesting he calls me and says “did you see this?” He regularly tweets the same and blogs things that I need to be aware of (sometimes even calling me on the carpet when I’m off base).

But the other interesting thing is he rarely pitches his company in email. His best pitches come when we’re walking around Golden Gate park with our kids. Or, like when he launched his new company recently, when we’re just sitting around his house (that’s why I almost always am carrying a video camera).

So, Shel, and all the other PR people, keep sending me your crappy (and good) pitches to scobleizer@gmail.com. If you think you really have something awesome, don’t email me. Call me. My phone number is on my blog. +1-425-205-1921 It’s been there for four years now. I don’t mind getting calls from people who really have something great to show me.

What do I care about now? People and companies who are fanatical about building a better Internet.

If I can’t take your call (today I’m in meetings all day, for instance). I’ll call you back when I can. Thanks and sorry if you felt attacked by my broad brushes. If you have a blog and a Twitter account you probably aren’t among the bad ones anyway so don’t stick up so much for the bad ones because that tarnishes the good work you do.