RSS Feed .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Mary Schmidt Business Builder & Renovator


Idea Pool

Remember Professional PR Agencies?

Mary Schmidt

Mar 01, 2012

I do. I have fond memories of working with Manning, Slevidge & Lee in NYC.

It was a big agency back then and is one of the largest in the world today.  However, the reason I remember them fondly isn’t their size.  I remember them for three reasons:

1. They were willing and able to work with a relatively small budget. (Seemed awfully big though to the tech company for whom I worked. We were sweatin’ it for results.)

2.  They sent in their first string. Unlike many large (and even small) agencies, they didn’t do the pitch with the big boys, then send in the juniors to do the actual work. (Oh, and they answered their own phones.)

3.  They KNEW their media.  MS&L spent a lot of time and effort targeting just the right editors and writers.  Their “hot list” was really hot. They personally contacted people, personalized the pitches. We got results.

Lucy PR standI can’t vouch for MS&L today, but here’s hoping they’ve not changed much. We need professional PR firms. There are way too many woefully unprofessional ones.

All of whom seem to find my email addresses at one time or another (and more than once.)  For example, the NYC agency that sent me this (Yes, the subject line was ALL CAPS, no punctuation)


Why?  I suspect they bought a list. How did I end up on the list? Who knows? Maybe because I commented about loving chocolate on a friend’s blog…back in – oh - 2007? Because I’m a woman blogger and, OF COURSE, we all love chocolate, have kids, and are planning Easter Egg hunts? Because I subscribe to The New York Times? Beats me.

So, no qualification. No work. No knowledge. Just blasting out cold emails to people they don’t know.  Lazy, lazy, lazy…from the canned press release: 

On Sunday, March 18, 2012, Jelly Belly will sponsor the Annual Easter Egg Hunt at Dylan’s Candy Bar (1011 Third Avenue, NYC), giving children of all ages the chance to explore the world’s largest candy store in search of hidden eggs and surprises.  Parents and children will enjoy a continental breakfast…

I don’t live in NYC. I’ve never bought ANYTHING from Dylan’s. I don’t have children.

Adding stupidity to laziness: Absolutely no personalization or thought given to the art and science of effective emails. The body of the email was the press release. That was it. A cut and paste job from Word.

But not to worry, Dylan’s, your agency is cutting-edge. They provided the link to your Facebook page at the end of the release.

Sorry, Jelly Belly.  No links in your “about” blurb.  (And the text was different size than the rest of the release.  “Cut and paste” – not your friend in the online world.)

About Jelly Belly

The family owned candy manufacturer has been in operation since 1898 and is currently run by the fourth, fifth and sixth generations of the candy empire. Known for decades for making candy corn, the creation of Jelly Belly® jelly beans brought the company worldwide prominence after Ronald Reagan was seen eating them on the presidential campaign trail in 1980. Jelly Belly jelly beans were soon being given to international diplomats and became the first jelly bean in space. The company currently makes 50 Official Flavors, the largest selection on the market, plus 100 other gourmet candies including gummies, chocolate covered treats, and seasonal sweets for the major holidays. Headquartered in Fairfield, California, the company operates three plants in Illinois, California, and Thailand.

For those of you who’ve not done PR, this is a textbook “About” blurb that typically gets slapped at the end of every traditional press release.  Factual. Appropriate use of the trademark.  Totally boring to anyone who might actually buy Jelly Belly beans.  Why not a link to their site? A special offer of some kind? A twitter handle. A Facebook goodie. Something, anything other than this corporate speak.

Sidebar Tip: Before you hire anyone to help with PR (or social media, or web marketing) Look ‘em up.  Do they walk their talk? Can they walk your talk? 

Tried to find the agency’s web site, based on the sender’s email. Nothing. Nada.  Also can’t find them on a Google search (at least not easily.) 

Read more:  Common Misconceptions and Myths of Public Relations, by Steve Cody

There’s a reason why the monolithic advertising agencies are withering on the vine while public relations, as an industry, grows annually at a double-digit clip. The latter concentrates on the conversation and depends upon a responsible journalist to convey a client’s message. The former represents the thinking of an out-of-touch C-suite executive who believes the world should beat a path to her door.

Unfortunately, there are out-of-touch C-suite executives (or executive wannabes) in PR too. 

Related posts from the archives:
Why PR Firms and “Viral Marketing” Don’t Mix
Four Red Flags When Hiring a PR Firm

In Marketing Troubleshooting, Pet Peeves


Start-Up Sanity Check for B2B Tech Ventures

Got a great idea? Are people telling you it’s crazy? Good! You’ve got to be a little insane to take that start-up leap – rather it’s out of your garage, the lab or a day job. I'll help you decide where and when to leap (and what to do when you land).

Investment: $500.00 (Why do I call it an investment? Two reasons: 1. If you’re willing to pay, that tells me you’re serious. 2. When you pay for advice, you’re more likely to value and use it.)

Drop me a line and we’ll see if we’re a good fit. If I can't help you, I’ll tell you (and if possible, tell you who can.)

Got funding? I work with one to three start-ups a year, on retainer (minimum of three months, maximum one year).

Free Downloads


Social Media Isn't Free, Easy or Magic.

If one of the self-anointed experts contacts you, pitching magical thinking, ask:

1. What results can I expect if I work with you? (Note: Twitter followers aren't necessarily customers.)

2. What kind of time will I have to invest? (Social media, properly done, is all about personal relationships. You with your customers...and a good relationship takes time.)

3. How do I integrate social media tools with my current operations? (Your salespeople need to know what you're saying on Facebook. Your customer service process and policies should be consistent across the board, from phone to Twitter.)

More Free Advice