The past week has been chock full of bad PR days.

I couldn’t find one PR pro in an article or on LinkedIn or Twitter that thought Toyota was doing a good job communicating about the recall. “Toyota president talks to press–apologizes to consumers, then gets into an Audi & drives away. Not a good look!” said @TheRealSteff on Twitter. Then, the Wall Street Journal piled on saying the company’s poor handling of the recall “mess’ will cost them $1 billion dollars.  [Of course, I did not subscribe to WSJ in order to read the full article, but the headline and subheading were enough to scare me.]

A couple of days later, The Inconvenient PR Truth – a campaign aimed at getting PR professionals to act professional, was launched. Ouch!

It seems PR people need to be told that journalists are people too. The campaign includes a journalist ‘bill of rights’, “which is a list of demands on behalf of journalists and bloggers about how they are to be approached by the PR industry” wrote Gemma O’Reilly for

The crazy list of demands includes:

  1. Ask permission before sending information (emails, press releases, materials) to journalists and bloggers
  2. Do not call repeatedly after sending information, even if permission to send had been granted
  3. Do not send irrelevant information to randomly picked journalists and bloggers

And of course, as many well know, PR people should shy away from spam, as it might get them confused with an unpopular STD.

Um…I am sorry…but are there PR people out there who don’t already know all of these three really basic points?

If so, I demand that they be removed from their positions immediately, forced to work at BestBuy, and pelted with raisins! None of the above makes any sense as a tactic, so who are these people?

Interns? Nah, I don’t think so. Who would let an intern that close to their media lists?

Fakers posing as PR pros? Maybe, but how do they make enough money to stay in business long enough to continue spamming journalists?

Journalists looking for a way to keep PR pros away from from them? Nope.

The campaign was started by Realwire chief executive Adam Parker and, more shockingly, real PR people are supporting it. “Borkowski founder Mark Borkwoski, Speed Communications MD Stephen Waddington and Umpf founder Adrian Johnson are backing the campaign,” according to PRWeek.

Borkowski comment: ‘PR spam is as contagious as chlamydia and has the same effect. It can cause sterility in the people infected. The only difference is that everyone in the PR world’s passed on a spam infection at some point, accidentally or not.’

Great metaphor, no?

But seriously, when we, as a profession, have to start policing ourselves against our own rabid spam (55 per cent of press release recipients have taken action to block a sender of news) then we are in deep, deep trouble.

How can Toyota be expected to handle their PR woes when PR “pros” apparently can’t even build a relevant media list and pitch ideas without getting blocked? Where are the mentors, trainers, and senior leadership when this is going down? I hate calling out my peers, but if this is seriously what is going on out there, then ya’ll are fired!

And by the way, I now officially support the PR Spammers List by Gina Trapani.

And big surprise, that showy firm that stole my creepy client last year is on the list. Bet that worked out well for them! Ah, cosmic justice! And now I officially believe in Karma, too.

I am sure there are plenty of PR pros, who, like me, have never received an angry email from a journalist, but then again, since 1.7 billion irrelevant press release emails are sent each year, I guess we are the minority. Unfortunately,  it is up to us to take a stand for our profession and to teach the newbies that they shall not spam journalists and bloggers – not on our watch!

Three cheers for the really professional PR pros! Hip-hip-hurray!

PS. Please don’t start spamming me.


4 thoughts on “Bad Day for PR ~ Toyota & The Inconvenient PR Truth

  1. This is a great post. For all their carping about services like Vocus and PR Newswire, PR professionals might consider a simple vetting process in advance of reaching out to their respective contacts in the media. Vocus and PR Newswire employ editors and other fact-checkers and are able to ask questions of those looking to publish pieces for wide distribution to ensure the newsworthiness, indeed, the efficacy, of the item being readied for distribution.

    Additionally, however, common sense should rule the day.

    Does a contact pass the reliability and truth tests? Is the item under discussion truly newsworthy? It’s frightening to think there are folks engaged in the kind of poor practices that invariably smear each PR practitioner. What’re all the credentialing organizations and classroom curricula for if not to reinforce and spread the effective and consistent use of best practices?

  2. As always, you’re one sharp cookie. Real PR people act ethically for reasons other than good ethics. It’s common sense. If you act ethically, you can’t get called out for not doing so later. In this day and age, you will get found out. Acting responsibly and ethically is good business. Go Julia!

  3. Woah, these PR pros behind the campaign know a great metaphor when they see one, don’t they? Seriously, anything coming from / backed by a PR agency looks like exercise in getting media attention. Well, what it they have to present the industry in a negative light – so what? Any coverage is good coverage, right? (Jaded, I know).

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