When NOT to use an email in PR (and use a martini, instead)

Have you ever read a story about your industry that made you wince?  That prompted you to say, “What were they thinking?”

There’s been collective wincing going on in the PR community this morning in reaction to the story regarding an email exchange published by a blogger about communication between himself and a PR employee over a suggested proposal that may have benefited a client.  Turned out to be a pretty big client.

My amazement is regarding the email piece of it.  This isn’t the first time (and I’m sure it won’t be the last) that an email exchange generated from a PR agency has come back to bite them. This story reminded me of the 2008 government contracting controversy involving another PR firm where email exchanges were also published.

Email.  Seriously?  You put it in an email?

You know, there was a time, so I hear, that email didn’t exist 🙂 and the practice of public relations was still conducted, somehow.  Yes! It’s true!  Back in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and flacks bought drinks for reporters, a story did not blow up in seconds — as it does now, with Twitter, blogs, online newspaper editions, and cable news.

Old school.  If you were a PR person who needed to — ah — cultivate someone — there were ways to do that. Not ways that I ever did, but I’ve heard rumors!

  • Journalists: drinks
  • Legislators: pretty women
  • Disc jockeys: oh, well, let’s not go there

BIG FAT DISCLAIMER!!! I’m NOT saying we should return to those bad old days (although it’s kind of fun to think about it).  I’m just saying, maybe rethink the email.  If you’re going to be devious, by golly, be devious.

I’m just saying, these are big clients.  Maybe these firms who do involve themselves in this type of activity should bring back the expense account and the art of — ah — courting — off line.

Because if you’re going to do something a little off-color, downright wrong, or potentially so hot it would embarrass your client, I would hazard that it would not be a swift move to document your intentions in an email, which could potentially get published and tweeted and blogged ad infinitum.

Take them out for a steak.  I mean, really.

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About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince (www.FletcherPrince.com). Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on May 12, 2011, in Public Relations Tips and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. The best relationships I have with media on behalf of my clients were not built through email. They happened through meetings at tradeshows, media tours and (gasp) phone pitches.

    And yes, I have been known to have dinner or drinks with editors covering my clients’ industries (we always split the bill) – usually at tradeshows. There is nothing wrong with PR people and journalists “playing nice” across a nice steak dinner while discussing how to best work (ethically) with one another – me advocating for my clients and them telling what is and isnt newsworthy.

    Good article – newer practitioners need to know that not all PR should be conducted from behind a keyboard.

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