Thursday, June 1, 2006

10 bonehead mistakes PR people make when they send email


By David Gewirtz

PR people often get a bad rap. To many editors, the folks pitching stories are annoyances, constantly trying to get an editor's attention for some useless story idea or another. But here at ZATZ, we've found that public relations professionals are, in the most part, key assets, helping us bring you the most complete and rounded stories possible. It would be far harder doing our jobs without the regular help we get from the great folks in PR.

"We. Are. Not. Going. To. Open. Attachments. Period."

And so, knowing we truly value PR people, I bring you this article. It's not intended to poke fun at boneheaded PR mistakes. It's honestly intended to help our favorite PR professionals be more successful in using email as a communication vehicle.

For the rest of this article, I'm going to be writing directly to the PR professonal. If you're trying to get press, this is something you need to read. Let's take a look at Figure A, a real email we got recently that showcases a number of these bonehead mistakes.


Here's a classic bonehead press release mailing. (click for larger image)

Notice the crimes:

  • Press release as an attachment
  • No subject line
  • No press release in the body
  • A very long disclaimer message that adds nothing to the presentation.

Needless to say, this joker didn't get press. We blurred out the identifying information because, while this particular moron should be fired, we're publishing this article to help you learn how to do it right, not to get specific losers canned.

Now, let's go into detail on more of the bonehead mistakes you should avoid. For the record, every email we're showing in this article is from a real press release we've actually received.

Biggest bonehead mistake: including Word files as attachments

You're a PR person and you've just written the hottest press release of all time. Of course, you compose it in Microsoft Word. And, of course, because it's got all those perfect formatting touches, you want to send the complete document as a Word file attachment to everyone on your press list.


Welcome to the big, bad world of the year 2006. Ever since the Melissa virus hit back in 1999 (for the record, that's seven big years ago), Word attachments have been hazardous to open. Even with fully-updated anti-virus software, every Word file could contain nastiness. Obviously, the Melissa virus is no longer much of a problem to those with updated software, but Word-based viruses are still quite prevalent.