Customer Relationship Management

Brody PR: When to FIRE your Public Relations Firm

250px-Scream_at_laptop.jpgToday, along with a few hundred other influential bloggers, journalists and industry leaders, I received an unsolicited email from Beth Brody ([email protected]) with a press release in it about Jump Start Social Media Publishing a New E-Book on Social Media Marketing For Small Business.

It wasn’t bad enough that it was SPAM, it also openly provided the list of recipients with everyone else’s name and email address. Ever heard of BCC?

I don’t know Beth and I don’t know Brody PR, but I’m going to let them know, as well as all their prospects and clients, that they deserve the huge backlash that they are currently getting. One response (reply to all) in the massive email thread (that continues) from a prominent industry figure reads:

Take me off this f—-g list which I never asked to be on and cannot unsubscribe from.

The list of people this went out to is the who’s who of influencers. While I’m flattered that I made the list, I’m also pissed that a Public Relations firm would assemble a list like this simply to spam us. I’m sure the Jump Start Social Media E-Book is quite a good e-book… but I won’t go download it, link to it, nor recommend it because I was spammed by their PR firm.

Public Relations firms, more than anyone else in the industry, should recognize the impact of unsolicited emails and the importance of permission-based communication in this world of spam. I have a contact form on my site so folks can drop me a line – that’s a great way for a PR firm to connect with me… or through the 80 other social mediums that I communicate on. This was simply lazy PR, pure and simple.

Now my email address is in the hands of God-knows-who because one PR agency forgot all the rules of Public Relations. In kind, I’ve now published their email address for all the world to see. Feel free to drop Beth a note when you have your next promotion – I’m sure they’ll love it!

Brody will also be added to the long list of PR Spammers by Gina Trapani. It makes me actually wonder whether or not Brody might be facing a class-action lawsuit for violation of the CAN-SPAM act since they provided no means to opt out of the mass communications.

Next time you hire a PR firm, find out how they’re going to find influencers in the market and how they’re going to approach them. If it’s like Brody PR, don’t hire them. They don’t get it. If you’ve got a firm like Brody PR who’s spamming influencers, fire them. They’re going to do more damage than good for your brand.

Additional Reading: How a single email killed a PR firm, I would have appreciated an apology, Public Relations fail: A lesson and a rant… I’m sure there are more coming…

UPDATE: 8/21/2009 Rec’d a very nice from Beth Brody today apologizing for the snafu, Beth has a ‘lessons learned’ article coming soon.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: 10/19/2009 Rec’d a note from another Brody PR that we had our links wrong in our Post! We sincerely apologize and the links have been updated.

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22 Comments

  1. 1

    The best part about Brody PR is that when I clicked through to their website, the first thing I saw was their header image which proudly proclaims "An agency with a conscience…"

    If that's not Irony, then I don't know what is.

  2. 2

    Doug – people who do these kinds of things have an unbelievable sense of self importance. Look at her client list; aren't you impressed? Even though you didn't opt-in, what she has to tell you is always so important, so brilliant that she is sure you will appreciate that she graced you with her email presence.

    You social media guys just don't get it when it comes to the truly important.

  3. 3

    Thanks for posting this, Doug. Their is public relations, then there is media relations, and then their SHOULD be social media relations (the umbrella that influencers should fall under). Combining these three into one term is a consistent failure throughout the industry, and proof positive that most firms just don't get it.

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  6. 6

    wow – yes this is a big f-up but unless this is a recurring error on their part you really should give the benefit of the doubt. People have bad days and make mistakes sometimes. What if someone called for your head and took a lynch mob after you every time you made a mistake in the course of a day? This post could have been just as substantive without publicly deriding the agency and publicist in question. Clearly, you must be having a bad day yourself to be this angry and militant.

  7. 7

    Doug:

    I don't agree. And in fact, I think this post was inappropriately harsh. Of COURSE the woman knows BCC. She made a mistake. The CC and BCC line are just millimeters away from each other.

    You admit that you don't know Beth Brody or Brody PR. Would you say the things you said in this post to her face. Would you say to her client in front of her that they should fire her because she made a mistake about not putting people in the BCC line? I don't know you, so I don't know the answer to that question, but I"d be interested to know.

    This is FAR from the worse spam. Don't you get real spam?

    This woman made an honest mistake and the response has been completely inappropriate. Everyone who responded, including the quote you used, KNEW what they were doing. They were the ones spamming everyone else, consciously. And I"m sure this is not the first time that this has happened. I'd like to know your thoughts in an article I wrote about the piece:

    Social media "gurus" and bloggers are egotistical jerks
    http://www.sparkminute.com/?p=915

    Also, if you want a real PR fail story, read this one. It's a two parter where the client comes in with a completely obtuse move at the end.

    Hey PR, bloggers are not tools to be used
    http://www.sparkminute.com/?p=497

    UPDATE: Bad PR experience story. PR firm’s client is obtuse.
    http://www.sparkminute.com/?p=514

    • 8

      Hi dspark,

      1. I didn't initiate this terrible series of events, dspark. I've had to react to it.
      2. This is a PUBLIC RELATIONS firm. This is their JOB and, supposedly, their EXPERTISE. it's like asking if a patient who's leg was accidently amputated shouldn't get upset with the Doctor.
      3. It was unsolicited commercial email with NO opt-out.
      4. They secretly built this list of email addresses without the recipients knowing.

      This wasn't an honest mistake – it had to take months to put this list together and they have their clients PAYING for this service. That's not honest, it's quite the opposite – both evil and deceptive.

      Doug

      • 9

        It must weigh heavily on you to never have made any mistakes, Douglas. I commend you for that, to be so infallible to not ever make a mistake in PR.

        I'm with David on this. Over the top and unnecessary, but you must have felt the need to go further than other posts.

        • 10

          Jeremy,

          I never said I didn't make mistakes. When I DID make mistakes, I met with the repercussions. If we didn't have repercussions, we wouldn't know that it was a mistake, would we? I'm in touch with Ms. Brody, have sent her my ebook on Business Blogging, and offered to help her firm with whatever she needed.

          Doug

    • 12

      I don't know about Doug, but I'd say similar things to Ms. Brody directly if I had the opportunity.

      I think it's actually worse than traditional spam. Public Relations firms are not advertisers. They are supposed to be expert communicators who know what kinds of messages will please audiences and what tactics will anger them. If anyone should know how to make sure a message goes off correctly, it's a PR firm.

      • 13

        Robby,

        I did have the opportunity. Beth Brody contacted me by email and asked my permission to quote my blog in her new blog, Lessons Learned. And I did request a formal apology – and received it. I think Ms. Brody will recover from this… no doubt.

        Doug

  8. 14

    I used to think that nobody knew what BCC was for. I've changed my mind.I get news and PR releases all day long with (sometimes) HUNDREDS of e-mail addresses in the TO: field (frequently the names and e-mails of every media person in the state of Indiana from radio to TV to print, most of whom I'm sure don't want their e-mail address publicly passed around, not to mention that I believe this violates federal law, doesn't it?).

    I think it is intentional and deliberate in an effort to let the recipients know WHO received the e-mail. First, it raises the sender's self-importance by demonstrating to a sizable audience the alleged scope of their influence. Also by doing this, it puts a little subtle (or maybe NOT so subtle) pressure on the recipient to use the material. After all, if all these great influencers received the material and might be using it, shouldn't I be using it, too?

    And the bottom line is this: she certainly got YOU to talk about it, didn't she? Wonder how many people read your blog and clicked through to the links provided? What's the politician's old saying? "Bad publicity is better than none at all–just spell my name right." You took the bait, hook line and sinker. And in that sense, she did her job REALLY WELL.

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    Failing to BCC is a severe ATD lapse, but in PR you have to send out press releases to media contacts en masse – it's the only way you can get it to everybody relevant while it's still newsworthy. I understand your anger at having your email address made public – and you are right to feel this way – but, as a blogger, wouldn't you rather know about news stories when they happen, and are fresh and new, rather than wait to be asked?

    I don't know what it's like in the states, but here in England journalists sign up to media databases specifically so that they can be sent stuff which is relevant to them by people who they otherwise would have no involvement with. What's wrong with that?

  11. 18

    Plus, this could be some young account exec, someone who has just started in PR, and made a mistake. You've totally ruined her. Why would you be so callous? At least her mistake was innocent.

    They needn't have spent months assembling the list – you can go to Media Atlas, Vocus, Cision or any number of other media databases and pull of a list of journalists, bloggers, editors, producers… whatever. I sent a press release to 227 people yesterday, today I've been phoning them all up to see if they want to use it. I've got a load of interviews and coverage for my client out of it. Is that wrong? No. It's just the way things work – they know it, I know it, no one's whinging about it.

    • 19

      PRMira,What they did, and what you are doing, is ILLEGAL in the United States. You must supply an opt-out mechanism, otherwise you are in violation of the CAN-SPAM act. Do you realize that you are putting your company at risk?Stop Spamming people. Put an opt-n on your site and collect email addresses the appropriate way – with peoples' permission.DougSent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
      From: IntenseDebate Notifications

  12. 20

    I'm not putting my company at risk, because journalists appreciate being sent information which is relevant to them and up to date. This is how PR works and most people are pretty happy with the set up, the people who receive the press releases included. Sometimes you might send it to someone for whom it's not relevant, then they tell you, you apologise and nobody writes a vicious blog about it.

    Obviously I don't know about the rules in the States, but as Vocus, Cision, etc, operate globally ( I think they may be American companies), I can't imagine it's too different. I really think you're creating a storm in a teacup. It's not like she sent you an email about penis enlargement pills or asking for your bank details – this was a genuine piece of PR, which, admittedly, she somewhat nalllsed up by failing to BCC, but that's the extent of it. There's no need for your overreaction.

  13. 21

    I'm not putting my company at risk, because journalists appreciate being sent information which is relevant to them and up to date. This is how PR works and most people are pretty happy with the set up, the people who receive the press releases included. Sometimes you might send it to someone for whom it's not relevant, then they tell you, you apologise and nobody writes a vicious blog about it.

    • 22

      PRMira,

      "This is how PR works" is simply not true. I have relationships with many PR firms and they do not accumulate email addresses of influencers in the market without their permission and then SPAM them. I would highly recommend you rethink your strategies. You may be getting results for your clients, but the POTENTIAL to get better results by building permission-based relationships is much greater.

      I would recommend that you also read the UK laws on SPAM, "Corporations can still be approached 'cold' with email pitches but in these instances emails must have an opt-out clause."

      Doug

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