“Favorite” Stories on Contentious ...


I’m talking at the Holmes Report’s Innovation Summit today on “Applying Supply and Demand Economics Theory to Media Relations.”

Preparing for the talk reminded me that journalists tend to view PR as the enemy (or worse). Given the different charters of the two professions, one expects some friction. But this friction can give way to tirades and even venomous attacks from the Donald Trump school of persuasion.

I thought I’d share my “favorite” articles from the research.


How to Stop Pissing Off Reporters

Huffington Post, July 29, 2014

Rich Passage

“Your CEO doesn’t need a babysitter. They are adults. Show us both the respect we’ve earned and let them take their call with the journalist solo.”

My Take

Contrary to the headline, this is a tame rendition of the PR rant. The article actually offers some helpful tips from the perspective of journalist Jolie O’Dell, though I don’t agree with not attending press interviews.


Dear PR Lady: Here’s Why I didn’t Open Any of Your 3 Email Pitches (although I wish I had)

Business Insider, June 28, 2012

Rich Passage

“I had never met or heard of the people sending me the news, and it was clear that they didn’t know me either.”

My Take

There’s something about the headline that pulls you into the narrative. Note that Business Insider optimized the URL with the long tail phrase “PR pitch tips” in the quest for incremental clicks.Dear PR Lady URL 02-16

Sorry PR People; You’re Blocked

Wired, Oct. 29, 2007

Rich Passage

“I’ve had it. I get more than 300 emails a day and my problem isn’t spam, it’s PR people. Lazy flacks send press releases to the Editor in Chief of Wired because they can’t be bothered to find out who on my staff, if anyone, might actually be interested in what they’re pitching.”

My Take

I remember this one reverberating through the PR corridors nearly 10 years ago when Chris Anderson, then editor of Wired, decided to list the email addresses of 300+ “offenders.”


Swatting at a Swarm of Public Relations Spam

New York Times, Nov. 23, 2013

Rich Passage

“A few months back, alterations were made to The New York Times’s email system, and suddenly the Haggler noticed that P.R. spam started showing up the way flying monkeys appear in “The Wizard of Oz.” Swarms landed each day, imploring the Haggler to write about Christmas Cookie Treat Boxes, or a document previewer called Igloo, or a liquor called Pura Vida Tequila, which ‘will be in the house this season at Qualcomm Stadium.’ Woo-hoo.”

My Take

The fact that the PR industry continues to mass blast journalists with generic pitches indicts the entire profession. BTW, that flying monkey scene in “The Wizard of Oz” still freaks me out.


Why Journalists Get Cranky About PR

Dec. 5, 2012

Rich Passage

“Yet, the pitch closes with ‘Let me know if you’d like a review copy of the book …’ Not one nanosecond was put into connecting the client’s agenda with the target’s mission. Pasting a ‘Hi Lou’ into the email does not count. The irony isn’t lost on me, a pitch for a book that preaches personalized storytelling has none.”

My Take

At the risk of munching the hand that feeds me, I wrote this post after Media Connect pitched me on Peter Guber’s book, “Tell to Win,” which I had already reviewed. Pathetic.


Dear PR Person Who Just Sent Me a Robo-Pitch

Nov. 14, 2014Spam 02-16Rich Passage

“Ouch, I said it. Spamming. I know that’s an ugly word. I know your interview opportunities and funding rounds and product launches are not breast enlargements or pharmaceutical offers or Nigerian money transfer schemes. Nonetheless, they are unsolicited approaches, in very large quantities, of things I am very, very unlikely to want. That, give or take a fraud or two, is spam.”

My Take

Starting to detect a theme?


Do PR People Deserve our Sympathy?

Gawker, June 12, 2014

Rich Passage

“Does the act of being paid to be the smiling human face of an inhuman soulless corporation sometimes wear on a person? I’m sure that it does. But if journalists stop pointing out the craven, dishonest nature of PR, we are not doing anyone any favors. That would be doing exactly what the corporations want.”

My Take

Belying the innocuous headline, Gawker positions PR around “the advantageous lie.”


Death to the Embargo

TechCrunch, Dec. 17, 2008

Rich Passage

“We’ve never broken an embargo at TechCrunch. Not once. Today that ends. From now our new policy is to break every embargo. We’ll happily agree to whatever you ask of us, and then we’ll just do whatever we feel like right after that. We may break an embargo by one minute or three days. We’ll choose at random.”

My Take

Hard to believe it’s been over eight years since the classic post from Michael Arrington to eliminate news embargoes.


I have this theory that the PR rant is more than a cathartic experience for many journalists. It’s click bait. Inevitably, these stories prove popular, aided by PR people themselves shoving them through social channels.

Still, I think it’s fair to say that if PR took a clinical approach to journalists, understanding how they construct stories and what constitutes journalistic success, the “PR pisses me off” stories would decline.

That’s exactly what I’ll be talking about at the Holmes Report conference.


  • Frank Strong

    Gosh, makes me think writing about PR spam is what they used to call “a beat.” Or maybe it just gets a lot of clicks.

    • Lou Hoffman

      That’s it. It’s the perfect win-win. The journalist enjoyed a cathartic moment and the nature of PR ensures the piece gets pushed through social channels for incremental clicks. Thinking out loud, I’m surprised BuzzFeed doesn’t write more on the genre.

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