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Ken Magill

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Most Cynical Email Pitch Ever

7/22/14
 
By Ken Magill
 
It doesn’t take most reporters long to learn most sources—even friendly ones—are not their friends.
 
As a result, after 20 some years as a reporter of one sort or another, it doesn’t surprise me when someone I have friendly conversations with on a regular basis leaves the industry and never calls me again. It’s disappointing, but not surprising.
 
Apparently, it wasn’t my razor-sharp wit and insights that kept them around.
 
When I was editor of iMarketing News, I would tell reporters who wrote for me—one in particular—“these people will tell you anything. They’re talking to you because they believe it profits them in some way.”
 
An incident that most symbolizes to me the cynical relationship between reporters and sources happened during the late 90s dot-com boom.
 
An uncle of a PR rep had died suddenly during a routine operation. I didn’t think we were friends, as in she would rush to see me if I were gravely ill in the hospital. But I apparently thought we were closer than we were.
 
I sent her an email expressing my condolences. It was longer and more personal than a typical “sorry-for-your-loss” message.
 
Some days later, I received an email from the PR rep expressing gratitude for my message. It seemed sincere enough.
 
But right in the middle of the message was one sentence in brackets: [Insert pitch here]
 
In response to my condolences, she sent me a boilerplate pitch.
 
This is the same PR rep who, some months later as it was becoming clear the dot-com music was about to stop, booked an appointment for one of her clients with me.
 
When I asked the client what he had to share that was newsworthy, he said: “We’re about to make a Major announcement.”
 
“Can you tell me what it is?” I asked.
 
“Yes, we about to make a Major announcement with a Very Big brand,” he said.
 
“You expect me to write a story that you’re about to make a Major announcement with a very big brand and not divulge the name?” I said, the vein on the side of my head starting to throb.
 
“Yes, you have to trust me on this. It’s a Major announcement with a Very Big brand,” he said.
 
“Please leave my office and stop wasting my time,” I said. “You see, I’m rather busy here and would like to get back to work.”
 
Okay, so I didn’t say “please” and my “request” for them to leave was littered with f-bombs.
 
But now I knew that not only was this woman cynical well beyond the requirements of the job, she also had no respect for my time.
 
She’s probably a very high-powered executive at a worldwide agency somewhere by now.
 
I used to tell young reporters: “When you leave the industry, you’ll find out who your friends are. They’re fewer than you think.”
 
Sometimes you find out before you leave.
 
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