PR People Are People, Too.
Isn’t it kind of amazing how we occasionally forget that we’re all people? It happens all the time. We crowd into elevators, we cut people off in traffic, we curse at actors on TV when they’re wearing that new JCrew top that we couldn’t afford (okay, maybe I’m the only one that does that last bit). We forget that everyone around us has feelings and families and thoughts and goals.
And we start treating one another like crap.
This morning, I received an email from a lovely gentleman. And he really is lovely. It just took me a while to realize it. Let’s call him Ted, because that’s only three letters long, and I’ve always liked the name.
Ted works in a travel-related industry.
He wrote me a letter (addressed to “Deenie”), asking me to feature his company on my site, or possibly partake in a free trip and write about it favorably. And while this offer was generous, it bothered me that Ted didn’t take even the briefest look at my site before emailing me. He didn’t bother to learn my actual name (I do not go by “Deenie”. If I let you call me that, you are either 1.) a friend from childhood, 2.) my eldest brother or 3.) my friend Stephen, who flat-out refuses to call me Geraldine despite my many attempts). He definitely didn’t read my “About” page, where I make it clear that I don’t take free stuff in exchange for positive reviews. He didn’t even read the title of my most recent blog post, wherein I made it clear why I won’t accept free trips.
This annoyed me. A LOT. So I let Ted know:
Given that my last post was about how I won’t be accepting promotional trips, your timing is a little off. It also suggests that perhaps you haven’t read my blog at all. Like, not even the most recent post, before trying to pitch something to me. Which doesn’t bode well.
I was kind of mean to him. I get dozens of pitches a day, and it’s very easy to forget that the people sending them are, in fact, people. Ted replied soon after and let me know exactly what he thought of me and my site:
I was giving you the opportunity to go on a free break.
I’m not asking the Telegraph something here, you’re a travel blog…. a blog….
Let’s get some perspective.
I was sort of stunned, because usually people in the PR business aren’t so willing to tell you to pull your head out of your ass. And to be honest, I was a little offended, too. I’d spent a long time coming to my decision to not take free trips, and Ted made me feel like none of that mattered. Precisely five minutes later, Ted emailed me again.
I hadn’t intended to send that back to you, I have had a copy and paste catastrophe.
I had two windows open and was replying to both simultaneously – although in fairness I do want to highlight that I hadn’t intended to offend you with my review opportunity anyway.
I can’t lie and say I had been aware you weren’t accepting so that’s more fool for me for being attentive. I can only apologise.
Poor practice from me.
Now, Ted is obviously full of shit. He completely meant to tell me to get off my high horse. But this time he got my name right, and it was hard not to feel for him. I mean, Christ, haven’t we all wanted to tell people to go to hell while we’re at work? It was as though Ted and I both realized the other was a real person, at the exact same time.
This whole situation was now sort of funny. I wrote back:
I am dying to know what happened in the last five minutes in your office, Ted. Dying to know. Because this just went from bad to totally hilarious.
Ted, to his credit, didn’t back down. He owned up to sending a heat-of-the-moment email (an email that, I should note, wasn’t even that insulting, really).
Just not a particularly pleasant day.
Not that’s any excuse, if I were I’d be pretty amused too and would probably watching this play out.
But nothing else to it.
All I can do is apologise.
BOOM – there was no denying it now. Ted was a regular guy, and he was having a crap day.
I can’t really tell you precisely why things changed, but his email kind of broke my heart in a million pieces and made me want to hug him and become his best friend in the whole wide world.
Naturally, I told him so.
Oh, Ted. I am sorry you had a crap day. If it’s any consolation, I am presently laughing my ass off in my office (the headquarters for my “Just a travel blog”.) You are right – I’m not The Telegraph. But The Independent did list me as one of their top travel sites. So that’s pretty cool.
I sort of wish you hadn’t back-tracked, because I was about to send you this.
Let’s become best friends. It would be a great “How did you two meet?” story.
Ted apologized (unnecessarily) a few more times, and I told him it was all totally fine – but that he needed to at least read the headline of a blogger’s most recent posts before pitching them. He told me he wouldn’t blame me for writing about our exchange, and I told him that if I did, I’d make it anonymous. I closed with this final email:
Oh, please. You were fine. Just probably had a long day and were tired of dealing with buttholes and smartasses like myself for hours on end. You deserve a drink, Ted. That’s what you deserve.
In fact, I’m going to have one right now to toast our new best-friendship.
So that’s that. It was an important reminder that everyone – the guy who just cut in front of you in line, the woman who rudely shoved passed you at the store, the PR guy who snapped at you (after you snapped at him) are all people. They have good days and bad ones. Sometimes they just need a kind word. Or a hug. Or a new best friend.
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