From the couldn't-make-this-up-if-we-tried file comes the following public relations pitch for coverage delivered via e-mail last week:
“Avoid the Kiss of Death this Valentine's Day,” reads the headline.
“In addition to the usual assortment of make-up, cologne and perfumes, the pockets of many would-be romancers will be crammed with every breath mint, gum and spray on the market this Valentine's Day. But more likely than not, the fruits of this multi-billion-dollar industry will do little to keep your breath from knocking your date off his or her feet.
“The technical term for bad breath is halitosis, and more than 40 million Americans will bring this unwelcome guest along for the ride on February 14. And while for 90 percent of us there is no cure, there are some things folks should know to better arm themselves against it.”
… “For the most part, bad breath is simply the result of too many sulphides on your tongue,” says Dr. [John Dentist], top New York dentist and oral hygiene expert. “As gross as it might sound, the body and mouth naturally breed more than 200 types of bacteria that manifest themselves on the tongue creating the 'rotten egg' smell associated with halitosis.
“If you're already brushing your teeth, take a few seconds to brush or scrape your tongue,” continues [Dentist]. “Also try a mouthwash that contains zinc oxide, which neutralizes the sulphur.”
Forget for a moment that this is a marketing publication; and do not take this as making fun of anyone other than the sender of the pitch, but the copy actually says, “If you're already brushing your teeth.”
Hint: If they're not already brushing their teeth, they're probably not reading newspapers or magazines either.
The pitch also says that breath mints “will do little to keep your breath from knocking your date off his or her feet” and that “for 90 percent of us there is no cure.”
Forget the trades. Why would even a consumer reporter pick up a story concerning an embarrassing condition that is hopeless for nine out of 10 of those affected?
“Tomorrow on TV Extra! You have bad breath and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it! This is one segment you won't want to miss …”
To be sure, off-target public relations pitches are nothing new, but e-mail has made them more common and often seemingly further off-target than ever. The reason: E-mail's cheap — on the surface anyway.
Just like many of their direct marketing counterparts, public relations professionals no doubt view e-mail as an inexpensive and efficient way to get their message out. But the same properties that make e-mail so appealing also make it easier to get sloppy.
And just like their direct marketing counterparts, PR professionals who are clearly sloppy with their pitches can do irreparable damage to their client's brand and their own reputation. Just because hitting the “send” button is cheap doesn't mean the medium has no costs.