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Cause-Related Marketing Lessons Learned from Bad PR Pitches

Lately one of the great things about the Cause-Related Marketing blog for me is that I don’t have to go out and ‘enterprise’ my blog posts the way I did in the early days. People have started to pitch me ideas to post on.

We have a name for these people. When they send helpful pitches that are pertinent to this blog I call them PR angels. When they pitch me ideas that are off-topic, over-long, just plain dumb, or addressed to “Dear Alden,” I just call them idiots. (I think it’s clear from reading the blog that my name is Paul Jones. My company’s name is Alden Keene.) And I’m not talking about spam here either. Everybody on earth with an email account gets spam.

Editors and reporters have started to out the idiots. Heck, even PR people are outing the idiots. It's very chic to complain about PR idiots right now, and who am I to resist a trend?

I’m not going to out any idiot PR people by name. Although I reserve all rights to do so in the future. But to prove my point, here is a short list of subject lines that have appeared in my in-box over the last week or two:
  • “Has Global Oil Reached its Tipping Point?” from a publicist at a major US newspaper.

  • “21 Days to Creating Your Dream Life,” from a book publicist.

  • “Shepard Fairey Auctions Exclusive HOPE Painting,” from a publicist for a painter.
And a personal favorite:
  • “BOARDFEST SNOWBOARD RAIL JAM GOES COED FOR BLIZZARD AT THE BEACH,” from an event producer. And yes, it came just like that in all-caps.
There are lessons in all this for cause-related marketers, especially for those on the nonprofit side of the equation.
  1. Don’t Just Throw Your CRM Proposals Over the Transom. Don’t spam the company with your proposal. They have to be addressed to someone. And that person has to have agreed in advance to receive your proposal.

  2. Think Hard About the Relationship You’re Proposing. If you’re a small pet rescue charity in Ten Sleep, Wyoming you’re almost certainly barking up the wrong tree to propose a CRM campaign to ExxonMobil. That’s not to say that all successful cause-related marketing relationships are purely strategic. But very few of them are outrightly dumb.

  3. The Format of the Proposal Counts. In general no type should be smaller than about 20 points. Don’t use wacky fonts or weirdly-colored type. And you got keep it to 15-20 pages/slides or less. Only Tom Peters can get away with more than that. If it’s on paper; use the landscape format. Use pictures, and plenty of them, but make sure they’re dynamite and illustrate your cause and the campaign.

  4. Don’t Do Anything Rash When the Answer is No. Unless you’re Susan G Komen, or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital if you get a form letter back telling you no, think very hard before you fire back something venomous. Cause-related marketing is a race. And as we know “the race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep running,” (see above).


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