Friday, August 21, 2009

Lessons Learned, Part 1

I appreciate all the many wonderful and wise people who have offered me good advice and tactics for being a better communicator. In a recent pitch, I made the mistake of not approaching each person individually and then compounding it by using the “standard” list configuration from my Internet host provider, which enabled everyone to “reply all” because the list name was placed in the To: field, rather than the Bcc: field. I hope everyone who received multiple emails from me will accept my apology. To those who received my personal apology via email or an apology on your blog, here’s another “I’m sorry.” I hope you’ll forgive my mistake.

Moving on, this incident has given me insights on more appropriate ways of communicating and inspired me to share what I have learned from many positive people.

Thanks to Steve Lubetkin, for his suggestion: Instead of jumping all over the person who made the mistake, how about some practical blog entries about things to be careful of and traps you might fall in that will make bloggers want to dishonor you?

Here’s a sampling of tips.

Lessons Learned

“When it comes to fixing mistakes, if you’re not quick, you will get flack. Hopefully you will never make a mistake but it you do, make sure everyone knows it was honestly unintentional.” Beth Brody

“Admitting a mistake and pledging to move on is always the best course of action.” Abigail Alger

“Tell it all, tell it early, tell it honestly.” Dave Van de Walle,

“Don’t send mass communications from your regular e-mail client. Use an e-mail sending service. They will make sure that each person gets their own copy of the mailing (removing any possibility of this CC/BCC issue) and can even provide statistics on mail open rates and link clicks. There are many companies providing this type of service. As an example, the one I use can be found at and starts at just a few bucks a month.” Scott Isaacs,

“Try to avoid blast emailing a press release, pitch or any type of correspondence to members of the media without first customizing and tailoring your pitch to targeted journalists and bloggers.
Always keep in mind the differences between “blind copy” and “carbon copy” when sending an email to more than one person.
If something goes wrong don’t wait it out or deflect blame (not saying Ms. Brody did so in this case, but it is important to note). Immediately grab hold of the situation, take responsibility if necessary and even apologize if that’s the best course of action.”
John Sternal, Understanding Marketing

If you do get spam:
“I could have set up a rule in outlook to delete anything with the subject header and I never would have seen any more emails past the first four or five.“
Mike Bawden,

“Public Relations firms, more than anyone else in the industry, should recognize the impact of unsolicited emails and the importance of permission-based communication in this world of spam.” Douglas Karr

The PR 2.0 landscape- heck, the marketing 2.0 landscape- is evolving and changing every minute and everyone is trying new things and making their best efforts to adapt. Cydney Wuerffel

“While kids can be mean to one another, they can also very forgiving. So too, I hope, are adults.”
Frank Strong,

Here are some links I found helpful:

About crisis communications,

How to avoid common mistakes

Social media templates

How to write an apology

How to work with bloggers

Let’s Whine Like it’s 1999

As this is my first blog post, I appreciate any constructive feedback you have. I hope this will become a forum for people to share their “lessons learned advice” with others.
Beth Brody


  1. Beth - Great blog post! What a great way to start fresh! Hope you will keep up the blog and keep contributing great industry information.
    - Rachel Kay

  2. Beth,

    Thanks for reaching out personally on this. I was one of those guys that really let you have it - but I've made some DOOZY mistakes in my life and have recovered. Going public was surely a great step.

    We'll have to get you to embed your blog on your PR site, though. Blogspot sucks. ;) Don't hesitate to give me a call if you need some help - you'll see many benefits of blogging and sharing your thoughts and experiences - building authority and search rankings in the meantime.

    Oops - I think that was an unsolicited solicitation!

    With much respect!

  3. Welcome to the "blogosphere", Beth!

    What you are now doing---engaging individuals directly by sharing your thoughts on the 20-August incident---is a wonderful way to establish trust. It might be tempting to characterize this as "public relations" since you are hoping to communicate with the public in a positive and productive way. But I think it's something much simplier and more profound: one person sharing their thoughts.

    As a non-PR person, I'm constantly surprised by the actions of the PR industry. Your field has actively taken control of "strategic messaging and communications", and yet despite this control it's still easy to make mistakes like sending mass emails without confirming to federal law (CAN-SPAM), convention (BCC), or Internet culture (immediate public response). For a non-PR person, this stuff seems pretty easy for you to get right.

    That's not to say that you, as well as everyone else in this world, should never make a mistake. Of course we all screw up. But small mistakes are much scarier than large mistakes. Small errors in process seem to indicate carelessness or a lack of precision and focus. Large errors are just bold choices.

    In any case, welcome to the world of blogging. Best of luck in the future!


  4. Hi Beth,

    Thanks for your comment over on Good move on starting this blog to convey your thoughts.

    You can't undo the past, but you can learn from your mistakes (and we all make mistakes). Good for you for being up-front with them.

    I hope you continue this site; I look forward to reading more from you over time.


  5. Thanks for sharing your experience and resources Beth - good luck with your blog
    - Nathalie

  6. First of all, congrats for the up-front nature of this post. And thanks for quoting me...

    I'd like to add another mantra -- one that's tough for me to live by:

    Try not to take the "unsubscribe" personally.

    So you send someone an email as part of a blast of some sort, and they unsubscribe. How dare them?

    Well, hey, this is part of the permission culture...

    If you use a double opt-in service (I am a big fan of aWeber), you'll have so much less to worry about when it comes to emailing stuff to anyone, as only those who are interested in getting the message will get the message. Much more targeted that way: but you've got to get interested in the first place.

    Cheers, Beth - you're definitely headed the right direction.


  7. Beth,

    I watched and read this whole thing unfold on Twitter and I have to say - as a fellow PR professional - you are one classy lady.

    I hope all the social media "experts" and PR people who reacted (many just, but some a bit too harshly and some who where borderline kicking a dog when down type behavior) learn a lesson from you in the way you've handled this - with grace and class... and intelligence.


  8. Beth - I've made mistakes as big as this one. The key is to apologize quickly and you didn't do that. It's also important to go where the conversation is happening, and in this case, it was taking place on Twitter. You should have responded on Twitter.

    All you needed to say was "I'm sorry, and thanks for pointing this out to me" or words to that effect and people would have calmed down.

    I've written a dozen or more posts about how to deal with bloggers, write effective releases, and blog posts. I've even got an e-book about press releases and pitches from hell and how to fix them. It all boils down to common sense, and there's still a global shortage of that.

    Glad to see you blogging. I hope you'll switch to Wordpress or Typepad which are much better platforms.

    FYI - same as you can do in Word, you can make words into links instead of running the urls separately from the words they are about.

  9. The more I've read about this incident the more I wonder how many reporters and bloggers hit "reply to all" on purpose just to make a mountain out of a molehill.

    -- sarcasm on --

    They got an email they didn't want and other people received it, too? Oh, the horror! How could they ever be expected to deal with this terrible act? If only there were a delete command or some way to filter email so those coming in from certain people or on certain topics didn't show up in the In box. Wow, I can't wait for the day when such technology exists!

    -- sarcasm off --

  10. B.L.,
    Thanks for your note. I do need to get more familiar with Twitter and what it can do. I appreciate the advice about Wordpress and Typepad.
    I heard you speak about blogging several years ago at a NJ CAMA meeting - it's sure come a long way since then!

  11. Crystal,
    Thanks so much for your comments. I really appreciate your support. I made an error in list configuration and didn't know enough about Twitter to get my apology out to everyone swiftly enough.
    It's great to meet a fellow book publicist and I think your blog is fantastic.

  12. Ari,
    I don't think the problem was the "reply all" function, I think when I put the list name in the To: box, coupled with the standard list configuration, which was open is what enabled everyone who responded to reply all.
    I've signed up to receive your blog posts and I'm looking forward to your next missive.

  13. Hi Beth:
    Here's the first rule of social media: Everyone makes mistakes.

    Try not to take all the harsh - and over the top - criticism too much to heart. I think many of the people piling on have taken this incident a bit too far. The "crime" as it is is quite minor.

    Good for you to admit you made an error. And, of course, welcome to blogging. I hope you enjoy it. Best of luck!
    George F. Snell III

  14. George,
    Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you reaching out to me.
    I've signed up for HighTalk and made it a part of my Google homepage.
    Hope to meet you in person someday.

  15. You are far from the first to make THAT mistake -- and there are so many that could have been worse! I just created a rule that sent subsequent related emails straught to trash and forgot about it.

  16. Hi Beth,
    I think it is interesting to see how quickly others are to point out when someone does something wrong instead of being the first one to say "Job Well Done!".

    Well I'm not the first one to say it here but Job Well Done Beth. I'll be following this blog.

    The Social Media Manager

  17. Mark,
    Thanks for the encouragement. You've been doing this a lot longer than me!

  18. I've got to say I agree with Ari's comment that sometimes the counter reaction does have a bit of a "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM!" tone about it.

    I mean, let's get real here, it's not as if you ran over someone's cat or anything like that!

    Having said that I think unfortunately for you, you just became a lightening rod for all the accumulated frustrations people have with us as an industry.

    And despite the occasional shrill tone, some of those criticisms are valid and we need to take note of them.

  19. Hi Dirk,
    Thanks for you feedback. I checked out your blog and am a new subscriber. I'm sure I'll learn a lot from it.