Social media "gurus" and bloggers are egotistical jerks

by David Spark on August 20, 2009

Boy (5-7) pulling face, holding thumb to nose, side viewThat about sums up my feeling towards a few of my brethren in social media and journalism after yesterday’s Brody PR “debacle.” (I used that title only for dramatic effect. They’re not all egotistical jerks. Then again, if you have a blog you likely have a decent sized ego. But that doesn’t make you a jerk.)

You may have read about the Brody PR debacle in one of the many blog posts about it or tracked the discussion on Twitter. If you didn’t read the story or weren’t on the list, here’s what happened:

  • A PR person sent a mass mailed press release about a new social media book  and failed to mask her list. She put the recipients in the To: field instead of the BCC field.
  • Two people sent honest responses of interest in the book, but accidentally hit the “Reply to All” button, thus everybody received those messages as well.

Granted, these were all mistakes. Not horrible mistakes, but mistakes nonetheless. The problem is, the people who saw these mistakes were industry influencers in social media, advertising, and journalism. Their professional sensibilities were so offended that they purposely began using the “Reply to All” feature requesting to be removed from the list.

Why would one hit the “Reply to All” button asking to be removed from the list knowing that the person who sent the email is the only one who has the power to remove that person from the list?

And why would one hit the “Reply to All” button to tell other people to stop hitting “Reply to All?”

And why would one hit the “Reply to All” button to announce the following?

  • “Beth as of now your domain is now on my spam list. Good bye”
  • “I have manually unsubscribed from this list and asked Gina Trapani to add BrodyPR to her list of PR firms who spam.”
  • “Take me off this fucking list which I never asked to be on and cannot unsubscribe from.”
  • “I realize this is hypocritical but might be best for people to NOT reply all to be removed from the list and only reply to the mail list owner. On that note, please remove me, and don’t ever put me on a mail list without my consent again. Thanks.”

The only reason one consciously hits “Reply to All” in all of these cases is because he or she is a self-centered egotistical jerk.

The PR woman made a MISTAKE. Let it go. Why trash her on the list, on your blog, and in the Twittersphere? Why write a blog post later pointing to her as the poster child of all of PR’s ills?

This is NOT the first time something like this has happened. I’ve seen it happen a minimum of once a year for the past twelve years. We’ve all gone through this experience before, but the show of obnoxious bravado in this email thread and then later on in blogs and in the Twittersphere was simply uncalled for. All of the people on this list are smart enough, savvy enough, and should have known better.

As for the people who said, ‘How dare you include my email without my permission?’ Get off your high horse. When did one’s email account become a sanctuary? When one makes their email address public online and on business cards you have to expect this is going to happen. Simply ask to be removed from the list and be done with it. Everyone unsubscribes from mailing lists and nobody, on either side, takes great offense.

The difference between the first two incidents of “Reply to All” and the numerous incidents afterwards, is the people afterwards KNEW what they were doing. They consciously decided to flex their social clout and were showing off to everyone on the list how angry they were.

I feel sorry for Beth Brody of Brody PR. She didn’t deserve any of this. We all make mistakes. I have to admit that she made another mistake in that she never put the unsubscribe feature at the bottom of her mass email. Others claim that it was there, but I couldn’t find it. Too bad her mistake was made in front of a few egotistical jerks. I do want to say kudos to the many more people who were on the list that chose a more healthy way to respond. They either manually unsubscribed, sent a private reply, or did nothing.

BTW, this Brody PR case reminds me of the case of Sarah Lacy interviewing Mark Zuckerberg at SXSW back in March, 2008. She also made a mistake. She conducted a bad interview. We’ve all seen bad interviews. But in the Lacy/Zuckerberg case as in the Brody PR case, the social media sphere decided to trash her.

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  • http://e2conf.com Steve Wylie

    Hey David,

    I was on that distribution as well and agree 100%. She made a mistake, let it go. Amazing to see some of the stupidity that followed.

    It does bring up an interesting point in that unlike a real “list” with unsubscribe options, being on some pr lists can be painful in that they aren’t managed by a list service with unsubscribe options. So to remove myself I’d need to write to a real person – a person I probably know. I’d have a hard time telling someone to stop writing me unless they were being truly abusive.

  • http://www.themusicninja.com blas

    Good article, yea I do not know why people were so mad. THE SAME THING happend to music bloggesr, a dj contacted 230 music bloggers 3 days ago. What happend? a conversation started. 300 replies and people were still talking. It wasnt until it got to about 350 reply all emails that people wanted to opt-out. So much had they bonded in this email, that music bloggers delcared it Music Blogger Day. It is unfortunately that not all people can just laugh at a mistake and have fun. Here is the link if you want more detail: http://www.themusicninja.com/is-today-the-official-music-blogger-day-august-18th-2009/

  • http://www.sparkminute.com/ David Spark

    Steve:

    You’re right though that you have to send a personal message when you want to unsubscribe. But honestly, I just hit reply with the word “UNSUBSCRIBE” and nothing else. I think people get it.

    And blas:

    Your situation seems so much worse. We had about 50 replies. 300 is insane. But I like that it spun out positively. I love the image of your gmail thread. :)

  • http://techprgems.com Tim Allik

    David,

    I agree with you 100 percent. This was a “reply to all” fiasco, nothing less, nothing more.

    The irony was this: some of the very same people who were upset about receiving these “reply to all” messages ended up fueling the very problem that so infuriated them.

    It’s sort of like complaining about someone who forgets to put a new role of toilet paper in the toilet paper dispenser … and then not replacing the toilet paper yourself.

    FWIW, I blogged about this myself over on TechPrGems.com.

  • http://www.brodypr.com Beth Brody

    Hi David,
    I appreciate your comments on my mistake. I took the advice I received and started a blog, http://brodypr.blogspot.com/
    I have included a link to your post on How to work with bloggers because I thought others might find it helpful.
    Beth

  • http://empowermm.posterous.com Michael E. Rubin, Empower MediaMarketing

    David,

    I cannot tell you enough how much I agree with you. As Blas said above, the outrage is definitely selective. DJ? Hey, you’re cool. Way to “engage”. PR person? No way, dude, you’re a flack!

    Here’s how I replied on Chris Abraham’s post over on socialmediabiz (http://www.socialmedia.biz/2009/08/19/i-would-have-appreciated-an-apology/). Good on you for calling him and others on it.

    “Funny how Brody PR has done exactly what all the so-called A-listers and social media “experts” say they should do — cry “mea culpa!” and apologize — and yet are not getting any sort of “Good for them for apologizing” kind of messaging. I guess it’s far easier to be snarky and cackle over someone’s honest mistake instead of being a decent human being and saying, “Good for you for correcting the problem.”

    Remind me who is calling the pot and kettle black again?

    Disclaimer: I work for Empower MediaMarketing and this is my own opinion.

  • http://www.sparkminute.com/ David Spark

    Michael:

    I have to admit that Beth Brody’s comment on my blog and the multitude of other blogs about starting a blog of her own and learning from the mistakes is kind of pat. She obviously copied and pasted the same response to multiple blogs. And her lack of genuineness is really showing through. Her opening line of her first and only blog post is “I appreciate all the many wonderful and wise people who have offered me good advice and tactics for being a better communicator.”

    The last thing I would do is call the people who responded “wonderful.” She’s obviously smiling as she grits her teeth.

    With all that said, she does have a lot to learn. But that still doesn’t excuse the onslaught of cruelty that the bloggers and journalists gave her.

    One other mistake she made that nobody mentioned (including myself) is that none of her links in her email actually pointed to the book she was promoting. They simply went to the business site. And on the business site there was no mention of the book.

  • http://www.sparkminute.com/ David Spark

    Thanks. It was just so amazing how poorly so many well known names behaved. It spoke more of so called “gurus” who did know better and were just flexing their social media muscle.

  • anonymoussf

    what funny is now after reading this i totally know the name Brody PR. funny how PR actually works. :-). “Get off your high horse. When did one’s email account become a sanctuary? -love this.

  • anonymoussf

    what funny is now after reading this i totally know the name Brody PR. funny how PR actually works. :-). “Get off your high horse. When did one’s email account become a sanctuary? -love this.

  • http://www.sparkminute.com/ David Spark

    Thanks. It was just so amazing how poorly so many well known names behaved. It spoke more of so called “gurus” who did know better and were just flexing their social media muscle.

  • http://www.sparkminute.com/ David Spark

    Thanks. It was just so amazing how poorly so many well known names behaved. It spoke more of so called “gurus” who did know better and were just flexing their social media muscle.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BN4YICCSYUC4UPHS4ECGWX5YTQ Toby

    joking boy….Xbox 360

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  • Mel

    Oh so true! Bloggers write some really great stuff, but definately start thinking their s**t doesn’t stink after their blog starts getting popular!

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