Internet 101

Today I got e-mail from a major orchestra, advertising a photo exhibit. The photos sound very interesting. But none were included in the e-mail! Dumb. They had my attention. Why not do something with it?

They gave me a link to click, if I wanted to read a full press release about the photo show. No photos in the press release, either. Come on, people — don’t you know how the Internet works? And yes, you’d have to make separate versions of the press release, one for print, the other for downloading. But how hard would that be? Though why not just include the photos in the print release — not as separate 8 x 10s, but printed on the paper with the text —  as well?

And speaking of the press release — why do I have to click to download it? Other orchestras (and non-orchestral institutions, too) include the entire release, complete with formatting, in their press e-mail. Why shouldn’t this one do it? Why make it hard for people to read your releases?

While I’m at it, here are some other things that publicists shouldn’t do. I offer these thoughts in a constructive spirit, hoping that publicists will see how they can be more effective.

  • Don’t put “Press Release” — and nothing more than that — in the subject line of your e-mail. If I’m pressed for time (no pun intended), your release is this one I won’t click on. Use the subject line to tell me something that might interest me.
  • Don’t send CDs tightly bound in tape-sealed bubble wrap, inside a protective envelope. My wife and I might get a dozen (or even more) CDs a day. None of them arrive damaged. So why an extra layer of protection? It’s annoying — first I have to open the protective envelope, and then get through the bubble wrap.
  • Don’t put the urgent flag on e-mail, unless you know for sure the content of your message really will be urgent to most people getting it. Often I get e-mail from large institutions, telling me (with great excitement I don’t share) that the pianist who’s supposed to play a concerto Saturday night has cancelled, and that someone else will be playing instead. I’m sure this is urgent for the institution — i know the kind of backstage flurry these cancellations cause. But for a critic who gets the e-mail? Maybe not so important. Save the urgent flag for when you’re doing business with me, and something has changed that I really, really have to know about.
  • Don’t use messengers or overnight delivery or even UPS unless you really have to. We get packages from UPS and other carriers, sometimes four times a day. Typically they’re new releases from major record lables — CDs which, to be honest, we might not listen to for weeks, if ever. So why the rush? Why not send the CDs by regular mail? And the point isn’t just to save you money. You save me some annoyance. Here I am, sitting home, trying to get my work done, and four times during the day I have to stop my work to buzz the UPS guy through the downstairs door, and then wait for him to get to my apartment so I can sign for the CDs — which, remember, I haven’t any urgent need for (though I’m not saying I’m not glad to get them).
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  1. says

    Yeah, well, I get emails with grave warnings about viruses and sick children and new laws that will destroy the Bill of Rights. I always let the senders know that the emails are hoaxes and should not be forwarded. But that doesn’t help, so, if your post here results in a measurable change in behavior, let us know.

    One difference between our two situations — I’m dealing with a small community in which I know some of the players, and they know me. And they’ve paid attention to me before. I don’t expect to reform the world, but some people, at least, might learn from what I’m saying.

  2. says

    Having never sent or received a press release, but now finding myself in the possible position of doing so soon–or at least being closely involved, I appreciate your comments.

    Thanks, Jeane. Here’s a thought. Try to find a critic who’ll forward his or her e-mail press releases for a week or so. You’ll quickly see which ones are effective.

  3. says

    It’s really great when a publicist lets me know about a conference I might like to intend, in a city hundreds or even thousands of miles away….one or two days before it starts.

    Even better is when one of them calls me on the phone with this exciting opportunity — as I’m trying to meet a deadline.

    Or when a publicist calls me, asking me if I’m going to review a new CD of standard repertoire by an artist I’ve never heard of — and doesn’t give me even one reason why I should care about the CD.

    Thanks for adding to my list! I wish publicists could be in our shoes for a week or so. I think they’d learn a lot.

    But one important point! Some of them do fabulous work, and some of them are my friends. So I’m certainly not condemning publicists wholesale.