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FIR B2B #136: The Best and Worst COVID-Related PR Pitches

Is your inbox overflowing with a virus? Sadly, it isn’t ordinary phishing or malware, but all COVID, all the time, with pitches and experts offered from all walks of life. It isn’t just the infosec vendors either. Paul and David have gotten pitches from genealogy vendors, from vendor selling ink cartridges and those who want to help us build a sales team working from home. 

They have plenty of competition. Bad guys have come up with all kinds of scams and ploys preying on interest in information and remedies. Scammers cumulatively  created over 35,500 unique websites related to COVID-19 in the last month according to Atlas VPN research, Some of these sites tried to swindle money by selling masks, hand sanitizers, or even virus testing kits. Amazon removed over 530,000 coronavirus-related product listings due to price-gouging. 

All this means communicators need to be judicious about what you are pitching. In this podcast, we look at the best and worst examples that we’ve seen cross our inboxes. For example, we both liked this piece that ran in David’s local St. Louis magazine. It looked into the role two local university medical research teams – one at Washington University and one at St. Louis University – were contributing to COVID research work. David’s wife is an interior designer, and she has gotten her share of coronavirus-related pitches too. One  pitch is for a bunch of expert tips on organizing your home while sheltering in place. We both liked the practicality of the piece and how it offers some solid suggestions that anyone can use to straighten up while living in isolation. .

The email above had a subject line “building your sales team for a post-Covid recovery.” That struck us both as opportunistic and being somewhat tone-deaf to the worldwide misery we’ve all been seeing.

Then there is the pitch from Dell that is trying to sell printer ink cartridges, with the subject line “working from home made easy.” Needlessly exploitative. It has nothing to do with simplifying work from home.

Finally is the personalized pitch below. If you are going to go make a pitch related to an epic tragedy, don’t start with “Happy Wednesday.” It just comes across as unseemly.


So what are some lessons that we learned? First sharpen your pitch and and make it as relevant to your business as possible. Don’t make a reporter have to search for an angle. And it doesn’t hurt to ask a reporter what articles they are working on and offer to help.

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Paul Gillin

Paul Gillin, host of FIR B2B, is a veteran technology journalist and a thought leader in new media. Since 2005, he has advised marketers and business executives on strategies to optimize their use of social media and online channels to reach buyers cost-effectively. He is the author or co-author of five books, including Social Marketing to the Business Customer (2011), the first book devoted entirely to B2B social media marketing. He is also a social media trainer and coach at Profitecture, a training firm for B2B companies and their channel partners.

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