It is a tale of love for the ages, worthy of William Shakespeare or Jane Austen.
Ralph Jones, a writer whose inbox is flooded with press releases, spent a
month replying to every such email with the words "I love you."
In a recent piece
for Hexjam.com, Jones tenderly details his prank and the amusing
responses he got. Some PR pros ignored the intimate declaration from a
others played along. A few were so taken aback that they promised to
remove Jones from their mailing lists.
One guy named Michael told Jones, "I love you too," leading to
increasing declarations of ardor ("I love you more," "I love you so much
it hurts," "I love
you more than the vast majority of my family").
The exchanges highlight a problem for both sides. Reporters are
overwhelmed, and they become a bit giddy (or panicky) at the relentless
irrelevant announcements. Yet PR pros are often forced to pump out FOR
IMMEDIATE RELEASE emails by bosses who don't care whether the messages
chance of getting picked up.
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Jones' month of passion started when he cast a baleful eye over the
contents of his inbox. He's not unsympathetic to those Miss Lonelyhearts
who are stuck
plugging a story unlikely to get any traction. He writes:
Tough job, PR. Speaking as someone whose inbox is flooded every 24 hours
with messages about the latest torch you can wear on your nose, or a
skiing festival in Warwick, I know that most of the communications sent
by public relations officials are unwelcome and superfluous, like an
testicle on your back.
So, he started dashing off the love notes.
The first reply came from an apparently baffled publicist named
Michelle, who wrote, "Obviously, this isn't pertinent to your audience.
We won't bother you
again with Foxhills' news."
Jones snickers, "If Michelle reacts like that to everyone who says they love her, she will end up missing out on a lot of fun."
On it goes. Jones' story has charmed—or, possibly, irritated—many the PR world. Christy Marion of Media Frenzy Global confesses she hasn't laughed that hard in the office in a while.
"Maybe I have had too much coffee already, but I think this is a
refreshing piece," she wrote me. "It's very easy for PRs get caught up
in the daily hustle
of getting pitches out, so when a response like that comes around it
reminds us that we are all still humans with a sense of humor (most of
Michael's response was the best."
Maria Perez of PR Newswire was kind enough to forward my request for comment to a colleague within minutes, even
though she's on vacation. "We love you right back. ;-)," she wrote to me, which made me feel warm all over.
A Newsweek experiment
Jones isn't alone in experimenting by replying to the vast flood of
incoming promos. Last year Zach Schonfel, a Newsweek writer, spent Labor
Day week responding to every single press release he got, and chronicling the
Already on Tuesday morning, Schonfel was huddling in his cubicle,
terrified of his own inbox as the press releases rolled in, seemingly
four or five at a
He responded to a French manufacturing company, "I don't know much about
drilling and optronic assembly, but thank you for sharing!" He got an
a professor willing to comment on Hong Kong's democracy movement ("I'll
be sure to keep him in mind if I cover Hong Kong's democracy movement").
declined an invitation to a BuzzFeed Brews event in Los Angeles. (He
lives in New York.)
He even chronicled, day by day, his weirdest pitch excerpt of the day.
One day's winner: "As a result of the stand-off during the rescue, one
separated from her cubs, both of whom were retained by the circus, and a
solitary castrated male … was separated from his cage mate and
with the cubs."
Well, shoot, I figured I could play the "I love you" game, too. But
after sending a couple of replies to unlikely pitches, I started feeling
lothario making false promises to homely spinsters. It takes a degree of
sangfroid to declare love to the poor wallflowers stuck with
unlovable stories. I say this as one who once flirted with a PR career
but ended up parting ways after a hasty Las Vegas divorce.
Loving Dr. Darling
That's why, after I responded to an email with the subject line, "Dr. R.
Clement Darling III has been named Vice President of Society for
("I love you," I wrote. "I love Dr. Darling, too"), I ended up
confessing what I was up to. The society's spokeswoman didn't reply.
I also declared my love to Doron Ofir Casting
for a press release that somehow made the sun shine
and the bluebirds sing again in my life: "Doron Ofir Casting and VH1 are
seeking women who are at least 25 years old who are looking to wipe
clean and get a 'Fresh Start.'" Sadly, they didn't get back by press
I even wrote back to my own employer's email plugging an
internal communications master class. "I love you, Ragan," I said.
Yet after an all-employees email about Jones' story had blasted our
workplace, there was no hope of catching any of my
colleagues off guard.
What did it all mean? I sought the wisdom of Orly Telisman, founder of Orly Telisman Public Relations,
who wrote that
if a reporter replied with "I love you, "I would assume he just got done
emailing his wife or mother and write it off as a simple mistake/too
much stuff on
his plate. Of course I would be kind in my email back to him."
But if he again emailed, "I love you again," she says, "I would totally
Facebook stalk him to see if he was cute." She then might email him back
a funny "I
think I love you" Partridge Family meme as well.
"That's how this gal rolls," Telisman writes.
So maybe Jones was on to something. It's a thankless task to call
reporters' attention to castrated lions and optronic assembly, and maybe
we all like to
be romanced a bit—even if we suspect we're being played.
As Marion wrote to me, "I think we should all share more love."