The rise of the blog has made people very sensitive about the communications from PRs. The PR people at the Bad Pitch Blog berate other PRs for daring to send releases without a covering note or personalising the messages. The horror. It must be hard to be on the receiving end of those. Back in the real world, the real problem with most of the stuff that comes in is its unremitting dullness.
Invitations represent a particularly special corner of the world of boredom. And that is plain daft. Releases are one thing - we have been conditioned to expect dullness in those. But when the task is to set up a meeting? Dull, uninformative invites just demonstrate a lack of care.
Picture this. You've just been told the CEO of your client is flying over for a few days and wants "to meet the local press". What do you do? Do you find out which particular things this CEO wants to get off their chest, and use those as teasers to encourage people to turn up with questions? No, don't be stupid, you send out invites like this (I copied out a real one and changed some details to hide where this one came from, for the simple reason that the one that arrived today was no better or worse than any others of its kind.):
Jim Smiggins, president and CEO of Big Software will be in London on June 14th through 16th and would like to meet with you.
Aw, that's nice, flying all that way and he wants to meet me. Oh wait, that's a lie. He's got no idea who he wants to meet. This is a form letter. Don't get carried away. Actually this is not the problem with most invites of the kind. This next bit is:
The meeting offers a great opportunity to find out more about Big Software, the latest developments in the big software market and the latest products, which are to be launched on June 12th, which are particularly relevant to big-software customers in key verticals such as automotive, industrial and finance.
Fantastic. I can hardly wait. I can go along and get the death-by-Powerpoint on how the company is going to dominate the big software market, or something.
These days, if I want to find out more about Big Software, I can go to the website. What I want to know is why I should care. And that means working out whether readers will care what Smiggins has to say. If it's just a sales pitch on why big software rocks, that's unlikely. They too can go to the website.
I'm not asking someone to come up with an angle, but there isn't even the slightest hint of a teaser in there. Does Smiggins have strong opinions about certain things? Is there some big change coming that Smiggins reckons will reshape a part of the technology world? It doesn't matter whether he's talking out of his hat, it would just be useful to know so I can decide whether this is a meeting worth having. There are so few specifics in these invitations, they could be - and probably are - generated from a generic template.
I guess we will never know for sure whether Smiggins was good value. Because the invite went straight into the round filing cabinet. I could have spent some time doing background on the CEO, but there were many other possible stories and features to follow up. Too many to work out whether anything had changed in the world of Big Software.