Alex certainly seemed to be casting his net wide. He offered his services as a commentator on the new series of the TV show, as a “creative business PR/Marketing agony uncle” and as a product reviewer. And, of course, he reminded us of his “passion for business” and in particular his PR expertise. While demonstrating a less than impressive grasp of punctuation.
But as any PR fule kno, there is a golden rule to observe when sending out such an email. And that is, use the BCC field for all your addresses. If you don’t, you have sent the details of everyone on your list to everyone else on your list. And what happens then is that everyone starts getting replies from everyone else and finds they have been added to the marketing lists of various outfits who want to sell them goods. Few things are guaranteed to irritate a journalist, or even another PR, more than this.
So there are no prizes for guessing the correct answer to “Did PR genius Alex use the BCC field?” He didn’t. In the minutes after his email landed in my inbox, I watched as mail after mail dropped in behind it with the speed of a flotilla of Space Invaders steadily working down my screen. Some were angry replies pointing out the error. Others were oh-so-witty ripostes. And still more were were from people who “just couldn’t miss this chance now I have your address”.
Scooping the web
Within the hour, the clanger had gone viral. It was trending on Twitter, picked up by online news services and even run on OK magazine’s website. I’ll admit, I took advantage of it too. I filed a story for Daily Finance, the website I freelance regularly for. When I posted I couldn’t see any other stories on the web, although there was a lot of noise on Twitter, so – in true Apprentice style – I’m claiming the scoop on that. The story generated huge traffic.
The thought had crossed my mind that it could be a hoax. Alex’s website, linked in the mail, seemed genuine enough. There was no contact number, so I mailed him to check if this was really him and to see if he had anything to say. But I decided to go live, after consulting my editor, because the debate about whether this really was Alex and whether or not it was a blunder or a piece of marketing genius designed to raise his profile was now the story.
Genius or plonker?
I still haven’t heard from Alex. Maybe he’s keeping a low profile. But the story was one of those minor dramas that made the week. This may have been the intention, but I think it was a blunder, not design. If it was a cunning plan, what has Alex achieved? He has certainly thrust himself back into our consciousness. But what is the image we have of him? Even more of a plonker than we thought he was after watching the series. To boot, he has irritated a large number of journalists with a mail that is extremely poorly targetted. Those ‘I can do anything, me’ mails do not put the sender across as an expert.
But let’s have some sympathy for Alex. He’s trying to make his way. He may have made an epic blunder, but the intention was honorable. We’ve all got to work, after all. But what possessed some of the other people on the list, obviously aware of what the error was, to reply all when sending their angry responses or their carefully crafted witticisms? Could they not see the contradiction here. Especially those who wrote in angry capitals ‘GET MY NAME OFF THIS LIST!’
How is it possible to be so lacking in self-awareness or irony not to realise that doing the very thing that has made you jump up and down will provoke the same reaction in others, and so make you as unpopular as the original sender? I must confess that when the umpteenth one of these popped up some six hours after this all blew up, I did reply – just to the sender – in my best Sgt Wilson ‘do you think that’s wise’ style pointing out that it was possible just to reply to the original sender.
All in all, a bit of spice for the working day. I may seem to be working from a quiet surburban box room, but it’s all go here, I can tell you.