As the producer of the nationally-distributed radio show West Coast Live, I’m on a lot of press lists. Each morning, I open my email to find hundreds of publicist-generated pitches, sent to me and many others, touting the irresistible credentials of the latest parenting expert, pet food promoter, political maven, aging rock diva or–in one memorable case–low-flush toilet. Yes, I was invited to a party at a fancy downtown hotel to preview this toilet, and gleefully sent in my RSVPee, but that’s another story.
We all know how to use these contact-list programs, how to “personalize” our communications so the recipient’s first name is in the heading and it feels direct and immediate. Day after day, I get emails that begin: Dear Kathi, Hope you are well. I’m writing to tell you about the groundbreaking work of (choose one: author/expert/clown school coach/toilet inventer so-and-so) blah blah blah.
The thing is, I am not well. Anyone in my wide circle of family, friends, colleagues, and associates who knows me also knows that I’ve been fighting breast cancer, along with a treatment program that, while administered by lovely brilliant people, borders on the barbaric. I’ve been spindled, mutilated, terrified, stuffed through tubes, and am getting systematically poisoned. After the poison segment ends I will be radiated daily for many weeks. There have been months-long periods when I wasn’t allowed to drive, or lift anything as heavy as a laundry basket. I’m on meds that make me woozy, and there are certain bathroom issues—where’s that low-flush toilet when you need it?
So, “Hope you are well” doesn’t sit well these days. It’s actually a little insulting, even though I understand the intentions are benign. Somehow, this sentence without the “I” makes it even worse. These writers aren’t even owning their words, or bothering to state this vapid sentiment in a complete grammatical sentence.
Am I being cranky, petty, and paranoid? Probably. Chemo does that to you—just ask my husband, noted author and harmonica genius Sam Barry…or my son, theme-park commentator and comedy music genius Tony Goldmark. Am I really mad at cancer, and not clueless online marketers? Of course. But please, if you are a publicist, consider this. We producers want to hear from you. We want to know about your fabulous clients. We are happy to receive a message that gets right to the point. But unless we have a relationship in which good thoughts and healthy wishes carry the blessing of personal connection, I’d rather not hear (insert low-flush toilet joke of your choice).
Hope you are well.