Tofu has no place at a BBQ

Neighborhood cookouts are back! I love smoked brisket, but I also enjoy the humble hotdog with ketchup and mustard.

I’ll tell you what I do not enjoy is a hotdog made of tofu.

Now, some people love tofu and I’m not saying it’s always bad. I am saying that if you bite into a tofu-dog, expecting it to be a juicy frank like the ones at the ballpark, you’re going to be disappointed.

It’s about managing expectations, and in PR that’s a big part of our job.

You manage your clients’ expectations when it comes to coverage they can expect for a new product, study or executive hire. I have had to gently let people know that a New York Times placement for their local recycling initiative is not a realistic goal.

You also shape the expectations of the journalists you reach out to. When you send an email with a subject line that says, “Serena drinks this before every match…” it’s reasonable for the reporter to assume the email will contain information about Serena William’s hydration routine before her French Open matches. They will not be thrilled if instead they find an email about high schooler Serena Reed’s preference for Yoo-hoo before her regional chess matches.

While many try to use the subject line as a summary for their message, I have taught for years that the true purpose of the subject line is to get reporters to open your email. And I stand by that. But in the era of fake news and alternative facts, I feel the need to clarify: Truth and transparency must come before everything else in PR. Promising one thing and delivering something else helps you in no way.

There is not much point in getting a journalist to open your email if it’s going to be something she is not interested in. And it is not worth the quick win of getting a reporter to interview your CEO, if the information he was promised is not forthcoming.

Misleading information on dating apps, in the political arena and on food labels is mostly just annoying. But in PR, misleading information is a dealbreaker. Journalists have so many emails flooding their inboxes, they can’t waste their time and energy trying to sort fact from fiction. If you can’t immediately deliver what you promised, you get deleted. Or worse, blocked. When that happens there’s not a lot you can do.

So if your celebrity fundraiser organizers still have not heard back yet from Beyoncé’s people, don’t tell reporters that she “might” be there. And if your new breakfast cereal is not organic, do not use that word anywhere in your message.

And if you’re serving tofu hotdogs at your next party, please, let your guests know! Or just serve Impossible burgers instead – I bet your guests can’t tell the difference, and that’s part of why I wrote about the company’s founder.

This article was originally published on June 9, 2021

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