When I ran marketing, public relations strategy was relatively straightforward. There weren’t that many influential analysts, pundits and media powerhouses, so the PR folks built relationships and didn’t bug them unless we had real news to pitch. And we followed the old axiom: If the WSJ covers it, the others will follow. And they usually did.

Today that’s all out the window. Everyone and his brother – from small business owners and wantrepreneurs to every self-published author on Amazon – has PR agencies and publicists sending emails and invitations directly to countless online journalists and bloggers.

Personal branding and the 24/7 news cycle has turned PR into a numbers game. And it’s completely out of control.

I get countless emails every day on an old account that is apparently on every PR mail list and database on Earth. Sometimes when I’m bored I scan the day’s emails and get a kick out of some the ludicrous pitches. Thought you might enjoy some excerpts (they’re all real; no kidding):

“Could Owning a Gerbil Make You Go Broke? I’m writing to suggest a story idea for Entrepreneur, ‘Why can’t Americans own a gerbil without going broke?'”

Wait … what?

“Sex Education is often taught in school to inform the youth. But what happens when you’re that bit older and really do need that advice?” 

I’m thinking it’s a little late for the birds and bees talk.

“I’m writing with a story idea for FOX Business that asks, ‘Is teleportation already here?'”

Beam me up, Scotty. (And no, it’s not.)

“Reaching out to see if you’re working on any stories profiling CEOs and founders in the mattress industry.”

Hmm … what if the mattress CEO hooked up with the sex ed expert and, well, never mind.

Also I was invited to spend three days experiencing America’s next big city: Albuquerque, New Mexico. All expenses paid, of course. Afraid I’ll have to pass.

Funny thing is, I don’t respond to unsolicited emails from anyone, let alone PR people and publicists. I can think of maybe two exceptions in a decade as a columnist and blogger. That’s right; two.

Here’s a tip. If you write a book or launch a company and want to get some media coverage, don’t throw your money away. Hire a reputable firm that really knows what they hell they’re doing — if there even is such a thing anymore — not one of these mills that just spams thousands on a list they bought. Word to the wise.

Image credit Diann Bayes via Flickr