I've written a lot of direct mail promotions over the years. I've had a theory an old Ragan editor articulated when he said that Americans, when they get some advertising, like to detect "a hint of the hustle."
That is, they like to see you're willing to beg a little, to cajole, to show how much you want it with a little razzle-dazzle, a little shimmy-shammy, a little step-right-up—a little hustle.
And it's an element I purposely include in most of the conference promotions I write. Lines like, "you'll go from zero to speechwriter in three hours," session descriptions like "anything goes on this no-holds barred panel" and promises like, "goosebumps, guaranteed."
My theory is: Readers recognize this as a bit o' the old blarney, and they appreciate the effort.
But the key word in "the hint of the hustle" is "hint."
Last week I got an e-mail promotion from PR News editor Diane Schwartz, who I don't know from Adam Schwartz. (But I've looked her up on the Internets, and she sure looks like a nice person, doesn't she?)
The e-mail's subject line was: "Connecting on May 25th."
I looked at my wall calendar. Had I forgotten about a meeting or a phone call with a Diane Schwartz on May 25th? Nope, the 25th looked wide open. So I opened the e-mail.
I'm writing to see if we can connect on May 25 during the PR News Public Affairs Conference in Washington, DC. I noticed you haven't registered yet for this one-day event, and I'm hoping you'll consider attending. The early bird rate ends this Friday!
This one-day conference will be packed with smart, practical tips and tactics for managing issues and public affairs initiatives, and it will give you a chance to connect with other smart people and learn, share and possibly partner. …
The letter went on. I skipped to the signature line:
Vice President & Group Publisher
Well, at least she didn't say, "Sincerely."
Diane Schwartz, you can hustle a hustler, but this is cheap trickery. There's a line between, and if you don't know where it is, then you're in the wrong business.