Amid the pandemic, a tsunami — of email

Companies large and small seek their place in the coronavirus sun.

Like an earthquake, the pandemic has heaved up a mighty tidal wave. Namely, a surge of email that makes me want to build an ark to escape.

Every company, nonprofit and self-promoting blowhard who can afford “public relations counsel” has launched an email campaign, clamoring for coverage, air time, mention or notice.

This is not a diatribe against the PR people. I’ve been dealing with them, and they with me, for nearly a half century. I love them.

But for the love of Jove, everyone — and I mean everyone — has something to say about coronavirus, and they want me and everyone else in the business to be the medium to tell you.

This reached a peak of ridiculousness Friday. An email came from an organization that streams live, er, intimate activity online to its members. It’s known as an “adult web cam.” When I bought my last web cam, it was a small piece of hardware that had no idea where I was going to point it. It took me a minute to realize what they meant by “adult web cam.”

The company was taking umbrage at Dr. Anthony Fauci for supposedly having “endorsed” dating apps for “hookups” and therefore “championed physical sexual encounters amid widespread pandemic shutdowns.” Notwithstanding that might be a dandy way to pass the time, its spokesman wanted to “reach out” with this “news story.” The company’s vice president was incensed at this “precocious rhetoric.”

I forwarded the email to my producer Eric White, urging to book this guest. His reaction: “Gross.”

Then I saw the real hook. All one had to do is use a particular hashtag as a promo code to receive $100 worth of tokens to join the “adult camming experience.” Just another bit of altruism during the crisis.

Email connected to coronavirus is also coming from the just plain unhinged. There is one person out there who has suddenly popped up in my email box with long paragraphs of incoherence blending coronavirus, politics, religion, eschatology and probably skipped meds. They’re in Florida and mentioned walking up Route 441 near Orlando.

I’m a little disappointed, though, in not having received a postcard lately from a person in Pennsylvania in whose head the CIA supposedly planted a control device back in the 1960s. I’ve been getting those at regular intervals for at least 30 years.

Also out there: The expert on everything.

Case in point: One perfectly legitimate vendor has a CEO whom its PR agent pitches for some topic or another at least three times a week. It might be cybersecurity, it might be how the IRS will handle check-issuing, or how the Small Business Administration will handle loan applications. You name it, he’ll comment. And he’s standing by right now to take calls.

How about if we call you?

I’m probably getting 50 emails a day from companies not even in the federal market. That’s in addition to about 200 a day that started coming in from a PR email service called Cision I don’t remember signing up for. Literally one in 200 is even vaguely relevant to my work. My first task in the morning is searching my mail for “cision,” highlighting them all, then hitting delete. I sometimes need to do this two or three times a day just so I have a fighting chance at noticing the emails that matter.

Many of the pitches are fine stories for somebody, just not for Federal News Network. Repeated emails arrive from a company giving away “hands-free footwear” to first responders, on the premise that shoes spread coronavirus in a big way. A hotel room booking service is pivoting to scheduling COVID-19 tests. A “screening tool” vendor is endorsed by a prestigious journal for its efficacy in helping people with intellectual and development disabilities.

The email flood also drowns out the email I actually wants to notice and read. I had one trusted public relations agent call and ask whether I’d seen what she’d sent the day before. I answered, “Honey, that email is probably 300 deep in the stack. Can you resend?”

Not that I need more email. But if you know what I do, have something for me, and I don’t answer — can you resend?

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