It all began Thursday morning when I bumped into a fellow blogger at an event. I asked the blogger whether she knew about 2 malls’ Christmas events which she had been invited to and I hadn’t. Both malls are major malls in that they have several malls spread out in the Klang Valley and for one of them, even beyond the Klang Valley. She informed me that both malls had their media events this week.
As I know the PR companies for both malls, having been invited by them before, the 1st one replied that I was welcome to join their event even though it was just a day ahead. The PR for the 2nd malls was not obliging at all, stating that their RSVPs were full. Of course they would be full but why couldn’t she have invited me 2 weeks ago, this PR is in charge of the media events for 3 malls under the same group. I repled to her stating that I had just met a media person who attended her event the day before and got invited to their 2nd event that same afternoon so how can their RVSP be full?
The Manager then changed her tune, replying that I could join them for the 2nd mall’s Christmas launch if I wanted that same afternoon & that she would definitely keep me in mind for the malls’ CNY media events in January. I wasn’t desperate to take up her offer to join that afternoon’s event and besides, she would have to obtain clearance from the mall’s management to include me. Furthermore, it’s like an after thought isn’t it? Give me the consolation prize when it wasn’t her intention to invite me to any of the 3 malls. She only extended this olive branch because I’d informed her the person I spoke to had been invited last minute.
Now the reason I wasn’t satisfied with her reply is because I do post press releases sent by them for their other clients on a regular basis. I could say which is their client but that would be revealing the name of the PR agency. Those clients don’t have any media events or if they do, I have only been to one. So the least this PR agency could do is to invite me to the malls’ events of which there are 3 yet I didn’t even receive 1 invitation whereas other bloggers received at least 2 out of 3.
Isn’t it reasonable for me to find out why I was excluded when they clearly have me on their mailing list for press releases? They invite over a hundred people to the malls’ events yet they can cite seating limits as the reason for excluding me. It wouldn’t smart so much if I haven’t been doing work for them by posting their press releases but conveniently not inviting me is like making use of someone when it suits them. That’s what they don’t understand or acknowledge.
I wasn’t happy with this Manager’s reply which was basically a waffling reply so I emailed the PR agency’s Country Manager. I don’t think it is wrong to email someone more senior in the agency when the junior fails to address your enquiry. Later in the day, I found out that someone I have known for many years from another PR agency is now this agency’s Senior Manager so I spoke to her at length about it and she was very understanding although she could not explain why the Manager hadn’t invited me. The Senior Manager knew how I felt, being snubbed when I do help them post up press releases on a regular basis. I told her I feel absolutely unappreciated. I made it abundantly clear that I was not seeking her help to get me on the guest list but to find out why her Manager excluded me from the guest list.
Early morning on 25th November, at 1.05 am to be exact, the Country Manager replied as such:
“While I can understand your frustration at not being invited for the below event, I can not condone harassment to my team members.
I know for a fact that your name has always been submitted and is part of our master media list for lifestyle for all our clients. However, there are tough decisions that needs to be made due to limited seating, which has been explained to you on email and phone conversation.
My team will not be responding on this anymore. We wish you well”.
I thought her reply was really insulting, offensive and uncalled for especially since she is in charge of all the staff in that agency. Obviously her staff would also follow her style of insulting people. She c.c-ed her email to her Regional Managing Director.
How is emailing the Manager a few times deemed harassment? “Harass” is not a word/term anyone should use lightly, especially to accuse someone. This is the definition of harassment:
“the act of continued and regular unwanted actions against a victim. This may include anything from racial epithets to annoying or malicious remarks, but must become a pattern in order to qualify as harassment.
I sent a few emails to clarify why I was left out of the invitation list to the Manager, all on the same day and all within an hour or two. All my emails didn’t contain racial epithets, annoying or malicious remarks. That can hardly qualify as “continued and regular” and is certainly NOT a pattern. It’s not like I went to their office to confront the Manager as to why she didn’t see fit to invite me or call her to shout at her. It never even crossed my mind to do anything of that sort. If sending a few emails to seek clarification and one phone call is deemed “harassment”, then their staff sending me continued and regular emails (which is a pattern) containing their press release can equally be deemed harassment to me. Absurd!
As an experienced PR person as this person must surely be to be in the position of Country Manager, she should have been more circumspect and careful with her choice of words. I doubt she even understands the true meaning of “harassment”. Her email added salt to the wound and wounded me emotionally as I have no intention of harassing anyone, no matter what they do to me. Using the word “harassing” is an annoying and malicious remark, one that a person of her calibre in that industry should have refrained from using unless she had evidence to prove she was right.
For the record, in my entire blogging experience, I have not encountered any PR as nasty, unpleasant and vicious as this woman. I cannot for the life of me find one iota of good PR quality in her. I have encountered some bad PR people before but this woman is the WORST by a country mile and then some. It is unbelievable that the founder of this agency who is based in another country would have hired her and given her the position of Country Manager. Her PR skills are as lacking as water in the Sahara. I find her email absolutely abhorrent. Naturally it is a waste of time bringing this to the attention of her immediate superior or the founder as they would definitely support her and frankly I don’t want to be accused of “harassing” them.
Asking why I wasn’t invited is normal since I do quite a bit of posting for them. I don’t receive any payment from them so the least they could give is goodwill by sending me an invitation to whatever media event they have. This isn’t the 1st time I have asked a PR agency why I haven’t been invited to an event. Most of the time I ask because the post-event press release is sent to me when I didn’t get invited.
As to her excuse on limited seating, there are 3 malls with 3 events. The same people are invited to 2 or even all 3 of the events yet seating is so limited that they have to make the tough decision to leave me out? At some of these events, it’s not just seating anyway. If there aren’t enough seats, you just stand by the side. Her excuse is so lame and unacceptable, also incredulous given her high position in the agency. Why don’t they make the tough decision to not send me press releases for their other clients since I am so unworthy to be invited? Just send to all the people they keep inviting all the time. The more I read her email, the more disgusting it sounds. If I were in her position, I would have drafted a much more conciliatory email but then again, I think that offending people is part of her job scope.
Yes, I did send a few emails to the same person but that is because I didn’t get the answer I was seeking. I also called their Senior Manager since I knew her from years ago and hadn’t spoken to her in forever. It was therefore a few emails and one call, to different persons.
The way this woman couched her email made me wonder how a person so lacking in PR skills can make it as Country Manager. I would not even hire her as an Associate if I found out this is how she accuses people. I bet she never even bothered to look up the meaning of harassment before she accused me of a crime. I replied to her saying that it was more like her staff harassing me since they sent me so many emails asking me to post this and that on behalf of her clients.
I was so shocked and taken aback that she could attack me this way. I mean, you have got to be seriously mean to say that someone is harassing your staff when it was just the exchange of a few emails and one call, all within the space of less than a day. If I had kept this up for a few days, then she had every right to say I was harassing them. In my emails to her Manager, I never attacked her with harsh words. She cannot say I was impolite/rude but using the word “harassing” takes the cake – a word which no experienced or inexperienced PR (for that matter) should use against anyone unless they have irrefutable proof of such behaviour. Maybe she has been watching too much “Law & Order” during her maternity leave now.
I know I have been blacklisted by her and there is nothing I can do about it since the mall won’t care even if I complained. When it suited them, the PR people in this mall asked for my help in posting their promotions of which I have done many times but when it comes to reciprocating just by including me in their media events, I am left out. I know the drill which is why I really don’t want to be the nice gal to help put up press releases with no reward and I am not even talking monetary reward here.
Not that I wanted to post this in the first place as I’m too tired to do a lengthy post nowadays but right is right and wrong is wrong. If I didn’t post this, her words will gnaw at me. I know I didn’t do anything remotely criminal yet she practically labelled me one. I shouldn’t be subjected to this kind of email especially when the accusation is unfounded. I’d like her to come up with evidence on the continued AND regular pattern of said harassment.
It’s not just PR, I think everyone should be careful before they accuse someone of anything. You can be angry or annoyed with someone but do not accuse someone of a crime (harassment is a crime) unless you can prove it is true. If her Regional Managing Director sanctions her email, then I am glad I have nothing more to do with this PR agency. I have no regrets asking for an explanation as to why I was excluded since I am not one to take things lying down. Better to be blacklisted than keep getting used by people. Seems I am only good for being on their mailing list for press releases and not good enough to be on their guest list.
After I received this “slap-in-my-face” email, I emailed and whatsapped the Senior Manager one last time to say it was nice knowing her and goodbye as I knew she had been prohibited from contacting me ever again. As expected, no reply from the person I was previously on excellent terms with either by email or whatsapp. I don’t blame her as she has to toe the line otherwise her rice bowl is in jeopardy. I am certain the Country Manager has given explicit instructions to all her staff to never contact or mention my name again. Such is the spiteful attitude of a Country Manager of an award-winning agency with offices beyond Malaysia.
To be honest, I felt terrible not because I will be permanently excluded from the 3 malls’ media events. It is because no one other than this nasty person has ever accused me of harassment in my entire life. I am not in the PR industry but I would never send anyone an email that hurts their feelings. Just because the recipient is a nobody like me doesn’t mean you have to stoop so low as to accuse them of something that is completely baseless. I could even have used the word “discriminatory” to the Manager but I didn’t & “discriminatory” is not as nasty as “harassing”.
This is not the 1st time I have been ousted from the guest list of a mall. Some time back, I wasn’t invited to a mall & I whatsapped the person in charge of invitations who ghosted me. I then emailed the mall’s GM who replied positively & apologised. The GM never said that I was harassing her staff. See the difference? Same scenario, just that one is handled professionally while the other case is handled as well as trying to ciimb Mount Everest in stilettos. Clearly this Country Manager needs a crash course in good PR manners, something even a PR intern possesses. She thinks by lashing out at me, she’s gotten the better of me. She might have but it shows her vile character.
As for the other PR (the good one) they were so welcoming and happy to see me. They apologised that they hadn’t sent me the invitations to the mall’s media events for some time and thanked me for getting back in touch with them. Now that is what I call excellent PR and they aren’t even titled Country Manager.