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#talibansubjectlines and the terror of incorrect PR emails

PR is a busy industry, with time always of the essence. As such it’s no surprise mistakes happen, though sometimes the errors are so unforgivably stupid it’s hard not to read, aghast, at the bad press generated as a result.
Twitter is always alive with examples of a #PRfail. Most of these cases amount to impatient journalists venting anger at receiving poorly targeted pitches, which is hardly the end of the world (and often simply a tell tale sign of another bad day). In contrast, some truly are awe-inspiring cock-ups, but even of these few spawn their own individual hashtag, and concern one of the most notorious organisations any of us have ever read horror stories about.
#talibansubjectlines is currently doing the rounds in 140-character land after a key Taliban spokesperson accidentally sent out a mailer to a long line of interested parties, but neglected to use the old BCC field. Needless to say, despite many of the names therein being journalists plenty of other recipients won’t want the public to know they signed up to this particular media release list. Academics, authors, and activists abound, not to mention one Afghan legislator and a provincial governor.
Of course it always helps to keep friends and enemies in equally close proximity, so merely having your email on the distribution directory does not necessarily constitute a crime. Nevertheless this is rather embarrassing for all involved, and certainly puts some of the niggling criticisms people voice regarding public relations blunders into perspective. Qari Yousuf Ahmadi was the chap responsible for this heinous oversight, whether this will result in his dismissal or bosses paying for him to partake in some communications training is, as yet, unclear, but we certainly wouldn’t fancy being present at the disciplinary hearing. Take heed from this story then, and remember the first rule of public relations emails- check, and double check, before sending anything out to anyone.

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