This might be the worst Black History Month pitch ever
OPINION: I have gotten some weird and concerning pitches from publicists and PR firms before, but this one takes the cake.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
I’m a Black journalist, so of course publicists and PR people approach me all the time to cover anything they think is even tangentially related to Black people or Blackness.
Let me let y’all in on a little secret: Most times the thing they are pitching is only related to Black people or Blackness by the tiniest of threads or not even at all, but that doesn’t stop them from sending a wall of text email pitching their client or idea to me anyway.
Such was the case Monday when I opened what was an impersonal email that was obviously mass-sent to a bunch of Black journalists and writers to see if anyone would engage with it. The email I opened was in fact a follow-up email, and I recognized that when I opened it and saw I had missed the first time it was pitched to me a few days ago.
The subject line of the original email was “Black History Month // More Than 50% of Black Women Report a Lifetime STD, Expert Commentary Available.”
The email itself was not addressed to anyone specifically; everyone on the thread was blind copied, including me.
The body of the email went as follows:
Hi there – I hope all is well!
Did you know that 50% of Black Women have reported a lifetime STD compared to the 28% of white women? While race and ethnicity itself are not a risk factor for higher rates of STDs among this community, factors such as poverty and less access to quality health care are, and it is no secret that BIPOC communities historically struggle with inequitable health care.
Are you working on any Black History Month stories where an expert on why the black community suffers from higher rates of STIs/STDs? If so, I’d be happy to connect you with [XXX]
– the largest telehealth provider of sexual and reproductive health care in the U.S.
While women in general are more likely than men to contract an STI, this number increases further for black women. The most commonly reported STIs for these women are trichomoniasis (33.75%), chlamydia (32.6%), and gonorrhea (31.26%). While the data is clear, the health inequities this community continues to face only makes this issue worse. Which is why companies like [XXX] are on a mission to bridge this gap and offer accessible, affordable, and attainable care to all women who need it most. By providing same day medications in discreet packaging across highly stigmatized areas of care, [XXX] is able to lead the sexual and reproductive healthcare markets, and has served over 940k+ patients to-date.
Please let me know if you are working on any stories where [XXX] commentary could be of use!
The bolded emphasis is theirs, not mine, and while I included the entire email so you can experience the same shock, horror and offense I did while reading it, I have removed both the name of the client they are representing as well as the expert they pitched because the only person who should be ashamed in this situation is the publicist who sent me the email.
In what world does anyone think pitching a story around Black women having a higher rate of STIs/STDs is appropriate content for Black History Month?
This is so offensive, it is taking everything in me not to send an email to the client and the publicist to let them know how pissed off I am about it. This is completely and totally inappropriate.
From a PR standpoint, you are doing your client a complete and total disservice by sending an impersonal mass email to multiple Black journalists with this as the pitch and waiting to say who takes the bait. I can only imagine that every other Black journalist who received this is just as offended and put off by it as I am.
The best part (and by best, I mean wait until you hear this part) of all of this is the expert the publicist is pitching to me for me to speak with is white.
It’s as if they have no understanding of the significance of what Black History Month means to Black people.
This isn’t the first time nor is it likely to be the last that a PR person pitches something ridiculous for BHM, but I am hoping that by drawing attention to this, it will give some publicists and PR professionals who have a modicum of self-awareness an idea of what not to do when pitching Black journalists in the future.
This is a time of uplifting the Black community and celebrating the accomplishments both big and small of Black people as a whole. We should be receiving pitches for content that would provide inspiration to the Black community, not tear us down and make us feel bad about ourselves. We get enough of that from living in AmeriKKKa 365 days a year. Can we have this one month to just love on ourselves a little bit?
Because it’s not just this pitch. It’s the way y’all will come at us with anything you think you can put a “Black” tag on. Liquor. A hamburger at this new food spot. A donut. A tire. If it happened to happen somewhere where a Black person happened to be in the same room, y’all think you can turn it into BHM content, and baby, that’s not how any of this works.
Don’t be that PR person.
Black History Month comes in February of each year. It’s not a surprise when it gets here; we all know it’s coming.
If you want to pretend to be “woke” and “supportive of Black people,” then put a little more effort into the content you pitch to us. Don’t think just because you found a factoid about Black people that you can pin onto something you are already trying to promote that it makes it appropriate content for this yearly celebration y’all grudgingly give us every year anyway.
Hell, Black History Month usually gets spoiled for us each year by someone doing something egregiously racist, so there’s that as well.
Learn more about us as a people. Engage with us in a way that is meaningful and impactful.
But by all means, disabuse yourselves of the notion that we will accept any and everything and call it appropriate for BHM.
To be clear, an article and discussion about the rates at which Black women contract STIs/STDs due to the negative impacts of systemic racism and medical bias is an article and discussion worth having, but Black History Month is not the time for that.
Do better, Becky.
Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.
Never miss a beat: Get our daily stories straight to your inbox with theGrio’s newsletter.