Pet PR Peeve: Don’t Call It “Rumors or Speculation”

Last Friday, I learned that Vistaprint had acquired custom embroidery company Soft Sight (dba Not the world’s largest deal, but notable because Vistaprint is better known for M&A cold feet than for consummation.

My sourcing was impeccable, but I followed journo protocol in calling Vistaprint for confirmation and comment. At the very least, I was hoping to learn what made Soft Scan different from all the acquisition targets that had come before.

After a few hours, a spokesman emailed me the following: “It is our policy not to comment on market rumors or speculation.”

The email I wanted to send back was even shorter. Just two words, and the second one was “you.”

Why such a hostile reaction to typical PR-speak? Because its ubiquity should not mask its offensiveness. Vistaprint implied that the information I was planning to publish was little more than idle gossip, and that no self-respecting public company would lower itself to such base conversation. The statement also was designed to delegitimize the news and, by extension, anyone careless enough to publish it.

The Vistaprint rep clearly knew about the deal. In fact, a different PR rep had forwarded me to him after I explained the purpose of my call. The transaction had closed before New Year’s, and was supposed to be part of the company’s earnings announcement this Thursday (it seems the schedule was accelerated, after I published). In short, he was full of crap. A simple “no comment” would have sufficed, and been the professionally courteous thing to do.

Okay. Bitching over. Back to our regularly scheduled programming…