A post mocking a small cafe's PR. From Sprudge's Instagram Account

I've been a follower of Sprudge ever since I got into specialty coffee many years ago. I got in fairly deep, managing an app and website on the business, both of which I have now shut down.

Sprudge was always a great indie publication that supported indie coffee shops doing something different. In fact, it still is.

That's why I was so disappointed in this post that mocked a cafe for sending them a somewhat boilerplate invitation letter/press release.

Yes, I acknowledge the letter was tone-deaf. To dismiss American coffee as being inferior to Australian coffee is a bit disparaging to all the amazing roasters that have been doing great work in the US since the late nineties. (So-called "third-wave" coffee, after all, began in the US.) And yes, some of the things that distinguish this cafe seem to be the same as every other business.

But small businesses make missteps. They might use too aggressive of a letter, or not do enough research, or hire the wrong PR firm, because guess what: starting a business is exhausting and your attention is being pulled everywhere.

Sprudge was once small. The post here has lost that "small publication" vibe.

Here are a few things that this post seems to ignore:

  • When you make fun of someone, you're making fun of a real person. Even if it's a PR company, it's a PR company staffed with people.
  • It's really hard starting a cafe and succeeding, and one's attention can be pulled in a lot of places.
  • Writing well is hard. It's hard writing an innovating press release that helps a company stand out from a very crowded market. Press releases are bombastic and make large claims, and this one is no different.
  • It's hard starting a business full stop. Everyone's already out to get you.
  • It's hard, as a non-American, to know how an American is going to judge your tone. Americans express themselves proudly and boldly, and non-Americans have to adapt our style to succeed.
  • It's definitely especially hard to know when a company that usually supports small businesses is going to mock you and your country of origin.

I was particularly disappointed with how by posting this on social media, Sprudge encouraged other companies and people to criticise this company.

Some of the comments:

There were also comments asking Sprudge to hold itself to a higher standard, and that's what I want to remind you to do, Sprudge: Be bigger than this.

Use your voice to help businesses do better PR, to stand out, and to stand on the shoulders of giants. Not to mock them.

A better response by Sprudge would have been:

"Dear Austrailan coffee shop, We'd love to take you up on your offer for a sample!

"I also wanted to remind you that not ALL American coffee is Starbucks. Specialty coffee started in the late nineties in the US, before it even did in Australia, and we have countless amazing roasters across the country.

"Besides which, Starbucks has and continues to do amazing things in coffee. One visit to the roastery in Seattle will settle any doubts you have on the matter.

"And many small cafes, including in your home town, have the features you mentioned. To help us promote you, how do you plan to stand out? It's a tough business.

"We do love Australian-style coffee and from our trips to Melbourne we know it's different.

"We're looking forward to trying your sample.

Love, Sprudge."

This heart is still in Sprudge. It just needs to be reflected in the social media. I know it can.

With love