Postings from the Edge

Global PR, new PR, social media and printing ink

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

The alternative to PR 'spam'

There's been lots of chat over this long weekend about PR people "spamming" bloggers and journalists with press releases. The kick-off to this was the decision by Gina Trapani of to blacklist PR companies because they sent press releases to her personal email, rather than to a specific address at Gina has chosen to blacklist whole domains (i.e. stopping emails from the entire company) rather than individuals as Chris Anderson, editor of Wired did.

I panicked when I saw this because only a day or two before I had sent a story pitch to Lifehacker on behalf of a client. I checked the blacklist and I wasn't on it; going back to my email client I could see that luckily I had sent it to the 'right' address.

However, if I had the option, I would have sent it to Gina Trapani on the basis that if it wasn't right for her she would send it on to the other journalists. I did this on the assumption that that's what an editor does.

On the whole, I can appreciate her frustration and to some extent her reaction. But the incident underlines that the rules are changing for both sides. Bloggers, journalists and blogger-journalists also have a duty to make it clear what they will and will not accept and how they will accept it.

I have more or less dropped buying in mailing lists from the usual suspects. That means I have to do a lot of research to hand-pick the right journalists and their publications. Generally that means ringing up beforehand to ask if they want to be part of a mailing list. It is hard and time-consuming work and I don't charge anything more than a flat rate for it because I see it as an investment in my business and my clients' business.

That experience has made me realise how poor most magazine and newspaper web sites are in dealing with their own relations. Few give a clear idea who edits the publication, what they are looking for, their deadlines, upcoming features etc. (Mind you, if I want advertising I have to beat them off with a shitty stick...). No wonder that PR people use mailing lists from Cision and PRNewswire.

On a wiki page Gina gives detailed instructions on how to set up a filter to stop unsolicited emails from PR companies. Perhaps her time would have been better spent setting up an automated response telling PR companies that they should really be sending their releases to the other email address and giving more detailed information on the web page.

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