A Tip off the Old Block

Chris “Long Tail” Anderson fires off at PR with both barrels, blocking unsolicited press releases and naming-and-shaming those who sent them:

Everything else gets banned on first abuse. The following is just the last month’s list of people and companies who have been added to my Outlook blocked list. All of them have sent me something inappropriate at some point in the past 30 days. Many of them sent press releases; others just added me to a distribution list without asking. If their address gets harvested by spammers by being published here, so be it–turnabout is fair play.

It’s not a bad response, albeit a tad unfair to not give due warning: The list includes identifiable individuals, whose comments should be solicited prior to publication. But it is definitely a problem for us journos, and his list does reveal those PR agencies that are most egregious in this regards: 5wpr.com, webershandwick.com, techmarket.com (not heard of them) and sspr.com. I’ve had problems with at least one of these and have set up a filter to dump anything from that domain into a junk folder since I get so many follow-up emails it’s dizzying.

The problem here is sloppy, generic email blasts rather than carefully targeted emails. (“Dear X, here’s a press release you may be interested in”, compared with “Dear Jeremy, I know you’ve written on this subject before, but that was 18 months ago and I thought this announcement by our client may possibly offer a fresh angle on the topic”).

It’s not that we don’t need press releases, it’s that we need the right ones. And the more we’re sent, the less time we have to find that nugget. PR folk don’t seem to get this; one recently apologized that she couldn’t separate out the ones that matched my interests and so asked me to bear with receiving all of them. Needless to say all of them now are sent to my junk folder so in effect I’m not getting any.

The best way for both sides to get something out of each other is, in my view, simple. Journalists (and bloggers) set up a page that explains, in detail, what their interests are (mine is here.) PR pitches get a stock response: “please check my PR page for what I’m interested in. Future releases that don’t match these interests will be blocked, along with further traffic from this address.”

The Long Tail: Sorry PR people: you’re blocked