Buzz Spam

By | January 20, 2006

Anyone else getting spammed by craigslist, or rather its PR company? This in my blog mail inbox:

hi there Jeremy,
quick note to let you in on all the chitchat happening on the electronics forum over on
it’s the new year and in the spirit of giving and resolutions, people are helping people…with their electronic needs.
what’s up for discussion today??
“When is HCTV going to kick in? No more bunny ears?” “What’s the best cellphone provider for my city?” “What”s the average battery life of the Nano??” “Best deals on digital cameras??” “LCD, Plasma, Rear-projection, DLP projection – what’s your favorite?” “I’m upset. I can’t get reception to hear Howard!!”
and lots more…
want to test out some new ideas with consumers at hand? hear what the people think about the latest gadget? or simply tech chat?
craigslist is in 190 cities and 35 countries so people everywhere will enjoy this one.
let me know what you think! cheers, [name deleted]
[line deleted]
Publicists for Astro Studios, Citizen Cake, *craigslist, Diabetes Adventure Tours, Esurance, and Smugmug

I’m deleting the name of the agency because I got some poor trainee flack into trouble some time back for getting hot under the collar about being spammed in this way. But I have a feeling this is not just a rookie mistake: The same agency sent me an email two hours later trumpeting the Blooker Prize, sponsored by another client of the same agency. I’m not going to say who, because I don’t want to give either of them unnecessary publicity.

Why is this spam, and not just a savvy approach (or two) by a PR company? Well, let me count the ways:

  • it’s clearly from a database harvested from blogs (the second one, more obviously so, since it doesn’t even bother addressing me by name — ‘Blogging folks, Take note!’ it begins).
  • I’ve not heard from these people before — or at least I have no record of it. No introduction, no effort to establish a dialog, except a rather naff and insincere-sounding ‘let me know what you think!’.
  • There’s no real pitch, or even story, involved. No information to work with, other than an invitation to come on over and build some traffic and Google rank. It manages to both assume I know all the background about craigslist, and yet know nothing at the same time. It manages, in short, to both insult my intelligence and assume too much simultaneously.
  • Why are they doing this anyway? It’s not as if craigslist is some backwater of a website. Three billion pageviews per month, Craig himself says. Why hire a PR agency?
  • The subject fields of both emails are naff and faux personal (craigslist and electronics. the first one, with the period included. The second is ‘you blogger, you!’) How more spammy can you get?
  • The second email does include a press release, but it’s three months old. This might make some sense as background for the new development being cited in the email, but without any real new information beyond some poorly phrased faux-familiarity (‘2006 is here, get that book published. And so early on in the year, your friends and cohorts will find your smugness a tad much.‘) I’m left wondering, simply, huh?

I suppose a better term for this is buzz-spam. It’s an effort to create a bit of buzz, without actually doing the hard work a PR agency should be doing, which is to check out the background of the bloggers it’s spamming and see whether they could actually build a relationship with them. Laziness, dumbness or trying to stretch a meager budget? Clearly, from the PR company’s website, they’re happy to trumpet their achievements in the mainstream media, when one of the companies they work with gets a mention. Ten seconds to read my About page would reveal they could have scored a bigger splash had they pitched me rather than spammed me.

And if I wasn’t a mainstream journalist, there’s still a way to pitch bloggers without spamming them. Explain why you’re contacting them, show them you know a little about them, suggest it may be of interest to them, make yourself available for more information if they need it. It’s a conversation, and a real one. Not a fake one.

More if I hear back from them.

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