Tom Murphy – Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy blogging about PR and other things since 2002…

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The PR spam victims bite back… and the response…

May 9th, 2008 · 9 Comments · Public Relations

Bad or irrelevant PR pitches are nothing new. 

Many of us, in our more quiet moments, will admit to probably not investing the time and effort we should have from time to time (a long time ago obviously :-) ). 

The key thing is to remember your mistake and learn from it. 

We’re seeing more journalists and bloggers publishing lists of PR firms they are blacklisting. [Ref: Chris Anderson last October]

Now a guy called Matt Haughey is doing something similar as has Gina Trapani.

See here and the PR Spammers Wiki for more details.

(For the more evil minded among you, although it’s a Wiki, you won’t be able to edit it without the right log-in.  You could always ask, but I get the feeling you won’t get a favourable hearing :-) )

Todd Defren, whose firm is on the list, has posted an “open post” (I am assuming that’s the correct blog equivalent…) to Gina.

I like it.  It’s conversational.

Brian Solis, whose firm is also on the list takes a different tack. (I have to admit I came away thinking about meat more than anything else and I’m not sure that was the objective!)

I hope that before any “holier than thou” PR person starts to crow, they stop and realize that we all live in greenhouses on this matter.

We should strive for best practice, reinforce the right and wrong way to communicate (online and offline) and reflect that sometimes mistakes happen, and sometimes people are more or less forgiving.

That’s not to say that I am adopting a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil stance on this matter.  To be honest, even this little blog receives a lot of “PR” pitches that don’t make the mark.

If you’re going to engage online, then for the love of jebus do some research.  That’s what Internet browsers and search engines are for…

On a related note, Alice Marshall offers some advice on the importance of being proactive before an issue arises rather than hiring shady companies to try and out rank negative blog posts.

Hear hear…

 

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9 Comments so far ↓

  • Todd Defren

    Hi Tom, glad you liked the post. Thanks!

  • Damien Mulley

    The sheer arrogance from PR people on this matter speaks volumes. If what you’re pitching is so important to this blogger then shouldn’t they be coming to you?

    Just because you have done some research and you are now highly targeting someone does not mean it’s not spam. It’s targeted spam. See? Still spam. It’s also a bit arrogant, yes you worked harder for that pitch, your work has value but it’s rich if you think you deserve respect and airtime from a stranger just because you worked hard.

    Would you walk up to someone that just gave a speech and shove a press release into their hand or would you introduce yourself, say what you do, hand over a card and ask permission about sending something to them that may interest them?

    Don’t pitch if you contact a blogger, ask can you pitch and explain why the pitch could be of value. No sell at all in an initial email/intro. “Hey Gina, this is what you do, this is what we do, any interest if *I* send you on some stuff from time to time or maybe you can dip in and out of my blog where I talk about these things?”

  • Tom Murphy

    C’mon Damien don’t dance around, just say it :-)

    Speaking personally, if a PR person has taken the time to understand what I’m writing (there have been a couple honestly) and what I might be interested in, and then sends me a relevant e-mail, I will normally look at that in a favourable light.

    It’s the tiny majority however.

    I don’t expect everyone to build a personal relationship with me. I’m not sure I agree with the real-world verus virtual world analogy.

    I do agree we’ve some way to go.

    Anyone else have thoughts on this?

  • Murphy’s Law » Are PR people arrogant about Web 2.0?

    [...] Damien Mulley has posted a very interesting and thought provoking comment on my post regarding PR spam. [...]

  • Damien Mulley

    Tom, do you think you, any PR person or any business person has the right to pitch to someone just because they can be contacted and you’ve done your research on them but have never contacted them before this?

    An extreme (but valid for some) viewpoint on this is that PR people violate the inbox of bloggers/people with their pitches, whether homework is done or not. The inbox of the modern web savvy person is an extension of their persona, it is their kitchen table that they sit down to when reading mail that came in the door /after/ they threw out all the junkmail. Ask for an invite to sit down.

    Like it or not, email is a very personal thing to most people and not a blunt tool that some business people see it as. Bloggers rarely have an email for blog “work” and a personal email address too. When you crowbar a pitch into that pile of fragant letters you can unnerve and annoy people that are not expecting it. There will be backlash. Sure you might argue that these people need thicker skin, the minute you do, you lose because you want people to change for you. It kind of removes the human bit of the “public” in public relations. Do you put people before business?

    Todd’s blog and company is great, I’m a big fan of their work and sub to the blog but that open letter is telling people how to behave and how to react. That’s control, that’s an affront, that’s shoveling shit down the throat of the public and putting a boot over their mouth. The open letter should have ended with the fact that they screwed up, not telling Gina how she should or should not blacklist people or companies. It is her right to blacklist, it is the public’s right to blacklist any and all PR companies if they were assaulted by a single employee or the whole bunch.

    Sorry Tom, I danced around my point again :)

  • Susan Getgood

    The bottom line, though, is that black lists don’t work. They trap the naive and the well intentioned along with the guilty, and since it is simply a numbers game for the true spammer, a few blocks here and there don’t matter.

    Worse, focusing on the black list distracts us from the real issue, which is what *should* companies do to better engage with journalists and bloggers.

    I’d rather keep working to solve the problem than argue about who is wrong or right. More in my post on the subject, Black lists don’t work

  • Damien Mulley

    If blacklists don’t work then how come all these conversations have started about PR and spamming? I think blacklists are working well.

    Again Susan you, like others seem to think that being naive or well intentioned is some kind of pass to spam. Good intentions can also beget bad deeds.

  • Susan Getgood

    Damien — read my blog. not just the most recent post. You’ll find that I am one of the least likely people to give anyone a pass for bad pitching as you will ever run into in the PR & marketing blogosphere.

    I believe that blacklists focus attention on the wrong thing — who is right — rather than on the real issue, which is how do we fix a broken PR system and prevent its pathology from spilling over into our relationships with bloggers.

  • Tom Murphy

    Damien,

    I do think you raise an interesting point but there’s also something I disagree with.

    PR people are now faced with the challenge of managing two types of communication – traditional communication with media and some bloggers and new communications online via whatever tool you care to name.

    The new tools require new approaches and to make things somewhat more complex some bloggers (or whatever) are OK with PR people and some aren’t.

    PR people need to work that out.

    However, I’d also point out that there’s a lot of prima donnas online who take themselves a little too seriously and I have to be honest that (as a blogger) I don’t have much time for it.

    Believe it or not I get quite a few PR pitches (not as many as an A, B or C list blogger). The majority are incredibly poor. But sometimes I get approached by a PR person who has read the blog and has some relevant news.

    I don’t get sniffy if they just send me an e-mail. If it’s irrelevant it gets deleted, if it’s relevant and well targeted I might use it, I might not.

    Now if someone makes it clear how they prefer to be contacted and some low IQ practitioner still sends an e-mail to their personal e-mail, I’m all for flagellating them or whatever.

    If someone is getting a lot of PR spam then I support them calling foul – and hopefully people will learn.

    But let’s not lose the run of ourselves either.

    We’re all human…

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