Did you get that e-mail?

If you have undergone the traditional ‘on the job’ PR training then it’s very likely you have at some stage (or regularly) been told to ring up every journalist you send a press release to, with the most helpful question “did you get the press release”.

This practice, which I am ashamed to admit I did on a number of occasions, is simply the most ridiculous piece of work I ever had to do. I’m sure the motivation for following up the postal system and the fax machine (this was a long time before that new fangled e-mail system) had some basis in sound thinking.  After all it’s the telemarketing approach to PR, ring 200 people and surely someone will bite. You can also tell the client that you’ve been in touch with 200 journalists for their announcement.  But was it successful? I don’t believe so.

One of the common defences of this practice was “the client wants it done”, yet I can never recall a client requesting it or asking had we done it.

Of course if you were an innovative young buck like myself you soon tailored your follow up to ask if they needed photography or something similar…..

Charles Arthur is the technology correspondent of the UK Independent newspaper.  His has written a post on this practice on his blog:

“I made the point that one of the least useful phone calls they make is the one where they say �Did you get that press release I emailed you?� If I�m getting 200 emails a day, I can�t be calling people up to tell them; nor dealing with the phone calls arising from those emails. I need to do some work some time, not just acknowledge receiving the raw information.

�But,� said one, �we get required to make those calls by our clients. They want to get feedback on whether the release was useful to you.� It�s part of �measuring� PR�s effectiveness.

Ohhh, I said. Right. But it still doesn�t make sense. Here�s why. Most emails, I�m not going to act on. They�re just content in the wrong context; they don�t make a story. (On average, 1 in 500 emails generates a story directly.) So if you send it and then ask if it was useful, I�m probably going to say no.

But who knows how useful it might be in a few days, or weeks, or months? I archive my email, and search it on subjects; or read it and note the subject. That can come in useful later. So should I then ring the PR company and say �Mark that one down as useful!”