PR people: you’re not blocked, but do your homework
Chris Anderson rants about the woeful life of being the editor of a large publication who receives an endless torrent of spammy-smelling PR email from “lazy flacks” — all stuff about which I’ve zero knowledge. (Actually, I’m sure that’s probably where the comparisons end between our jobs — but who knows.) He then leapfrogs the next few traditional steps (namely, hitting the delete key, hitting the unsubscribe link, quickly replying to these people, or even having his assistant call their bosses) and openly publishes the names and email addresses of hundreds of PR people for spammers to have their way with. Um, okay. Chris, it’s not the same.
Let’s cut to the chase: yes, unfortunately most PR people don’t do their homework. They get their target’s email address (from that target’s site, Google, a media list like Bacon’s, or wherever else) and add X editor to whatever blast they’re cooking up because — as you probably know — many of these “flacks” are paid (extra) for results (read: stories in the media about their company / client). Yes, the resulting PR spam is ridiculously irritating and, when ignored, often leads to embarrassingly clueless and time-wasting followup calls.
But these people aren’t out to make our lives harder, and many of them are just doing what they can with what’s become a severely broken system between media relations and the media. For all our communications tools PR often reminds editors more of telemarketing than valued outreach. Can these firms and companies do a better job at targeting the most relevant publications (and editors therein)? No doubt, so in that sense Chris’s post is founded in the right reasons. PR people simply need to do a cursory amount of relationship-building to know who to get in touch with instead of just spamming the top of the food chain in the hopes of a trickled-down story. But I’m still not sure how lofty disinterest and spoon-feeding spam databases is the correct response to a broken system.
(For reference, this is the same problem faced by editors of publications large and small. Personally, I’ve dealt with it for years with some combination of ignoring / deleting, replying with a template, verbally rejecting calls, or in some cases telling the completely misguided ones only to call / email back when they actually grok Engadget and have something directly relevant to our coverage. Ask around, I’m not shy about doing this — it’s better for both parties, so far as I can tell. I even wrote a post about it.)
PR strategists interested in making real changes about this whole process should feel free to get in touch to discuss further. And don’t you dare add my personal email address to any lists! (Joking. But not really.)