Mindless, vapid, useless, misdirected, clueless, annoying…
There are many words to describe lame e-mail pitches or mass spam attacks on bloggers, journalists and anyone else with the remotest amount of influence in the news world.
When does the editor/journalist/blogger go ballistic? After the 50th e-mail sent to an agency or an individual, politely (or rudely) informing them that you don’t cover the topic they just pitched or spammed you with? The 500th? The 5,000th? For Chris Anderson, the last straw came this week, and he blames "PR people". He posted the e-mail addresses of everyone who sent him an e-mail this month that he feels was inappropriate. Read the comments to the post to catch the depth and flavor of discontent.
If you’re helping some company get free news coverage of a forgettable product enhancement that affects no one and interests no one, you run the risk of being being ignored, reviled or flamed, as in this case.
Send the wrong message at the wrong time, and you run the risk of being publicly embarrassed, excoriated, eviscerated or mocked. Based on the quality of news releases and pitches I’ve seen, the blame is well deserved, in most cases. Check out The Bad Pitch Blog if you don’t believe me.
So, what can you do to prevent being accused of spamming journalists or bloggers? Be professional. Keep your pitches short and to the point. Show how the information is newsworthy, and how it can be used. Indicate that you understand the areas the person regularly covers. Don’t send something if if doesn’t pass the "so what?" test. If someone has subscribed to a list, make it clear that they’re receiving something they actively subscribed to. Post news on your company’s blog or a wire service, and let people subscribe to it.
But really, when you consider the vast array of behaviors that can get you flamed, there is almost no outreach you can do that doesn’t have the potential to backfire on you at some point. If it happens to you, suck it up, or change jobs.
The examples of outrageous PR behavior that have been referred to by various bloggers are so varied, it would be impossible to not offend someone at some time: indiscriminate spam; over-familiarity; not being friendly enough, or overly professional, or too casual; pitching by e-mail; not pitching by e-mail; failing to identify a specific angle that would interest the blogger/journalist; being so specific that the pitch seems to be dictating how the item should be written; being a PR person; being mistaken for a PR person; not being technical enough; being way too technical; thinking the person might be interested in what you send…
You get the point. Everyone is different. Some people are even different on different days. The well-crafted e-mail, followed up by a phone call that seemed to perfectly suit someone’s needs on one day may make them apopleptic with rage the next day.
The rules are fluid. The anger felt by the bloggers or journalists in question is real, and in most cases legitimate.
Sometimes their wrath is going to catch people who are less deserving of a public whipping than others. That’s the "new normal."
As for whether Anderson was justified in publicly listing the people he considers PR spammers, there’s a lot of debate about that. I think his one strike and you’re out approach, and his "there is no getting off this list" stance makes him look more inflexible and unreasonable than he probably is.
Do spammers deserve our scorn? You bet.
Are you a spammer? If you manage contact lists and send bulk e-mails to them, you’re probably considered a spammer by at least a few of the people on your lists, no matter how much work you’ve done pruning the lists and getting pre-approval from the recipients. Even people who legitimately subscribed to your content may not remember that they did.
If you don’t have prior approval for bulk e-mails, you’re a spammer by definition. In Europe, that’s against the law.
Remember, you’re not just sending a news release or a pitch. You’re adding to the Inbox pain that your recipient experiences almost daily. Before you send, make sure it passes their "so what?" test. Not yours. Not the CEO’s.
See more discussion.