PR & Journalism Education

Stop Spamming Journalists

Blasting a news release out to as many reporters and blogger email addresses as you can find is PR spam. It’s one step removed from buying email addresses on the black market and sending enlargement offers. Whether you pay for access to a media database like those offered by Cision or Vocus, or you build your list from scratch,  you don’t have the right to mass email media you think may be interested in the topic you’re pitching.

If you’ve gone through the process of getting journalists to opt-in to receive your mass-distributed news, that’s different. Either way, most journalists are fine with you emailing them directly, provided your pitch is genuinely targeted to the areas they cover, and not a mass email.

As many of you know, we’ve had our latest example of a PR person spamming a media list. It seems like there’s a new story like this every couple of months. If there’s one group of media contacts you really don’t want to piss off, it’s the social media crowd. I don’t need to throw this person under the bus, since AdAgeTechCrunch, and a few dozen or so other media outlets have done so already. The point I want to make here is that if you mass distributes a PR pitch or press release via email, you could be next to the next PR person with a target on their back. Don’t mass pitch.

The only way you can keep yourself off PR spammer lists is to never spam journalists. It’s that easy. I get how this happens though, it’s so tempting to just send the pitch to 100 or so outlets that might be interested and call it a day. Rather than spending weeks on pitching and follow up, one email can save a lot of time. It’s also the least effective way to generate favorable publicity for your clients.

What Happened With This Recent Example?

In case you don’t know about the latest PR spam fiasco, I’ll paraphrase for you. A PR professional put together a list of social media reporters and journalists, put together a pitch, and inadvertently CC’d the list (instead of BCC). Within minutes of the pitch, dozens of reporters and bloggers on the list started to “reply all” – some of the replies were heavy-hitter bloggers. Everyone on the list got ticked off and started getting irritated by all the reply alls (and the lack of a clearly defined opt-out option on the email). It wasn’t pretty. The offender was also slow to respond to the mistake she made, which only made matters worth it. As a side note, even our lowly blog was on the distribution list, along with a bunch of top-notch bloggers (which I know from the reply alls).

Most people were irritated by the number of emails created by everyone clicking “reply all” to voice their opinion about being pitched via CC. The pitch wasn’t that bad, it was the CC that pushed people to get out their pitchforks and skewer this PR firm. By now, I would think that most of us are Web-savvy enough (especially a social media group), to know you don’t “reply all” to an email like this. For that, the repliers are partially to blame. But ultimately, this all could have been avoided if she hadn’t sent a mass email pitch to the list in the first place.

If the PR person had tailored a pitch to each reporter or blogger, based on what they write about, their audience, and the reasons why they should be interested in the pitch, the outcome could have been more favorable. I’m sure this is the last time this person will pitch via mass email, but somebody else will repeat the offense. This just makes it more difficult for any PR pro to break through the filters and get media attention.

So this is my call to all of you thinking about sending your next pitch via mass email – don’t do it. Please stop spamming journalists with your pitches.

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