Fighting Back Against PR Spam

A few months ago, Wired Magazine’s Chris Anderson blasted public relations companies for spamming him with irrelevant media pitches – echoing the sentiments of many other journalists. As an act of punishment, he also posted the email addresses of the spammers on his blog (thus opening them up to becoming targets of spam themselves from data-mining bots that would, ironically, deliver them to the lists of other spammers).

The move caused something of a stir in the PR world, as some of the domains blocked belonged to some of the biggest names in the world of public relations firms.

The issue has resurfaced again as blogger Matt Haughey has done the same thing, publicly admonishing PR spammers. The interesting note is that Gina Trapani of Lifehacker has had enough too, and went the extra step of setting up a wiki site so that journalists and editors can post the domain names of notorious public relations spammers to make the process of blocking that spam easier (as it can be directly uploaded into a spam filter’s blacklist).

Though I work in PR, ultimately I side with the writers/editors. In this day and age, with access to the Internet and services like Bacon’s online, there’s really no excuse for the “shotgun” approach to press releases. Everything is personalized now (as the suffering broadcast and print media are learning) and the dinosaurs need to take note or slip further into the inky black tar pit of irrelevance.

Sure, it’s tough as a PR pro to say ‘no’ to a client that wants you to blast everyone in the world with a release about their product (it’s even harder to talk them out of a release altogether when they have something that is not at all newsworthy), but you have to do it for their sake and yours. It hurts your reputation and theirs to hit unreceptive audiences with an irrelevant message, which could turn them off to future messages from you that are spot-on.

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