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November 01, 2007

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Emily

Irrespective of all the issues raised by your original post... what was the outcome? Your entry spread quickly through the PR industry and your frustration came across loud and clear. So... was there a significant decline in the number of untargeted pitches/"spam" from PR folks you've received over the last few days. Maybe it’s too soon to tell but just curious.

E Dewhirst

The funny thing about your post was that you got the attention of Seth Godin and he wrote about it on his blog and from there I found yours. I was giggling about what you did and then looked over in the margin and realized - hey man - that's the guy who wrote the Long Tail - right on he has a blog! I know pitiful but there are so many blogs and so little time - but I can add yours to the list to read - nice!

Cheers,

Eric
P.S. That reminds me I have to get my copy back from my brother in-law!

Chris

My email is on the list you posted a couple days back and I sent you another email (from a different email address of course since mine is blocked now) explaining my position, but you have yet to respond. I NEVER spammed you or even SENT you a PR. All I did was ask if I could send you PRs and if not, who I should send them too. Since you never replied, I NEVER SENT you anything. I always ask people if they are the right person to send PRs to before I even consider sending them out and never sent any PR to anyone unless they specifically asked for it.

How exactly does business with your company even work? Can I not even ask a simple question to you? I don't even use any of those mass email sites and was referred to you by a marketing manager who you actually ARE in contact with. If emailing you and asking a simple and polite question is considered inappropriate nowadays, I apologize and I guess I deserve to be on that list.

alan herrell - the head lemur

Here's a crazy Idea for Calkin, Have him include a case of those Florida eternal lightbulbs or my personal favorite cheap steak knives.

Kristine Szarkowitz

Chris-

With all due respect your reference and post generalizing PR people as ‘lazy flacks’ is highly unprofessional – especially given your position as Editor-in-Chief. I’ve been in the PR industry for 14 years and have developed highly respected relationships with some of the top Tier 1 journalists in the U.S.

I added your contact information to my personal media list through a diligent 40-hour list building process. Moreover, the way I found you was via an Internet story you wrote which happens to cover the industry my company operates in. Adding you to my list wasn’t done randomly, without thought, through pre-purchased list... and moreover, defintely not the result of a 'lazy' visit to the WIRED website.

A reminder for you -- there are hundreds of highly skilled PR professionals who function as the single PR resource responsible for supporting all communications for an entire company. And our work goes far beyond just media pitching. We wear many hats, are on deadlines just like you, shoulder a lot of responsibility and are constantly managing multiple business initiatives to help our organizations succeed.

I’d like to reiterate -- my personal media list was self-built with approximately 40 hours of research and hard work.

Reporters change beats daily. They change positions often. They also often co-author editorial – with each reporter covering differing beats. The vast majority of the reporters I work with –especially in Tier 1 publications, have the professional courtesy to send a quick email if I sometimes get off the mark in terms of matching a pitch (or sending a press release) to their particular focus areas –they don’t go off and lambaste me through a public forum.

If your inundated ‘inbox’ is causing you such angst, you may want to consider posting press release pitch guidelines on your website, complete with a staff list and beats to help clarify coverage areas for PR folks. A lot of publications do this and I’m sure it helps to dismiss or alleviate the problem you seem to be faced with.

I have excellent working relationships with many highly regarded reporters and often receive compliments on my professionalism and work style. Consider yesterday’s post and remember the PR pitch/journalist reporting process is a 2-way process. We’re both trying to get our jobs done, successfully and productively.

Best Regards,

Kristine Szarkowitz


E Dewhirst

I think if this conversation persists Chris might be tempted to post what people were asking of him, like posting the press releases and let his readers figure out if it was relevant - that would be a PR nightmare for those that spammed him. I don't want to poke anyone with a stick but for every defense I read I ask myself why did company xyz send him something and what does it have to do with Long Tail Economics?

I do agree with Kristine - possibly pitch outlines are the way to go - those that break the rule get exposed - those that do meet the guidelines are safe -

"Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”
Clint Eastwood - Dirty Harry (1971).

O.K. a bit over the top I know - but it is like trying to teach your kids not to do prank calls - there have to be some kind of consequence.

Cheers - Eric

Csalomonlee

Let's be honest with ourselves. Chris isn't talking about the few folks who do their due diligence and provide a good name for the profession. He's referring to some of the tactics that are used. And please don't tell me you weren't guilty of doing this when you first entered PR. Here are some reasons that the "spamming" happens:
1) junior people put the lists together
2) clients like to have big name editors/magazines on their media list, even when it's not appropriate. Makes them feel better, that's all.
3) hoping that if you send out enough emails, one may actually get read and "resonate" with the reporter
4) agency doesn't have enough seasoned professionals on staff to do the work, so newbies pitch without more supervision
5) too many accounts + not enough people to staff them = shoddy work
6) Don't blame the publication - DO THE HOMEWORK is the key message
7) relying too much on the databases - if you do, augment research by going to the website and reading the print pub (if there is one)

In the end, there is a lot about our industry that has contributed to us being called "flacks." Until we, as an industry, honestly acknowledge the bad practices and start putting together our own code of best practices, this will continue to happen at small and large agencies and in-house.

Thanks for bringing this up Chris. This was a good reminder to do your research first. And then do it again before doing outreach.

Best,
Cece

Luke

Keep up the good work! Keep posting the emails of the PR spammers! Please don't listen to the professional spammers - remember, they're getting paid to convince you you're wrong.

Kristine Szarkowitz - you say "I added your contact information to my personal media list through a diligent 40-hour list building process." I think you're missing the point. Who cares how hard it was for you to assemble your list of emails to spam. Heck some spammers pay thousands of dollars for them. The point is, you're annoying people, you should stop, and if you don't I applaud any efforts to make you stop.

George

I think what's causing the problems is the way Chris delivered his message. No one can argue that blasting irrelevant press releases to an editor-in-chief of a publication (do they even work? My editors used to sip champagne and eat bon bons all day) is bad PR. Every PR professional should research each reporter and publication first -- then pitch.

I can understand Chris' frustration, but is it necessary to publicly embarrass more than 300 people because he's unhappy? Is this what blogging and the Internet has become -- a place to even the score? It's still possible to be polite and professional even in the screaming void of cyberspace.


Not-a-flak

I'm posting this anonymously mostly because I work in high-tech PR and I'm afraid Chris will aim his cannon at the PR professionals who are taking time to respond to his entries.

I completely understand your frustration. I often get directives from my clients that make me cringe and I do my best to talk them out of spamming releases willy-nilly (usually, they listen to reason but once or twice...eesh...). However, you've done not only those of us who are responsible PR practitioners a disservice, you've sullied your own reputation.

You've painted an entire industry with a broad brush, and saddled those of us who DO work very hard to research our targets thoroughly with an unfair and undeserved reputation. We already know that far too many editors consider us parasites and bottom-feeders, but those of us who are pros try to be facilitators - we give you access to news and experts who we think might be of interest to your readers. Yet, our work never gets recognized by the editorial community; instead, we get lumped in with the junior AE's and the bad apples who don't know or don't care that their actions are hurting our profession as a whole.

You are the EIC of a top-tier publication. Your decision to post the email addresses of those PR people you consider spammers is a low-brow move on the part of someone who should know better. Rant and rave about it on your blog all you want, but for heaven's sake, don't sink to their level. You of all people should know the power you can wield in your position; abusing it, even if it's out of sheer frustration, is beneath you and does a disservice to WIRED.

I've seen insults hurled both at you and at those of us who toil away in the PR mines; childish, petty, juvenile...name your adjective, it's probably been posted here somewhere. The one word however, that should've been used is shameful. Your frustration is absolutely warranted and is understood by most PR pros (I do sympathize with you, truly); your retaliation though, was low-class.

Shame on you.

Bernie

Isn't the point that er...conversations should happen?
Conversations can be electronic of course but they still have to be and can be 'authentic' conversations.
To the PR's. So, it would take you 'an age' to make real contact with everyone that needs to know would it? So what? You better get started ringing people then eh? Or writing to them. Personally. In a way that they will appreciate, and listen to. If you're lucky. (Just because a friend or family member emails me doesn't mean I'm always able to respond). And I don't have anything like that many family members. or friends come to think of it... ;)
Oh yeah. And the concept of 'lists' doesn't have anything to do with conversations. It's a shortcut. Therefore it's part of all that inauthentic communication. And yes, I'm afraid enormous parts of the PR 'job' is about a lot of things, that when distilled down, are all about 'shortcuts' and 'inauthentic communication'. A news wire for example. How's that for a pretty inauthentic conversation. So it works in the newsroom.? Big deal? Like I said. Broadcast, dead. Also someone above this post said that it took 'em ages to build their list. Big deal. There's a very subtle but important distinction now that means that just because we are all 'connected' - by little labels that have our names in them and are followed by an @ symbol - doesn't mean we are instantly intuitively best friends. Some of you might remember the Cluetrain folks (I think?!) talking about how a marketplace was now just THAT much more like a marketplace again (y'know like a market square with stalls all around it) and you had to engage in a meaningful way. You couldn't just stubbornly and forcibly get people to come and look or buy from your stall. Or even go near you. And if you shouted really really loud but had nothing to say that interested people, then you'd be dead. Broadcast is dying (or possibly morphing) and all those mechanisms that have been created to support it are being dismantled by the 'authentic' approach. And yes that does mean lunches for fat journos if that is what 'does it'. But if 'it' means getting written up in a magazine that nobody REALLY gives a THAT much importance to then why bother with that either? :)
Which brings me to my second point. 'Cause the PR folks do actually have a point to make here. And that's the hypocrisy of saying and doing all this stuff about impersonal communication...and STILL being part of the 'broadcast world' a magazine itself. (And no I don't consider Wired to be niche. Not buying that. Not with you at the helm it ain't) Wired is 'broadcast'. Right? What a lot of the PR folks are bothered about is the hypocrisy of Chris' position. And I'd be inclined to agree with them on that one.
The only way a magazine like Wired, can be created and printed monthly is because it RELIES on the PR structure to get it there. It's part of the business model. New innovation, products, devices, whatever. All of that? every month? Not nearly enough staff to do all the digging around. Yep the modern magazine model itself is built on the premise that stuff will get pushed at the magazine. And who the heck do you think does all that? The Tooth Fairy? High tech PR is absolutely alive and well, happy as a hitech pig in hitech sh*t in fact, and most definitely living off the results it gets through coverage in magazines like Wired and the nice fees thankyou very much. And Wired is ALSO living off both the high tech industry, the interest in it, and the PR that circulates 'stuff' about it. It's built around the PR. Just like the PR is built around it. And yes, there's an absolute shed load of inauthentic conversations that happen to get it printed. Oh sorry... Is that not true of Wired then? Sure? Whiter than white in that area? ;)
Any magazine that has a cover with headlines on it, that sits on a newstand, 'screaming' for attention along with all the others (oops sorry too much coffee?) is trying to start an inauthentic conversation.
So what we have is Chris Anderson the EIC of Wired and Chris Anderson the Long Tail author and blogger. And if he can't or hasn't already seen the contradiction inherent in what his day job is then he's not as smart as I thought he was. (oh but I think you are) Personally I would argue that what Chris Anderson says and does here on The Long Tail blog actually has more of 'an effect' (meaning authenticity and therefore value AS A CONVERSATION) than what he and all his cohorts write in the magazine. I haven't actually read Wired (other than his article in 04) but I've read this. Because it's authentic. And because I don't have to pick something up that has postcards fall out of it etc. He he. See? Broadcast - dead. Personal - alive (and authentic).
Oh and another reason. Think about a magazine getting THIS amount of energy expended on it? No chance. A couple of excerpts on the letters page. In a month's time. Like I say, broadcast, dead.

Don't take offence btw Mr Anderson (sic) a lot of us do things that are contradictory to our value set. And if anything it's getting easier to go and do something else.....

Glad you started the conversation.

Sad

You threatened the livelihood of 300 people to get hits for your blog.

Kristine

In response to Luke's response above-- Luke YOU HAVE MISSED THE POINT. The reason I spent 40 hours to compile my media list was to find specific reporters who cover my industry and company. Chris is on my list because he's written articles covering the industry I'm in. He was targeted -- NOT SPAMMED.

An observer

Chris, have you read this?

Dear Chris Anderson, an Open Letter to Make Things Right

http://tinyurl.com/2dej9g


Chris Anderson

I hadn't seen it, thanks. Brian's a smart guy and the bits I read seems spot on. But I can only read so many inches of white on black before my eyes go funny, so I have to admit I haven't digested it all. I did get his request for me to take this down, the point having been made, and I'll respectfully decline since that's not the way blogs work (you don't undo history). Anyway, that would just mean that people would get the Google cache, minus the comments, when they search, which is just bad all around.

Dave Allen

Chris,

I feel there's a delicious irony here. Wired ran the great piece, Radical Transparency, in which one of the check list items in the article was 'fire your PR person.' Maybe now all these PR spammers will take that to heart and gracefully retire....?

Badger Gravling

There seems to be three groups commenting on the PR backlash.
One group of PR and business people are attacking Chris, and one group are apparently realising that spamming isn't the best method.

But the one major group pleding support is the group of editorial and media staff who all get PR emails.

And when pretty much every recipient of PR emails identifies with a problem, perhaps that's a sign PR firms need to work on the perception and reception of their industry.

It's ridiculous complaining someone has posted the list of problem PR people publicly... If you're eager for coverage and using bad techniques to get it, surely the only really effective way to get the message through is public coverage?

If you're on the list, the only thing to do is to honestly appraise your business practices and learn from it - not whinge publicly or post under a pseudonym...

Caitlin Settlemoir

My name is Caitlin and I'm a enior Public Relations major ar Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. I am, at this moment, sitting in my PR 455 class discussing the recent New York Times article by Andrew Newman detailing your blowout against PR spam mail.

In the last four years I have had a great deal of experience in the PR industry through internships, freelance work, and other outside PR related projects. I use Cision, call media, and send releases on a regular basis. I obviously do not yet have a degree as I won't graduate until April - but even I know how to read, follow directions, and find the correct editor to pitch to.

This entire situation depresses due to the already present and very negative stigma that comes along with the words "public relations." Unfortunately, the stupiditiy of today's PR "professionals" is only adding to our bad "image." If we can't even maintain our own imag, how will we maintain the images of others? I've spent almost $200,000 for my college education in public relations, so I can only hope that people such as the ones who sent you unsolicited pitches and/or releases will step up their game, be professional, and stop ruining the future of PR for aspiring students such as myself.

p.s. I have even pitched to Wired before, but NOT to you!

Recently Retired Flack

This self-referential pseudo debate amuses me.

Chris honey,
1. You are the EIC of Wired. Ok. I know you worked hard to get there and it is a tough job, what will all those business people breathing down your neck to manage content that sells. Do you really have the time to sit down and publish 300 names? (Yes, I know you said it was easy, but it took some time.) Couldn't you be out there looking for the story of the Next Big Thing to break? Maybe you should leave your blogging and ranting and get out - see what is in the labs outside of your little circle of PR people you like, PR people you hate and the people who attend the T.E.D. conference. Maybe even dust off your passport and go see what they are cooking up outside of the US. Some days I feel like I get better innovation news off the menu at Buck's in Woodside. (And don't tell me you've never gotten an idea for a story from there... I've seen WIRED follow Buck's before. )

2. PR people. Face it sweeties, your days are numbered. PR firms are full of good people caught in a bad business model. The business model forces shoddy, unexamined work conducted on the part of poorly trained junior staff. They are managed by tired "senior" people who are incented mainly to win business and "push the work down" where the profit margins are highest.

3. Clients. Get smart. Your business is probably not interesting enough to make it into WIRED. Try Forbes or launch your own corporate blog. The PR people will make sure that the spammers hit it enough to make you think someone is reading it.

As for me, my next gig is organic farming. Though the farmers they tell me that "organic" needs a brand makeover, too.

No way. I am NOT doing PR for you organic farmers. No. No. No. I'm done with PR. Now where did I put those lettuce seeds?

- RRF

The Colonel

NEVER PICK A FIGHT ...
This debate certainly brings to mind the adage "Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel". It's an interesting twist when the ink barrel is infinite or at least constrained only by the attention economy.

However, I think the debate misses the bigger point of reader activism and how selected topics can prompt such a response.

Firstly, how did the 300+ responders find this article? Is every respondent a regular reader, that finally felt compelled to write (like me, long time reader - first time post)? Did the readers arrive from a hyperlink in another blog? Did the PR industry circulate a "must respond" email? Some combination of these?

Secondly, I find it intriguing that this topic caused over 300 passionate professionals and readers to take the time to post their opinion on this subject. I'd be prepared to wager that most of us won't respond at all to the thousands of other words we read each day. Yet three hundred out of (presumably) many, many thousands of readers - less than 1%? - did just that for this topic alone. I guess it's appropriate then that this debate should occur in the Long Tail blog.

The Colonel

PS For those interested, the New York Times provides an interesting perspective on reader activism at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/02/business/media/02source.html, and Wired has covered how activist readers can change content for over a decade (most recently at http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/15.04/wired40_ceo.html).

sergej

I think what Chris done is other make things upside down - he published the list - and viral thing started - who is on the list who is not - and so on .. in a way he made a little piss out of PR industry ...
quite funny
(unfortunatly not have such a good clients to pay me to discuss on blogs)
peace love and beats
sergej

Mark Ivey

As a former writer for BusinessWeek and someone who's worked in corporate PR, marketing, media, executive communications and now, social media marketing, I'm amused that we're still having the same debate (PR vs media) that we had 15 years ago when I was a bureau chief in Houston. It's time for a new approach. I offer a couple of ideas on my blog:
http://markivey.typepad.com/onthemark/2007/11/wired-vs-pr-fla.html

Şirket

As a former writer for BusinessWeek and someone who's worked in corporate PR, marketing, media, executive communications and now, social media marketing, I'm amused that we're still having the same debate (PR vs media) that we had 15 years ago when I was a bureau chief in Houston. It's time for a new approach

Erik

This is precisely why I am really pleased to have moved on from the soul sucking, nag-a-day world that is high tech public relations. Please know that most PR folks are as harried and pressed for results as editors are for stories. It may not be possible to swing due diligence and parse out a media list of several hundred editors (who are always shifting beats and pubs but never update profiles to reflect this). I'm not excusing bad PR people though, they make the job harder for good PR people to cut through the BS. But that no longer really matters for me anymore.

I feel for every editor out there who's inbox never stops filling up with garbage pitches (and yes, that's all of them!).

I do not miss the frenzy at all but I do miss the insider information about cool new technologies and great new companies (and no, I do not have any to pitch).

Character Education

hmmm Good Tactic... I wonder why some people misunderstood the situation...

jeux

Thank you very much. I am wonderring if I can share your article in the bookmarks of society,Then more friends can talk about this article of the "PR Blockage: The Aftermath".. Its really an interesting article, gr8 information..

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Tidbits

The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

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