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The end of public relations spam?

I’ve been writing more and more lately about how the Internet is affecting public relations, including last month’s newsletter on counting clips, but today I want to talk about another PR practice: spammy pitch e-mails. Often, the one adjustment that PR pros have made to their work habits because of the Internet is to e-mail their press releases to incredibly long lists of journalists. In recent years, they’ve included bloggers and other non-traditional journalists. But journalists hate it, for the same reasons that anyone hates unsolicited e-mail–it wastes their time. Today, I want to talk to you about a new service for PR folks that makes it just as easy to send press release pitches to the right people as to the wrong people. Perhaps it’s one step toward the end of PR spam.

To understand what’s going on here, it’s important to recognize why spammy pitching exists as a practice. It’s not because public relations types are bad people. It’s because it is incredibly labor-intensive to identify the right journalists to whom a press release is relevant.

SPAM!

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Think about it. You have written your press release. Your client is expecting you to get the story into as much media as possible. You have two choices:

  • You can spend hours, days, or even weeks painstakingly researching which journalists have written about similar subjects, and pare your sending list down to just those few. Or…
  • You can just send the release to the entire list.

What would you expect people to do more often? Especially because you never know who might print the release, so it seems “safer” to send it to everyone. Except in the long run, it’s not safer.

In the long run, more and more journalists will tune out press releases in their e-mails or even take the step of blocking any communication from PR people who have spammed them in the past. Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired Magazine, famously posted the e-mail addresses of spammers. Other journalists might even take down their public e-mail addresses.

Now, none of that might be bad for the PR business. I mean, if people put their press releases online, and they make sure that they’ve done the right search marketing work, then theoretically anyone who is interested in the information can find it.

But if PR people would like to be able to pitch press releases, they probably need to find a way to do so that finds only the right journalists without annoying everyone else. That’s why I did some work for a new service debuting today that makes it easy for PR people to identify the right people to send a press release to. [Full disclosure: I worked as a paid consultant for this service but do not have any ownership interest.]

The service, called MatchPoint, is very simple. A PR person can take any press release and paste it into the tool. Then MatchPoint checks that release against the by-lined news stories written in the last few months to create a list of journalists that have written about that subject. Then the PR person can create personal pitches to send to each one of those interested journalists.

The result? Only those interested will receive the pitch, and it’s not much more work for the PR person than sending to the massive list of people that get annoyed today. The service is free to try for 10 days and costs just $65 a month after that. I hope that PR people will realize that they can’t continue blanket e-mailing without ruining the whole pitching part of their business. If you’re a PR person, check out MatchPoint and see how easy it is to send your press releases to the right people. And feel good about yourself for contributing to the end of public relations spam.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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