It's no secret that blogs and social media sites are a great way to get coverage of your web site or your products and services. In fact, teaching small businesses how to approach and pitch bloggers is one of the things I most enjoy writing about. The archives here are full of suggestions and blog posts pointing out the right way to approach people and the wrong way to approach people. That's why I thought it was worth mentioning Wired Editor Chris Anderson's controversial post outing bad PR pitchers.

Chris writes:

Lazy flacks send press releases to the Editor in Chief of Wired because they can't be bothered to find out who on my staff, if anyone, might actually be interested in what they're pitching. Fact: I am an actual person, not a team assigned to read press releases and distribute them to the right editors and writers (that's

So fair warning: I only want two kinds of email: those from people I know, and those from people who have taken the time to find out what I'm interested in and composed a note meant to appeal to that (I love those emails; indeed, that's why my email address is public).

Everything else gets banned on first abuse.

He goes on to list the email addresses of everyone who has been banned from his inbox in the last month.

It's a long, long, LONG list. One that includes several domain names I recognize and even a few specific email addresses I recognize. Chris notes there's no way to get off the list. You'll simply have to use a new email address for any future contact with him.

What I wonder is how many other tech writers will be tempted to use this list to set up their own "bad PR pitch" spam filters...

What's really interesting to me is reading the responses in the comment section of Chris' post. Some are from folks who are similarly frustrated, but others come from the people included on Chris's list.

Here's a sampling of comments I found to be interesting, both because they include valid points (it's really expensive and time consuming to do proper PR pitches) and "they don't get it" points (well duh! of course good PR pitches are expensive and time consuming!)

I spent $10,000 this year on lists, email software, promotional cards etc. to promote my business and my work. You're on a list of people who buy creative work that is sold to photographers every day. If you don't really buy photography, why not just hit the unsubscribe button? Why give out your email? I get about 150 emails a day and travel 200+ days a year which makes it very difficult to get back to everyone after sorting through the spam I get but, it's an unfortunate part of the business and I unsubscribe to stuff that does not appeal to me.
The above comment comes from a photographer who thinks the snagged Chris's email from a list he purchased. He has a long response outlining all the reasons he pitches this way (it's cheaper and more effective) and asks why Chris can't simply unsubscribe himself (missing the point). He closes by asking to be removed from Chris's list because "the vast majority of people who receive this are perfectly targeted and appreciate being informed of new work."

Of course Chris also takes some heat from those who disagree with his choice to out the PR types:

Wow- not a good idea to mess with pr people.

You forget that your supposed to actually work together rather than being apart of the problem. Not a good look for journalists or Wired Magazine. By using your power as a blogger your not only ranting to a community but to the entire internet and ruining the reputation of the people on that list.

While I can see their point (As much as I've been tempted, I've always avoided outing bad PR types by name, it just feels wrong) I also think they miss what Chris is trying to do. Chris is looking to remind bad pitchers that there are consequences. Simply having an unsubscribe request doesn't make anyone stop sending untargeted emails. Chris making the choice to publish those addresses has at least a small chance of making a few folks think twice before they send off another email pitch to a purchased list of "targeted" journalists.

The interesting thing to me, is the number of folks who believe it's a company's job to forward the press release to the right person instead of it being the PR firm's job to FIND the right person. While I see their point in regards to it sometimes being hard to track down the right name and address, it seems mind boggling to me to simply shoot off the pitch and expect it to find its way to the proper person. Instead, it would make sense to send a personal email with a VERY brief explanation of who you are looking for and a request for the proper name and address.

I don't want to paint all public relations types as being spammers. There are some amazing PR firms out there with folks who really understand the business. I've seen some very impressive pitches over the years and have been happy to work with these firms to get their clients coverage. Unfortunately, 98% of the pitches I see fall right in line with what Chris complains about. Those pitches all get deleted.

Make it personal folks. Whether you're a PR firm, or a small business owner, the way to get coverage remains the same. Take the time to make personal contact and to share just enough information to see if someone is interested. If they are, work with them to provide the information they need and want.

(HT to Debra at The Link Spiel)

November 1, 2007

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Fighting Back Against Bad Pitches