Public Relations Pitching is not Spam

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” -the definition of public relations as set forth by the PRSA.

NoSpamI came across this post from Adam Yamada in my Twitter feed today and my initial reaction to the title was “Seriously? Cision is not spam. Period.” Having worked on the vendor side of the equation at Vocus, I have a soft spot here – I admit it. However these media databases are tools and a tool is only as good as the person wielding it. Quoting Spiderman’s Uncle Ben – “With great power comes great responsibility.”  It was early in the morning and I had to make myself pause, get out of defensive mode and read on.

The post starts out with a courteous and informative note from Cision sent to the author which includes publicly available information about the author furnished by the author. The exception being his e-mail address which one only has to look at the contact page to guess what it might be – so not all of it provided upfront. So far I am sticking to my defensive stance. Getting pitched about stuff you put out on the web is not invasive or out of bounds. At this point I continue to question why he is upset – I’m feeling very self righteous right up until it hits.

The main point:  Adam makes the valid and often heard complaint that getting unsolicited pitches about topics, products and issues that have nothing to do with his area of focus is a huge waste of time. I agree 100%.

Vocus, MyMediaInfo and Meltwater are all called out in this piece, but the same logic applies. It isn’t the company providing the service who is at fault here but the user.

Don’t like that you are in these media databases – ask to be removed. Admittedly it isn’t easy to get this done AND there is no guarantee you won’t be added back during another review of the database.  Remember though – all of them offer the opportunity for the user to add private contacts just as they might have in their Rolodex in days gone by.

Annoyed that someone is profiting by selling your contact information? Don’t put your information in the public domain. Don’t perform a job that requires/elicits public interaction.

Public Relations professionals are constantly working together to promote positive and productive relationships with the media. PRSA has an entire resource library which among other topics reviews the basics of pitching properly. Bloggers will tell you outright how to pitch them – see how Shonali Burke provides her outline here.

1. Regardless of how a public relations professional contacts a journalist or blogger they had better do their homework to ensure their list is targeted to those who are interested in what they have to say/share.

2. Emails are free to send but can cost you in reputation. Your “pitch” should be personalized and focused on the individual you are writing to. Remember you are the person asking for their time – respect it.

3. Use tools like these to connect with journalists who are looking for sources:

  • HARO – Help A Reporter Out – “…a social networking tool for sources and reporters alike”
  • Profnet – “Connects journalist to expert sources” This service focuses on Experts (subscription) and Journalists (free) alike.

Spam is out there and it will continue to be be out there. Peers and professional trade organizations call this thing out all the time and offer ways to keep from being an unintentional spammer.

How do we as an industry solve this issue?

Big Data might be one way. What I would like to see is a method by which these media database providers use the data available to them to help curb what I see as  laziness on behalf of users. I no longer accept that someone doesn’t know how to pitch when there is such a wealth of information out there on how to do it properly.

So to the media database vendors out there:

Have you considered analyzing the success rates of the pitches issued from your system? A thorny question since I suspect a good hard look will show the success rate to be in the single digits.

How often does this user (or users of your Db) hit a general e-mail address  ( at a media outlet? Based on my experience in reviewing clients efforts this is a default option.

Are any stories generated by that hit?

Should that e-mail address even be available in your Db?

Can an individual (someone one who doesn’t consider themselves a blogger, journalist or public entity who should be pitched) be permanently removed from your Db?

Do you have any programs in place to proactively inform customers that they are doing more harm than good to their own reputation (and by extension your own)?

It irks me when someone labels the tool as the problem when in reality it is how the tool is employed that is the real issue. (Stepping off my soap box now.)


2 Replies to “Public Relations Pitching is not Spam”

  1. Hi Roxane, I think you bring up some great points from all sides. I actually have tried commenting on Adam Yamada’s blog post but it looks like comments are being selectively approved. We did already reach out to him, and want to make him aware we did remove him and are happy to permanently remove any journalist who does not wish to be listed in our database. You say here: “Adam makes the valid and often heard complaint that getting unsolicited pitches about topics, products and issues that have nothing to do with his area of focus is a huge waste of time. I agree 100%.” And we agree 100% as well. Our goal is for journalists to receive timely, relevant pitches, and we make sure to educate our clients through tip sheets, whitepapers, webinars and blog posts on that very subject. Thanks for bringing this to the attention of your audience.


    Gina Joseph, Digital Engagment Manager, Cision

    1. Gina – Kudos to Cision for being proactive and removing this entry from the Db. I’ve seen the proactive effort of the industry first hand to prevent this type of outreach and I know it is an on-going topic. It seems often those who are targeted by true spam associate PR & Marketing as the same thing. ~Roxane

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