Friday, August 15, 2008

Spammers one, believers zero*

When people from my agency go on vacation, we try to give them an email holiday, too.

We stop cc'ing them and prepare an update that they receive just before they get back with a summary of what happened, the most recent drafts of documents and so on.

Of course, that doesn't mean emails shut down entirely. There are still times when you need to be copied or sent a note. But it sure cuts down on the clutter.

So when I returned from my time in NYC (nearly a week), I was pleased to find only about 250 emails in my inbox (very manageable and totally non-stress-inducing).

However, when I checked my spam filter, I noticed it also contained about 250 messages (many about debt control - is spam a barometer of the environment or are they trying to tell me something?).

This reinforced the fact that spam isn't something we can turn off or even control. We can redirect it, try to ignore it, but it bombards us; like cheap verbal junk food, clogging up our online arteries.

And it made me realize how careful we, as PR people, have to be when we're distributing a news release or other information on behalf of our clients. In the olden days (say three or four years ago), we used the bcc function and blasted emails out to an unspecified, but often long list of media.

Thinking back, I'm sure these lists contained a fair number of journalists who viewed PR missives in much the same way that I view spam. Unsolicited, untargeted and unwanted. This probably came to a public head with the Chris Anderson affair.

I say it's time to leave our subscription-based media databases behind and put an end to PRspam. Our industry needs to be smarter, learn more about the influencers we're trying to reach and offer them something of value. Let's get back and do what Giovanni Rodriguez describes as the essence of our profession's name.

Building relationships with our publics. You know, the kind where we talk to (as opposed to pitch) each other.



*Thanks to my friend Joey Ax for inspiring the title when he reminded me of the country hit: Liars 1 Believer's 0 (sorry I couldn't find the song).

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