|May 16, 2008|
|Want to Build a Buzz Online? Write a PR Blacklist|
|By Greg Hazley|
|There were eyeballs rolling throughout the PR field earlier this week when another journalist compiled another Z-list of PR agencies that supposedly can’t pitch straight.|
Gina Trapani, the editor of Lifehacker, a Gawker Media blog about efficiency and shortcuts in life, posted a “PR Spammers” wiki listing the domains of about 70 PR agencies and others who contacted her personal email address with unsolicited or unwanted pitches.
We’ve all heard this tune by now and it was dubious the first time it played last fall, when Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson got fed up with pitches landing in his in-box and named names. His list was widely circulated and commented upon, and Anderson raised his profile significantly, albeit partly among an audience he was smacking around. [It should also be noted that he was on a book tour at the time. Hmmmm.]
Here’s an email from a PR professional that brought the latest list to my attention on Monday:
Hey: Who’s dumber, us or them? Answer: Them, because we make more money and our profession isn’t dying.
Ok, maybe that’s not the predominant sentiment I’ve detected about PR blacklists, but a few people have brought up the fact that journalists are often cranky with PR pros because of payday envy. I’d like to think there’s more to it than that, and most admit that there is. Both sides of the editorial conversation would be well suited to shape up.
First off, PR pitches aren’t spam. Occasionally misguided or off-topic, sure. I don’t enjoy reading pitches about payroll processing technology, but I don’t consider it spam if someone is just trying to get a story in print and got my name off a list of reporters. Nigerian lottery claims these pitches are not.
I asked a few firms on Trapani’s list for a reaction and a pointed response came from Richard Laermer, CEO of RLM PR who, appropriately, is co-founder of the Bad Pitch Blog.
Laermer [who just penned a book on trendspotting] finds it amusing that Lifehacker covered RLM clients in the past and that Trapani had given her email address to the firm. “So for her to put our agency on there is beyond hypocritical,” he said, adding, “Blacklists are stupid because they don’t take the on problem head-on.”
Key to Trapani’s complaints was that pitches were being sent to her personal email account, which was listed in the Cision database. As Laermer point out, a quick call or email to Cision could’ve straightened things out, as opposed to the creation of a wiki.
Todd Defren of Shift Communications (which was on Trapani’s list) had this to say on his blog in an open letter to Trapani:
“…for every 999 compliments we get from media and bloggers, it’s a shame that it’s the one crap pitch that gets publicly outed. But that’s a risk built-in to my profession. I suppose that a risk built-in to your own profession is that you have to weed through 999 crap pitches to unearth that one stellar nugget. We each have a job to do, and our own crap to shovel through, eh?”
Trapani posted an update to her spam wiki, saying she’s happy to have provoked a “conversation” and noting that she contacted Cision and they quickly removed her personal email address. She wrote:
“Some bloggers have asked me to respond to their accusations/observations/questions in the comments of each post. If I had the time, I would be happy to do this, but in all honesty, I barely have time to keep up with the comments on my own blog. I know the ‘too busy’ excuse smacks of self-importance, but this is what this whole issue is about: choosing what you spend your time on. I choose not to spend it weeding my inbox every day. Thanks to everyone who has written about this issue. I look forward to the conversation effecting change.”
Laermer suspects Trapani is gunning for a promotion and sees the “PR spammers” wiki as a good way to make some noise: “Trying to get her name out there, maybe get a better job,” he suggested.
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