In December 2009, journalist Kevin Braddock named and shamed the PRs he felt were causing him most email grief. Following several complaints he changed the post and removed the email addresses originally published. Was the first post justifiable, or unreasonable reaction? Iain Fleming from messaging service Wirefast, who researched PR email for a postgraduate dissertation, explains why he appreciates Braddock’s frustration. [Read Fleming’s earlier post: ‘The problem with PR email’ at this link… ]
I am not in the least surprised that Kevin Braddock finally lost patience and ‘named and shamed’ those PROs who refused to remove him from their distribution lists. Going by the responses I received to my research project survey on the way content is delivered to the media by the PR sector, it is a huge problem and one that can be directly blamed on the over-reliance and misuse of e-mail as a delivery mechanism.
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer and it is a problem which is only going to get worse, as more companies enter the market and compete for business by boasting their email directory as the most comprehensive/up-to-date/relevant etc.
One of those who responded to my survey commented that:
“If I ruled the world I would ban these databases, or at least make it compulsory for them to ASK us first whether we wish to have our email addresses included or not. At present it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to be removed from these databases, which result in scores of unwanted emails every day. They are spammers, and there should be a law against them.”
Some of the other responses were in even stronger terms.
“The answer, of course, is for individual PROs to constantly ‘cleanse’ their lists as people move constantly in this business. I know that at least one of the email distribution companies phones newsdesks on a regular basis, but unfortunately this is often ‘at the wrong time’. It always ‘the wrong time’, and I have personally witnessed a harassed news editor answering these calls with ‘no change’ because he was too busy to explain the changes.”
The best way is to send through a secure and guaranteed delivery route such as a wire service, which delivers content in a ready-to-use plain text format directly into a newspaper or broadcaster’s editorial system. That costs money but it just doesn’t chime with today’s generation, brought up in the internet age where they expect everything for free. Even those PROs who have responsibilities under civil contingencies legislation to use a ‘robust’ form of communications – which email most certainly isn’t – don’t seem to know of any other way – or even worse – care!
[Disclaimer: I work for Newslink, the wire service set up in the late 80s and which, for a decade before the introduction of internet email, was the only way by which freelance journalists, news agencies, public sector bodies and Government agencies could file copy electronically. The service still concentrates on hard news and public sector/government press release distribution but also carries a small amount of commercial material, such as bookmaker odds stories. It does not specifically target the consumer PR market, as its main customers – news editors of the country’s national and regional media publishers and broadcasters – have clearly indicated their wish not to receive this type of material through their Newslink wire feed.]