PR Crapulence: Welcome To My World
It’s Friday, so it must be time for a not-so-technical post to ease into the weekend. I absolutely love Chris Anderson’s (Wired Magazine Editor-In-Chief and Long Tail guy) October 29 blog post (thanks to Boing Boing for the heads-up):
Sorry PR people: you’re blocked
I’ve had it. I get more than 300 emails a day and my problem isn’t spam (Cloudmark Desktop solves that nicely), it’s PR people. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org).
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. The following is just the last month’s list of people and companies who have been added to my Outlook blocked list. All of them have sent me something inappropriate at some point in the past 30 days. Many of them sent press releases; others just added me to a distribution list without asking. If their address gets harvested by spammers by being published here, so be it–turnabout is fair play.
There is no getting off this list. If you’re on it and have something appropriate to say to me, use a different email address.
Folks, you would not believe how much cr*p clogs my email and voicemail inboxes each day from lazy, clueless press ‘relations’ people. Back in April, I shared one particularly tasteless (and, for EDN, subject-inappropriate) example with you. And just under three weeks ago, I ranted about bloated-format emails, redundantly sent to my multiple email addresses, further distended by unnecessary file attachments…like the email I got earlier this week from Texas Instruments’ PR agency, with more than 6 MBytes’ worth of attached PowerPoint-plus-Word material that just as easily could have been posted to a HTTP or FTP server with email-provided links.
For grins, I’ve spent the past few weeks collecting particularly lame PR pitches. Below are a few of the many examples I’ve amassed. Can anyone explain to me just what relevance any of this has to do with EDN and its readers?
- A heads-up about a 24" upright piece of luggage
- An alert about a now-open artificial reef for human cremains (I kid you not)
- An announcement about ‘data mashup integration’ (whatever the h*ll that is…must be a paradigm-shifting convergence technology) with Salesforce.com…which the PR flack re-sent me a week later with the tagline "If for some reason you did not receive the announcement…"
- A fundraiser for the children of Chernobyl, sponsored by a baby skin care products manufacturer, and
- A proclamation from an obscure game publisher that it was endorsing Steven Colbert for U.S. President.
Why do I get this junk? Because PR dweebs somehow get my email address(es), mechanically add them to their databases, which subsequently get mass-emailed with each and every release from each and every client, regardless of whether or not a particular ‘announcement’ (I’m being charitable) has anything to do with EDN. Because it’s easy. Because it’s cheap. And (here’s the crux) because the PR agency gets per-release compensated on a per-recipient basis.
Which is the same reason that I get pummeled with meeting requests from mousepad, mechanical toy and microwave oven manufacturers in the ramp-up to the Consumer Electronics Show each year. And is why, if eight editors from EDN attend the Embedded Systems Conference, we each get individually pursued for redundant meetings with the same client, versus one group meeting that’d be more efficient both for us and for the client…and aren’t told that our EDN peers are also being contacted.
I joined EDN in January of 1997 and, for the first few years, life was good. My contact information hadn’t yet been widely disseminated through the PR community, and the PR representatives I worked with (many of whom I still have the pleasure of working with) were generally quite competent. Then the dot-com bubble began to bloat. Kids started getting frantically hired out of college, many without PR-related degrees, to fill cubicles, man the phones and rack up lucrative client hours. They didn’t have a clue about the product they were pitching…half the time, I could hear them flipping the pages on the script sheets as they robotically read me their lines.
You might think the situation would have gotten better after the culling-of-ranks that followed the 2000 bubble burst, and admittedly to some degree it has, but not as much as you’d believe (and I’d hope). Companies have slashed budgets to the bone, and PR is often one of the first- and hardest-hit departments. And speaking of bubbles, we’re in the midst of another speculative cycle courtesy of ‘Web 2.0′. As Prince put it, I’m feeling ‘like it’s 1999′ all over again.
Followup: Hilarious (and pathetic) aftermath.