A Word on PR Spam

February 2, 2010 · Posted in Communications

I just learned about the Inconvenient PR Truth campaign , a PR industry initiative launched by Realwire’s CEO Adam Parker. The campaign aims at initiating a debate on PR irrelevance and how it’s polluting our online environment. According to research by news release distribution service Realwire , each year US and UK journalists receive an estimated total of  1.7 billion irrelevant press release emails. That’s a lot!

My initial reaction to the campaign was: Yes! That’s right. We PR people should work on honoring and improving our craft. We should help reduce PR pollution by only sending out relevant information.

On second thought: What’s relevant really depends on the receiver. An information that’s relevant to an audio-visual technology trade mag might not be relevant to a cooking magazine. That’s easily figured. So how do we solve this problem of PR pollution?

Well, there is never a straightforward, easy solution, is there? Nonetheless, I believe that the new era of conversational public relations leveraging social media holds the key to less spam and more relevance as towards press releases and its distribution.

PR Relevance: It’s a Two Way Street

Yes, PR practitioners need to target the right journalists when it comes to distribute releases. That’s only one side of the story.

Journalists and bloggers have the power to say “No!” to unsolicited press release emails. Rather than feeeling victimized, they should harness their position, stop being mere receivers of information and become active information “hunters and gatherers”. The new internet offers endless possibilities when it comes to looking for topics and news that match their editorial needs .

Shift Communications’ Todd Defren has a great blog post on this PR pro/journalist dynamic. He writes that “part of the PR pro’s new job in this era is to create, seed and cultivate content about clients in the socialstreams.” And why is that? Because a majority of reporters already turn to the internet and social networks when it comes to information gathering.

From Press Release to Social Media Release

Assuming PR people would shift their priorities and concentrate on spreading relevant “trails of breadcrumbs” - as Todd Defren calls them - for the searching journalist or blogger to find and follow, would that help generate a shift in PR practices? Would it help reduce PR spam and increase conversations among PR pros and reporters that are pertinent to a particular issue? Tools for social media releases are out there, and they are being used already. But not enough.

My notion is, the more information you “have to” accumulate to make your release fit for the social web, the higher your chance you’re getting the information right. A traditional press release distributed - text-only - over the wire to a million media recipients bears the risk of being irrelevant, not because of the large number of receivers but because of its undeliberated and often rash way of sending.

The Power of Multi-Media Resources

Imagine you would have to include an embeddable video that presents a brief product demo by an in-house expert. Imagine you would include accompanying graphics or statitics that support your release with useful data. Imagine you would add quotes from your company’s executives or clients and analysts topping off your information. What about MP3 files or podcasts? What about links to relevant additional information or coverage on the same topic?

A social media release leveraging all these multi-media resources about your product, service or company stands a chance of not being dismissed as irrelevant or spam - especially when equipped with RSS functionality as well as embedding, bookmarking and sharing possibilities to social networks, news aggregators and blogs.

Brian Solis wrote a very helpful introduction and overview of the power and possibilities of social media releases. In his “ Definite Guide to Social Media Releases “  Solis sums up what a social media release should include and why we need social media releases. On that note, I hope that social media releases will help reduce PR spam and make the conversations between PR pros and reporters a fruitful one. What do think? How can we reduce PR pollution?


One Response to “A Word on PR Spam”

  1. Adam Parker, Chief executive, RealWire on February 3rd, 2010 2:22 pm

    Hi Nina

    Thanks for covering the campaign and I couldn’t agree more with your point that investing more in storytelling will encourage people to send less stories in the first place. In fact this issue has been close to our heart for a lot longer than the last few days as this post from last year hopefully shows

    One of our team is native German and is out there at the moment starting to build up a presence. You might find it worth a chat at some stage - you can find him on Twitter here @mweinelt.

    Thanks again and just let me know if I can help with anymore info on SMNRs or the campaign.


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