Keep their pitches where you can see them

20 July 2005

"Outernet marketing conduit" BL Ochman called the proposal "ridiculous". And it's caused a bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth from others in PR. Jeremy Zawodny's proposal to create a blacklist of flacks who effectively spam bloggers has certainly raised the temperature beyond Tim Bray's death to PR post from last week.

At the risk of repeating some bits from an earlier post, my advice to Zawodny and other people planning on an email blacklist of PRs (other than possibly reporting them under the CAN-SPAM legislation) is that you can go ahead and block them but the chances are they will simply start ringing to see if you got their pitch. And you really, really don't want that.

Some people are arguing that requests to block press releases and pitches are because PR has a credibility problem. PR does not have a credibility problem, it has an expertise problem. Most of the people from the PR side who are involved in the "conversation" on this and related subjects I think understand the problem at hand. But no amount of blogging by them is going to change what happens with the PR spammers: they don't read blogs, they just manage mailing lists. The guys at MobHappy may be onto something with their colour-coded signs to PRs but it does assume that PRs doing the pitches are actually going to stop by and read.

Because of this activity, Zawodny's post has clearly troubled some of the more blog-aware PRs because a widespread use of PR blacklists would shut off a means of communicating. All that blind pitching activity has poisoned the waterhole. But it's not the place of PRs to say that bloggers should or should not accept their pitches or releases.

Disposing of unwanted emails is surely up to the blogger. OK, if they miss out on something good, then that's just tough on them. That has always been the case. If you don't track things, they pass you by. Hacks are remain hesitant to block the email channel because you never what might turn up. And we know that blocking email will only make the phone ring more, and we need the phone to dial out, if only to leave messages for PRs who don't get back to us. Having said that, there are vast swathes of material that come from the same offenders that will never be useful.

You could see the pain in the comment from "TechJournalist" on Zawodny's post who named and shamed a shortlist of tech PR companies. If you do a straw poll on tech hacks from either side of the post, you would probably find the same names popping up time and again. I for one had a good laugh when I saw the list: a PR from one of those companies threatened to stop sending me stuff when I refused to help them with research for a proposal to a prospective client. It was quite a surreal moment. I should suggest it to refusenik bloggers as a possible way to filter their email.