November 2010 Archives

Blacklisting Cision

26 November 2010

Just under a year ago, Cision unilaterally decided to subscribe me to its ‘wire service’. They didn’t ask; they just harvested the email address from my site and started relaying press releases.

It wasn’t a big deal. Although I received such well-targeted material as “Lush hosts Mother’s Day parties nationwide!”, “Old Spitalfields - New Future” and “Vote Jack the Goat for Prime Minister 2010!” - exclamation marks and all - the quantity coming through was not enough to warrant getting them to change it.

Then Laureate Education appeared with some release about a deal with the University of Liverpool. Once again, it had no relevance to me but it was no worse than the other stuff that turned up on this distribution service. Then another one appeared. And another one. In total, I received about 15 copies of the same release.

It was probably a technical glitch but the rate at which they were coming through quickly became an irritation. The sensible thing to do was to contact Cision and tell them about it. But how? There isn’t even so much as an unsubscribe option at the bottom of these releases - that in itself is against EU rules on commercial bulk emails. They might be able to claim an exception for business use but it’s not a great position to take given the attention being given to PR spam today.

But there isn’t even an effective contact email or number unless you dig right through the Cision UK site. The most prominent contact page is simply the kind of form that routes to whichever intern was unlucky enough to draw the short straw that day. The only phone number goes to an automated phone system in which the only relevant option is to go through to the ‘research’ department, who have precious idea what Cisionwire is, let alone how to deal with a mailbot suffering a spasm.

The only questions they could resolve were whether my contact details were right and did I want to unsubscribe from everything. One of them was at least six months out of date. Actually, this is good going for Cision. It’s possible to go for years with the wrong details from my experience of dealing with their research department, and that’s if you actually take the time and trouble to find the right department and ring them about it. Trust me, I’ve tried.

The other record was the address being used by Cisionwire. They had no idea how they got this email, other than claiming “it came from the NUJ’s website”. That cannot be the case because the freelance directory does not publicly list email addresses.

Did I want to unscubscribe? You betcha. But for good measure I blacklisted the sending server for when their email harvesting bots (or interns) happen by at some point in the future. I can live with the other stuff that turns up in the inbox but Cision has demonstrated once too often that it’s just too useless to deal with.