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 One of them was at least six months out of date.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.


Hi Chris

We've attempted to answer some of the issues you raise on our Cision blog,, but I'd like to answer a couple of particular points.

We're keenly aware of the lack of an opt-out options. As you say, this is not in breach of any EU regulation, but it's inappropriate and unhelpful. Communications sent from our latest products all provide clear opt-outs, and we aim to have all of our clients using these newer systems next year.

I'm sorry you struggled to find contact numbers of the site - they're one click down from the homepage, under Contact Us (also run-of-site in the footers, though I realise are easily missed). We also have dedicated forms for media professionals to enter various contact details and preferences. This can be found under the Media sectin of the site, alongside free tools and resources, media job listings, etc.

As I said during our earlier Twitter exchange, we're sincerely sorry for your experience earlier today. And as we say on the blog post, we're working hard to ensure these issues become a thing of the past.



I was well aware of the Contact Us page. If you'd read the post, you would have seen that I had clearly gone to that page, eventually. However, I went to Cisionwire first where the only phone numbers are for client support and the link went to Cisionwire US anyway. I then had to plough on to Cision UK to find a number that was likely to be useful only to find that it goes to an automated system. The issue is with how Cision routes calls internally. Implying I struggled to find a Contact Us page is wrong and, frankly, a bit patronising. I struggled to find one with any useful contacts.

Second, the form you cite for updating details is next to useless: you have no way of knowing whether you already have an entry using that form and no way of telling how interests marry with the tags in the Cision database.