Journalists and bloggers share their disdain for PR spam regularly. Many PR pros write blog posts telling their colleagues why they should stop spamming reporters and offering tips. And, I might say, rightly so. But that’s not what this post is about. I want to talk about the reasons that PR spam is still going on strong, despite these constant pleas for it to stop.
I commented on a recent blog post on the subject from Beth Harte. (She’s brilliant, by the way. I highly recommend subscribing to her blog.) Yes, spamming reporters isn’t good. So why do so many PR folks still do it?
As I shared in the comment on Beth’s post, I believe the root of this industry black eye is three-fold. And until the first two change, PR spam isn’t going anywhere.
“Those” Clients – Many clients understand the value of building relationships with reporters. Many don’t. Many do, but don’t care because they have to justify the worth of their department to bosses who only want to see big impression numbers. So they put massive pressure on their agencies to “smile and dial” or e-blast. They want to see “call reports” and they’d better be long and chock full of details.
The bigger the client’s budget, the more leverage they have with their agency since most aren’t in a position to lose a big client. These clients don’t care about the long-term rewards of relationship building because they might not have a job at the end of the year if they haven’t produced impressive numbers.
“Those” Agency Account Leads – In many cases, the client lead on the agency-side isn’t standing up and saying “no” to the client. They’re worried the client will go elsewhere and no one wants to be responsible for losing a client. The truth is that telling your president that the client left because you wouldn’t blast client “news” to the far reaches won’t be met with “atta boys” most of the time. It’s unfortunate, but true. So, unless they see a true “ethical” dilemma, most aren’t willing to say “no.”
Another reason they don’t say “no” is because they aren’t the ones pitching reporters. They don’t have to hear the frustration on the other end of the phone or receive the reply emails. They call in their junior-level team members and hand out the commands. And, frankly, these agency folks don’t want to hear about taking time to research reporters and bloggers to target the pitch from the young guns. There’s no time for that. After all, the client wants a call report on your 400-person media list by Friday.
“Those” Young Pros – In these “stop spamming reporters” discussions, I see a lot of senior-level folks blaming junior-level account people as being the culprits of this. Pointing the finger at them is ridiculous. The only reason young pros get busted for it is because they’re the ones making the calls and clicking send on the emails.
Most of them aren’t willing to tell their supervisors “no.” They’ve only been working for a few months or years and they’re told “this is how we do it.” They’re scared of losing their jobs, so they do it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a junior-level pro share frustrations about a pitch their boss is making them do to a crazy number of media contacts because the client wants it.
I don’t agree with spamming reporters, of course. My point is that it won’t stop anytime soon because of these reasons, regardless of how many blog posts are written or how many seminars PRSA offers.
Why do you think so many PR pros still spam reporters? What do you think it will take to move the industry beyond it?
*Image by Peter Kaminski.