PR Spam: Are you Naughty or Nice?

Lauren Wood // Dec 11 // Insights



New York Times consumer reporter David Segal, aka The Haggler, usually tackles topics related to downtrodden consumers looking for help with travel scams, dishonest warranties, and inept customer service.

So why was the PR industry the focus of a recent Haggler column?

How Public Relations Spam Can Backfire

Press Release SpamThe Haggler was getting inundated with PR pitches so completely out of line with what he writes about that he decided to turn to himself, the fixer, to right this wrong. He attempted to track down a PR firm that had been spamming him, in this case the company hawking a self-chilling iceless drinking glass.

The story didn’t end well for the PR firm. Vocus, Cision and others were also called out for the media databases they provide that allow PR firms to commit this daily avalanche of PR spam.

I’d like to think my PR strategies are always far superior. In reality, I know I’ve been guilty of blanketing wide rather than always sending targeted, quality pitches.

No more. This article was a great reminder that we as PR practitioners need to be better. We are wasting our time, reporters’ time and clients’ time if we aren’t tailoring every pitch and thoroughly researching reporters before we hit send.


Further validation of this point came from a recent project we worked on for our client, Seaport Village. On Saturday, Nov. 30, Seaport Village held its annual Surfin’ Santa event, where a board shorts-wearing Santa poses for photos with kids hangin’ ten inside a six-foot wave. It’s a quintessential San Diego event that I knew was quirky enough to resonate with a national audience.

One pitch we started working on this summer was to USA Today, specifically targeting their “10 Great” travel features. But rather than simply including the travel editor on a generic press release distribution announcing our event, we did the legwork to research nine other incredibly awesome Santa sightings around the country. The list of ridiculous events and images were much stronger together.

In the end, even though it took significantly more time, the pitch worked, and USA Today named Surfin’ Santa one of the 10 great places to see Santa.

Press release distributions, whether they are about self-chilling iceless drinking glasses or Surfin’ Santa events, should be used extremely sparingly, if at all. PR practitioners need to use our creativity to deliver individually tailored pitches in line with reporters’ interests. Anything else is a waste of time and money.

Are you a PR person that has an example of an expertly-tailored pitch that landed you some prime ink? Are you a reporter that has a story about your own self-chilling iceless drinking glass? Dish and tell in the comments.


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