Genuine concern or marketing hype?

July 29, 2010

An update to our original posting on 28th April.

A new campaign against so-called PR spam is underway under the banner An Inconvenient PR Truth. The campaign is being orchestrated by a press release distribution service, so it is very far from being an impartial campaign. However the subject is a serious one which we believe warrants a response.

stop pr spam_r2_c2

The Inconvenient PR Truth campaign draws an analogy between pollution in the physical environment and ‘news’ pollution of the online environment caused in no small measure by PR companies blasting out irrelevant or inappropriate press releases indiscriminately. Journalists are bombarded with such stories daily and it is a source of great irritation – especially when followed-up by the inevitable ‘did you get my email’ call 15 minutes later.

There is no doubt that ‘PR spam’ is becoming a bigger problem, partly because of the ease with which stories can be circulated by email and partly by the increasing number of companies offering ‘media lists’ that are often poorly researched and out of date. Coupled with inexperience on the part of the PRO, this combination of flawed data and naivety creates a potent cocktail that can all too easily wreck delicate PR/Media relationships and create a strong negative backlash against the client.

In response to what some journos believe to be an increasingly serious problem, the campaign proposes a journalist’s Bill of Rights which enshrines a code of practice to be followed by PR companies. The code places specific obligations on behalf of the PR company to research its distribution list better and take further steps to ensure they are not spamming recipients with inappropriate stories.

From our point of view, we agree wholeheartedly with anything that helps ensure our stories land on receptive ears. That’s why we have always relied on lists that we research and maintain ourselves. There are some in the PR industry, however, who have raised concerns that the Bill goes too far in restricting our ability to sell-in stories to less familiar publications. We too share some of those concerns.

Over the next couple of weeks we will be looking seriously at what lessons can be drawn from the campaign and how we can incorporate those into our business practices. Our objective will be to draw up a code of conduct that encapsulates the essence of the Inconvenient PR Truth campaign. We’ll be posting more on this on our blog, Talkback, which you can find on the right hand side of this page.


As a result of our deliberations, we have been trialling a new approach to PR distribution that places greater emphasis on the idea of recipient consent.

We have always relied primarily on contact lists that we’ve researched ourselves, rather than bought-in lists. What we have done is to categorise those lists into key industry sectors, and given journalists receiving our press releases to ability to manage the lists that they appear on directly – even to the point of unsubscribing completely. We believe we are the first PR company to go this far – but it appears that our judgement has not been misplaced; we have had only 1 unsubscribe request since we started the trial in April.

From an editorial perspective, we believe the new system delivers some significant benefits over the mass distribution policies of some PR companies:

1 – Our press releases go to carefully selected editors and journalists, not to the general public, meaning they are genuine news stories, not a re-hash of material that is already in the public domain.

2 – Our distribution lists are restricted to the publications that we feel will be interested in the story, rather than just trying to make up the numbers.

3 – If we get it wrong, an editor or journalist has the ability to change the lists they appear on, or unsubscribe altogether.

4 – As editors and journalists move from one publication to another, they can manage the industry sectors they are receiving stories from. In this way the relationship built up between us and the journalist can adapt to changing needs. Also, links on each email press release we send make it easy to share information with colleagues.

We feel the time is right to take this step forward; we feel that editors and journalists will respect the trust we are placing in them and the net result will be a better working relationship for everyone. If you have any comments or if you require more information, please email us – enquiries “at”

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