Misguided and Irrelevant

A couple of weeks ago, I penned a post on a new PR search application with which I am involved that I believe holds considerable promise in its ability to help the profession find the “right” journalists for their news or feature story suggestions.

Rather than rely on job titles or reporting beats, MatchPoint spiders a database of 3 million articles from 11,000 print, 25,000 websites and 10,000 blogs to produce a results ranking of journalists whose body of work, going back six months, actually matches the search query (i.e., a release, pitch letter or keywords).

The idea to deviate from the decades-old method of media targeting and list development gelled in my mind several years ago (after many painful sessions moderating journalist panels at our Publicity Club of New York luncheons). Chris Anderson, Michael Arrington, and as of yesterday, Forrester’s Josh Bernoff, all have decried the misguided PR spam that floods their inboxes.

Mr. Anderson, who gave me permission to cite him in the MatchPoint news release, outed the worst offenders by publishing their email address. Mr. Arrington ranted about not working with certain PR pros, and agreeing to, then breaking their requests for embargoes. Whle Bernoff took a more quantitative approach to dissecting what perenially has tarnished the PR profession, let alone rendered the story pitch useless.

In his Groundswell blog post Three quarters of the PR email I receive is irrelevant. Why?”, Bernoff writes:

“For the record, I really like working with PR people, I just don’t like all of their tactics.”

Ahhh. The kiss of death. Here’s his methodology:

“For a two week period, January 15-28, I tracked every single PR email I received, a total of 114 emails regarding 88 different companies. I didn’t count PR emails trapped in my spam filter. I sent each emailer a reply with a short personal note and a request for more information on how they use email for PR — more on those responses later.”

On the first (and in my mind, the most important) measure, relevance:

“Amazingly (I never counted before) more than one in five of the emails I got were completely irrelevant, like the German-language newsletter and the release that reveals “Tony Duquette Files Infringement Suit Against Michael Kors.” Who are Tony and Michael? An awful lot of effort is going into sending me the three-quarters of PR emails in my inbox that have little or no relevance to me, to my clients, or to you.

Josh then delves deeper to describe the different means of dissemination, i.e., automated, personal or a combination thereof, whether there’s an opt-out clause, formatting, and timing for which he noticed a groundswell of e-mailed pitches “the day after Inauguration Day.” (So glad it wasn’t on Inauguration Day.) He constructively concludes:

“I am contributing this in an attempt to be constructive. PR professionals, show it to your boss or your client when they insist on the broadest possible distribution. Channel your energy into targeted, personal outreach to a few people whom you care about and know about, and you’ll do much better. And our inboxes will thank you.”

Josh, thanks for running the numbers. We hear you.

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