Our tool for swatting PR spam
"I don't like spam"
The New York Times's David Segal wrote a fiery condemnation of spam from PR people enabled by email databases titled Swatting at a Swarm of Public Relations Spam that has been shared by 116 fellow journalists and counting. He labeled this spam "a scourge that affects a rather narrow subset of humanity — namely, reporters". Segal went as far as to call the CEO of a media database to get delisted and then went on to call several other company executives at their home numbers. Surprisingly, it was only after many attempts that he could get delisted.
This problem has existed for years and we're doing something about it.
We've been tracking the issue of PR spam ever since our blogger Elana Zak (who is now a WSJ social media producer) wrote a roundup of what journalists really think about bad PR pitches by simply searching Muck Rack for “PR pitches”. The results weren't pretty, but they were very entertaining.
Last year I wrote a column in Fortune calling for a Slow PR movement encouraging the PR industry embrace the spirit of the Slow Movement when it comes to interacting with journalists.
There are four big problems with the status quo:
- Many tools out there are designed to blast thousands of journalists with the same message in seconds.
- There's no immediate cost to sending a bad pitch -- but the longterm reputation damage to the sender is enormous.
- There are too many people who take advantage of #1 and #2 due to laziness or inexperience.
- If journalists responded to every pitch with helpful feedback, they'd have time for nothing else.
To solve this, we've released a system for journalists to control their inbound pitches that anyone can use for free.
For example, check out the profile Fast Company's Neal Ungerleider made for himself on Muck Rack where he lists what he covers and equally importantly what he doesn't cover:
The contents of that pitch form (which unlike regular email can only be sent to one journalist at a time) will go to an email inbox specified by Neal. Should he choose not to respond, he can reject the email with one click and give feedback just like rating a movie on Netflix.
Finally we realize there are times that a journalist needs to put an email out there, so we give journalists a special email they can use in public listings. For example, if you email email@example.com, Neal's inbox will be spared and you'll get an autoreply with instructions on how to pitch him through his form (the journalist can customize the instructions by logging into Muck Rack).