PR Spam and Enterprise 2.0

04 June 2008

So far I’ve resisted the temptation to get involved in the debate around “PR spam” as I don’t think journalists and agencies will ever see eye to eye on the issue. That said, my interest in the topic was reignited today as I listened to a panel discussion at the Social Media Influence conference in London, entitled Putting the ‘Public’ back into Public Relations.

Let me make a few observations:

  • Spam is spam. It doesn’t matter where it originates from (or appears to originate from – this is important). It could be from a PR agency, a journalist, or someone offering you a 2008 Swiss Rolex, a medical doctor list from America or a no test, no class Bacheelor/MasteerMBA/Doctoraate dip1oma, VALID in all countries. Calling it “PR Spam” is like accusing all watch sellers of being spammers because you get one message from Rolex Watches with a reply address someone in the Ukraine.
  • I do not agree with the response of some journalists with blogs of publishing the email addresses or domains of those they consider to have “spammed” them. In fact, the latter is worse in my book as it unfairly tarnishes the reputation of everyone in an organisation as a result of the actions of one individual.
  • That said, they – like everyone else – should be able to ignore, delete or block emails from people they consider to have abused their inboxes.
  • PR agencies have a responsibility to educate their employees on the basic principles of email etiquette. They also have the power to trap mass mailings that pass through their email servers.
  • Clients also have a responsibility to listen to their agencies when they advise against sending mass emails to journalists or bloggers. Even if the list is properly targeted, it is still going to demonstrate a contempt of the influencers being communicated with.
  • The media list brokers like Cision and Vocus also have a responsibility. They need to ensure that each individual in their databases has a) opted in, b) been verified and ideally also c) the ability to manage their own data and preferences.
  • Finally, journalists and bloggers also have a responsibility to tell people how they want to be communicated with – and if they don’t. I personally accept that putting my opinions online means I am inviting comment and contact. If I don’t tell people not to contact me, I don’t see why I should be annoyed when they do.

The reason I was there was to moderate a panel discussion on social media In the Workplace & Behind the Firewall (and promote my book, of course – if you want a great pre-publication discount drop me a line). Struan Robertson (, Lee Bryant (Headshift), Richard Dennison (BT) and Ruth Ward (Allen & Overy) debated such topics as how to get started with social software in the enterprise and whether or not companies should block Facebook. The summary of the session goes something like this:

  • Just do it!
  • Don’t spend lots of money doing it
  • Experiment, don’t pilot
  • Don’t do it on your own
  • Hire intelligent people
  • Measure outcomes not output

Thanks to the guys at Custom Communication for putting on such a good show.

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