Stupid, lazy PR people, bloggers and media databases

Tom Coates of the excellent plasticbag.org blog has quite rightly complained about the frequent incompetent pitches he gets from PR firms. Tom thinks the reason is because Stephen Davies included him in his list of the Top 100 UK Blogs.

I don’t think so and think it is more likely to be because Tom is listed in media databases. The problem isn’t that he’s listed, but that most too many PR people are stupid and lazy when it comes to using media databases. [Updated: I don't know and don't actually think it is most PR people, but it certainly is too many]

Just because the database codes somebody as writing about a particular subject, doesn’t mean they do. Doing a search in the database is just the start of creating a media list, not the end. After you’ve created your list you need to double check every single name to make sure that your pitch or news release is relevant to what that journalist or blogger covers.

The media databases make it too easy to mass spam hundreds or even thousands of journalists and bloggers. And sadly that’s what too many lazy PR people do.

Yes, it does take time to check out each name and really understand what that journalist is interested in – but your clients and employers hired you because of your PR expertise, not to conduct incompetent direct mail.

If any PR person actually took the time to read Tom Coates they would find he writes an insightful, interesting and occasionally humorous blog on an eclectic range of subjects. They’d also discover it is totally inappropriate to pitch Tom to get him to write about just about anything they are likely to be marketing.

In the media database we use my A PR Guy’s Musings blog is listed (but a lot of the information is wrong). Tom Coates is listed, but also not very accurately. Other bloggers in the database include Charlene Li, Hugh MacLeod (gapingvoid), Guy KawasakiSteve Rubel (Micropersuasion), Robert Scoble (Scobleizer) and Neville Hobson (in twice).

Pitches As a result of being listed I get a lot of pitches. Most of them very, very bad – but the occasional good one. What upsets me is that most are from PR companies, and that clients are paying top fees to people who quite clearly don’t know what they are doing. It’s not just the targeting that is bad, lots of them can’t even write half decent news releases.

For bloggers it’s not the database supplier’s fault as it does advise you to read the blog first and not to spam or mass email bloggers. It would be better if it gave the same advice about journalists.

Disclaimer: Don’t throw stones in glasshouses

I’m not saying that I, or Wolfstar, gets it right every time. Occasionally we’re going to get it wrong and a news release won’t be as good as it should be or we’ll send a pitch or a release to someone we shouldn’t have done. For this we sincerely apologise, but we are always trying to get it right and to improve. All I’d like to see is every other PR person doing the same.

For example I found Tom Coates sitting on one of our media lists, for a release that is yet to go out. But because we check it, he would have been removed first. Just because he is interested in PCs/Macs/Laptops; Software Applications doesn’t mean he would be interested in reviewing some new collaboration server software!

Other blogs commenting:

XP: Wolfstar pack blog


About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.
  • http://simoncollister.typepad.com/simonsays/2007/08/tom-coates-publ.html Simonsays

    Tom Coates, public relations and public relationships

    There’s a big discussion going on at the mo’ about the role and function of PR in the blogosphere. It was all started by Tom Coates who feels he’s been treated like a piece of meat by PR companies who

  • http://blog.hackingcough.com Chris Edwards

    Shouldn't the first thing the media databases do is check with the bloggers before putting them in? As a journalist, Gorkana rings me up, Cision sends me emails to check over and as I recall there is a clear tick box on the latter that says whether you take press releases or not (which of course may be ignored by PRs).

    They should be checking and sticking those that don't want stuff in a different section that basically says: "no junk mail, no circulars, no dogs etc". It might not even be strictly legal to include the personal details of private individuals who happen to blog in these databases, although that hinges on how you read the Privacy and Electronics Communications Regulations.

  • http://leverwealth.blogspot.com David Phillips

    There is another issue. One of the key measurements for all media relations is the extent to which a statement by an organisation is viral. If its worth saying, social media will pick it up and run with it. The people who subsequently use the information and expand on it are 'user generated publics' and all the more valuable for it.
    Part of the secret is in writing content that tempts people to run with it.
    Pitching and boilerplates are the two activities that are just bad news for social media.
    Helping people relate to the content to aid group building is by far the more intelligent way forward.
    The phenomenon of Social Networks – note identified as the place a majority of people and 'eyeball hours' want to go online as far back as last October – is big news for communicators.

    Its bad news for the 'phone round factories' commonly called PR agencies, but its the reality that emerges from the research at Bournemouth last Autumn, Hitwise research and the Ofcom report.

    Social Networks are the key for the future.

  • http://www.greenbanana.wordpress.com Heather Yaxley

    It is very simple – PR is not a form of direct mail. Too many people seem to send out an untargeted release to the widest possible list simply on the basis of getting the odd pick-up. I'm not sure which is worse, PR as spin or spam.

  • http://simoncollister.typepad.com/simonsays/2007/08/tom-coates-publ.html Simonsays

    Tom Coates, public relations and public relationships

    There's a big discussion going on at the mo' about the role and function of PR in the blogosphere. It was all started by Tom Coates who feels he's been treated like a piece of meat by PR companies who