I ran across this post from a few weeks back by Drew Kerr talking about how AllThingsD writer Peter Kafka Tweeted out that he’d hit the breaking point with PR spam.

“Message to clients of ‘on demand’ spam PR firm Vocus PR.  Please stop using them. I’m setting up a filter to delete all their pitches.” — Peter Kafka

Drew then writes, “Let me save you a lot of money and aggrevation: if you want to ‘engage,’ first get an RSS reader like FeedDemon and actually read the journalists and bloggers you are contemplating.

My eyes filled with tears of joy at that.  Yes, yes, yes!  The problem is the tools.  Vocus is a spam-enabler because it invites PR people to build a giant list of reporters and blast the same pitch to all of them.  PR people aren’t bad people, they just have bad tools.

Drew’s suggestion that you subscribe to the RSS feeds of journalists on your media list is spot on.  I’ll take that one further and say that you should build your media list based on social media monitoring.   There are perfectly good free tools to do this, which I’ve covered in a previous post.

The Vocus process looks like this: SEARCH DATABASE -> PITCH
What I’m suggesting works like this: LISTEN > RESEARCH > ENGAGE > PITCH

Instead of searching for reporters, you start by LISTENING to what people are writing.  All it takes is setting up the right searches in Google Alerts or Social Mention.  Monitor for mentions of competitors, obvious keywords, and a few non-obvious phrases or jargon that pinpoint people who know your space.  Once you find someone, then and only then should they be added to your media list.  And ideally, you should follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their blog, friend them on FriendFeed, and generally try to get as much information as you can about them.  As a side benefit, this technique will surface mid-tail influencers that may be invisible to Vocus, and enable you to get to them before they’re bombarded with pitches.

BuzzStream will soon be unveiling our PR & Social Media product to connect the dots between identifying a journalist (or other influencer), researching them, and managing engagement (i.e. relationship-building) efforts over time and across mediums.

If you want to stop spamming, get the right tools.

Jeremy Bencken

Jeremy Bencken co-founded BuzzStream and served as Chairman in our first few years. Before that, he co-founded ApartmentRatings.com, which he grew into the leading global source for ratings and reviews of apartments before selling it to Internet Brands. Currently, Jeremy runs Wordloop, a performance-based content marketing company in Austin, Texas. Jeremy also serves as an advisor to Sparefoot and inHabi, and is a mentor with Capital Factory. You can find Jeremy on Twitter or Google Plus.

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