PR Spam is a Tools Problem

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.


  • People use automated tools (some of them generate spam) because it
    saves them time. To read every single RSS feed is just not feasible.
    Unless someone develops software that would match consumers and providers in real-time, providers would use this “push to all” method.

    The same happened to email 10-15 years ago. So we can expect some sort of legislation to legalize or criminalize this behavior. Until then it is still a wild west.

  • The problem with spam, especially link spamming at the moment is that it is so effective, so easy to put into practise and so “”banket”. By blanket I mean that a spammer will throw up 10,000 links in a day and if 1 or 2% of them stick then its a job well done.

    It looks like this is weeding its way (or from reading above has already done so) into PR.

  • Ben

    I think this is crap. I work in the industry and i use both RSS and welcome pitches from people trying to promote themselves or their clients. That is part of the game. What good are PR firms if they are no longer allowed to help promote their client’s story.

    I agree that there is a fine line between spam and targeted distribution but if you don’t like it then call the company and ask to be removed from their database; it’s that simple.

    All the best,


  • Good post. How do you join the private beta for your PR and Social Media product?

  • admin

    @Ben – Thanks for your comments! For transparency, the IP address from which you posted it was:

    IP: ,

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