The Frustration of PR Spam, Opt-In or Not

Wired Magazine chief and Long Tail author Chris Anderson sparked debate this week when he published the email addresses of public relations people/companies/lists/bots who send him completely untargeted pitches. I’m not sure I agree with every detail of his approach, but I can empathize to a degree, even if I’m not editing a major magazine.

The conference Ad:Tech provides a great example. There’s an event coming up in NY next week, and I’m on the press list – a nice perk they extend to columnists and bloggers. I’m appreciative, and the folks at Edelman have been great in giving me personal attention regarding the show overall.

There are two main pros of being on the press list:
1) I get introduced to some new companies that weren’t on my radar, or I get some access to execs at companies who I’m familiar with but didn’t have a good reason to meet with lately (not that, as I’ve told more than a few PR folks, I have much time for meetings this month).
2) I’ve got a free pass to the show, and access to the press room to boot, so I can get away from the crazier parts of it.

Yet the downside is that I get a ton of pitches, many of them really, really bad, from inexperienced PR people who send a mass mailing to the entire list, sometimes including my name (when they do, usually it’s in a different font or color than the rest of the mailing – come on, this is mail merge 101 here; don’t these firms do ANY training whatsoever?).

How do I deal with it? The first rule: the week before a conference like this, I don’t answer the phone unless I know who’s calling. It helps that I haven’t been in the office anyway. I had a ton of messages to delete when I finally checked in.

For email though, I take advantage of rules. Gmail makes this incredibly easy. I have a label (Gmail’s version of folders) called "crap I don’t really need," which I use in a number of circumstances, such as for corporate newsletters that can be useful at certain times but don’t usually require my attention. Any time I get a pitch from a company that I have no interest in right now, I’ll generally create a rule that says all messages from that PR firm’s domain (eg spammingprfirm.com) that include the name of the company I don’t care about get applied the label "crap I don’t really need," and those messages should automatically skip the inbox and move to the archives. While it sounds like a lot, it takes me about 10 seconds to do this, maybe less. Then, every few days, I can check that label to see all the messages that came in and periodically delete them.

The system works on a few levels:
* These messages skip my inbox, so I don’t need to be distracted by them. I usually have Google Talk running, so I also don’t get the mail alerts for these messages that way.
* I still have them in case there’s a false positive. Where Anderson blacklists his PR sinners (I’m not blaming him due to the volume of messages he gets), I can simply ignore them, or respond if I’m so inclined. For a handful of egregious offenders, I’ll send the messages right to the trash, but that’s rare.

The system has worked well enough that I use the same trick with a folder rather than a label for my work email in Outlook, mainly for newsletters I wish I had time for but never really get to read.

I’ll defer to you now. Do you have any good filtering/sorting tips for your inbox?

3 thoughts on “The Frustration of PR Spam, Opt-In or Not

  1. Blogger relations 2007 retrospective

    Happy New Year! As we look forward, I want to remember what happened in blogger relations in 2007: The big discussion of the year was started by Chris Andersen, editor of Wired, saying Sorry PR people: you’re blocked. He published

  2. Blogger relations 2007 retrospective

    Happy New Year! As we look forward, I want to remember what happened in blogger relations in 2007: The big discussion of the year was started by Chris Andersen, editor of Wired, saying Sorry PR people: you’re blocked. He published

  3. Blogger relations 2007 retrospective

    Happy New Year! As we look forward, I want to remember what happened in blogger relations in 2007: The big discussion of the year was started by Chris Andersen, editor of Wired, saying Sorry PR people: you’re blocked. He published

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