PR Needs To Stop Spamming Media Inboxes

flUvRvwWe, as an industry, are doing it wrong.

That’s the feedback from one of our most important customer bases, the journalists we depend on, at least in part, to help us tell our clients’ stories.

A week ago, I moderated a Detroit Regional Chamber panel that featured a TV news planning editor, a business magazine web editor and the senior managing editor of an all-news radio station. All talked about the hundreds of emails they receive every day from PR types, on top of “did you get my press release?” phone calls. All talked about PR being the lifeblood of at least part of their coverage. But all talked about the PR garbage that can get in the way.

Later in the week, a journalist friend called attention to this article via Twitter. It says, in part, “In no small part, corporate communications and PR agency teams are to blame for journalists’ increasing level of stress, a new survey reveals. Lazy PR practitioners send out ineffective emails and half-hearted pitches, most typically via email, for story opportunities they rarely expect to succeed.” 68% of journalists surveyed are unhappy with PR pitches.

This is a serious communications and image crisis for an industry that is supposed to know more than a thing or two about communications and image. The worst part about it is that this broken model is so profitable for so many. PR operations, especially the Big Firms, actually make more money assigning more “worker bees” to assemble bigger media lists and pitch more journalists, even for stories of limited interest, to feed their big overhead. The Detroit web editor’s complaint about a New York agency pitching her New York consumer stories when her employer is squarely focused on Southeast Michigan business news is in direct conflict with the New York agency’s business model. That’s troubling.

Call it “spray and pray.” Call it “mass distribution.” Call it “throwing sh** on the wall to see what sticks.” It simply doesn’t work. Instead, we should all be finely targeting our lists, as we encourage our clients to target their audiences. We need to make editorial decisions, of sorts, before anything goes out.

It’s time to start having respect for journalists. Let’s cut down the clutter in their inboxes and focus on helping them do their jobs, while helping our clients. Any PR professional should be willing to admit that a 32% approval rating means things need to change, even if it costs money.