Three PR Emailers That Didn't Seem Very Human
by Josh Bernoff
I said I would call out PR emailers who didn't treat me right. That starts today.
All three of these PR emailers are guilty of the same sin: failing to give me a way to opt out. It's human to give me a way to say good bye. Otherwise I feel helpless and I resent the companies who won't let me go. That's bad PR.
But behind each of these emails is a person, not a spammer. I spoke to each one, and their stories are instructive. I wanted to get to the human side of PR emails. Interestingly, when I said "I'd like to speak to you about how you do marketing," they all assumed I wanted to highlight what they'd done well.
Marketers, as you read these stories, ask yourself, "Is this how I behave?" Then start marketing more like a human.
Matrixstream's Aaron Keogh has his hands full
Matrixstream is an IPTV platform for streaming high-definition video. Aaron Keogh, their director of business development, has been emailing me for years, because I used to be a TV analyst. I've never written about the company, and I haven't covered TV in the last two years. Here's a typical email:
That's 396KB of unsolicited PR. I have received 20 emails like this in the last two years, often with big attachments, and sometimes multiple times. I've asked to be removed from Keogh's list at least three times.
When I called Keogh, he told me he developed his email list himself over seven years and he maintains it himself. When he realized I was going to write about his email hygiene and not his streaming product, he claimed I was behaving unfairly and threatened to call the CEO of Forrester Research.
While Matrixstream's press emails don't include an unsubscribe link or instruction, Keogh says anyone can email and he'll remove them. "It's important to be responsive to people," he told me. "Generally I'll catch it after a couple of times or sometimes if they call me."
Aaron is not evil, he's just trying to represent his company, but I think he's too busy to pay proper attention to the annoyance he may be causing. I am hoping this is his wake up call, and a similar one for others who aren't up to the task of properly maintaining their own email lists.
Chris Rollyson didn't realize that he's an email marketer
Chris Rollyson is a social media expert, sort of like me. He helps companies tap into the power of Linked In. He reaches out to people by running seminars. His email is very clever, since it taps into your own desire to introduce others to the power of social media. It begins like this:
Your advice: Whom should I invite to these LinkedIn seminars?
From: Chris Rollyson
To: Bernoff, Josh
There has never been a better time to use LinkedIn to develop fruitful relationships. People can help people meet their goals, and knowing how manage more connections will be a huge advantage. LinkedIn is built for this.
Participants of the Executive's Guide to LinkedIn seminars learn network strategies and dozens of features that 95% of LinkedIn members don't know. Not only that, they continue learning in the private EGLI online community afterwards. We have new seminars in 3 cities: Chicago 19 Jan. | Cleveland 28 Jan. | Wheaton, IL 6 Feb.
I am looking for people who want to build strong networks that help them do remarkable things. Who can you recommend who may be in situations like these?
This struck me as trying a little too hard and sure enough, while there were plenty of links to join the seminar, there wasn't one for getting off the mailing list.
When I called Rollyson he was very pleased to hear from me. It was very hard to get him to understand that I was not happy about his email practices. "I don't really see this as email marketing," he said. "Every one of the people I'm sending to, I know personally." Rollyson has a mailing list of 3000 people, all through personal contacts. He got my card at a Forrester event.
Let's be clear. If you email 3000 people, even if they are your "friends," you are doing email marketing, and you need to do it properly.
To his credit, I think Rollyson has learned that he made a mistake, agrees that I have a good point, and is likely to change his practices.
Marketwire has a bug in its system
Marketwire is a wire service that distributes email on behalf of companies. You might think that if people like Keogh and Rollyson used Marketwire, they wouldn't have problems. But Marketwire makes mistakes, too. They regularly email me on behalf of International Datacasting Corp, a company in which I have no interest. It's a very professional looking release.
I called Marketwire's head of PR, Lisa Davis. She immediately said the lack of an unsubscribe was a mistake, since every Marketwire release is supposed to have one.
The next day, Davis called back to say that there was a glitch in their system, because this client was Canadian and had worked with the portion of Marketwire that had originally been Canadian (and therefore not subject to the US's CAN-SPAM act). But it was still supposed to have an easy unsubscribe and they've now fixed that.
They also called me back to ask which lists I wanted to be removed from, "Internet" or "Software." That's about as targeted as dividing the world into old people and young people. And that's part of the problem.
Lessons from three emailers
None of these emails was going to make a significant impression on me anyway. Rollyson's was a bit intriguing, but the others are way out of my space. But once you get on an emailer's list, it's hard to get off. It's spray and pray, as they say.
All three annoyed me by treating me as a target, not a human. Influencers and journalists are human, too. We get mad at this stuff. You want us to like your products, so why do you behave like this?
If you're big enough to email, either get a system that works or hire a PR firm or a wire that can do it right. Or better yet, stop with the press releases already. They include such trivial content, we've all learned to delete them pretty quickly.
PR folks -- anyone -- can you please explain to me, your "target," how this is supposed to work? I'll listen, I promise.