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« Analysis of my inbox: 2 out 3 emails I get are from a machine | Main | PR professionals -- clean up your industry »

February 17, 2011

Half the pitches I receive are irrelevant

by Josh Bernoff

This is the second of three posts analyzing the contents of my inbox. Yesterday I looked at all my email. Today I take up the 51 emails I received from PR people over a week in January. Do the math: that's ten a day.

Pitches 01 11

My topics range has increased since two years ago, when I was exclusively covering social technology -- now I cover social, mobile, internal collaboration and innovation, a range of topics. Even so, 45% of the pitches I received are either completely irrelevant to the areas I cover, or are related to topics I gave up over five years ago. (That's actually an improvement from two years ago.) How did headlines like these end up in my mailbox? Somebody paid to get my name off a list to send these -- what a waste of your money and my time.

  • Elan Digital releases new upgraded version of the SDLBT5 SD/SDIO Loopback Test Tool
  • Care Ambulance Acquired by Falck [what list did that come from?]
  • GlassPoint January e-newsletter [for a solar energy company]
  • Huntington Beach "Goes Green" with Steps Towards a Sustainable Huntington Beach [Am I on some green list somewhere?]
  • Viva La Rock Partners with Atlantic Records and Warner Bros. Records for 2011

That last one, which is about an agency that promotes music, the PR person sent me twice -- the second one with a cute "wanted to make sure you received this." Just a hint, folks -- if I wasn't interested the first time, go away. And in general, "we have a customer" is not something that requires a press release.

I've also been monitoring whether PR emailers include an unsubscribe instruction. Of the PR emails I received, only 43% included a link or instruction to allow me to get off the mailing list. Some of those emails were personal -- they were an offer of a book, or a response to an earlier email, or from someone I knew or who connected with me specifically. But 18 out of 51 emails, more than a third of the pitches, had no easy way to get off the mailing list. (And folks, even if you include the word "Josh" in the pitch, I know you're sending the same thing to a bunch of folks, and you have to give me a way to get off your merry-go-round.)

Nokia, which always keeps us analysts richly supplied with email connections, send three messages during the week I tracked. One had an unsubscribe instruction, two didn't. How did that happen?

Just in case you think I only complain, I love marketing people who do their homework. So let's cite one who does his job right: John Zell, VP of Global CRM Solutions at Razorfish. Here's what he sent me.

Subject: A thought

I really  enjoyed reading your new book – book Empowered: Unleash your Employees, Energize your Customers, Transform your Business.

 Given your research and learning’s around the evolution of energizing and empowering customers within the social media space, I thought you might be interested in some research we just published.

The six month study, which we are calling Liminal,  is focused on customer engagement in this time of great transition. 

We chose the name Liminal for this report because it describes a state of being in flux—on the threshold of something new.

To us, the word Liminal does a superb job of describing the continuing evolution of how consumers choose to engage with a brand.

We took a ground up, customer centric  approach to understand things like -- how do marketers make sense not only of divergent touchpoints, but the disparate reasons why customers gravitate to them.

You can find the full report, is on this site: http://Liminal.Razorfish.com  (you will find a link to download the PDF).

If you have some time in the future and an interest, I would be happy to discuss the details with you.

Best regards, John.

While I'm not crazy about the subject line, John clearly know who I am, what I do, and what I am interested in. And being a nice guy, he send me a link instead of the whole PDF. Of all the pitches I received, this was one of the few I marked for a response.

Coming up: the PR emailers hall of shame.

 

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Comments

Peter Shankman

I love that this is shocking or even worthy of a blog post. It's nothing new, and I'm impressed that it's only 55%. Running HARO, I spend my LIFE trying to teach people how to pitch on topic. It's a losing battle.

Keith Trivitt

Some interesting perspective, Josh, particularly from the viewpoint of an analyst (which PR people don't typically hear from in regards to their critique of PR pitches), as well as the fact that unlike the literally thousands of other blog posts out there about why reporters and bloggers hate PR pitches, you actually have taken the time to analyze your e-mail pitches and break them down.

That I like. A lot. So kudos to you for taking the time to offer more than the standard "I get so many damn e-mails from you PR people! Stop it already."

And the example you cite of a great PR pitch from Razorfish is spot-on and precisely the type of superb media relations work that makes me happy to see our industry producing. While there are certainly some bad apples in the PR industry (just as every profession), I do hope you can see through the fog and recognize more excellent examples like this in future posts, along with providing some additional analytics to help PR professionals understand how they can better relate to and help you do your job.

Keith Trivitt
Associate Director of Public Relations
Public Relations Society of America
http://www.prsa.org/

Josh Bernoff

Nice to hear from PRSA, Keith.

How about we get a "not a loser" certification from your org for people who behave nicely. And you strip it if they behave badly.

Just need some incentive for PR people not to spray and pray.

Ben Lowndes

It has always been like this. There will be good and bad in the industry, just as there are good and bad clients (who do not care about the quality of coverage as long as there's lots of it).

Besides, your 'top pitcher' may know their stuff, but they could do with brushing up on their apostrophe use ('learning’s').

Still, you can't have it all I suppose.

Sarah Elizabeth

The worst part of the Atlantic Records release is that I actually would be interested in this information, received no such press release despite being on their email list, and could not find the information via a Google search. Companies need to learn that digital distribution of releases is a much more effective way of making the information available to those journalists/bloggers who will actually find the content to be useful and relevant.

Paul Armstrong

Writing for a few outlets/across a few sectors I feel the pain mentioned here. I also read these types of posts time and again. Happy to see name and shame stuff (I've been on the back end, done it myself (to a degree!)/it's helped me to be better/push myself/others) but I implore any who are to do the naming/shaming - add the why it was bad and how to improve or we're not helping each other.

I have thought about this issue for a while now - one route could be to focus on a standard pitch template for PRO's? Does this sound like crazy talk? I'd be happy to follow it.

I.e. standard subject line :
[CLIENT] : Information type (news, launch, rebrand etc) : action requested (i.e. none-fyi only, research, review etc) : Extra info

EXAMPLE: "[MATHMOS] : Launch : Blog post/fyi : Review : New design, celebrity launch, market data enc."

Simple concise, appreciative of time constraints of recipient etc.

Thoughts?

prweekblog@gmail.com

Satguru

Your findings on the composition of your inbox are not surprising. Our 2010 survey of heavy email users and found less than 1 of 5 emails was from their important contacts, or was relevant to them, or required a response. Unfortunately, as you have found, we cannot rely on blocking off all senders or use simple filtering to solve the email overload problem. And we cannot expect the senders of bulk emails to cut back on their email blasts. The onus of control has shifted to the receiver or the inbox owner, and we can only do this using automation. So last year we began developing a software tool that could automatically analyse emails. Using text analytics and language processing, Cruxly can categorize messages into those that need to be read, those that need a response, and those that can be ignored. So far results have been very promising.

Josh Bernoff

Satguru, I'm very interested in your idea. Amazingly, you didn't include your email address in your comment (the complete inverse of what usually happens). Contact me at jbernoff at forrester dotcom.

Freddie

While you will find certainly some poor examples within the PR industry (just like every profession), I actually do we do hope you can easily see with the fog and recognize more excellent examples such as this later on posts, together with providing some additional analytics to assist PR professionals know how they are able to better connect with and assist you to do your work

Alaina Revoir

Short and sweet, right? That's what I was taught.

Proposal Software

The graphs are showing amazing results. I must say that PR industry is exactly you suppose to convey. Its the game of time. I think we must focus on the pitch of the topic.

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