Why Spam PR Pitches Won’t Go Away

Yesterday morning I received an email pitch. Nothing particularly exciting about that; it wasn’t the first pitch I received yesterday and it certainly wasn’t the last. It wasn’t tailored and it wasn’t addressed to me but it was on topic. I noted that it was for an ebook on social media marketing and set it aside to read properly later.


Very quickly, though, I began to see replies to that pitch. And then more replies. They kept coming. As it turns out, the sender of the pitch had created a mailing list and had emailed that list using the ‘To’ field in the address bar.

Over the next eight hours, I received 27 replies to the original email from people on the list. People who, apparently, like the ‘Reply All’ button (which, I think, should have an “are you sure” prompt when you use it). Emails getting increasingly irate at the original sender. Emails from well-known social media types like Mike Driehorst, Jennifer Leggio, Om Malik and Francine Hardaway.  Emails from reporters at the WSJ, at AdAge, at AP and Newsweek. To make matters worse, everyone began getting copied on support tickets about the removal requests.

Emails after a spam pitch

All told, we received 45 emails over an 8-hour period.

Spray and pray worked

One telling point, however? The first reply in the email chain was from someone who wanted to review the book. So was the fourth, which raised the possibility of a Blog Herald review.

Sadly, spray and pray was getting results. From a short-term perspective, the spammy pitch may have actually worked. It got two responses. Perhaps, were it not for the mailing list disaster, it might have received a few more.

In the long-term, however, the pitch did nothing to impress those of us on the list who viewed it as spam. It built no relationships and it certainly destroyed plenty (numerous people noted they have blacklisted the sender).

This is part of the volume/customization trade-off that PR people face. Some agencies will continue along this path – despite the people they alienate, they will land coverage for their client.

Other agencies (ours included) will choose to take a more targeted approach. We’ll pitch less people, choose our targets and personalize our approaches. We’ll aim for a high return from a smaller number of pitches.

Like it or not, both tailored and spray-and-pray approaches can work. However, one of them builds relationships in the process while the other damages them. I choose the former.

What do you think?

27 Responses toWhy Spam PR Pitches Won’t Go Away

  • So true,and the same reason email spam in general still exists. It’s easy to see the positive (even if it’s only 2 responses) but difficult to see the negative (except in this case!)

    However I think if people like you continue to make noise about it when it happens, it’ll help discourage others. But I don’t think it’ll ever go away.

  • I think the good point to take away from this was despite all those emails, only 2 responses came from it. To me, this speaks that more people are becoming aware and are able to distinguish these spammy pitches from something that might be worth reading about.

  • Many wonderful people offered me their wisdom this week. I wanted others to learn from my mistake, so I have summarized their valuable tips here, http://brodypr.blogspot.com/

  • Beth – thanks for your comment. Good move on starting your own blog to give your thoughts. I’ll head over there now.

  • Atleast the majority of people are starting to distinguish between real and spam emails. Hopefully they will start to die out over the next couple of years.

  • I’ve recently received pitches of late disguised as being targeted to me, but upon reading fully, noticed that there were references to my website or blog that were irrelevant, clearly indicating that the pitcher had never read or visited my blog or site. My experience has always been that a targeted pitch to an individual has a much better result than mass pitches to a broad list of prospective outlets.

  • Cheryl brings up a good point that I’m sure you know well Dave… There’s a lot of value for PR folks to have their own blogs, because once you start getting bad pitches, you really value the time and effort of putting a good pitch together.

    Also big kudos to Beth Brody for putting up her own blog, admitting her mistake and committing to improvement. Very well done!

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