Keep me updated not inundated

Helen Spearman, Editor of good magazine, explains why less is more in when it comes to press release distribution…

I’m polite 99.2% of the time, but that 0.8% is reserved for people calling before I’ve had the chance to read an irrelevant email

I went downstairs for a coffee this morning and came back to 24 emails. In approximately four minutes. I felt each one buzz through in my back pocket, but I wasn’t filled with dread as they arrived. It was annoyance that multiplied 24 times in that time. Want to know why? Because I confidently knew that around 80% of those emails would be irrelevant. Not irrelevant to the PR who sent them, their client or perhaps a handful of magazines that would publish them, but irrelevant to my magazine and me.

I’ve worked in PR and marketing, I’ve sent those mass mail outs, and heard the echo of my inbox when journalists don’t reply. I get it. It’s easier to send that press release to everyone, and then tell the client how many editors have received it. But the long-term effect of all those emails to all those (disinterested) editors is very, very damaging.

There are some PR agencies, and some particular individuals, whose emails I can predict won’t be of interest and I can delete with glee before reading – they could send the most bang-on snippet on the planet, but their previous form for sending guff (technical term) means that, chances are, I’ll have already disregarded it.

Do your research. On me, on the magazine, on our readers. Know what’s in the title’s sections, and understand why that client would or would not be appropriate. By all means make suggestions, but not scattergun, vague suggestions about including it ‘somewhere’. Put some thought into what would work and where in each title. Yes, it’s more work, but there’s something to be said for quality over quantity, and building relationships with journalists.

We all know that these emails go to everyone (especially when PRs forget to use BCC – cue angry ‘reply all’s’ that last for days), and we know that some poor junior exec is going to follow up by phone, but please PLEASE don’t call within five minutes of pressing send. I’m polite 99.2% of the time, but that 0.8% is reserved for people calling before I’ve had the chance to read an irrelevant email.

Let’s keep the communication lines open. If your client is the perfect fit (not just in their mind) for a particular magazine and it makes sense for both sides to work together, make it just that – a collaboration. A quick personal email will do so much more good than banging out an anonymous mail merger effort. And if you do use mail merger, at least have the good sense to use the same font/colour for the addressee’s name as the body copy. Major red flag. And make sure your colleague isn’t sending the same email to the same mailing list.

Above all, though, it’s about managing the expectation of the client, being honest with them about what’s really newsworthy and communicating what coverage they can realistically expect. They might want ten press releases per month, but saturating the market (and everyone’s inbox) could mean that they end up with nothing. And their PR might never get a reply to an email.


Helen Spearman is Editor of good magazine. Follow her on Twitter @helen_spearman

4 replies
  1. Sudeshna Ghosh
    Sudeshna Ghosh says:

    Took the words out of my – and I’m sure most other editors in town!’s as well – mouth. Whatever happened to PR as it was intended to be, when a publicist pro-actively thinks about ‘what’s the story’ before pitching something??

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