David Segal writes a column in the Sunday New York Times that deals with consumer complaints. But he went off-topic in his Nov. 24th column to deal with a personal complaint that those of us in the public relations field should listen to.
Segal complains about the large number of unsolicited and totally off-topic pitches he gets from PR people. He did some investigating and learned that many come from people using one of the PR media databases that are available -- Vocus and Cision being the largest.
Segal is 100% right in pointing out that too many PR pros rely on these databases without doing the proper editing to be sure pitches and news releases are being sent to journalists who might actually be able to use them. The result of this lazy PR is reporters get lots of unwanted junk email, which gets them frustrated and annoyed at all PR people, including those of us who don't spam via Cision and Vocus. It just makes our job harder when those frustrated journalists delete all email they see coming from PR people.
I was glad to see Segal call out by name some of the PR agencies who had recently sent him off-target pitches. They and the clients they represent should be embarrassed. It shows lazy, wasteful and unprofessional PR practices.
I've never used Vocus. It's way too costly for a smaller PR practice. Cision is costly too, but less so than its rival. But when I have used Cision to build a database, I've found it difficult to use. There doesn't seem to be any way around the old-fashioned way of going through all the names and vetting those who are not appropriate. That takes a fair amount of time and a lot of patience. And that's where we run into the problem that leads to all the spam reporters get from PR people.
Time is money, and I suspect that too many PR agencies who are already overworking their underpaid lower-level employees discourage them from taking the time to build a proper PR media target list. They figure they're already paying thousands for their Cision or Vocus subscription, so why spend more valuable time doing the job properly by going through all the names and selecting only those who might actually be able to use the material they're sending out.
It's PR 101 -- how to build a media list. I suspect too many agencies don't give their junior-level employees the proper training or guidance. Worse yet, some may actually discourage their people from doing it the right way, opting for the faster and lazy way.
But in the end, it's bad PR for the rest of us in the industry. David Segal's column proves the point.