This morning Cision UK woke up to a headache. A number of journalists and bloggers had received irrelevant releases distributed through our systems – not just once, but on numerous occasions. Understandably, a number of those who had received emails chose to express their frustration on Twitter, or in emails to us, and probably in ways we are yet to discover. We’re grateful to them for that, as their response alerted us to the fact that something was wrong.
So what happened? The problem was not technical – our systems were working, in this instance, all too well. We followed up with the client who had sent the release, and quickly discovered the nature of the problem. Quite simply, on this occasion, a new-to-media-distribution individual was trying to hit everyone. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone – or at least around 10 per cent of our 1.5 million-strong media database.
Suffice to say that this was not the kind of targeted communications we want our clients to engage in. It’s an extreme example, but it’s representative of a wider trend, one the industry has recently been attempting to address, through initiatives such as the Inconvenient PR Truth campaign, started in February by a cross-industry group of PR professionals, and the CIPR’s subsequent Media Spamming Charter.
Here at Cision we’re keenly aware of the importance of such education. Media relations best practice forms a significant element of our training programmes. We encourage our clients to follow guidance set out in our white papers on the subject. Our first response to today’s problems was to contact the client in question to understand what was going wrong and to work with them to correct the approach.
But are education programmes, charters and guidelines enough? As the RunMarketing blog recently said:
…the PR industry receives widespread training – often from the horse’s mouth (journalists) – yet nothing seems to change. Is PR training rather akin to protest songs? They make a lot of noise, generate some short term action and someone makes a lot of money, yet years on the same problems still linger.
We’ve been working on technical solutions for these kinds of problems for a while, and the first fruits of that work will become visible in the new year. In combination with ongoing education and dialogue, we believe these systems represent the future of PR-journalist engagement. Until they’re fully developed, however, we’ll keep talking to the market, talking to media, trying to learn and to educate – as everyone in our industry must do.