this week’s public relations onslaught

Something happened this week. Suddenly instead of the one or two spam messages I’d get a week from people who really “liked my blog” and wanted me to check out their new product, I got about fifteen in the last twenty-four hours. Most were from places that could be considered loosely library-oriented. All of them addressed me by name. None of them had an unsubscribe link in the email. All of them I replied to saying, fairly succinctly, “Please take me off of your email list.” Nothing worse. Nothing rude. In a few cases I’d mention that my blog didn’t actually review or mention the type of product that they were trying to promote. Then I click the “report spam” link in gmail.

A few times I’d hear back from people saying, somewhat defensively in my opinion, “Well your email address was right there on your website” or “I really am a fan of your blog” without additional specifics and with an address from prmarketing.com or something similar. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that suddenly today my inbox was full of PR pitches. I think my name and address was sold. So, I figured I should maybe write a little post about this phenomenon. There have been other posts made by more general topic bloggers like Matt Haughey, Gina Trapani and Chris Anderson. I am already using the PR Blacklist. My angle, library centered as it is, may be a little different.

I have a review policy for printed material, tightened significantly since I had a nasty exchange with someone who misinterpreted it. Since I do a lot of public speaking I often register, or am registered for, many library events annually. In almost no cases am I given the option of not giving my personal information — hey I need to get paid, right? — or even checking a box that says “Please do not share my contact information with your advertisers.” I am aware that I have the option of staying home. I think this solution is suboptimal. I am also aware that some of this is the cost of doing business. That’s okay with me too. What I’d like is for the people who are selling these lists and buying these lists to be aware of a few things

  1. Any time I spend reading and replying to these emails is time I can’t spend doing my other jobs, jobs I love and jobs that pay and jobs that are fun
  2. I do not think there is any deficit in my current awareness reading and I do not think sending me press releases with fake familiar overtures is a way to make me think otherwise
  3. My site is not even the sort of site that does the sort of thing you want someone to do for you.
  4. librarian.net has a budget of zero. There is a one in a thousand chance that a product or service that costs money will get any attention from me at all.
  5. I am aware that public relations is a numbers game and that you have chosen it for a job. Replying to my polite request to be taken off of your mailing list with defensiveness and a non-answer to the “where did you get my email address from?” question reveals that you are not really trying to have a conversation of any stripe with me.
  6. Part of the reason, in my opinion, that people respect my opinions is because I don’t shill. I’m aware that you don’t think that is what you are doing and if I could only see how awesome your product is, I would agree with you. You and I do not share that opinion.
  7. Conference planners, please give people a way to not have their personal information sold to your advertisers. This sort of thing only increases bad karma in the world.

I appreciate that times are tough and we all need to make money how and where we can. That said, unsolicited commercial email — even targeted unsolicited commercial email — is still spam as I see it and I wish people would not send it to me. Feel free to copy/paste this URL in a reply to any spammers who are plaguing you. That’s my current plan. Thanks for reading.

5 Responses to “this week’s public relations onslaught”

  1. Alison Says:

    I went to a conference last year where the registration form did give you the option to not have yoru email address shared with the exhibitors. I thought that was awesome.

    And yet, somehow I still got put on someone’s email list. And it took multiple attempts before I was able to get off of it (and now that I think about it, it’s possible that I gave up and blacklisted them, even though they are a legit company and it wasn’t spam, just email I didn’t want to be getting since I’m not a children’s librarian).

  2. Jessica Says:

    Yeah, even I have been getting PR requests lately (also loosely library-specific). Due to the hectic nature of the past few months, I haven’t even blogged on my library blog, and I have a tiny readership compared to yours, so I have no idea what these people are thinking.

  3. Jon Gorman Says:

    I have never gotten so much snail junk mail as when I was the member of ALA and certain sub-groups. I wish I had kept track of which ones seem the most willing to give out my information. (Maybe ALA and the divisions really don’t purposefully share member information, but it certainly does seem to leak out).

    Thankfully the emails have been sparse so far, but I’m crossing my fingers it stays that way. (I mean, yeah, I got some junk emails from ALA itself but that’s manageable).

    And right now? I’m not a member of ALA at the moment. And yes, that flood of junk probably influenced my decision. I like to feel part of a professional organization, not part of a marketing tool for the industry supplying things to libraries.

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    I was surprised this week when I got a press release through my comments form – but then in the next few days, I got about five more. I don’t know what marketing bandwagon went through town, but they are definitely out in force. I decided to take your lead and add a review policy of my own (cribbed from yours, of course).

  5. Misty Cryer-Davidson Says:

    I share your aggravation. I don’t think people will ever realize that sending SPAM is actually bad for their business.