The time has come to spam journos with video

Am I missing something?

A fully-functioning synapse or two? Or the point, perhaps.

I just read a piece on TheRealPRMoment about research from press release distribution company RealWire, which states “news releases including video content achieve three times more coverage than releases without multimedia content.”

It goes on…. “For those releases with editorial or blog coverage, the average number of pieces was 17.1 for the releases with video content. This was almost three times the figure for the sample without video content of 6.2 and four-and-a-half times more than the distribution industry average of 3.8 pieces.”

Drawing a comparison with the last such survey, the story tells us “Adam Parker, RealWire’s chief executive, attributed the lack of adoption of video to (among other things) the barriers that existed such as the prohibitive cost of some distribution services.”

Bit of a so-far-so-obvious, you may be thinking.

Here’s the thing I’m struggling with.

This is the same Adam Parker and the same RealWire behind the (always struck me implausibly-named) An Inconvenient PR Truth campaign, which put forward a bill of rights (frankly, I’ve never known whether to laugh or weep at that, and I still can’t make my mind up) regarding the manner in which PR people send information to journalists.

Let me break it down for you.

It’s a campaign that proposes 10 so-called rights intended to make PR people treat bloggers and journalists with more respect and, at its heart, stop spamming them with unwanted press releases and other forms of contact.

For the avoidance of any doubt, I dislike the campaign. I wrote about it here.

I’ve never claimed to be possessed of super-human intelligence, and what I’m now struggling with is that on one hand RealWire/Adam Parker (wearing the Inconvenient Truth hat) have advised me (and the rest of the PR industry) to tread carefully. On the other hand, the one that’s promoting distribution services via a news item about a piece of research, I’m now being advised to use video in press releases.

Too many people in PR can recount stories of journalists becoming quite irrationally upset just because there was a jpg or a pdf attached to an email.

Step forward if you’re brave enough to start punting video at people.

I’ll be the one eating popcorn and watching what happens.

A letter to the truth fairy


A lot of rubbish has been spouted in recent weeks about so-called PR spam, ie the business of PR agencies and their ilk emailing press releases to journalists, en masse.

Most recently, a site calling itself An Inconvenient PR Truth has hopped on this rickety old bandwagon.

I can be quite an opinionated and confrontational chap at times so I thought I’d wade in with a few convenient ripostes.

Context – I’ve been in the PR industry for about 12 years. Before that I was a journalist blah, blah, blah.

I’ve done the my-inbox-is-under-siege-from-hundreds-of-press-releases-per-day thing. I’m also old enough to have had hundreds of press releases delivered every day in the mail (you know, snail mail) every day – in sacks. Actual sacks. On one occasion a room full of sacks of letters from readers. OK, they’re not press releases but they were equally unsolicited.

I didn’t view it as spam or anything approximating it. Was I missing something? It all came with the territory. If you’ve worked in a busy newsroom you ought to know that.

I have a real problem with the “Bill of Rights” on An Inconvenient PR Truth. I’ll pick out a few things I particularly dislike about it.

Right 1 – Permission required
Press releases should only be sent to Recipients who have given express or implied permission. Implied permission meaning the recipient has stated publicly that they are happy to receive press releases.
The very act of becoming a journalist carries an implication that you are aware of the existence of things like PR companies and press releases. So there’s your basic principle of implied permission. Everything after that is merely degrees of irritation.

Right 4 – Read publication first
Before any correspondence is entered into, the PR person will have first researched the Recipient’s subject focus and read the publication or articles they write or publish to ensure that the content is relevant.
Hard to argue against. But good luck with enforcing that one.

Right 6 – Types of release

A Recipient has the right to receive press releases about ‘types’ of stories that they are likely to be interested in and not announcements of any kind just because of an industry categorisation.
I foresee an increase in the sale of crystal balls.

Right 7 – Telephone calling

After receiving a press release the Recipient should not expect a follow up call from the sender. Acts of such kind only waste time and have no bearing on whether a press release is used for a news story.
The first sentence implies that journalists read every email they receive. Which is not only a whopping great lie but it seems to undermine the whole “PR spam” point of view. As in… if it’s spam why are you reading it?

That second sentence is also just plain wrong. I can think of too many examples to list here of journalists who, after being called, were able to put previously emailed press releases to good use. As news stories. And then called / emailed asking for follow up info for subsequent stories.

Right 8 – Succinct headlines
A Recipient has the right to receive press releases with succinctly written headlines so a decision of interest can be made quickly.
Define succinct. Something tells me this here Bill of Rights wasn’t put together by someone with a keen legal mind.

This whole PR vs journo thing is a jaded, even out-dated, take on things. It would carry more weight, however, if there wasn’t such an appetite among journalists for press releases and other PR-generated content with which to fill space. As a colleague pointed out earlier today, there are plenty of publications that don’t feed themselves.

Standards could certainly be higher on both sides of the fence. But surely that’s true of most trades and professions.

Maybe the PR industry should up the quality threshold when dealing with journos.

Don’t know how to ask a probing question? Can’t structure an interview? Get facts wrong even after you’ve been spoon-fed them? No idea how to use commas? Do you think second-sourcing might mean putting more ketchup on your chips? Have you ever agreed to come to a briefing and then didn’t show up without letting someone know you’ve changed your mind? Then you’re off the list – no interviews, briefings, press releases, photography, lunches, trips, etc etc.

How does that sound?

I agree there’s plenty of room for improving some of the practices that go on around press releases and how they are issued and followed up. But it would require a lot of cooperation from the PR industry, media list/distribution companies and journalists.

I shan’t be holding my breath.