A new charter to tackle the scourge of media spamming has been backed by industry professionals, despite some concerns that the guidelines amount to little more than common sense.
The charter was put together after a roundtable held by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), the Investors Relations Society (IRS) and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), in response to the campaign 'An Inconvenient PR Truth', fronted by RealWire chief executive Adam Parker.
It suggests that those in media relations should 'invest time in researching the editorial scope and interests of a journalist/blogger before approaching them'. Practitioners are also warned that 'confusing, misleading, inaccurate or non-targeted emails' may damage the reputation of a PRO and their agency, and may lead to journalists and bloggers blocking their messages in the future.
Francis Ingham, PRCA chief executive, said: 'Outside of the industry leadership bodies, there are too many PR cowboys and their spamming hurts all our reputations.
'Many SEO agencies adopt a hit-and-hope approach to engaging the media, a sad reflection of the lack of PR skills many of them have.'
A number of PROs praised the charter for sending out a clear message to the media and PR industries. Supporters of the Inconvenient PR Truth campaign launched in January were positive.
Stephen Waddington, MD of Speed, called it 'a call to grow up', while Umpf owner Adrian Johnson said: 'This is a positive response to the flack/hack mud-slinging following last December's Braddock-gate.'
Johnson was referring to freelance journalist Kevin Braddock, who published a list of PR professionals who inundated him with emails. But he added that more work needed to be done. He said: 'I still feel agency bosses and journalists should have a greater role in self-regulation.'
Ruth Warder, MD of JCPR, agreed that the charter offered 'ultimate clarity' on the issue, but acknowledged most PROs were already aware of the effect it had on their reputations.
The guidelines were not universally well received, with some sceptical of their impact. Veronique Rhys-Evans, founder of Red Dog Communications, speculated that 'guilty parties' were unlikely to take notice of the charter.
Nadia Gabbie, MD of Slice, commented: 'It comprises more than 800 words of instruction that I can't believe even the most junior PRO wouldn't be operating under.'
HOW I SEE IT
VERONIQUE RHYS-EVANS, Founder of Red Dog Communications
Planning ahead; doing research; being smart, honest and respectful; delivering on your promises. Surely this is best practice in any industry, in life even. It seems too late and unnecessary to issue a charter. Anyone with more than a year in PR should have learnt this.
STEPHEN WADDINGTON, MD, Speed Communications
I used to be a journalist and I'd get pissed off by the amount of crap I received. What bought the issue of spamming to the fore is social media and the fact that through blogs, journalists can easily name and shame. This charter is a call for the profession to grow up and use techniques that other industries have used for years.
54 press releases hit a journalist or blogger's inbox a day on average
22% of press releases are deemed relevant to the recipient
55% of journalists and bloggers have blocked a spamming PR
25% want press releases to be addressed to them personally
Source: RealWire survey, November/December 2009