PR pros who don't build strong relationships court blacklisting

Much has been said about Lifehacker editor Gina Trapani's PR spam list (see News Analysis, p. 6).

Much has been said about Lifehacker editor Gina Trapani's PR spam list (see News Analysis). We've run subsequent Op-Eds from PR pros who double as bloggers that are fed up with getting untargeted, irrelevant, or annoying pitches from their colleagues. Hopefully the industry is now hyper-alert to this problem. As PR pros transition from a focus on traditional media relations to a more integrated, more sophisticated approach, they cannot forget that the major tenet of the profession is relationship building.

For those unaware of Trapani, she is the editor of the Gawker Media blog Lifehacker. Her major occupational goal is to write posts that help her readers better organize their lives. If you don't represent someone whose product fits into this category (which is admittedly broad and malleable), well, then you probably deserve to be blacklisted. However, if you are blacklisted for an untargeted pitch, you probably don't have a product that matters to the Lifehack audience, in the context of a Lifehack post. So you probably shouldn't care.

I'm a big fan of ROI, so I absolutely get the argument (annoying to reporters) that it doesn't cost much to send a release out to an entire media database. Unfortunately, that argument is no longer valid. Bloggers and reporters are not above writing a curmudgeonly article for their outlets (which are desperate for original content of any kind) about how they are fed up with PR spam. This reporter has had to blacklist agencies that refuse to take me off their lists for client news that is irrelevant to PRWeek. I won't name the agencies, but the net result is that I no longer get their agency news. I'm not sorry.

Everyone in this industry falls over each other to talk about how PR is still about maintaining relationships with influencers. That's why it's funny to see various agencies express surprise that they wound up on Trapani's list. If they pegged Trapani as an influencer, they would have established the relationship with her. And thus a) knew not to pitch to her personal e-mail address and b) would send a personal note instead of a press release. Since they didn't, I assume they deserved to be blacklisted. And they shouldn't care.

I can't say for certain - as she didn't respond to our request for an interview - but she does not strike me as the type of journalist-blogger that is looking for a relationship with PR pros. She called her experiences with most PR pros "terrible" in our 2007 feature on reputation ("Rules of engagement change with blogs," September 10). A Twitter from her serves as further evidence: "I love that pissed-off PR people are threatening to never e-mail me again, as if that's not my dream come true."

Instead of having young pros blast lists, give them the time and opportunity to make real relationships with influencers. And if a client's demands don't allow for such an approach, educate your clients. Otherwise, you deserve what you get.

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