Spam vs. PR issue rises after e-mail blast from website

NEW YORK: Freekobe.com, a website launched after Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant was arrested in Colorado under suspicion of sexual assault, broached an important question that had nothing to do with the question of the star's guilt or innocence: What's the difference between spam and a press release blast?

NEW YORK: Freekobe.com, a website launched after Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant was arrested in Colorado under suspicion of sexual assault, broached an important question that had nothing to do with the question of the star's guilt or innocence: What's the difference between spam and a press release blast?

Not much, according to the site's host. It shut the site down after it sent about 30 press releases, which, according to reports, produced several interviews with the media. The site has since relaunched.

PR professionals said that having press releases interpreted as spam and subsequently trashed or returned is increasingly a problem, as anti-spamming software becomes more sophisticated. This combined with the fact that journalists generally want to be contacted by e-mail makes it that much more of a communication issue.

To begin with, there is no firm definition of spam. "There's no cut-and-dried rule about what it is and what it isn't," said Jeff Beringer, director of Weber Shandwick web relations. He advises that PR people stay on top of software developments and talk to journalists to see what their requirements are.

Jennifer Martin, corporate communications manager for CipherTrust, an e-mail security company, said this is an ethical issue as well as practical one, and marks "the difference between a flack and PR pro."

She advised, "Try to go through and personalize each e-mail, and don't blind copy a press release."

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