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April 23, 2007

Somehow, and I’m just guessing here, but somehow my email address ended up on a centralized mailing list for public relations firms representing the tech industry. All of a sudden I’m getting in the neighbourhood of 2 or 3 press releases directly emailed per day, all from different people at various PR agencies. This started around a week ago.

From what I can tell, these are legit emails from real humans; they’re mostly of the product announcement/request for review variety. They’re usually promoting software or web sites. They’re personalized, and they don’t really strike me as overly spammy. But they also don’t appear to have any obvious opt-out mechanism.

I’m more curious than annoyed… for now. I’m sure this is just business-as-usual for PR types, though it’s going to get old real quick. I’ve emailed back a few of them to find out if there’s a central source. I’ll report back here if I get an answer.

Update: I received confirmation that my email address is indeed in a PR database called Cision. I’ll try to get my name removed over the next few days, and update again if I manage to accomplish that. Meanwhile, the press releases keep on coming.

Update #2: a thoughtful reaction from someone in the PR industry who clearly gets it.

Anil Dash says:
April 23, 15h

There are a number of these lists of contacts that (bad) PR people use to do unsolicited pitches. One of the big ones is Bacon’s, which I think is now called “Cision”:

Their media page probably has the contact info you’ll need to find out if you’re listed as press, and how to get your profile changed or removed:

It’s annoying, because basically a lot of hack PR people see blogs as just another media outlet, they have a listing in a database somewhere that says, “Dave covers tech on his blog” and then you’re being pitched on Enterprise Storage Racks. Also gives actual, talented PR people a bad name.

April 23, 16h

It’s likely that I’m on that same list although I’ve been getting emails for about a month or two now. Worst of all, none of them include any kind of unsubscribe link. It seems the expectation is that I’ll have to reply to the emails and specifically indicate that I want off the list. But getting off the central list will most certainly be preferred.

Chalmes Bert says:
April 23, 17h

I noticed the same exact thing, too. I suspect that it has something to do with the fact that I attended the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco last week, because some of the emails I’ve received are from companies that were there or listed in the programs.

April 23, 22h

So odd that you all say this. I’ve gotten 6 in the last week or so. Entirely personalized and not specifically spammy. In 4 cases, they even identified where they got my name (ExpressionEngine and CodeIgniter team) and took the time to track down my personal email listed on my site.

To the first one, I sent a standard “thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not interested”, and got a response from (what appeared to be) a real person within about an hour with a polite “ok thanks”.

I haven’t responded to the others. Wonder what’s at work here?

April 23, 22h

I wonder if it has something to do with these guys (or those like them)…

I found the link at Mike Boyink’s blog, thought-provoking post there…

Runa says:
April 24, 03h

I guess it can be a new-styled spam.

Recently (2-3 months) I’m receiving a lot of e-mails which seem to come from post offices, banks, ministeries and so on. But when I check it (I just look at the real sender) I always discover it’s all spam.

I think it’s a kind of new spam “vogue”.

April 24, 06h

I’m on something similar as well. My personal address gets a few a week.

Seems many of these PR firms buy lists…. lists are gathered on the web from: blogs, and “industry guru’s”.

My guess is the more addresses, the more it’s worth… so they dig deeper and deeper looking for more relevant links. Your likely on anything web or tech.

Some feel that it’s not spam if it’s targeted… I’d say if it’s unsolicited it’s spam.

big_old_geek says:
April 24, 07h

Check to see if you’re in Bacon’s. That’s the bible of press sources for the PR industry. I have a food site that gets the same treatment.

Of course, I also get free cookbooks out of it, so I’m not complaining too much.

April 26, 08h

Maybe a PR company decided that bloggers should be considered for press releases too. It wouldn’t be a big deal to produce lists of relevant bloggers with name, email, the areas they blog about etc.

Some of the PR systems out there, sends out to tons of recipients based on category/niche, and the emails will appear as sent directly from the company the press release is about. So check if the emails seem to be sent from the same server(s). That might lead you to the source.

April 30, 15h

When the revolution comes, senseless PR folks will be second against the wall, right after the spammers.

May 01, 08h

The same guys got me, too, back when they were still called Bacon’s MediaMap. I think this was back in 2005. They just added my site and contact information without so much as a by-your-leave.

I found out what had happened when I blasted back at a couple of senders of unsolicited press releases and they said, “Don’t blame us; you asked for this”. Oh, REALLY? A bit of back and forth revealed that I was listed in Bacon’s—which wasn’t my idea, of course. I contacted Bacon’s and demanded that I be removed. So far as I could tell, they did so, though they protested the whole way that they’d been doing me a favor, that what they’d done was okay, blah blah blah.

I really should dig up those old mails and post about them, if only to warn other bloggers as well those who are considering using the servce and still have some ethics left (a small set, but an important one, I think). Of course, I should probably also check to make sure they haven’t re-added me.

Angela says:
May 04, 06h

Just hope that no one ever signs up your email address to recieve offers and deals from PR companies or other services that send emails daily.

May 05, 16h

As a PR person (but not one of the bad ones… I hope), I can vouch for it being a confusing time for PR people. They want you to talk about their products, but they’re not sure how to get you to do it. Sometimes, there’s a great fit (for instance, I would love to get a pitch on a new PR book or service, as long as it came with a review copy), but usually, the bad PR people just want to fire out the shotgun approach. Some blogs are kinda like news outlets, some are like diaries. Most are a middle ground that make it hard to decide. I suppose the default should be “no” unless there’s something on the site that indicates that they’re open to pitches.

RE Robert’s comment, it’s not really a matter of buying lists. Every PR firm has a database of media contacts, usually Cision or Vocus. They also include bloggers… because if you have a tech story, you’re going to want to pitch TechCrunch. Problem is, nobody contacts the bloggers to find out how best to pitch them, if at all, so the PR people who don’t do the research come off like spammers.

Honestly, the best thing to do is write back to the person and tell them that you’re not interested in receiving pitches, and ask where they got your contact info. Then, contact that service and ask to be removed. They should both comply. I don’t know any PR people who want to be spammers, even if the bad ones come off that way.

May 27, 15h

I’m surprised that reputable PR companies would not include some sort of unsubscribe mechanism in their e-mails –I thought that was legally *required* by the CAN-SPAM act! (However, I am not a lawyer…)

Rainer says:
June 02, 09h

The PR mails is like spams thats getting smarter every day. I drive some sites with different topics. One of that is about stock quotes, and guess what… since some weeks I get mails concerning stock signals.
In the end it is just spam. But unfortunately it is not filtered by thunderbird or my MTA system.

Just as a note: In Germany you have to provide one-click unsubscribe mechanisms or else you can get sued.

June 24, 08h

Sorry, I have to correct the above. In Germany you have to give a reason inside the mail why the receiver get’s it - and you have to show up the way to unsubscribe. One-Click is currently not necessary.
Anyway, there’s no way - also in Germany - to sue unknown senders.