Monday, September 1, 2008

The Definition of Spam & Rude People

I have a bone to pick.

I am a member of a great list called Help A Reporter Out. It's awesome. I send a note through the site and I get dozens of PR people who have Just The Person I Should Talk To. Plus, I never get spammed. It's all good. I've used them less than a dozen times and not gotten a single off-topic pitch.

I was interested to hear that there's a Canadian version (who shall remain nameless, because I'm not out to damage his reputation, he's doing a good enough job himself). Except the reason I heard about this 'copycat-HARO' is because he spammed me (and several other writers). On his site he claims that his main purpose for his list is to stop PR spam. So you stop it by . . . spamming writers? I don't get it.

When I sent him an email about it he stated that it was merely my opinion that he was spamming. Um, no, honey. One unsolicited bulk email = one spam email. The definition of spam does not depend on the quantity. He said he wouldn't "loose" one night's sleep over my irritation. Ok. But guess how likely I am to recommend his service?

He says word of mouth doesn't work as well in Canada as in the US. Yes, we are a smaller country and many industries are microscopic compared to the US. So imagine how easy it is to shoot yourself in the foot here. Pretty easy. My original email to him didn't say "I'll never join you . . . you, you spammer!" It said "I've held off joining your group because ..." I was hoping for some altruistic response. That his mistake of spamming had been an actual honest mistake.

It could happen that he sends an email to his group saying "Don't use Heather Cook!!" but, I don't want to be "used". My job as a writer is not to make nicey-nice with PR people. They are but one way to get to talk to my sources. Are they beneficial? Sure, but imagine if you've hired a PR person and you learned that they were blocking certain journalists because the journalist dared to call a spammer a spammer.

It's supposed to be a mutually beneficial relationship: PR person working for his client, me working for a publication. PR person gets press for his client, I get a reliable source. But as a writer I need to be extra careful that the source discovered through a PR rep is a legitimate one, not one looking just for press.

In the end, it doesn't matter much. I have less invested than the average writer using these services because I work full time in a separate industry, I focus mainly on books at the moment, and I write for mostly US markets. Go ahead, blacklist me. You'll have to have lots of PR people in the western performance horse industry (which doesn't use PR people, we're about performance, not PR) to make any sort of dent in my career.

I love HARO. Warning: Don't use HARO unless you are prepared for the floodgate of sources. I recommend a reply to every source, just to be polite. That can be tough when you get 60+ emails, like I did!

1 comment:

Kai said...

LOL...HARO is, quite honestly brilliant, but it can be nuts replying to each and every interview request. I did a post close to a month ago, and I'm STILL getting two or three replies a week asking if I need any more help/support/comments/do I have spaces to feature....
HARO rocks!