PR pros: Stop adding journalists to your email lists

The tactic shows a lack of care when attempting to build relationships and keep members of the news media up to date on your news and pitches. It can also get you permanently ignored.

There are many pitch behaviors that can annoy journalists, but one in particular can easily get you blacklisted.

Adding reporters and editors to your newsletters and other email marketing lists combines what is possibly the worst media relations decision with automation that ensures that you annoy said member of the media not once, but many times each week.

Though many PR pros will send a pitch to a mass email list, this one-off approach isn’t as egregious as signing up an email for regular digital missives without the recipient’s permission.

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Here are several things worse than being notified that you’re now on an email marketing blast list to which you didn’t subscribe:

  • Getting a root canal
  • Paying taxes
  • Changing dirty diapers
  • Missing your flight
  • Working on your day off

Many journalists and editors receive upwards of 100 emails a day. Adding them to a list that delivers them daily emails they don’t want in an already crowded inbox isn’t going to win you favors. The legally necessary “Click here to unsubscribe” is adding salt in the wound, as you’ve now made them spend time rectifying the situation you created.

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Last year, Digiday asked reporters and editors to vent their frustrations with PR pitches. One respondent said sending irrelevant stories and requests floods inboxes with “PR spam”:

“In the complete, manic rush to get coverage from literally anyone, PRs (good and bad alike) can forget that most journalists don’t want to be the victim of PR spamming,” said one editor. “Journalists do value PRs highly but are also protective and equally proud of their publications. It can be very frustrating when you constantly receive stuff which is obviously not suitable for your publication. Remember the basics: who are your audience? Why will this information be useful to them? Will I damage my long-term reputation for a short-term KPI/ass cover? As an editor, I will always listen to a PR who is well read about the publication I work on, if they can speak powerfully about what we do and evidence clearly why their work is important to me. If you can’t demonstrate that, I’m afraid we have nothing to talk about.”

While the correct answer to the question, “When should I add reporters to my newsletter or email marketing lists?” is “never,” there are a few occasions when it’s OK to ask if they’d like to subscribe.

An example would be an editor who has reached out a few times for permission to republish your blog’s articles. Offering to send a newsletter of your weekly top blog posts could be helpful to the editor—and it keeps your organization at the top of his or her mind.

Another example is passing along a news tip or relevant trend—especially if it’s not related to a pitch. I once received a forwarded Help a Reporter Out newsletter from a PR pro, which simply said:

Good evening!

#13. This has your name written all over it!

Best,

[name redacted]

It was short and sweet—and the item on the list was indeed an item I loved (it was all about pitches and Harry Potter). Note that in both examples, you’d ask to sign a reporter up. Don’t automatically sign reporters up for more emails than they’re already receiving.

As much of media relations success hinges upon building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with reporters, think twice before trying to automate that process. You’ll probably annoy instead of endearing your targeted member of the news media—and you might even end up as fodder in an article or tweet venting about bad PR behavior.

How would you ask a journalist if he or she wanted to receive your newsletter, PR Daily readers? Do you have a proven strategy?

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