Showing posts with label spam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label spam. Show all posts

Thursday, January 7

Dissing Lists: Heavy Handed PR Pitchers


Cathy Brooks, former director of business development for Seesmic and current president of Other Than That Consulting, had the best intention. Rather than scrap dozens of pitches seeking to schedule meetings at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, she responded with a note pinpointing precisely what types of topics in which she has an interest.

You can read a copy of her response here. Not one of the pitchers who received her response refined their pitch. Most of them, according to Brooks, responded with notes that ranged from snarky to downright rude. And a few of them blamed the list.

Do pitch lists still work in public relations?

The timing of Brooks' post couldn't be better for me, with only a few weeks remaining before I take to the classroom. Having another bad pitch story is always helpful for practicing and future public relations professionals. It takes some effort before most of them appreciate what public relations could be as opposed to what some people try to make it.

Sure, there is a time and place for mass distributed releases. That is the reason PR Web, PR Newswire, Businesswire, Web site media centers, and a host of other distribution vehicles exist. Some lists are fine too, assuming the public relations professional limits the content to legitimate news and narrows the distribution to specific interests, noting that travel writers might not be interested in stock performance.

Anything else is a waste of time and money because one extra hit on an obscure blog is almost never worth the 3,000 plus journalists and bloggers you damage a potential relationship with or lose all together (if you are lucky).

Imagine ... some pitchmen and women were paid top dollar to create a negative impression for themselves and the companies they represent. Worse, the impression they created will survive long after CES. Other bloggers and journalists on the list with similar experiences might mention the pitchers in a conversation to colleagues, pass on the company's next pitch (even if it's targeted), or even become biased against the companies.

This year, like every year, someone in my class will likely tell me that pitch lists are part of the business — their clients demand pitch counts, column inch measurements, and the specific reason some publications decided to pass. I am sure some of them do, but considering most would fire an employee off the line for speaking rudely to a single customer, some honest consultation might be in order.

Truth be told, Brooks not only tipped pitchers as to what she was looking for, she saved them time and money. Considering public relations firm charge between $100 and $500 per hour, Brooks saved every company she rejected somewhere between $300 to $1,500 (assuming there were lunch offers and promotional samples in the mix) by not wasting their time at CES (so they could perhaps meet with someone else) and some untold amount if they apply what she taught them for free.

Lists, leads, qualified contacts, associations, and relationships.

1. Lists. Mass distribution like wire services aside, lists work best when they are vetted for specific interests. Journalists tend to ignore them, but the right well-written news story from the right company might be worth it. Bloggers tend to be less accepting of the practice, unless they consider it a big break for their blog. In terms of new business, it includes people within a specific industry.

2. Leads. Lead lists tend to do exactly that. Instead of a generic list including everyone in attendance, they are vetted by special interest. For example, if someone writes about or has an interest in smart phones, reaching out to them because you have a smart phone topic might be worthwhile.

3. Qualified Contacts. Even better than lead lists, qualified contacts are identified by specific interests within a special interest. Using the smart phone analogy, it means knowing who is most interested in the iPhone and Droid (and why). Basically, Brooks gave everyone who pitched her what it takes to make her a qualified contact.

4. Associations. These people, even if they are included on a list, are professionals who the public relations person has had past or regular contact with over a variety of subjects. They don't have to pitch them, per se, because they already know exactly what stories these journalists or bloggers have an interest in. It's likely a mutual arrangement.

5. Relationships. Surprisingly enough, some public relations firms claim to have them but don't really have them. These relationships border on friendship, which allows them to call or e-mail a handful of people just to brainstorm potential stories without fear of alienation. It's mutual too. The PR professional would never be put off by being told "no" or that the story idea borders on silly.

The question more business owners ought to ask is how much emphasis does their public relations firm place on each tier (based on performance not lip service). Ideally, the best models would look like a pyramid, with the weight stacked toward real relationships. In reality, most firms talk about themselves as having a diamond-shaped model, but they tend to operate like an inverted pyramid.

So how can a business person tell the difference? Instead of measuring column inches with "earned media" values, record each "hit" in the appropriate column: republished portions of "as is" news releases; rewritten news releases; inclusion in an original story; stories that required interviews; off-release topic stories. You might be surprised by what you find. They match the models almost exactly.

Tuesday, March 3

Buzzing Boondoggle: Skittles


How does Skittles measure success?

The 250,000 blog posts about the new site that broadcasts consumer comments back at them (and counting)? The 240 mainstream articles, including the Wall Street Journal blog (and counting)? How long #Skittles stays in the top ten most talked about subjects on Twitter?

Congratulations. You're being talked about. Now what?

For all the buzz about the new Skittles site, one wonders if the candy company might just jump the shark. Skittles, which has temporarily (underscore temporarily since it will be putting back its home page soon enough) has turned to social media as its primary marketing push online.

While there are scores of complimentary and contrary opinions to choose from, its still too early to determine whether their social media stunt might produce tangible outcomes. The smarter choice, for now, is to consider it as a living case study, with four basic observations up front.

• The reach might be too far. There seems to be no escape from the buzz on social networks like Twitter, which is irritating some participants. The primary reason for all the buzz up on Twitter is vanity over candy. Any time someone says anything about Skittles, they pop up on the current Skittles homepage (which will be regulated to chatter soon enough). Simply put, Skittles may be alienating its audience by focusing too much on atmosphere, which is something I wrote about just yesterday.

• The impressions aren't all positive. Almost 75 percent of the impressions being left and lofted at the Skittles site via Twitter and across various blogs are off topic or negative. It's one thing to praise buzz, but something else all together to consider a campaign a success when the negative impressions start to outpace positive impressions.

• Sustainability is a watch point. Talking about Skittles just isn't all that sustainable. The company runs a real risk of encouraging people to talk about the site so much, they will get sick of the shallow chat and stop talking about it all together. Right, there is a valid reason that most movie franchises are generally confined to a limited number of installments. Communication overload can kill interest.

• Skittles and its return on communication. There are only two real outcomes that may determine if the Skittles social media campaign is a success. First, what is the net sum of all positive and negative impressions? Currently, it seems they are losing ground. However, I have to concede that this may change once the initial buzz up wears off (unless some consumers go out of their way to attack it). The second measure is sales. In all fairness, we have to wait and see.

Even more interesting to me is why this marketing program seems to be getting so much attention for a program that is not new. The concept has been around for some time; we even wrote about it in February. In fact, using Tweetfeed.com, Skittles could have done the exact same thing, but benefited from better background.

Of course, there is that other thing too. One wonders what the response will be like when Skittles puts its homepage back up, regulating the Twitter stream to the chatter button. It makes me hope that someone has a contingency plan for what could be billed as a short-term publicity stunt that fails at authenticity. My guess is there isn't one.

Why? They were in such a rush for buzz up that they neglected to consider how annoying it is to type in your birthdate on every single visit. Not only is it annoying, but any data capturing at this point is futile because the bulk of their visitors are visiting out of curiosity and not because they are interested in consuming candy.

Monday, June 16

Taking Responsibility: Public Relations Spam 2


I have developed a great relationship with Kevin Goodman over the last year, mostly because he tends to ask the right questions. Not many people do that. And for Goodman, the issue of public relations spam is no exception.

Goodman suggests that if public relations spam exists, then why would journalists accept major newswire services, which basically “blast” releases all over the place? And, given this, why wouldn’t a public relations firm simply buy their databases and build their own lists?

Easy. PR Newswire doesn’t really blast anything. It’s a passive service, where journalists can go for story leads and get a quick snapshot of insights into specific industries. Contrary, the single release, especially if it is off target, doesn’t provide a service.

The difference between the two can be likened to visiting a company Web site or being pelted by junk e-mails every day.

So while these services create the illusion that there are thousands of journalists looking for releases, the reality is that none of them are looking for releases at all. They are looking for stories — preferably good ones that haven’t appeared everywhere else.

While a few releases do result in good stories, the vast majority only contain information that a company or public relations professional considers news and not necessarily what a journalist or various publics might consider news. Again, the difference is as vast as junk mail. The companies who send it never consider their own mailers junk; they consider it a valuable service in delivering offers that consumers would have to be stupid to refuse.

Maybe there is too much “I” think in public relations and not enough “publics” think, which is what journalists tend to have.

In other words, some (not all) public relations professionals focus so much on column inches and inclusion counts that they forget the needs of their various publics. Once one understands which publics might be interested in any particular news story (assuming it is news), then finding the right publications (and the right journalists working for those publications) becomes much more effective, especially if you can narrow it down to a handful.

Revisiting Chris Anderson at Wired and others who ban releases from select companies and public relations firms.

I’ve said this before, but in reality, Anderson didn’t set a precedent. Editors and journalists have been ignoring and banning releases for years. His post just happened to be noticed because he published the e-mails of those firms he considered spam. I would not have done that, but I don’t fault him for his decision.

Goodman goes a step further in questioning if Anderson’s post that outed alleged public relations spammers last October could be libelous.

Addressing the question in depth would require another post, but a truncated view is simply not in the least. Factual accuracy is the ultimate defense against libel. And, the First Amendment protects any opinions. It’s more than fair for Anderson to critique releases.

And sure while anyone who has served as an editor knows they will receive a certain amount of spam, they are under obligation to gleefully accept it, offer pointers, or run it. It’s not their job.

I think it’s great that some editors do take the time to do it, and those who make such investments are providing gifts, not necessarily setting a standard.

In sum, the real shift in public relations begins with responsibility and not necessarily responsibility for the industry. Just because your client wants you to send non-news, doesn’t mean you have to. Just because someone says they have a list doesn’t mean it’s worth the paper it’s printed on. Just because you have a list, doesn’t mean you have to send everything to everyone. And just because someone says something about an industry, doesn't mean you have to own it.

There are plenty of bad ads out there. Most ad agencies aren't bothered by them beyond their front door.

Digg!

Tuesday, June 10

Stopping The PR Spam: Jason Falls

”In my opinion, the way the public relations industry responds to the problem of PR spam over the course of the next six to 12 months could make or break our profession for the next decade. Why are our professional organizations not prioritizing this?” — Jason Falls

I love this punchy prediction tucked inside the post on Social Media Explorer because it challenges an industry that never considers their own work spam. It’s always those other guys and gals who are bringing the industry down.

Sure, not everyone in public relations is a spammer, but it often seems that more of them play the numbers game than anyone will ever admit. At minimum, more play the number than those who will spend several hours searching for news inside their clients’ companies.

Falls says Jeremy Pepper is right. The industry needs education, but it’s not just up to professors to teach it. (Considering how many public relations professionals studied this profession in school, I tend to agree. Not to mention, for every instructor who advises against spamming, there is one or more who liken pitch calls and press releases to the return on a slot machine.)

Falls says a lot of it has to do with developing relationships over lists. In truth, he is part right. But what the novice public relations professional never seems to be taught is how to develop those relationships in the first place. So rather than recap his well-thought post in entirety, I’ll cut to the chase.

It’s easy to develop relationships. While I am oversimplifying, there are three ways to establish connections with bloggers and journalists.

1. Go to work for a company, agency, or organization that the bloggers and journalists are already interested in. It seems tongue in cheek, but it’s true. If you work for Apple or Microsoft or the district attorney’s office, they’ll contact you fifteen minutes after you introduce yourself as the new go-to person.

2. Become engaged in events, activities, networks, and organizations that bloggers and journalists care about, er, assuming you have a common interest. Much like business, many relationships develop outside the bubble.

3. Skip the blast emailing people about the company’s next balloon popping and find some real news. Once you find it, invest some time into writing a great release and sending it to only those bloggers and journalists who might be interested. When the blogger or journalist follows up, you then have an opportunity to deepen the relationship based on your ability to help them.

The third point is where people get mixed up because many of them struggle with determining what is news and what is not. Personally, I think it takes some time to develop an appreciation for what might make the news. I tossed up ten items that help determine news last year.

But sometimes the answer is even simpler. Start by asking yourself if you would want to write about the topic you are sending to the blogger or journalist. Based on the effort put into some releases, I would guess that many public relations professionals would say no. So if that is your answer, there you go!

Digg!

Tuesday, February 19

Pitching In The Dark: Click On, Click Off

If you ever wondered why journalists aren’t crazy for public relations, look no further than the misguided few. I was pitched by the outside public relations team for MyClick Media Limited (MyClick). It was a disaster, from start to non-finish.

The pitch came across like spam.

Headline: If you are working Monday, I would like to introduce you to this technology… Body: … and meet the MyClick team. Please let me know.

The release was loaded with marketing puff.

Release: MyClick is a ground breaking and unique photo recognition Mobile Marketing Platform that empowers all mobile users with the chance to enjoy exciting and exclusive infotainment and m-commerce information upon demand. Translation: MyClick employs photo recognition in promotional material, allowing mobile phone users to take pictures of promotional material to win coupons.

The technology was interesting.

The story is Pizza Hut using MyClick technology for a promotion in mainland China. So despite the pitch deficiencies and the release idiosyncrasies, I decided to follow up despite what appeared to be a one-day holiday offer. My mistake.

The responses were irritating.

“What pub do you work for I am sorry to ask you.”

Never mind they pitched me. Ho hum. Sure, I could have mentioned any number of publications that we string for from time to time, a number of accounts who might be interested in MyClick technology, or my position as an instructor. But that seems like disingenuous carrot dangling to me. So I simply mentioned this blog because they pitched this blog and my intent was to write about MyClick on this blog.

"do you want a face to face"

I’m based in Las Vegas. So considering the public relations firm has offices in California and New York and MyClick is based in China, this seemed a bit extreme for a Pizza Hut promotion. Maybe it’s me, but given the pitch, I assumed the public relations firm might have had something in mind for Monday, unless of course, the whole “Meet the MyClick team on Monday” thing was a ploy. You think?

I said it wasn’t necessary, but put the burden of a solution back on them. Other than answering my question whether the Pizza Hut promotion was exclusive to China, nothing. Yeesh. This was starting to feel like too much work so I alluded to pulling the plug.

I decided to pull the plug.

“Okay,” I wrote. “It's still an interesting concept, but I'm starting to sense you were not prepared for someone to respond to the pitch. So, you've really left me at a loss here. Maybe it would be best to skip it, other than to address the dangers of mass pitch emails.”

"fine"

My pleasure, sort of. I don’t really want to embarrass the firm completely so I’m omitting their name. Though, I must admit, I am tempted. Bad handling affects the entire industry. Lesson for today: if you aren’t interested in contact, then don’t send an invitation pitch.

Public relations professionals would be better off following the practices of the public relations team working with Loomia, who pitched us a week or so prior. Their pitch was timely, professional, personalized, and what started out as a singular post has now popped up around the Web. I’d work with them anytime they have news.

This post might pop up around the Web too. But I don’t think it’s the kind of coverage MyClick paid for. As for my take on their technology, it has become just another footnote in how bad public relations practices detract from otherwise interesting news.

Digg!

Thursday, January 31

E-Mailing Everybody: Marketers Say Spam Works


Forget Facebook and other online advertising models for a minute. Datran Media released a study that says direct-to-consumer e-mail spam works.

More than 82 percent of the marketers surveyed indicated that they plan to increase e-mail marketing this year. That’s a whole lot of e-mails.

Why? As much as everybody complains about e-mail advertising, it seems to work. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) even released a report that says e-mail ROI can hit as much as $45.65 on every dollar spent, which is twice as much ROI earned from other mediums.

This study mirrors other industry specific releases sent out by the DMA, including one that predicted e-mail from the insurance industry will increase as much as 23.4 percent in the next few years. The insurance industry is not alone. E-mail advertising has become a red-hot choice among marketers nationwide.

Except. There are some things working against e-mail ROI. There is the increasing pressure on state legislatures by the public. There are the issues that cross over into the Federal Trade Commission’s consideration of online advertising. And, of course, there is the growing problem of over saturation.

Simply put, the more e-mail advertisements that consumers receive, the less effective the medium will become and the more likely it will be prone to stricter regulation. There are other considerations too, including that the DMA study on ROI in terms of dollars does not adequately consider long-term brand consequences or negative impressions. It also doesn’t consider the risks that more consumers associate with it.

Like most advertising and communication, direct e-mail advertising is a tool. It does not work for all companies or products, and can even be detrimental for some. Inc. recently published a great column that helps temper the hype and brings it back into focus.

Personally, before considering an e-mail campaign, I think many companies are better off thinking about a well-executed social media plan. Social media can be equally, if not more, effective because it allows the consumer to receive information when they want it and how they want it: RSS feed, e-mail subscription, social network announcement, Google search, etc.

Sure, social media, such as a blog, is considered passive by comparison. But then again, the communication doesn’t rely exclusively on an e-mail list either. In other words, while more than 70 percent of marketers said they intend to use e-mail to enhance consumer relationships, one wonders if consumers share their point of view.

Digg!

Wednesday, April 25

Kidnapping Posts: Story Indeed

Someone thinks they have a good thing going. The blog they are working on mirrors a questionable trend in social media that I've seen before. All seven of the associates listed on the somewhat unconstructed Story Indeed site seem to be joining the ranks of republishing blog posts without citing the sources. (My apologies if the links no longer exist after this.)

Sure, they all have their own blogs and some look pretty good. At a glance, I might even be flattered that they decided to rerun some of my posts, if not for fact that they do not cite the source. Hmmm... what was that word ... oh right, plagiarism. Who knows? Maybe they know it too, because when I commented on the blog in question, citing myself as the source, the comment was quickly removed, within five minutes.

To be fair, they are young, but seem just old enough to know better. Search for them yourself. While I only linked to one associate in the original post, I am all for giving credit where credit is due: Alex King, Donncha O Caoimh, Dougal Campbell, Matthew Mullenweg, Michel Valdrighi, Mike Little, and Ryan Boren. Any of them are invited to post a comment on my blog and clear up the, er, content confusion. Oh, as it turns out, someone else posted for them and noted the default setting on Word Press always lists them as associates. It seems a risky default when you don't know what someone will do with a blog, but it is what it is. For these talented developers, my apologies.

You know, one would think that with so many bloggers willing to participate on blogs, they could come up with volunteers for content. Yet, this is also not the first time that I've seen this misguided idea in action. To be clear, the idea is to kidnap posts from those who understand SEO Writing (Search Engine Optimization writing) in order to lead people to a site that has little to do with the author.

Instead of searchers finding what they are looking for, these content confusers are hoping to get people to click on Google ads and Google search engines located at the top of the page. The first time I saw this gimmick was here. It's a shame to see it again.

* this post has been corrected and explained in italics.

Tuesday, March 20

Overloading Communication: Twitter

Random Twit: Subscribed to Twitter, refilled my Ritalin prescription, and all is well.

Considering Ritalin and Prozac are two of the most widely prescribed medications in history (Prozac claims 54 million patients worldwide alone), it might be time to ask just how much communication is too much interference.

Random Twit: I hope Mindy didn't stay up all night. I don't care just so long as she takes me and picks me up from court.

There is even a term out there (coined last year) specific for online users, Digital Attention Deficit Disorder (DADD) and covered by Leon Gettler. The general idea is that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), also referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), is a neurobiological condition affecting children and adults. And in many cases, it's linked to information overload.

Random Twit: twitter cats are so much better than real cats.

It's something to consider when talking about Twitter. Certainly there are some worthwhile applications for broadcast IMs, microblogs, or whatever other label you want to put on them. But never before have I seen so many people embrace intrusive communication, including advertisements, and wonder if they may be susceptible to distractibility, impulsiveness, and in some cases hyperactivity.

Random Twit: using some of these other 3d shareware packages to create things makes you realize just how cool and easy second life is.

Twitter adds to the already overbearing communication mix. I once had a client who asked me to subscribe to Skype. It worked well for the task at hand, but I wasn't interested after that. (He keep calling me to ask why I wasn't online all the time). I had to ask myself how many communication streams do I want to allow into my life.

Random Twit: Wondering how Justin Timberlake songs fool me into thinking that I can dance.

The answer was none. No more. Not at least until I could get rid of the older ones. You see, at the time, I had two phones, one fax, one cell, three e-mails, two blogs, several forums, three instant message accounts, chat etc., etc., etc. Add in everything from stat tracking, Reddit, Digg, continual media pursuing for candidates and clients, and you'll see how easy multiple communication streams can be an asset or, perhaps, unnecessary potential stress points. Most of them did nothing more than add unneeded layers of interruption (even if that interruption is a microsecond to respond to an IM).

Random Twit: sleep cause i got to go to new york for the tax man, i am tired

I'm all for multi-tasking, but I'm not a fan of multi-annoyance. So I decided then to use Skype when needed — when conducting a conference call with multiple parties, including Japan — but that's it. So went Skype, so went instant messaging and chatting ( and I'm very close to losing our fax number too). I also stop giving out my cell number (except for political accounts and close clients/friends), all in an effort to control the growing buzz of one communication stream after another.

Random Twit: Just dropped off Beetle at school and am watching Fritz now as Gert gets ready.

The biggest boon of all was the decision to let nothing pass the front door of the gym for an hour or hour and a half every day. No communication needed except an iPod. Some people might call that isolationism or even anti-social, but I call it self-preservation without the need for medication.

Random Twit: home sick today again

I guess I don't see the need to know that a perfect stranger is home sick today, though it is somewhat fascinating to me that he felt a need to share it with the world. Creating Passionate Users called this one right: maybe Twitter is too good. Kathy Sierra goes on to point out Twitter is a near-perfect example of an intermittent variable reward, a creator of a strong "feeling of connectedness" that tricks the brain into thinking it is having a meaningful social interaction, and a contributor to the growing problem of always-on multi-tasking.

Random Twit: Does anyone else think Veronica Belmont looks like she's twelve?

I especially like her point on the "feeling of connectedness" because, business applications aside, instant messaging and Twittering only seem important if you lack meaningful social interactions in the real world. I didn't miss instant messaging nearly as much as I thought I would. But I suppose the same can be said for any addiction.

Random Twit: Looks like BBC World has had a make over. Reds and blacks have become greens and blacks. Clever.

Addiction? Well, considering the relatively few people who have said Twitter ain't all that, it seems odd to me that Twitter fans would call them a conspiracy to shut Twitter down before they try it. Not that long ago, only pod people and borgs made that argument. (In fact, one Twitter I saw yesterday claimed remorse over the fact that some guy's dog had a better stream than he did. )

Random Twit: No, it is *you* who are linearly polarized!!

Resistance is not futile. I'll take a pass on this one, despite being receptive to new technology. I can say that because I was one of the first people to meet a future spouse online. Funny. I didn't miss chatting once she moved here. Enough said.

Except maybe, be wary of anyone who says Twittervision will cause you to waste your whole day. It held my attention for about the time it took to write this post (and that was only because I was pulling a few random twits for this post.)

Random Twit: Cleaning up all of the debris that imified caused to my Twitter.

Random Twit: showing a coworker twitter

Random Twit: Alright, Alright, I'll do my work...

Digg!

Wednesday, October 11

Faking The Net

Benjamin Edelman does a fine job with his blog report False and Deceptive Pay-Per-Click Ads, identifying several Internet advertising scams that range from not-so-free ringtones to discounted rates on software that can be downloaded for free. False advertising, to be sure, is a growing problem, one with roots that can be traced back to traditional print publishers, those often specifically found in the classified section of such publications (and can be easily found today).

As much as I would like to see the world as black and white as Edelman and say that the responsibility falls exclusively on Google to police its advertisers, it seems to me this subject has more shades of gray. Should Google and similar ad programs refuse or cancel known advertising scams? Absolutely. Should they be responsible for policing advertisers, placing the burden of proof on the ad program client before allowing them to advertise? Maybe, but it doesn't seem realistic. Should they be held liable for advertisers that turn out to be scammers? Probably not.

Given that we live in a world where it is sometimes difficult to discern reputable companies (that occasionally slip with an overabundance of disclaimers to mask a catchy headline) from tried-and-true scam artists, one has to wonder where responsibility begins and ends. At Copywrite, Ink., we never accept an assignment from scam artists, but I have to admit that sometimes, they're not easily identifiable. PurchasePro (which was once partnered with AOL) comes to mind. So does Enron.

We never worked with Enron, but I imagine that if it had contacted us in the beginning before being unmasked as one of the biggest scams in the history of the utility industry, we might have been excited by the prospect of working on the account. Had we done so, should we have been responsible for the fallout? I hope not. What about Firestone tires? Several public relations firms tried to turn the company's PR around (only to resign after being asked to lie). But before being asked to lie, were they unknowingly responsible?

Certainly, I believe that publishers, vendors, and even employees have a responsibility to back away from any advertisers who they know to be ethically challenged or engaged in misleading or fraudulent activities. We've backed away from several over the years and even reported one or two that were clearly violating the law. There were also a few accounts we declined not because they were engaged in anything illegal, but because we were philosophically opposed to the product (Bum Fights, for example).

In short, as much as I would like to hold a black and white view of the world, maybe a better answer is strengthening sentencing for those who purposely and willfully mislead the public rather than asking Google to police scammers by canceling their advertising contract (only to have the same people pop up with yet another brand next week). But that's just me.

Friday, October 28

Managing Blog And E-mail Spam

While traveling for business every other week during the last two months may have placed company blog posting on a temporary hiatus, I've still found time to manage non-communication across three blogs. The non-communication I'm referring to is blog spam and by 'manage' I mean to delete any gratuitous, self-serving comments that are designed to do nothing more than promote a link to a non-related site.

The format is largely the same: a member name that is usually abandoned, some pat generic compliment about the blog, and a link to a non-related blog about anything from home sales to latte. The post verbiage is largely borrowed by what once was an acceptable comment between non-marketing bloggers as an introduction.

The increase in spam posting has even prompted Blogger.com and other hosts to provide administrators a new feature to permanently remove such posts, leaving no record of their existence. It is a minor nuisance to do so, but much less annoying than allowing the spam poster's often temporary name to remain on the blog, which leaves visitors wondering why someone's comment was deleted. It is a shame this has to be done because blog spam disrupts otherwise worthwhile communication.

Personally, I've always been amazed at the extent some marketers are willing to employ the most intrusive marketing tactics as their sole source of communication. While it obviously works in the short term, companies that employ such practices or hire marketers to do so fail to establish real product or service credibility in the long term. And now, some countries are going a step further.

Most European countries are beginning to issue steep fines against spammers (and the companies that employ them). In fact, Italy has issued a new law that threatens spammers with jail sentences of up to three years. The United States is also becoming vigilant: Massachusetts hit one Internet spam company with a $37 million fine before shutting it down completely. In all, 18 states in the U.S. have laws regulating spam to one extent or another.

You can do something about it too. Never respond to spam (even opt-out lists unless you know the company), always filter it out of your e-mail, and complain to the provider when possible. If the spam is fraudulent (offers products that don't work or pyramid schemes), you can forward the e-mail to the US Federal Trade Commission at uce@ftc.gov. If the spam promotes stocks, forward it to the US Securities and Exchange Commission at enforcement@sec.gov.

Sure, many businesses are experimenting with e-mail as a sales and marketing tool as the Internet has become a bigger part of our everyday lives. There is nothing wrong with this as long as companies remain as responsible as they would be with any other form of communication. After all, there are many consumers that may be interested in a new product, service, or company news (especially previous buyers).

In short, online marketing isn't spam until it is disruptive, intrusive, or unresponsive. And posting what is nothing more than a thinly veiled link on a blog without permission is certainly all of the above. To which all I think I can say is: keep up the good work, spam marketers, someone will get back to you with a verdict soon enough.
 

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