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Spam: A Scourge for PR Professionals, A Morning Lesson For Some

July 1, 2011

One of the hardest jobs we have as PR professionals is writing catchy, effective headlines for pitches, press releases, etc. Let’s face it, there is a lot of pressure on us to capture the essence of something complex and then write a short, pithy, one-line sound byte that will grab the attention of a reporter. A drawback to the Public Relations profession is that as a group, we receive more spam than most other people. (I am a sorry to say, reporters aren’t alone in the spam wars). As I embarked on my morning ritual of cleaning out the overnight junk from my email the other day it struck me that we could learn a lesson or two from our not-so-friendly neighborhood spammer.

1. Know your audience!

I have always been curious of the type of profiling spammers use for their maniacal endeavors. Occasionally now you see the carpet-bombing approach (an example would be the acai berry flavored spammers) but most of the time the message is very targeted. Spammers obviously have some proprietary research that says every male over the age of 30 fears having some sort of sexual dysfunction, and are using it against us! Think about this when you write your next pitch, one size doesn’t fit all and there is no rule that says your email headline has to be exactly what is written in the press release. Get to know the reporters and the publications you are pitching so you can tailor your communication to them. A press release is a mass-communication device; it is our job is to make it personal for the reporter. Spammers seem to get this, I never seem to get any drug spam for women’s issues.

2. Get the message through!

Recently an effective technique employed by spammers (and I refer to them as a single living breathing entity, much like an evil blob) is to use your own email address as an alias to trick your filters into delivering the message. The lesson here is simple: do what it takes to get your message through. Ditch the fancy signature line with the embedded logo, this only serves your ego and is annoying to most people that receive it! Reduce the number of live links in your email and use plain text rather than html. These techniques will increase the chance of your message getting through. If your pitch is good and compelling it will get noticed with out the fancy formatting or graphics.

3. Be direct, entertaining and funny if possible!

Embolden, perhaps by their newfound success, spammers have become very direct in their messaging. Gone are the days of creative misspelled words such as V!@gra. Today spammer pitches are creative, entertaining and funny. I think even the Copy Editors at the New York Post would approve! Here are some of my favorites:

Don’t let flaccidity spoil fun

TNT to your nights!

Be a tank, not a minivan!

Double the fun of amour!

Power up your meat cigar

Heat in your pants

Get a spirit of Don Juan!

Never stay undersized!

Meat cigar instead of cigarette

When was the last time you wrote a headline as creative or catchy as these?

We all can take a lesson from the pages of the spammer. Be creative and personalize your pitches, the results may vary but may very well surprise you!

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