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Information for PR firms and media relations people

Hello. If you got a short email with a link to this page, you might be a PR professional who included me on one of your mailings.

I get a lot of email from PR firms’ mailing lists that I didn’t ask to be on. Including email that hits my spam filter and email that get automatically deleted because I’ve blocked the sender, this amounts to literally hundreds of messages a day.

In the vast, vast majority of cases, these emails are completely irrelevant to me. I suspect that most people sending me these emails have purchased my email address from some dodgy source and that I am one of several thousands of people that they are spamming. The sheer volume of these emails has gotten to the point that the only sensible way for me to deal with this is to aggressively block the emails of PR firms that send me irrelevant emails.

Unfortunately, the mass-mailing PR firms give the high-quality PR firms a bad name. Some PR firm contacts and media relations contacts are among my most valuable contacts. These people are helpful, provide relevant scoops on stories for me, and provide contact to executives and other interesting people in their networks that I can draw on for interviews and quotes. I always read their emails.

If you work at a PR firm or are a media relations person, here’s how to get into my list of trusted contacts:

Show me you know who I am and what I write about

It’s painfully obvious when someone is emailing 10,000 people the same thing, hoping for a fish to bite. Don’t do that. When you contact me, reference something that I’ve written or tell me how you got my email address. Warm introductions from a mutual colleague are always better than cold emails. Let me know how you’ve taken at least three minutes to understand what I do and what I write about.

If the first line of your email explains how you became aware of me, how you found my contact info, and how your client has an obvious connection to what I write about, you’re likely to at least get a personal response. The format: “Hi Aaron. I read your article in (publication) about (subject) (link) and thought you might be interested in (client) because (painfully obvious connection to linked article). I got your email address from (source).” works particularly well.

Know what I’m not interested in hearing about

This is by no means a complete list of the things that I’m not interested in hearing about, but these types of inquiries are the heavy-hitters when it comes to PR firm spam. Don’t send me this stuff.

  • Fintech apps, crypto, investing platforms, budgeting startups – Many fintech apps are simply repackaging a banking or credit card product in an app and calling it innovation. My readership isn’t interested in hearing about this. They are not interested in non-traditional investments.
  • Product samples. If I said yes to every product sample or app free trail, I wouldn’t have time to write content. Most of the time, these offers are $2 low-grade electronics that are just going to become e-waste or an app that is going to immediately ask for access to my entire address book. No thanks. It doesn’t make sense for me to accept most product samples with the expectation that I’m going to pitch a major publication to plug your client’s product. Also, most of my current clients forbid accepting free product in exchange for writing about it.
  • Your executive clients who are trying to increase their “thought leadership” credentials. If I’ve not written about your client’s company or wouldn’t recognized their name, chances are I’m not interested in quoting them in an article. There are plenty of pay-to-play publishing houses that can get your executive a ghostwritten byline that looks impressive. (Though most people in the know understand who is doing this and you’re likely not getting the prestige out of it that you think you are.) A better alternative would be to have that executive publish on their own company’s blog.
  • Requests to update something I’ve written for a major publication. Once an article I write is published, I am no longer getting paid. Other than on my own platforms, I don’t get paid to support existing content. Though an article I wrote may look like it was published last week, many of my clients re-edit and re-publish my writing for years after I submit it. In many cases, I may not have done any work for that publication for years. If you want something I’ve written to be updated, hunt down a staff editor at that publication and ask them for an update.

Understand what I am interested in hearing about

PR contacts should offer something valuable and directly relevant to my areas of interest. Generally, here’s what I’m interested in hearing about from media relations people:

  • Embargoed information about major product releases or updates that I can write about on my own platforms pitch to editors. Major product launches of credit cards by national banks, airline and hotel loyalty program changes, airport lounge openings, and generally travel and credit card rewards items that are newsworthy. These are more valuable to me if I get them with as much advance notice as possible.
  • Press trips to see/experience. Press trips are tricky and I say yes to these selectively. I’m most interested in seeing new airport lounge openings, experiencing new airline seating products, participating in banking industry product launches, seeing new hotel openings and related events.
  • Being a contact. If you contact me with no immediate agenda, but are willing to be a contact that I can call and get a quick response when I have a questions about a product or need a quote from an executive, that is golden.

If you can offer the above, the best way to get on my whitelist is to send me an email or use my contact form. Tell me how you found my information, show me that you’re familiar enough with my work that connecting is worthwhile, and start the conversation.