PRSA Digital Impact Afterthoughts, More Solutions

by Jason Falls |

The dust has settled on the Downtown Marriott and I’m sitting at LaGuardia awaiting a late flight home. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Digital Impact Conference, I’m told the first such focusing solely on the new digital media landscape by the organization, is in the books and, I think, gave attendees some things to think about and some actionable tasks to make them better PR professionals.

[flickr style=”float: right”]photo:2403249501[/flickr]My portion of the event was to offer insight for a session entitled, “Not All Blogs Are Created Equal.” I was asked to participate by Heidi Sullivan and Jay Krall of Cision, the former of whom reached out to me after my Twitters wondering why the media database company was unresponsive to me during the PR spammers blowup last month. Heidi acted, told me answers to my questions were coming and opened a dialog with me about the problem relative to Cision.

The dialog grew into a greater conversation about blogger outreach and PR spam, which will be the topic of the live, “For Immediate Release” call-in session on today from Shel Hotlz and Neville Hobson. Representatives of Cision, Vocus and Marketwire, as well as PR spammer victim Stowe Boyd, marketing, public relations and blogger outreach expert Susan Getgood and PR pros like David Phillips, Holtz, Hobson and myself will all join to work on solutions to the problem.

We will not solve the issue on this singular podcast. But we’ll make progress. And the listeners will benefit.

The show can be found here ( and airs live at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT in the states. The United Kingdom listeners should join at 6 p.m. local time there.

The presentation at PRSA Digital Impact went well. We covered why you should participate in social media and blogger outreach, what the fears are and how to deal with them, how to select blogs for outreach and how to approach them. Heidi and Jay used the example of our meeting as why it’s important to participate in the conversation. Had they not reached out to me, I could have posted angry Tweets or blog posts about Cision and made the company look bad. Kudos to them for the transparency and honesty in the presentation and in dealing with me.

Several folks had great things to say with feedback, both in person and online. It’s a good sign when people immediately ask you to speak at other events. So Heidi, Jay and I did well.

But there were several points I wanted to make that we didn’t get to. I promised the crowd I would offer up my bulleted lists of what the respective parties in the PR spammers issue can do to start solving the problem. I’ve stated before that public relations professionals are to blame and should shoulder a good deal of the responsibility for ridding the media world (new and old) of PR spam. In addition to us (yes, I’m one), the media database companies have some peripheral responsibility. PRSA, the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and similar organizations can and should lead the effort to educate PR pros. Even the bloggers can help solve the problem by reminding themselves of simple things and taking small steps to improve the situation.

So, without a great deal of explanation and so you can interpret and discuss in the comments, here’s the list. I’m interested in what you would add, subtract, amend or even take exception with:

What Can PR People Do?

  • Stop sending email blasts. We simply can’t do this anymore and must find better ways of volume reach.
  • Start doing better contact research. (Start by calling your current contacts and discuss PR spam with them.)
  • Focus on the relationship, not the pitch.
  • Understand that the database companies are for contacts, not lists.
  • Think of social media as your responsibility.
  • Learn Web 2.0 technologies, starting with RSS.

What Can Database Companies Do?

  • Stop collecting information from anywhere. Collect it from THE contact.
  • Understand that more contacts isn’t better if they don’t want to be there.
  • Make preferred methods the flashing neon signs of the database.
  • Force warnings and roadblocks for those wanting to pull large lists.
  • Develop online tools to aide in contact strategy plans (NOT list building.)

What Can PRSA/IABC Do?

  • Recognize and prioritize the problem. (They’re starting, but haven’t done enough.)
  • Stop holding new media at arms length.
  • Educate, but force education as a requirement for good standing.
  • Incorporate spam practices and email blasting into Code of Ethics.
  • When someone is outed as spamming, take action.

What Can Bloggers Do?

  • Understand if you have an audience, you are a media member and will be approached.
  • Understand not everyone is tech savvy.
  • Tell PR folks what they’re doing wrong. Friendly feedback can help you get better information.
  • Be patient. PR folks are learning and fast, but change does take time.

For those of you in attendance at the discussion, if we didn’t answer something you wanted, please ask it in the comments. Heidi, Jay and I will follow up as soon as we can.

IMAGE: “I’m thinking to …” by Gutter on Flickr.


About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).