Batch And Blast PR: Why Reporters Ignore Public Relations Emails

Here’s an oddball study from PR Newswire that attempts to answer one of the great questions of our time: Why do journalists ignore emails from public relations people?

At its best, PR email relies on all the same tools as B2B marketing: AI, profiling, personalization, cadencing. Yet reporters are often annoyed by it. This survey of 1,000 journalists in the Asia-Pacific region identified these automatic turnoffs:

  • Overt marketing — 21% 
  • Lack of useful content — 21% 
  • Unclear email subject line — 18%
  • Insufficient details — 12% 
  • Brand is not well known or has a bad reputation — 8%

Any reporter can all tell you a thing or two about overt marketing. Not a single press release, even those with legitimate news, fails to use the word “leading” when describing a company. And the hype, going on from there, is usually over the top. 

On the positive side, here are the multimedia elements prized by journalists: 

  • High-resolution photos — 29%
  • Video — 25%
  • Infographics — 21% 



And here’s what journalists consider when they get event invitations:

  • News value — 43%
  • Use in maintaining a relationship — 25%
  • Transport subsidies — 11%

Most of that sounds right. Reporters may disagree on the subject of transport subsidies.

But now let’s get into dangerous territory. Here are some personal irritants:

Embargoitis — Sure, I appreciate it when someone gives me a heads up on a pending story. And I scrupulously honor embargoes to which I’ve agreed.. But I rarely write these things up until the very last minute, anyway. And it’s starting to become overwhelming — I’m getting numerous emails per day with the word “EMBARGO” right there in the subject line. Sometimes the embargoes are a month in advance. Then you get an email changing the date. Hey, chums, you’re overestimating my clerical abilities.

Stress Test —  Every week, it seems, companies put out white papers and studies. Sometimes I want to read these reports even if I don’t end up covering them. Instead of attaching a PDF to the press release, however, they make you go through a registration process. You have to sign in, assert that you’re not a robot and tell them your company size (information most of us don’t even have). These PR leads are fed right into the sales funnel — often, I’m called by a sales rep moments after filling out the request. What a waste of time for both of us. Worse, the sales rep usually has no idea that their company has issued a report. And I have to explain, as politely as possible, that I’m not a prospect. They ought to look at these processes — they might be scaring away actual leads that come in through search.  

Drowning in PR — Like any reporter, I build relationships with certain PR people over time. I trust them, and their emails are always personal. One such person introduced herself by feeding me a hot tip on a story that had nothing to do with her client; to this day, I’ll open her emails before anyone else’s. But I’m receiving on an increasing number of PR emails about news outside my subject area — announcements of the opening of the Indianapolis 500, scheduling of the upcoming competitive exams for jobs somewhere. Even the personalization has a batch and blast quality to it: They uniformly start by saying, “Hi, Ray, hope you had a good weekend.” It’s one thing to wish someone a good weekend on Friday. It’s another to retroactively hope you had one — on Wednesday.

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