The legend of Spamalot

In Communicate, Dubai, Journalism, Marketing, Public relations, Published journalism on November 23, 2010 at 5:43 pm

We look at the unsolicited mail in our inboxes, and see who’s jamming our computers with junk

Originally published in Communicate, September 2008

As journalists, we thrive on information, and a lot of this comes via our inboxes.

Unfortunately, to get to that information, we have to dig through piles of irrelevant rubbish, much of it sent by PR professionals.
So we fired a warning shot last month, when we warned we would name and shame the worst offenders. (See Letter from the editor, page 3, July-August 2008.)

We tallied up the unsolicited e-mails sent to Communicate accounts during the week July 20 to 27. Some of it was relevant, but predictably, much of it wasn’t.

To be fair, it wasn’t as bad as we had feared. We’d expected a lot more. And after some head scratching, we came up with three possible reasons:

A. We are just a grumpy bunch of prima-donna hacks, who like to think the whole world’s spamming against us.

B. PR companies have been reading our magazine, and have taken heed and refined their lists.

C. Many of the region’s media liaison staff were on holiday. This gloomy perspective, of course, has nothing to do with point A.

You can see from our chart who made it to the offenders’ podium: IPN takes Gold, sending us 13 percent of all the spam we received. Polaris gets Silver, and Arabia PR* walks away with Bronze.

We’ll now sit back and wait for phone calls and e-mails from friends and acquaintances (and people we’ve never met) giving us excuses for spamming us. But let’s pre-empt them now:

“It’s got a marketing angle.” No. No it doesn’t. Not the sort we’d carry, and you know it. Just because you’ve launched a new product (which therefore requires marketing) does not mean we want to hear about it.

Sure, you’ll be marketing it, and we are aware that the very fact you are sending out a press release means you are indulging in some media relations. But we don’t carry news about property launches, perfumes, laptops or financial reports.

“The client asked to get coverage in your magazine.” Then you should learn to say no. There are some helpful reasons listed above.

“I don’t know how you got on our mailing list.” Well, hopefully you can work out how to get us off it.

“We can’t tailor our mailing list to fit your requirements.” Isn’t that one of the cornerstones of media relations? Our requirements can usually be met with a stroke of the delete key.

“It’s the first of its kind.” Really? Try Google.

Apart from the excuses, we look forward to reading your reactions to this survey. Do you think spam is a problem? Are we making a mountain out of a mailbox?

We do, honestly, welcome relevant press releases. But for all the rest – the announcements of what surfacing race tracks have chosen, the baby monitors for sale, or if any of you are trying to offload a truckfull of dodgy Viagra – please send your correspondence to

* We received several e-mails from media monitoring company Media Eye ME sent “on behalf of” Arabia PR

grand spam
Unsolicited e-mails        109
Irrelevant e-mails          87 (80 %)
IPN      11 (13 % of irrelevant e-mail)
Polaris 8 (9 %)
Arabia PR/media eye m.e.*      5 (6 %)

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