PR Spam: The New Chlamydia?

Is PR spam the new chlamydia? Certainly it’s being fulminated about an awful lot as the latest social disease that may have infected us all, although we’re too often too ashamed to check out the symptoms.

A large number of bloggers and journalists insist that they are being infested with PR spam, and are backing away from the long, sometimes uneasy relationship that hacks and flaks have shared. In some cases they may have a point: anyone using Gorkana – which is the technological equivalent of crack for lazy PRs given that it allows them to target any journalist at the speed of thought – isn’t helping the situation. My company have been pulled up for it occasionally – there are all sorts of excuses I could make, but what’s the point. It affects all of us, and we all have to fight against it.

As PR mechanisms for reaching journalists get smarter, so many PRs themselves risk becoming that much more dim. In the new techological landscape, journalists are no less prone to the pressures of the speed of technological change. As they succumb to these pressures, as time is stripped away, they put up the barricades and deny that they have any need of or use for PR.

There seems to be, all too often, little understanding on either side. The uneasy pact slips into ruin. No one is going forward with the craft of PR and anyone guilty of sending out easy spam information at the expense of building a relationship with journalists is simply assisting them in their unhealthy bid for isolation.

As Madeleine Bunting said in the Guardian a couple of days ago: “We should be watching carefully for how a new generation of media technology might erode… the nursery of our skills to speak, listen and build relationships.”. She was talking about families, but the same could easily apply to the previously intimate relationship between hack and flak.

The more information is disseminated at the expense of building a useful relationship face to face, the more sterile the relationship becomes. PR spam isn’t the new chlamydia – intimacy unprotected by a layer of technology can only lead to new growth. Some of the loudest complaints are from scribblers with a weather eye on their own notoriety; a remarkable number of them are in the technology sector, so are perhaps more prone to PRs using kits to spew and spray.

As ever, it’s about how one uses the tech – with a bit of intelligence and a willigness to listen on both sides, technology can make the world of media and communication a much more fertile place.