As a journalist I get a lot of Press Releases bunging up my in-tray. To be fair my email address has found its way onto quite a few databases over the years - despite the steps I've taken to try and avoid this.

I often get the feeling that PR execs sit at their desks and pump out releases totally focussed on THEIR CLIENT and completely forgetting the people they are sending them to. It's not dissimilar to a company churning out its products and not giving thought to what their customers really want. Companies that get too self-obsessed like this usually go to the wall (unless they are Banks or large US automobile concerns and then they get bailed out - which is in my opinion pretty criminal.) Just look at the hole GM is in now.

I've been receiving almost daily releases from a company called Top Position. What's interesting is that the company has its foundation in Search Engine Optimisation. The releases actually come from the 'SEO department'. They are stuffed full of hyperlinks to their client's website. They are ALWAYS MARKED URGENT. Yesterday I got one that started: I rang newsdesk and was asked to send this over to

1) I HATE being sent emails with the High Importance marker on them if they aren't.Who are you to judge if it's urgent? I emailed the sender and asked to be taken off their mailing list. Even her reply was marked High Importance. I mean how VAIN!

2) SEO experts maybe - but PR experts too? Well if they were they wouldn't draw such attention to the fact that they are pumping out their releases for SEO purposes by  marking them from the SEO dept. Presumably this also means they are only interested in on-line media outlets. 

3) PR isn't just about hiring a bunch of 'journalists' (their word not mine) and buying a few lists of media outlets - and hey presto pumping out releases. Despite my inherent dislike of PR I accept that those agencies that are experts in their field can do a good job. But they take time to understand the editors and writers they are communicating with and try to offer stories and ideas that will not just benefit their client, but also work for the media outlet they are approaching. And to do this well you almost need to craft a different idea for each individual newspaper, magazine or website.

4) The email starting 'I rang newsdesk and was asked to send this over to you...' is completely dishonest. And to send this kind of email to all and sundry regardless of whether you have had prior contact is fraud. Maybe I should contact the Direct Marketing Assocation or the ASA?

5) Despite several emails and a phone call (during which I was assured I would be taken off the email list) I am still receiving their emails.

So.. question.

What is Top Position trying to do? I'd suggest just keep a client paying their bills - as clearly the company doesn't give the slightest bit of care and thought to the media outlets they are bombarding.

And if that's PR in the 21st century, can you see why journalists like me are beginning to hate it.

(I thought long and hard about linking to the Top Position website. Last thing I want to do is give them a nice link from here, but in the spirit of openness in blogging I decided I would. I plan to leave it there for a week and then disable it.)

11 thoughts on “A bitch about PR – Top Position

  1. 140 last time I looked, Jeremy :)

    Top Position seem to offer a lot of services, but I didn't notice Brand Management among them, so I guess they might not spot the derision here.

    BTW, most of the good travel PR companies I know (and I know approx 230) list their clients. After all, it's not a secret and web2.0 marketing is all about transparency. I'm instinctively suspicious of organisations who play their cards close to their chest.

  2. Hi Alastair
    140? Better still! :-)

    Agreed. The whole set up there smacks of a company trying to get into PR and not really knowing a lot of the more subtle rules of engagement.


  3. Hi Jeremy. That is amazingly crass behaviour. Could you please forward me one of their releases? I'd love to see it.

    By the way, if you're worried about giving them a link, just add a rel="nofollow" tag. Oh, and make the anchor text "email spam" inside of the company name. Ouch!

  4. Hi Mark
    Yes indeed. Nice suggestion re the 'no follow' tag!
    Their releases are clearly intended to be published in their entirety to maintain the links that they've embedded in them.
    1) This means they assume that journalists/editors just print releases verbatim (duh!) If it were me I'd publiish the release with all the links pointing somewhere else (a competitor of their client perhaps?). That would be very amusing...
    2) They clearly only want to target on-line media if links are what they are really after. Kind of defeats the point of PR - not targetting the offline media - which despite the in-roads the Net is making remain far more important for now at least.
    Thanks for commenting

  5. Hi Jeremy,

    I'm from Top Position and in our defence would like to say that your email address was given to us by Red Handed magazine when we called them last week. In this call we explained the content of the PR and asked if it would be of interest. Only then was it sent. That is standard practice.

    The reply you refer to from our account manager was simply a note advising that your address was also available on MediaDisk along with your phone number, fax number and address under Travel contacts for any PR agency to access in case you weren't aware of that fact. I'd suggest that was polite rather than hugely intrusive.

    A press release is not intended to be printed in full, however you'll note that the links provided actually went through to relevant pages of the client's web site. Again, good practice for online journalism and a help to anyone wanting to do their research before deciding whether or not to follow up a story.

  6. Hi Rebecca.
    Thanks for taking the time to respond. I'm not convinced though.
    Your email read: "I rang newsdesk and was asked to send this over to you. You recently reported on a lady called Eileen DeBont who changed her name to Pudsey for children in need- it turns out that the company who was going to pay £4000 to charity- THE UK DEED POLL SERVICE are refusing to pay after eileen broke her back and although she officially changed it, hadnt had chance to tell the DVLA and passport office."
    RedHanded (www.redhandedmagazine.co.uk)is a men's magazine for Wales. We publish quarterly.
    1)We certainly haven't recently run any story about this woman. The current issue is on press now and the previous issue was published back in October.
    2)There's no way we would anyway - it's of no interest to our readers.
    3)I asked the guys in the office whether they have any recollection of a call from you and they said no. (Though they may I guess have forgotten.)
    4) The email address you used for me is not the one they typically give to people when they call, so I question this suggestion anyway.
    5) If my details are listed under Travel Contacts on MediaDisk (which is correct, I write in the main about Travel). Why are you emailing me news releases of this nature which have nothing to do with travel?
    Regardless of the contact history here, you clearly spent little time researching the publication (RedHanded). If you had you'd have realised that this press release was totally inappropriate for our readership.

  7. they have a point actually,Eileen is from wales so thats maybe why you got it, media disk would of come up with the link as red handed mag is a welsh publication. Eileen also proposed the name change in September way before children in need, so it would have been topical then

  8. Just when I thought I was free of these people. I get another of their !!! releases... so they clearly can't even manage email files - they assured me they'd taken me off their lists.

    And the release?
    "Don't Suffer in Silence Premature Ejaculation is Easily Solved‏"

    Looks like they have some super clients eh?!

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