Apr 18, 2008

How Cloudmark Sends PR Emails

cloudmark_logo.pngThis article from Chris Anderson got my attention a little while ago: Sorry PR people: you’re blocked.

Mainly because in the very first line, Mr. Anderson mentions his spam filter by Cloudmark, a well-respected email security and anti-spam company who also happens to be a MailChimp customer.

Also because PR people have an interesting dilemma when it comes to email marketing. They have a list of media contacts that are looking for news to write about. The media need and want content ideas (see our interview with Adam Lashinsky: Pitching To Reporters). So PR people send bulk email to their contacts lists. But if the media contacts on those lists never opted-in for those emails that’s the very definition of spam. And you get what Chris Anderson did.

It’s a dilemma. So I turned to Cloudmark. They use MailChimp to send out press releases, and since they make anti-spam software, they obviously have to do it in a way that’s not spammy.

If your company isn’t doing this, you should…

First, their website has a media center where they store all their press releases.

In the left column, there’s a "Mailing Lists" link:


Clicking on that link takes you to their signup form, where you have to check boxes to indicate which type of emails you want to receive. Notice that:

  1. The checkboxes are NOT pre-checked, and
  2. They let you signup for two separate lists. In other words, if you signup for their spam-fighting newsletter, you’re not going to get their press releases too. A common mistake of new email marketers is they only create one big list, and have no way of segmenting it by recipient preferences. They just send all types of emails to all recipients. You can setup interest group checkboxes and segment your campaigns with MailChimp.

When Cloudmark wants to send an email press release, they do it right.

They only send it to journalists who actually opted-in for them at their website.

Sounds like a lot more work than just scraping a big list of journalist emails from somewhere, then sending an email to that list. But that would be spam. And then you get this.

An alternative to spamming journalists would be to send through a press release distribution service like PRWeb, and PRnewswire. They’re good tools if you don’t have a media center and subscriber list like Cloudmark yet. Those services manage the opt-in process for journalists, so you don’t have to jeopardize your email reputation and deliverability.

There are PR people out there reading this, saying "No way. I’ve been blasting press releases to my list for years now, and my contacts like it."

First, go to Chris Anderson’s list, and see if you’re on it.

Second, I’ll try to define the fine line that is spam.

  • When you send an unsolicited email (email to someone who didn’t opt-in) that’s not spam. That’s business. So when you email one press release to a journalist "out of the blue" that’s okay. And you’re right—that journalist might actually like it.
  • If you send that unsolicited press release to an entire list of journalists en masse, that’s spam.