Archives/ Monthly Archives/ June 2015

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Inbox fatigue … it’s not only customers who are suffering

We’re tired of hearing about information overload in today’s society, and about the unsurmountable struggle with the Inbox. A recent article from Advertising Age* is a variation on the theme, with consumers the sufferers in this case.

Less email is more, we’re told. Consumers are ever more prone to ignore emails, given the daily drudge of sorting personal from promotional, real invitations from commercial ones, and so on. The rise of social media, too, is furthering the decline of email as a marketing tool.  “RIP, traditional email.”

The problem, of course, lies in how companies use emails. They use too many of them. Ad Age recommends getting more selective and more personal with what we send out, beyond simply including a perfunctory “Dear Conor”, which fools no one. Data–driven marketing enables us to have more meaningful targeted ‘conversations’ with customers, but, let’s face it, when have we ever really had one? Amazon comes closest, in my opinion.

I was at an insightful marketing talk with a supermarket chief last year. Someone from the audience asked why – given the amount of information the multiples collect on everything she buys and how she buys it – she doesn’t receive a weekly email the day before she goes shopping advising her of relevant bargains she can avail of. Sounds simple, and its absence typifies the way we seem to be almost lazy in what we’re doing via email.   As the article states, “The advantage is there to be seized. All companies have to do is send the right message to the right person.”

On a separate but related note, I often think email is the scourge of the PR profession, but in a different way. With media lists reaching into the hundreds for just about whatever sector you’re targeting, it’s easy for the new PR recruit to think a press release pinged to a hundred hacks is bound to stick. After all, if 10% run with it, that’s 30 articles. Happy days.

That’s not a good start to a career in PR, believe me. The journalist is suffering more from email overload than any consumer, and it will show in the uptake of releases sent by email. Plus, where’s the relationship-building that’s at heart of the business? If the service is just about managing a media list, don’t expect clients pay for it for too long.

I recall asking a journalist what was the key to securing press coverage. “A phone call” was his three-word answer. Much as we might hate having to make them, much as we might fear the rejection that comes with them – and much as journalists are annoyed by them – a single phone call is still worth many hundred emails.   We’re a people business, and being personable means picking up the phone. In a world where text dominates, where remote social contact among young people is rarely down a phone line, this is one thing we need to instil into our PR recruits.

In PR especially, it really is good to talk.