When Is Spam Not Spam?

When is spam not spam? When it has utility to the audience, conveying timely and relevant information.

Case in point: at the beginning of this winter, we had the idea of an email that aggregated resort happenings and content for client Mammoth Mountain. An email blast is certainly not an original concept, but this had a catch: recipients would be journalists—a group already possessing ample disdain for many PR practices. Especially mass email blasts, the exact idea we were toying with.

So we thought long and hard about it, and carefully curated a list of about 60 contacts who covered this beat. We agreed to send it once per week or in some cases, not at all, if there wasn’t anything meaningful at hand.

The format was simple: a catchy headline with hero image (this was our gut check; if the headline was lame, we didn’t send for that week), a news nugget, events or something notable coming up, and feature content.

With a plan together, first draft crafted and with the option to unsubscribe prominently noted, we huddled once more to make sure this was a good idea. Would journalists flame us? Could we end up on the receiving end of a tweet bemoaning PR practices? Might locusts descend on our offices? These thoughts and a few others percolated as fingers hovered over the send key. But we did it anyway.

Why? Because one the mantras LPR lives by is we have two customers: the client, and the media. We work diligently to keep both happy, and felt our rapport with journalists on list was such that if we sent them something, they knew it was for good reason.

Today marked the Mammoth Media Update’s 10th version. Of the 56 contacts on initial list, there was one unsubscribe. Open rates have hovered around 50%, which is to say pretty solid. In the end we actually sent media fewer emails through the winter, and saw numerous stories and placements where photos or videos were lifted and used. Most importantly, aside from the single unsubscribe, not one negative reply back.

This certainly isn’t a tool we’d employ for many clients as the formula is a unique one. But for the right situation we’ll certainly give it some thought.