Attention All PR People: Stop Sending Us Press Releases

from the let's-try-this-again dept

Every once in a while, it seems, we need to remind the PR world that we don't want press releases. It says so on our submissions page. We're not joking. However, too many PR folks either think we don't mean it, or don't bother spending enough time on the site to realize we don't want press releases. You think we plan to pay attention to either type of PR spammer? We've had our fair share of posts highlighting stupid PR practices in the past, but (of course) the worst offenders don't actually read this site -- they just spam us. It's not surprising, of course, to find out that we're not alone in feeling this way. Amy Gahran over at E-Media Tidbits is explaining how she's now marking all unsolicited press releases she gets as spam in her Gmail account, which hopefully protects plenty of other Gmail-using journalists from getting future spam from such people. Valleywag has recently pointed out that PR spammers are worse than traditional spammers, because they send you follow up emails to make sure you got the original. What amazes me is that these PR people clearly don't care and don't learn. There are PR people who have spammed press releases to me for years... and I've never replied or written about a single product. Yet, I'm still on the list.

I recently did a conference call/interview for an organization that advises PR people, and one of the questions was how to send pitches to Techdirt. The answer was the same way as it is for anyone who wants to submit stories to Techdirt: (1) Read the site. (2) Understand what the hell we talk about (3) Maybe participate on the site in comments (4) Use the submit form (5) Explain to us why whatever your pitching is really interesting to our audience, rather than just claiming its "exciting." Oh yeah, if you claim that the company you're representing is "the leading" company in whatever tiny market you've made up just so you can claim to be leading it... don't even bother. It's unfortunate that we need to put up posts like this every so often, but we're hopeful that sooner or later it will start to sink in.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Ravi Khalsa, Sep 19th, 2006 @ 10:51pm

    Press Releases

    I generally agree about PR spammers but it seems to me that Amy Gahran marking all unsolicited press releases as spam is kind of extreme.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    David, Sep 19th, 2006 @ 10:55pm

    techdirt releases PR about not wanting anymore Pre

    techdirt, a leading company in the tiny technology blog market today, released a press release notifying all marketing PR people not to send them any more press releases. Unfortunately no PR people read their press releases because they are upset that techdirt never responds to their submissions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    kc, Sep 19th, 2006 @ 11:18pm

    The release seemed a bit harsh. Marketing people are usually ignorant, and techdirt should realize its not the PR folks' fault they can't read.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Patrick Havens, Sep 19th, 2006 @ 11:24pm

    awe shucks

    I was going to pimp my widgets website that takes that buzz word from yesteryear and web 2.0's it.... j/k

    I get enough "this is cool." email that I feel sorry for you. And I'm glad the fluff to quality ratio is so low. I may not aways like the service you're reviewing... but it's normally interesting.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous from Oslo, Sep 19th, 2006 @ 11:37pm

    Re: Press Releases

    I both agree and disagree.

    With just a "this is spam" button which people click without thinking, the result is that you end up poisoning the antispam database. Of course, that is the problem of gmail and other providers, but _users_ need to realize this, as they are breaking their own service. ..

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    ?, Sep 19th, 2006 @ 11:57pm

    I think you are optimistic in thinking that they are going to stop spamming you.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 12:03am

    so sue em... no, really

    CAN-SPAM made spam (or certain types of it anyway) illegal right? So, Mike, if it falls under the illegal type, sue em, and since it seems there are quite a few of em, you could make a killing. I mean, this is a fairly high traffic website that takes valuable time to maintain and whatnot, right?

     

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  8.  
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    Chris Maresca, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 12:27am

    Just reply with two words...

    Starting with F and Y. Better if they are in all caps. Hopefully they will be hugely offended and that will put an end to it....

    Chris.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    TechNoFear (profile), Sep 20th, 2006 @ 12:32am

    You must realise these are PR people, they are not like you or I.

    Their job is to not take NO for an answer, regardless of the amount of irritation or embarrasment they cause.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Edd, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 1:23am

    Re: Press Releases

    Since it's HER mailbox, your calling what she does with her mail "extreme" is kinda stupid.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Rick, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 1:54am

    Forward unwanted press releases to uce@ftc.gov

    Unsolicted Commercial Email is Spam and maybe after a few PR firms pay a CAN-SPAM fine or two they'll rethink their strategy.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Rob, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 2:41am

    Broken window

    Submitting press releases to websites keeps marketing people employed. Money they can spend sending their kids to marketing school and themselves to brothels. Keeps teachers/tutors/hospitality industry workers employed.

    Never mind that it wastes techdirts time. Time that could be spent writing better more insightful stories.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Gianni, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 3:01am

    I am a PR person

    and I agree with you. It is perhaps our job to explain this to clients, which are sometimes as ignorant as we are. I attempt to do this explaining a process to engage blogs and other forms of Consumer Generated Media which seems to be catching on, and I am sure there are others attempting this. Education is and will be key

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Will Rankin, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 3:28am

    Hang on

    I've worked in PR in the past. In my experience, you are under enormous pressure to get a release sent out before a certain time, often to a list of thousands of recipients, which, in the firm I worked in, were sifted maybe twice a year. You do not have time to call up, say, 2500 people every day to ensure they still want to receive releases.Thus, people got stuff they didn't want. We did, however, deliniate the database by subject matter; ie tech, transport, retail, hospitality, fashion, etc..
    Remember, one day you might need a PR person. And, as Gianna proves, not all PR people are unintelligent.
    But having a hissy fit because you get a few too many unsolicited emails seems a bit over the top. While you're writing your little site, people are out there dying.
    PR companies act under the instruction of pushy demanding clients (one of the reasons I jacked it in), who often don't have media understanding, simply a desire to see their news in as many outlets as possible. I'm sure you know this, but blame the CLIENT, not necessarily the PR company.
    Ultimately, PR is bullshit written by bullshitters for bullshitters.
    Oh, and so is journalism.
    I'm in copywriting now. Might as well be an honest whore.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Lucky Joe, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 3:46am

    Re: Hang on

    Will Rankin: While you're writing your little site, people are out there dying.

    What does that have to do with anything?

    As for the rest of this post's topic: If I get an email that I don't want or from someone I don't know-- it's spam, and I do not hesitate to mark it as such (I love Gmail!) I usually consider it my good deed for the day.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Craven Twain, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 4:33am

    Too true...

    Worse than PR companies spamming you with press releases you don't want are PR companies who are too busy spamming you with etc to respond to individual queries when you have to make them.

    Sometimes in order to get comment from a company you *have* to go through the PR agency. I write for the print media - those glossy computer monthlies - and have had PRs ignore emails and phone calls asking for information about site x or product y simply because that's not what they're currently programmed to tout... It means they're failing entirely on both fronts.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Avitarx, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 4:34am

    Re: Press Releases

    Is this because it is solicited?

    Or is it because it is not comercial?

    I think unsolicited press releases are clearly spam and should be treated as such.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    fprintf, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 4:59am

    PR falls under marketing/sales for a reason

    PR falls under marketing/sales for a reason. What you see as SPAM, we see as not taking no for an answer. Many PR people are ex-salespeople. The type of people who walk right past a sign that says "no soliciting" because they are "different than the other sales guys and you will want to hear what they have to say". It is a bit conceited that way.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Mike Driehorst, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 5:15am

    PR spammers

    Unfortunately, many in PR have the attitude that, if you throw enough mud (news releases) on the wall (send them to the media), something will stick (you might get something published).

    It makes the rest (hopefully majority) of us look like mud.
    -- Mike
    (an ex-journalist, now PR pro who also blogs)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Time Wasted, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 5:39am

    Misery loving company?

    Let's see if I can sum it up.

    1) PR people waste Techdirt time.
    2) Techdirt wastes its readers time by whining about #1.

    Why is #2 a waste of time? Because your readers, as you have mentioned, are NOT the PR people. So you posting about it does NOT target the PR people; it only targets your readers.

    I know it's your column/blog/whatever, but if you want people to keep reading it,

    YOU REALLY WANT TO AVOID MAKING THE FOLLOWING ASSERTION

    Reading Techdirt = Waste Of Time

    I'm getting that assertion "programmed" into my head every time I hear a Techdirt whiner go into a personal venting b****-p***-and-moan session.

    Please stop. You folks are better than this. Just realize it and move on.

    YOUR OTHER ARTICLES ARE JUST TOO DAMNED GOOD FOR YOU TO RUIN THINGS BY STOOPING TO THIS LEVEL.

    Thanks for all the work you do, seriously, it is a good column for the most part.

    But to follow the old mantra of never offering a complaint without also offering a solution.... Maybe as a compromise, if you folks really *DO* need the therapy of the b.p.m., you could split things up so that in addition to Techdirt Daily and Techdirt Wireless you could have a Techdirt BPM and all your b.p.m. stuff could *ONLY* appear in the BPM? (unlike wireless news, which crosses boundaries between Daily and Wireless, all the BPM should *ONLY* stay in bpm)

    Somehow I think there's a whole crowd of people -- the type who subscribe to People Magazine, US and Entertainment weekly to get the latest gossip -- that crowd might subscribe to the BPM version *ONLY* and not the "geekier" daily and wireless versions.

    Thanks for your serious consideration of this matter. I offer my opinion in sincere hope that it will spur you to make Techdirt even greater than it already is -- which is pretty damned great to start with.

    :-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Adam Singer, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 6:21am

    as a saavy PR person & techdirt reader...

    I've never sent you guys a press release - not all of us are that ignorant as to who we should and shouldn't distribute to.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Dan, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 6:50am

    Missing an opportunity???

    Seems like you are missing an opportunity here.

    You should create a special section in your website to allow PR people to post press releases about their company's new widgets... For $29.95 each! Payable by Visa, MC, etc.

    Anybody who posts a press release on your site outside of the press releases area get banned from ever posting again. Until, of course, they cough up the $29.95.

    Who knows, maybe the future of your site is to be the most important press release site on the web, for $29.95 each.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    thecaptain, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 6:56am

    Re: PR falls under marketing/sales for a reason

    What you see as SPAM, we see as not taking no for an answer. Many PR people are ex-salespeople. The type of people who walk right past a sign that says "no soliciting" because they are "different than the other sales guys and you will want to hear what they have to say". It is a bit conceited that way.

    And this is a big part why people hate pushy PR and sales people. No, you are NOT a unique special snowflake...when you push past MY "no soliciting" sign it doesn't send the message that you are different...it sends the message that you are an inconsiderate asshat with no respect for my wishes (ie: to be left alone)

    So, yeah...treat this unsolicited crap as spam...completely correct.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    lay off, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 8:23am

    it's easy to stop pr spam...

    simply ask to be taken off the list. two words, which do not begin with F and Y -- which was a lame response by the way. Just write Please Remove and save yourself the wasted anger.

    Many reporters appreciate press releases and request to continue sending news along. Maybe you should do a survey of reporters and get some hard facts on the percentage of reporters who accepts and writes stories based on press releases vs. who doesnt'. that would add some weight to your column.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Davey, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 9:08am

    Everybody gets spam.

    Your whining seems a little self-obsessed.

    Since you don't want to deal with PR people, I presume you never, never, call up Intel or Apple or any other tech company wanting product info for a story, or ask for a preview or a product to review. If you do, you're looking for favors from those same PR people you so despise. If you claim you don't, one would be curious about where you do get new product info -- publications and sites that wrote their own stories based on press releases?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Joe Tavares, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 9:18am

    Re: Definition of SPAM

    Actually, unsolicited email is just that, unsolicited. SPAM, by the original (and I think the current) definition is unsolicited email sent with no direct way to back to the source. The level of obnoxious behaviour can make the interpretation looser, but spam could simply be that pic of your golden retriever puppy if the header has been obfuscated so the return is impossible.

    I agree with other posters when they made the observation that identifying non-SPAM as SPAM poisons the gmail list. Some of us might like reading gratuitous self-congratulating rhetoric.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    jsnbase, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 9:48am

    I didn't know Techdirt had a LiveJournal.

    Why are you telling us this? I get that it's annoying, but as a Techdirt reader, I don't care if some technology media outlet is upset that PR firms don't understand their submission policy. The fact that the outlet is Techdirt makes no difference.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Amy Gahran, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 1:38pm

    Glad you liked my article.

    Hi, Mike.

    I wrote the Poynter blog post you mentioned. I've gotta tell you, reading through the extensive and diverse responses here has been most educational, and even amusing.

    Personally, it amazes me when PR people's performance is measured by "messages pushed out" rather than "results achieved." Trying to contact 2500 media outlets in a day to me seems wasteful and even antithetical to the goal of getting coverage. Especially when they don't even bother to offer any opt-in methods of contact.

    I wish more organizations, and their PR/marketing folks, would realize that opt-in is the way to go. And if you're trying to establish a relationship, then do that. E-mail the reporter, express interest in their work, and a sincere willingness and ability to be helpful. Build those bridges in advance, not just when you have a story to push. Hands down, those are the sources that I call in a pinch. Blasting people with spam may get you occasional media hits, but establishing a few healthy connections with reporters will get you much further in the long run, with less effort.

    Trying to blast media outlets with press releases represents lazy, ineffective PR, as far as I'm concerned. And I'm to busy to figure out whether I care about an unsolicited release. It's faster to click the spam button. And if that hurts the sender's reputation with Gmail, sorry, but that's their problem.

    - Amy Gahran

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Alex Iskold, Sep 20th, 2006 @ 5:58pm

    can't agree with you more

    Press releases are absolutely useless these days. I can attest to this, because I am a technologist who turned into PR person because of the need to promote my company.

    The problem is that traditional PR operates on a different wave length from modern web news. They just do not get how quickly news travels around these days, nor do they understand what actually constitutes news.

    But they will have to get it soon. Get it or be totally out of the game.

    Alex

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Terry Shea, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 8:22am

    Re: Hang on

    I've worked in PR for 25 years -- for 20 of them on the agency side. If an agency is pushing out press releases to please a client, then that agency isn't properly servicing its clients. Clients shouldn't be expected to understand how the media works -- that's why they hire an agency. A good agency (or PR person) educates clients on how the media works and explains to clients what strategy and tactics will accomplish their objectives -- and has the confidence to tell a client that insists on press release blasts that such an approach is counter-productive.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Dave Burstein, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 3:14pm

    I welcome the press releases

    Mike
    I also get swamped by releases, but think that as a journalist it's fair to send them to me. I actually glance at most of them in my field (telecom, etc), and often find a nugget along the way.

    I take the position that anything in a widely distributed press release is not news, however, and rarely report what they want me to cover. My definition of news is something my readers aren't likely to know, and they can get the press releases directly.

    Occasionally, I get a solid story from a release, as I did today. A small company I never heard of introduced a repeater that extends the range of DSL, an important topic for anyone who cares about broadband for everyone. I probably wouldn't have noticed them if they hadn't put out the release.

    You still have a delete key, after all.

    db

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Kevin Dugan, Sep 22nd, 2006 @ 6:58am

    It's NOT every PR person

    You cannot classify all PR people in one bucket. We hate bad pitches too. Check out http://badpitch.blogspot.com to see how some of us are trying to help stop bad pitches. And feel free to send your bad pitches to us at badpitchblog AT gmail DOT com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    STEW, Dec 12th, 2007 @ 5:38am

    VETERANS FOR BIDEN FORUMS

    Iowa Veterans for Biden Announces Regional Chairs
    Published: 11/30/2007


    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***

    CONTACT:
    Victoria Dillon/515-440-2008
    Mark Paustenbach/302-428-5427
    press@joebiden.com



    IOWA VETERANS FOR BIDEN ANNOUNCES REGIONAL CHAIRS
    Plans Community Forums Across Iowa

    Des Moines, IA (November 30, 2007) – The Biden for President campaign today announced the Regional Chairs of its Iowa Veterans for Biden committee, which will host a series of community forums on veterans issues across Iowa throughout the month of December. The Regional Chairs, which will advise Sen. Biden on areas of concern to veterans, has planned the statewide forums in order to give Iowa veterans, their families, and their communities the opportunity to influence the national dialogue on veterans issues. This Sunday, Sen. Biden will join members of Iowa Veterans for Biden for their inaugural community forum at the Beaverdale VFW Hall in Des Moines. The campaign also announced upcoming forums in Fort Dodge, Burlington, Mason City, Sioux City and Waterloo.

    “I am honored to have the support of these men and women who have so nobly served our country,” said Biden. “Together, we will ensure that veterans’ voices are heard in the living rooms of voters here in Iowa and across the country.”

    The Iowa Veterans for Biden committee is comprised of veterans who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, the Cold War and World War II, Iowa state representatives and family members of fallen servicemen.

    “I’m honored to serve on Senator Biden’s advisory board,” said Jeremy Reynolds of Grundy Center, an Iraq War Veteran and Regional Chair of Iowa Veterans for Biden. “Over the course of his career, he has been an outstanding voice for servicemen and women in the field and the veterans that return home. This tour will give us a chance to discuss with Iowans the issues that affect them and their families and gives us a chance to listen to their concerns and bring them to our next commander-in-chief.”

    The series of forums will address America’s shared responsibility in caring for our men and women in uniform including a true reform of the Veterans Administration system, providing necessary armor and vehicles to troops in the field, Sen. Biden’s plan for Iraq and the importance of garner bi-partisan support in bring this war to a conclusion.

    Sen. Biden recently unveiled his plan to keep America's promise to veterans by reforming the Veterans Administration and making it more responsive to the needs of our veterans once they return home from the battlefield as well as our veterans who have already performed their service.

    “Our commitment to those who have admirably served our country must be without question,” said Senator Biden. “Just as we must protect them and give them everything they need on the battlefield, we owe our brave soldiers the same support upon their return home. This is our sacred obligation.”

    Sen. Biden believes that all veterans must have access to health care and that the Department of Veterans Affairs has a fundamental responsibility to address their varying care needs in a timely manner. His five-point plan for VA reform aims to improve the handling of claims, eliminate restrictions on veterans’ access to health care, accommodate the long-term care needs of veterans, ensure adequate treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and improve the provision of care to all veterans.

    Sen. Biden’s proposal for VA reform is attached. Details on upcoming community forums throughout Iowa are forthcoming and will also be available at www.joebiden.com/iowa.

    IOWA VETERANS FOR BIDEN REGIONAL CHAIRS NameJohn Whitaker ServiceState Representative, Father of Iraq Veteran CityHillsboro
    McKinley Bailey State Representative, Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran Webster City
    Dick Taylor State Representative, Korean War Veteran, Navy Cedar Rapids
    Chris Frosheiser Son was killed in Iraq by and IED Altoona
    Randy Flaherty Cold War Veteran, Navy Mason City
    Jeremy Reynolds Iraq War Veteran, Iowa National Guard Grundy Center
    Cal Halliburton Vietnam War Veteran, Army Ames
    Michael Trenary Iraq War Veteran, Iowa National Guard Fort Dodge
    Fred Hunter Korean War Veteran, Navy Des Moines
    Eugene Menke WWII Veteran, Navy Burlington
    John Stromberg Korean War Veteran, Air Force Davenport
    Emil Burke WWII Veteran, Army Air Corps Grinnell
    Tim Nash Father of Iraq War Veteran Marion
    Jose Cortez Iraq War Veteran, Iowa National Guard Council Bluffs
    James Timmer WWII Veteran, Marine Corps Clinton

    IOWA VETERANS FOR BIDEN COMMUNITY FORUMS TOUR

    Monday, December 11th – Fort Dodge
    Thursday, December 14th – Mason City
    Tuesday, December 18th – Burlington
    Thursday, December 20th – Sioux City
    Friday, December 28th – Waterloo

    ###

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Kristin Bird, Jan 7th, 2008 @ 11:02am

    PR responds

    This article illuminates the true communication gap between media professionals and the actual media. I work in PR -- and I admit I took the time and energy to not only google "How to stop PR people", but to read and comment on this article. I agree that most PR people are stupid, but not because they are in PR. They are stupid because most people are stupid.

    Additionally, most PR people get their names from media services databases, and are therefore ignorant of individual policies. They send follow-up emails because they are professionals and that is the way to build a relationship; they are not really "wondering" if you got the first one. And if you don't run their releases -- so what? 99.9% of releases don't get run. Sending them isn't hard and neither is hitting delete. I often see "no phone calls", but email is a black hole. Yes, we are irritating, but there's no other way to get the job done. I also always wonder if the "no releases" policy is blanket -- when I call businesses who have stated they do not wish to be pitched, what am I asked to do? "Send a release."

    I think the biggest crime we PR folks are guilty of is misdirected pitches (and while bulk email is efficient, I would never do such a thing.) I agree with the previous poster who claims that quantity over quality is the mark of a bad PR firm.

    Honestly, I can't begin to fathom the amount of spam a legitimate freelancer gets, but I also think a simple, "This is not something we are interested in" reply goes a long way toward being civil and breaking the cycle.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Hirsch, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 1:46am

    Re: Re: Press Releases

    If they would just pay attention and not send him press releases then they wouldn't be getting marked as spam...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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