Using the Internet Effectively
By John Makulowich
Like many another journalist plying his or her trade on the Internet, my e-mail agents, Eudora Pro 4.0 Release Candidate 1 and Microsoft Outlook Express 4.71.1712.1, are deluged daily with information technology pitches, promises and promotions about the next greatest product, process or service to come down the virtual pike.
I'm not complaining about that. In fact, it's an important ingredient in my ongoing struggle to keep my outstretched neck above the Internet water line. What does concern me is the apparent lack of understanding of the technology shown by the public relations practitioners who are most often the source of the e-mail.
Why? Because it collectively wastes the time of the sender, the receiver and the network. And, incidentally, like the poorly trained receptionist or equipment delivery team, the first and last contact with the customer, it reflects badly on the IT organizations that the practitioners are paid to represent.
A recent case was my receipt via e-mail of a press release as a Microsoft Word attachment. It contained a macro virus, which fortunately was uncovered by the Norton AntiVirus application that I run as Auto-Protect Enabled. I informed the PR person who sent it. He denied there was a virus. What was clear is that he never checked before transmitting it. Not surprisingly, my reaction was to request my address be removed from his distribution list.
On a different level is the case of the myriad organizations that distribute news materials without thinking to exploit the features of many current e-mail agents, for example, Eudora Pro and Outlook Express. These programs can render HTML coding that allows the recipient to more easily retrieve resources, launch browsers or contact spokespersons for interviews.
Such cases contribute to the spider and wasp relationship between journalists and public relations practitioners. Are PR types lazy? I don't think so. I think they are not only weak-kneed before the technology but also driven by priorities in which learning to use the Internet productively is not on their short list.
Without knowing the technology, they have limited imagination in exploiting it. Thus, in the majority of cases, PR people have no signature file, lack understanding of what a MIME attachment is and seem to conduct little background research on the
reporter and what he or she writes about or has written. Even though my signature file links to my home page, very few PR types bother to do background research by reading a few of the 200 plus articles I have written for Washington Technology.
What to do? In an effort to make some headway in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness with which I perform my job, I created a page on the World Wide Web targeted to PR types who want to contact me about the pieces I write for this publication. The address is http://www.cais.com/makulow/wt98.html.
On the site, which I tried to keep to one page, I list my assignments for the next year, their status (open, closed, published), the general focus of the articles and a checklist of information I ask PR people to send me, presuming it is not part of their .signature file, which, of course, it should be. I welcome comments from PR people on ways to improve it.
John Makulowich writes, talks and trains on the Internet. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org; his home page is http://www.cais.com/makulow.
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