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When PR pitches go wrong…bloggers can do better

9.10.2012

in blogging about blogging,media,things that make you go argh

angry mob young frankenstein, universal picturesFirst, apologies to those of you bloodthirsty pitchfork-wielding PR-averse friends who wanted me to name names on last week’s horror show of a pitch that I blogged. I loves ya, but I try to limit my public shaming these days to political candidates and lying talk radio hosts.

[image: young frankenstein, universal pics]

You know, we bloggers spend a lot of time writing about how PR blows it.  Or why PR makes us want to stab our eyeballs out with dull, rusty letter openers. Or sometimes, how PR can do better. Recently, Amy Blair wrote a very helpful open letter to brands about more constructive ways to forge relationships. Last year I wrote a piece for marketing execs on the iMedia site called 6 Little Known Facts About Bloggers with shocking revelations like “all mom bloggers are different” and “some bloggers don’t even write about brands at all.”

I love these pieces and I know a lot of people find them helpful. But I also think it’s valuable when we step back and think about how we can do a better job too.

I still love Kristen’s story about getting a misguided pitch for men’s razors meant for Cool Mom Picks, then instead of deleting, she redirected it to Doug, who ended up parlaying it into a successful Movember promotion that raised $15,000 for the cause.

Last week after I had to was offered a chance to “write a favorable review” of an app for money, instead of deleting (or outing) the guy, I told him nicely that it was against our policies–and also against FTC guidelines by the way. He wrote back admitting he was new at this, and was not trying to do anything unethical; he was just trying not to insult a blogger after somehow getting “the clear message” at Blogher that reviews should always be paid.

(Which, oy. When is the last time you bought a product off Amazon because of a four-star review from someone paid to write that four-star review? Anyway.)

Now, I’ve come to realize that this developer is a really nice guy. I look forward to trying out his app for Cool Mom Tech–free of charge to him–when it’s available.

I’m as busy as anyone. I get upwards of 400 pitches a day in my inbox. So believe me, I understand the frustration can build when you feel like man, I’m deleting every single thing in here and it’s a huge time suck that I just don’t have. On the other hand, we’re at the point where the brand-blogger relationship is out of its early infancy. There are now resources galore to help you out. There are posts up the wazoo about it. We’re running out of excuses for not knowing any better when we turn into “oh, there go those mommy bloggers again.”

I know that we’re still figuring these relationships as we go along. But I think if we can try limiting the angst and the antagonism on both sides, we’re all going to waste less time and get to more productive relationships more quickly.

In other words, we talk a lot about wanting to be taken seriously, wanting to be treated like professionals. In which case, it’s time for us as bloggers to grow up a little too.

Here’s the way I’ve been handling some of of the PR situations that seem to lead to the most public bitching. Of course you have to do what you think is right, but I hope some of it will be helpful.

 

If…

The pitch starts with “Dear Mommyblogger..”

Then…

Ignore or delete. It’s really not the worst thing to ever happen in the history of all pitches ever. I’d say “Dear Breeder” would be way worse.

 

If…

The pitch starts with “Dear Mommyblogger…” and you’re not a mom

Then…

Ignore, make a joke about it, delete, or just unsubscribe if it’s nothing you’d ever cover. The salutation is not intended as a personal insult or some sort of insinuation about the state of your ovaries (or lack of testicles, dad bloggers who get called mom bloggers), even if it feels uncomfortable. You simply ended up on the wrong list, the same way I have ended up on lists for gay sex toys, violent video games, and evangelical Christian picture books. Or oh my God, wait…what if I’m a violent teenage Born-Again lesbian and just never realized it! Shoot.

 

If…

The pitch addresses you by the wrong name

Then…

Don’t write back ripping the sender a new one. I’m frequently called Kristen, Jenny, Scary Mommy, Mir, Mom, Mommy, and INSERT NAME HERE. If the sender forgot to change a name in a template (it happens), gently correct her. If her entire database got messed up somehow, you may have even saved her butt on a huge email blast, in which case she’ll thank you and remember your kindness. Fred.

 

If…

You want to be unsubscribed from a mailing list

Then…

Reply with “please unsubscribe” in the subject line. That’s it. Done. Moving on.

 

If…

You continue getting those  mailings for weeks and weeks

Then…

Contact the owner directly and get reassurance in writing that your name has been removed. Alternately, mark everything from that domain as spam or create a “rule” that moves them automatically into trash. Like a tetanus shot, it’s a pain for 5 seconds…then over.

 

If…

You still get those mailings for months, even after it’s been promised that you’ve been removed

Then…

I think it’s fair to take it to Twitter at that point. Copy @badpitch too. That should speed things along.

 

If…

You get a good pitch…that’s just not good for you.

Then…

Forward it to a more relevant source, like Kristen did for Doug. It’s like matchmaking, only you don’t have to worry about a follow-up report with details about how the guy drank too much and cried about his ex-girlfriend for three hours.

 

If…

You get a pitch that cc’s 100 other bloggers openly

Then…

Do not reply all with snarky comments about the cc list. Now you’re just as annoying as the original sender. UNLESS of course you know every single person on that list and consider them friends. Then you can reply all, removing the original sender’s name, and tell everyone how you’ve responded with this link at The Bloggess and have a good laugh about it.

 

If…

Someone asks you to review a product or write about a brand or event without mentioning money

Then…

Do not rant about how you “don’t work for free.” The PR person is treating you like a media professional in search of relevant content for your readers. It’s a compliment. And that tends to be unpaid. However if you only write about brands for compensation, forward your media kit, or a link to your blog page that details what kinds of pitches make the most sense for you. (Selfish Mom makes it very clear on her PR page.) Either you’ll start a good relationship or kill one that was never going to work for you in the first place.

However…

it’s really important to understand that the majority of PR people (not all) are tasked with garnering earned media placements. In other words, no budgets to pay for editorial content. Not for Glamour Magazine, not for Rolling Stone, and definitely not for you. If you are going to work with PR, take the time to understand their industry and how this firm works with their clients. Each one is different. Kind of like bloggers.

 

If…

Someone offers you $10 for a sponsored post

Then…

“Thanks so much for reaching out. My sponsored posts start at $100, and I reach 20,000 uniques a month plus another 2,000 fans on Facebook, 1500 on Twitter, and I’m a frequent contributor to Huffington Post. I’ve worked with brands like Ben + Jerry’s and the That’s Incredible series remake. May I send you a media kit or provide more information?”

Some brands really only have $10. Some brands say they have $10 and really have $1000. But you’ll never know unless you come across as someone they want to work with in the first place. And that doesn’t happen if you start ranting about how insulted you are. In my opinion, the only time you have every right to be insulted (instead of just amused) is if you’ve been asked to put together an advertising proposal, and then after you’ve done significant work on it, they tell you that they never expected to pay you at all in the first place.

 

If…

A PR person asks for your statistics and demographics on a blind pitch

Then…

Kindly ask for more information first. You are under no obligation to forward your stats to any old person who asks. Besides, you may want to tailor the information you send based on the product category and the marketing objectives; that will show you really know your stuff.

 

If…

A big website asks you to contribute content for free, or “in exchange for traffic”

Then..

I hate to say this, but there is no one right answer. Ask yourself: Do I need the exposure? How far along am I in my writing career? Is this a publisher that looks good in my press kit? Do they need me more than I need them? Is it a brand I want to align with? Do they pay other writers? And most importantly, try to determine Am I a publisher with an opportunity to promote my site…or am I a professional writer who makes a living with my columns?

I do love Susan Getgood‘s line from our Blogher Pathfinder workshop this year: Never work anywhere for free, where you’d like to get paid later. That’s true about 99% of the time. Also, you will rarely get much traffic just from a link in a byline. Even from huge, national publications. Been there, made that mistake.

 

If…

A PR firm does something you really truly dislike. Like, seriously, you’re pulling out those rusty letter openers right now.

Then…

Ask yourself, how can I make this better?

Maybe it’s in your hands, maybe not. Maybe you can fix the behavior and end up with a great relationship…maybe they just suck. And hey, maybe you end up with some truly awesome results out of it. Either way, the high ground is never the worst place to be.

86 shards of brilliance… read them below or add one

Kyran September 10, 2012 at 10:06 am

I’m emailing this link back to myself so I can place it in my blog resources folder. Wonderful. I especially agree with the evaluation process for unpaid content. I wish common sense like this was more common!

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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 10:39 am

It can be. It will be. We just have to work at it.

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Danielle Smith September 10, 2012 at 10:08 am

Liz – bloggers should keep this post open on their desktops as they peruse their email. Every response you crafted requires us to a) take a deep breath before we respond b) to determine where we are personally going with our sites/writing/dreams/brands c) create opportunites to develop stronger relationships with PR and d) truly BE better.

Excellent.
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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 10:39 am

That’s beautifully put Danielle and you’re right. Taking a deep breath first is one of the toughest things for me to do. Especially in an age of social media and immediacy. But wow, there are so many times I’m glad I thought before I reacted. (Even if it’s HARD.)

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Grown and Flown September 10, 2012 at 10:25 am

Thank you for this…a huge, huge help for those of us just finding our way. We have had contact with a few people who are trying to promote wonderful causes that we we believe help the social good. Promoting these efforts is one of the unexpected privileges of having a blog.
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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 10:38 am

Amen! I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I love that Movember/Norelco example so much. It was a win for everyone. Especially cancer.

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Renee September 10, 2012 at 10:49 pm

I’m thinking you didn’t mean a win FOR cancer but rather for fighting cancer :-)

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tarasview September 10, 2012 at 10:29 am

I love this :) Well said!
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suburbancorrespondent September 10, 2012 at 10:50 am

I’m confused – at first, you were saying it is unethical to be paid to write a review; but at the end you were talking about monetary compensation. There’s something I missed in there. Can you elaborate, please?
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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 11:30 am

I know, it’s complicated! And nuanced. I think bloggers need to distinguish between:

1) Being paid for (favorable) editorial reviews
2) being paid to write a column or contribute content elsewhere
3) being paid for sponsored posts on behalf of marketers (not reviews – but disseminating information, for example)
4) being paid to participate in a sponsored advertising program like a brand ambassadorship.
5) being paid for advertising – like posts written by sponsors, text links, banner ads.

Bloggers often call reviews “advertising” as in I should be paid to advertise your brand but that’s not how the industry looks at it. They see it as editorial, which is not something they tend to pay for.

Also, while I don’t advocate getting paid for “reviews,” I know people do them. Which is why I’m trying to give advice about how to handle, without judgment.

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Alyssa S. September 10, 2012 at 10:56 am

Thank you!! You’ve answered every question I’ve ever asked myself on how I should handle the requests I get. Not like I get a slew of them, but the “business professional” side of me always perks up when I get them and I think to myself, “if I was sitting at my desk at work and I got this in my e-mail box, how would I respond?” To be honest, I’ve never gotten a request that was disrespectful of me. Sometimes a little impersonal and some WAY off mark to who I am as a blogger, but most have at least a veil of professionalism to them. It’s only the really weird or completely form letter sounding ones that I tend to delete. The rest, I try to send a brief “thanks but no thanks” and for the most part, that’s the last I ever hear from those folks.
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Caleb Gardner September 10, 2012 at 10:56 am

This is incredibly reasonable and nuanced – as I always expect you to be, Liz. In fact, I would say you give these PR firms more benefit of the doubt than I would, being in the industry.

But I like that you start from “innocent until proven guilty.” PR has become such an easy target in the blogosphere that many have forgotten that (a) most PR folks are looking to create mutually beneficial relationships on behalf of their clients, and (b) there is no one path to creating that relationship.

Conversation first, vitriol second… or third, or fourth. Love it.
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Niri September 10, 2012 at 10:59 am

Sharing this Liz. Thanks! So little energy to tackle each thing and normally FB is a vent box – without name calling and a little “am I crazy to think this is crazy” place. BTW Do you know Amazon do “pay” people with devices for their reviews. They have a huge established program, each user name has it listed next to them if they are part of it. I love the complete reviews they do admittedly.

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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 11:18 am

Yes I’ve seen those reviews. I take them all with a grain of salt, however. Maybe that’s just me.

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Kalisa September 10, 2012 at 11:03 am

I’ve worked in PR for 20 years and I agree with this post wholeheartedly. Especially the part about not being offended by a PR person asking for earned media. Blogging (and paid blogging) is an entire new media platform and PR people are just trying to figure out the rules.

Along that same line, PR companies have access to media numbers. We can look up circulation figures for any media outlet in the country prior to doing any work with them. This is why a PR person might ask you for your stats in advance. It’s because blog numbers aren’t in the databases we subscribe to (yet). So again, it’s just treating you as a media professional. Do not be offended by it.

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Kristen September 10, 2012 at 11:07 am

There are ways to find that info as well, Kalisa. Twitter, traffic, Facebook – it’s all public knowledge.

I think that bloggers (including myself) can be taken aback by the request, especially when it’s AFTER I’ve been asked to attend something or a sample of a product has been offered to me. It seems as though that research should come prior to the email/request being made.

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Kalisa September 10, 2012 at 11:14 am

Yes, some info is public. But your number of twitter followers isn’t always parallel to your blog traffic stats. Some blogs I’ve found it very easy to get stats on. Others not so much.

The reason a request for stats comes after is probably because the PR person is compiling a report for their client. By using the media databases, we are able to estimate how many eyes saw the news stories that we garnered for them. It’s a way of putting numbers on our work, which for so long has been measured by the same criteria as advertising.
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Julie Pippert September 10, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I agree Kristen. It just so happens that if I am contacting a blogger, it usually means I have done all that due diligence and the client and I agree that person is a good fit. That happens to be my process.
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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 11:17 am

Well I will say that you can look up circ figures for bloggers too, more or less. It’s easy to go to Klout, Alexa, Compete all of which suck, but at least offer some sense of a blogger’s numbers and influence. You can also ask for a media kit, or look at their press page. Or click any of those social media buttons or the RSS feed for a sense of the size of the following.

It is a little frustrating when PRIntern1@xxxx.com emails me a form letter that says “Hi! Please provide me with the following…” Especially when I have yet to know why they’re asking. Are you looking to buy ads with me? Are you trying to determine if you should send me a product? Are you trying to determine if it’s worth inviting me to a party? Are you considering inviting me on a junket but need to see if I have enough followers to make it worth your while? Are you writing a post on “top bloggers?” And what if I don’t even want to review a product from your firm?

You can see why bloggers take requests for information a little more personally than a magazine ad sales department. It’s tough considering blogs are not MSM.

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Hannah DeMilta September 11, 2012 at 7:52 am

Great post — and I find this point re: asking for blog stats especially interesting. I try to always give bloggers as much detail as I’m allowed to. There have been times I’ve signed a NDA and actually can’t name the client/campaign. In a situation like this I would just be honest, and explain that while can’t name the client yet, I want to put them forward for a proposal because I think they’re an excellent fit.

Bloggers can be quite precious about their traffic numbers, and I can understand that. I was at an event where one blogger “outed” another blogger by sharing her blog stats publicly without her permission. Someone said “Wow, that’s like announcing her weight to the room!” Maybe not quite the same, but an interesting comparison I thought.

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Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 11:32 am

Oh this is so complicated! A whole other post perhaps?

Blog stats in part are just a small part of the entire picture; there aren’t stats for influence (the flawed Klout algorithm not withstanding), and bloggers are more than their blogs if you look at social media as a whole.

I think it’s okay not to name a client, but they should at least know they’re being considered for a campaign/sponsored post/trip/spokesperson gig. Too often we get blind emails–not even signed with a firm name!–asking for stats. The more info you give us about the campaign (or whatever), the better we can give you the numbers that will help your client see that we’re a good choice. And that tends to go beyond UMV.

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Marija September 10, 2012 at 11:04 am

Not being a blogger, wow, I had no idea that space became so complicated. But I certainly share the sentiment of PR being too “heavy” or of wrong type for the space. Your posts always blow me away on the general “pay it forward” attitude and this is no exception. Making life better always starts with ourselves, and your message is clear: no need to escalate immediately, rather take it back to civility.

I do believe that majority of PR agencies still tend to treat bloggers as they would treat TV audience (it is limitation of a TV as a medium that the whole nation can only watch SAME commercial). Bloggers should be treated same as David Letterman or Oprah – individually. Can anybody imagine PR agency pitching new type of razors with one and same latter to both of those TV personalities? Why is that approach still acceptable in blogspace is beyond me.

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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 11:11 am

I agree to some degree – I think some PR people treat bloggers like mainstream media journos and editors. Which isn’t quite right.
Then some PR people treat us (moms in particular) like dipshits who know nothing about media, and will therefore do anything at all to get in the good graces of the firm.

And like you’re saying, lazy ones lump all parenting bloggers together, as if Spin and US Weekly and Cosmo all covered the same topics.

I know it’s unrealistic to pitch every single person individually, but man, at least get a sense of what the blog is about. It’s amazing how clear I am that I don’t do product reviews on Mom101 (really, could I be clearer?) and I still get a ton of pitches, some of which say “I know you don’t do product reviews but I thought maybe you’d do this one.”

So I toootally understand the frustration. I just try really hard–against instinct sometimes–not to be a dick about it.

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Kalisa September 10, 2012 at 11:17 am

Journalists have complained about these same things for decades! Some PR people are just NEVER GOING TO GET IT. Like every other profession, there is good and bad.
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Marija September 10, 2012 at 11:36 am

Yet… you are coming across sooooo ZEN about it that I want to have your babies. ;-)
Keep up with the zen.

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Kristen Chase September 10, 2012 at 11:04 am

What an awesome resource for bloggers AND brands.

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Shannon @nwaMotherlode September 10, 2012 at 11:05 am

This post is perfection.
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Jean Parks September 10, 2012 at 11:09 am

Great post Liz! I was also recently approached to review an app for money. The people were so nice & had so clearly taken the time to know me that I will also be reviewing the app for free. The exchanges I had with these folks were gentle & respectful, we both learned something. I’ll be incorporating your suggestions in my outreach responses going forward. Even if it doesn’t generate more money, decreasing my inbox frustration is surely a win for me.

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Kyla@Mommy's Weird September 10, 2012 at 11:14 am

This is great. Consider it book marked! Thank.
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Christa the BabbyMama September 10, 2012 at 11:16 am

Great post! Back when I was blogging professionally, my biggest peeves were pitches that came from supposed pros who had obviously never looked at my high-traffic blog. If I’d had the time, I would have given them all a crash course in how to approach bloggers but I didn’t have any more time then than I do now.
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Headless Mom September 10, 2012 at 11:30 am

Great advice. I recently responded nicely to a pitch, and through some conversation it turned into actual work. My patience paid off, it can for others too.

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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 11:32 am

That’s awesome! I love those stories.

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kim moldofsky September 10, 2012 at 11:31 am

Where is the self-righteous indignation? The ranting? Oh, just practical, actionable tips? I guess that will work, too.

Great post; thanks!
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Rachel, BacknGrooveMom September 10, 2012 at 11:31 am

thank you for this. I need to breathe deeply as a PR firm just burned me badly (and I am trying to avoid acting quickly).

…all too often, we (some of us) are too eager to engage without thinking anything through which is how I got into this bad place to begin with….

on a + note – just received the nicest PR letter and package from the blogher lunch – made me smile.

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neal September 10, 2012 at 11:41 am

Bookmarking this page. Thanks!
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alimartell September 10, 2012 at 11:41 am

Yes. This is perfect. I have actually been responding to more pr pitches lately—instead of deleting them.

I feel like I’m helping the entire process improve by emailing back and letting them know that my name is, in fact, Ali and not Caroline. I feel like I’m helping by explaining WHY their pitch doesn’t work for me and what might make it work better.

But I can still giggle to myself that I got a pitch just this morning that greeted me with Hi X…right?
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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm

You should change your name to X. Kinda cool.

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Sara September 10, 2012 at 11:41 am

Liz,
I’m really glad you wrote this. These are reasonable, rational tips for both sides to read and learn. I’ll be sure to pass it along. Thanks for taking the time to help both sides to have a productive conversation.
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Tricia September 10, 2012 at 11:41 am

I am a PR professional by day and a blogger by night. Seriously – getting into this blogging thing changed my life. Oh, but we’re talking about PR here… (I kid.)

The biggest problem with bloggers is this: the media landscape has changed. There is no longer the industry standard big five national newspapers or niche vertical magazines to place clients in. Some of the best PR pros have embraced this. Some of the worst are still confused as all get out. Combine this with the fact that many bloggers are not full-time journalists and thus uncertain what the “rules of engagement” are – and you have a time bomb waiting to happen.

I love your tips for helping bloggers on how to respond (and there totally are those rusty letter opener pitches – I have both sent and received them on occasion). And I think the PR industry needs to continue forward with eyes wide open to learn and adapt so they can successfully work with those of us in the blogosphere. That would make it happy rainbows and unicorns for everyone.

PS. Please don’t send poison darts my way. I sent the rusty letter opener pitches as an eager young PR newbie and learned my lesson. So maybe don’t freak out on a pitch, you could be helping someone change the world :)
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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Yes and yes! As I said, we’re all still learning. But I think that even while there are going to be misunderstandings and miscommunication, we can all start by not being dicks. The rest will sort itself out in time.

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Julie Pippert September 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Thank you Liz!

I’ve been concerned with what felt like a one-sided takedown recently, lol. Wild west on PR! And we’re the ones in all black, by the way.

I’m on both sides, by the way, so I see it and get it.

If I may? From the other side? 3 things I love about bloggers:

You make us like you a lot sometimes, with your stories and your voice and how you feel like the person we wish we could have coffee with. So yeah, sometimes, you, particularly, with your cool community, look like a neat partner. Because we’re people and we watch that TV show or read that book or had that same thing happen this morning with our kids. But we also have a business.

So it’s awesome when:

* You have a policy on your blog about PR, even if it is “leave me alone.” I’ll respect that, truly. And I *do* check.

* You have best method of business contact, preferably not a form because I want to be personal. It’s okay to have a special email just for pitches, eg pitchestojulie@gmail.com. In fact, cool. And free.

* You have a great bio that is up-to-date so I know what you want me to know about you. That way I am not citing something that annoys you because, like, that was two years ago. But it’s in your bio. And hey maybe you really talk about a strong area of interest that’s maybe not this client but I take note of it for another one.

I love working with bloggers. I honestly feel lucky. I go on thinking we’re all so happy together and then I read this rampant unhappiness and I think oh no! So reading this…knowing that yep we DO really like each other and can live happily ever after made my day. :)
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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I think I need to update my bio!

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David Wescott September 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm

This is a helpful post for folks who are looking for day-to-day guidance on tactical stuff. I like it.

It’s also a tacit acknowledgment that blogger outreach is almost completely commoditized. It’s an assertion that to many PR folks, one blog is as good as the next, and our job is just about putting a brand in front of as many eyeballs as possible. To me, that’s not “earned media” – to me, it’s actually a sign that I need to look for a new line of work.

Once a product or service is commoditized, the only things that differentiate competitors are speed and cost. As in, “I can pump this pitch out to ten times as many blogs for half the price.” Which means bloggers can expect more blank names, more irrelevant pitches – in short, more spam.

I try to emphasize the word “earned” in “earned media.” I try to get to know the people I pitch. Journalists cultivate relationships with sources. I try to cultivate relationships with bloggers. Every time I’m asked to just blanket the web with pitches I feel a bit of my profession slipping away.

And you know what – there’s nothing wrong at all with product reviews, and I’ve done my share, but it’s really not my thing. I know people can get jazzed about a specific brand because of the quality of a product or what that brand represents. I need something more. I need to feel as if I’m part of a community of people talking about something that’s more important. I want to be the guy who already has relationships that matter when a crisis breaks. I want to be the guy plotting world domination with a half dozen bloggers at any given moment.

I want to pay bloggers for their time. When I have money to spend, I want to spend it on bloggers who deserve it. Sadly, most of the time I don’t have money to spend, but even then I want to give bloggers an experience they won’t forget. I want bloggers to see me as their unrelenting advocate.

There is so much more to this job than “hey, can you write about my client’s product” because there is so much more to the bloggers who get these pitches. To many flacks, PR is just a job that pays the bills so they can do the things more important to them. And that’s fine – I’ve given up worrying about what they send to people. To many bloggers, product reviews are just something they do to supplement what they’re already doing in life. That’s also fine – I’ve given up worrying about what bloggers do in reaction to pitches. I know every pitch I send comes with some risk. I’m a big boy, I can handle the consequences and don’t take it personally.

But I do take the commoditization of my profession personally. I see it as basically inevitable. So I’m trying to evolve, to redefine what I do and quantify the value of it. I’m not there yet, but I’m trying.

If anyone wants to help me with that, I’d love to listen.
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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 12:46 pm

This is a post in itself David. It’s awesome. And you’re one of a kind.

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Nancy September 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Excellent, excellent. And I had to add this anecdotal note: I have written two posts on this subject. The first was about how brands should (not) work with bloggers. It’s one of my most popular posts ever. The other was for bloggers – about how they should work with brands: not so popular.

I think this says a lot about bloggers: we’re quick to criticize PR companies, but not to look at our own behavior.

Brava to you for having the courage (and the smarts) to look at the other side of the problem.
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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Fascinating Nancy. I think overall it’s more “fun” to poke fingers outward. Would you mind posting links?

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Selfish Mom September 10, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Thanks so much for a really helpful post, Liz (as well as the link to my PR page). I write about a lot of products for free, but just about always they’re things I found on my own, not from a pitch. Once I get pitched about a product I almost never write about it for free, since my brain then says “Hey, they’re spending money and want publicity – I want to be paid too!” A perverse way of thinking, and not totally fair to the brands, I know. Maybe I’ve just clued them in that the best chance they have of me writing about their product for free is to 1) Produce an awesome advertising campaign about an awesome product that makes me want to buy it, and 2) Ignore me. :-)
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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Fascinating Amy, wow. Are there any exceptions? Like a non-for-profit effort?

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Selfish Mom September 10, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Of course, but I don’t really think of that as brand writing, even if a brand is involved.

The way I look at it is this: I could blog for the rest of my life quite happily with zero interaction from PR pros or brands, no events, no trips, no special treatment. But once a company wants something out of me, I think it’s completely reasonable for me to want something from them as well.
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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 2:33 pm

That makes sense depending what kind of blog you write. If you see your blog as a personal blog, I agree. If you (“you”) see your blog as a product or review or design or shelter or tech blog…then brands = content.

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Selfish Mom September 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Definitely, which is why I don’t jump down PR pros’ throats for sending press releases and product info. Some sites live off of that stuff. I do, however, get a bit aggravated when it’s obviously not an email blast – when they’ve made a lame attempt at personalizing the pitch but checked my site out for only five seconds. I’d rather have the impersonal blast – easier to just delete.

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Sharon September 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm

As a small blogger looking to take the next step, this post is incredibly helpful in so many ways. I’ve pinned, sprung, bookmarked, printed, emailed, courier pigeoned a link to this post as a reminder to myself. Thanks!!

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Stephanie Smirnov September 10, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Dear [INSERT NAME HERE] I mean, Liz:
Yes, yes and yes. Perfectly said. A few additional thoughts: not all crap pitches come from clueless PR folk. Because bloggers are such an attractive influencer channel, every agency and their mother is selling themselves to clients as the shop who should “own” blogger relations. What does this mean? You’ve got digital agencies, ad agencies (no disrespect, Liz), promotional agencies, experiential agencies and (god help us) independent social media “gurus” and “rock stars” and “ninjas” (oh my!) out there pitching bloggers without having benefit of decades of experience crafting tailored and MEANINGFUL pitches to influencers — as is the case with us PR types. Influencer pitching is hard work — relationship-based, art more than science and nearly impossible to scale. That’s why the smarter PR agencies have moved increasingly away from “spray and pray” pitches and are focusing more on quality interactions with a carefully picked group of bloggers for whom the pitch in question is extremely relevant.
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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Oh yes yes and yes! (As you say.)

It’s definitely NOT from respected PR agencies most of the time. But it is someone some brand hired for some reason. I think ninjas are a hot ticket these days.

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Sherry Carr-Smith September 10, 2012 at 2:34 pm

This is a great post. Like so many others here, I’m on both sides of the coin. Thankfully, it’s not in my job description to get blogger support. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to dive in front of a bad pitch in the slow-motion-I’ll-take-a-bullet-for-you way every time I hear or see a PR person making mistakes. It’s almost painful for me to see, especially when it’s an eager young newbie. I almost always try to do some gentle correcting when I get bad pitches though, because everyone has to learn, and I’d rather it be from me.
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Maria September 10, 2012 at 2:41 pm

This is so great! I almost didn’t click on it because honestly, I was worried it was going to be another post about bloggers talking about how how horrible we folks in digital are and how we do everything wrong, and it really is very reasonable.

Really, what I ask of bloggers is this, overall: before you send off that email because you got the wrong name (database errors can and do happen!) or with a brand you hate, consider that the person you are sending off that message to is someone with a job who is just trying to get all their assignments in. So, be nice.

Great post!

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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Agree Maria. And it works both ways. PR folks can also remember that each of us are individuals and not just one of 150 email addresses on a list that probably shouldn’t exist anyway. Heh.

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AmySho September 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm

AMAZING post Liz! I want to send your quote to every blogger who has sent a scathing email to a PR person demanding payment when they are invited to attend an event or interview a celebrity. In some instances it makes sense, but don’t bash us for simply putting the offer out there!

“It’s really important to understand that the majority of PR people (not all) are tasked with garnering earned media placements. In other words, no budgets to pay for editorial content. Not for Glamour Magazine, not for Rolling Stone, and definitely not for you. If you are going to work with PR, take the time to understand their industry and how this firm works with their clients. Each one is different. Kind of like bloggers.”
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Kevin Martineau September 10, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Hi Liz:

Thank-you for this very informative post! I get a lot of PR pitches daily in my inbox and you have given me some great advice on how to deal with them.

Kevin
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Annie @ PhD in Parenting September 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm

This is a very common-sense approach to dealing with the barrage of pitches that bloggers get every day. I wish there was more common sense out there on the side of those pitching and I wish we didn’t have to go through this all the time, but if we are going to, this makes sense.

Two things I’ve found incredibly helpful are:

1) Setting up filters on specific e-mail addresses or phrases like “If you would rather not receive future communications from” (because unsubscribing doesn’t work when the spam is being sent via a service on behalf of a different client each day, with the unsubscribe customized to that client rather than the PR firm).

2) Setting up canned replies, that can be customized, like “Thank you for your e-mail. I do not do reviews or giveaways on my blog. However, I do offer advertising. If you are interested in learning about the ad options, please see: [URL]. “

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Mom101 September 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm

So smart Annie. Thanks for the tips.

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anna September 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm

great tips. i’m always nice if they get my name wrong or some other mistake in the cut-n-paste part of an email – can’t stand when bloggers get really upset about a simple mistake. i mean don’t we all make mistakes at work – especially when we’re the brand-new employee put on the mommy blogger pr outreach project?
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Stacy September 11, 2012 at 6:44 am

Never work anywhere for free, where you’d like to get paid later. This is a mistake I make over and over . But not any more.

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thedoseofreality September 11, 2012 at 8:00 am

Great post. Could not agree with more with Danielle recommending just keeping this post up as we go through our email. Because you have so much HELPFUL information here. Thank you.
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Jerri Ann September 11, 2012 at 8:02 am

First of all, this..
“In other words, we talk a lot about wanting to be taken seriously, wanting to be treated like professionals. In which case, it’s time for us as bloggers to grow up a little too.”

What she said up there! Yea, that, so very true!

Second….
“I hate to say this, but there is no one right answer. Ask yourself: Do I need the exposure? How far along am I in my writing career? Is this a publisher that looks good in my press kit? Do they need me more than I need them? Is it a brand I want to align with? Do they pay other writers? And most importantly, try to determine Am I a publisher with an opportunity to promote my site…or am I a professional writer who makes a living with my columns?”

I am a firm believer that I have the traffic I do today because in the beginning and I do mean the beginning of time, I visited other blogs and commented and sincerely meant what I said, not douchebag comments like “great audio” on a site with none. And, I was ready and willing to write for folks in my niche’ first as a “writing for traffic” kind of contributor. I wrote for a lot of sites for good pay. I wrote for other sites for mediocre pay if I thought there was a decent outcome on the side and I still do all my work involving education for free. It’s that simple.

So, that said, I don’t believe it is a crime to write for recognition if you are willing to pick and choose who you write for. And, while I agree, a single byline is not going to help, even for the writers I pay, I spent a large amount of time promoting their post on Twitter and Facebook so that they at least have a chance at building traffic. Obviously that depends more on the blogger than me but it helps everyone if we go out of our way to be nice and a kind tweet, retweet, or “like” goes a long way in “relationships”……there’s that word….relationships…it is and always be about building relationships.

I didn’t read all the comments and I haven’t proofed this. Now it is time for school drop off and I’m going to hope you all can read between the lines.
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Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 11:30 am

Thanks so much for all your thoughts Jerri Ann. I know they’ll be well appreciated.

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Mitch September 11, 2012 at 8:08 am

So, you are suggesting when someone writes to me as “Dear Gay:”
I should not accept their offer?
http://www.gaynycdad.com

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Katherine Stone September 11, 2012 at 10:01 am

This is fantastic Liz. Really. I’m bookmarking it. Just another example of how much class and professionalism you embody.
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Kim Tracy Prince September 11, 2012 at 10:03 am

1. Do you ever sleep? I mean, really. Great post, but I’m tired thinking about all of your full time jobs and the fact that you consistently crank out great stuff here.
2. I see a very clear distinction between paid and non-paid reviews. As soon as you get compensation, it’s no longer a “review.” It’s a “feature.”
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Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 11:29 am

Thank you. And I couldn’t agree more.

I have accepted sponsored posts in which I make announcements, share news, or have full editorial control (say picking my favorite outfits from a children’s collection that I already love.). They add value to my readers. But there’s a reason that you never see a negative sponsored review, and I think it’s a slippery slope…and not a smart long-term business proposition.

Paid reviews are slowly going away. Bloggers who rely on them need to stay ahead of the curve.

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Deb September 11, 2012 at 11:34 am

Helpful distinction, thanks.
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Kim Tracy Prince September 11, 2012 at 10:07 am

P.S. Happy birthday! I didn’t realize we share Birthday Month. Go us!
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Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 11:26 am

Virgos!

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Deb September 11, 2012 at 11:23 am

Thank you! This is all so confusing for someone just starting out. Consider this post Google-bookmarked.
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Anne (@notasupermom) September 11, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Love!
It all comes down to good manners and business-like behavior, doesn’t it?
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Andrea September 11, 2012 at 8:38 pm

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this. As someone who has one foot in the PR world and one foot in the blogging world, this is spot on. It’s slowly changing (I think), but PR rarely gets money to pay for coverage – that’s called advertising and brands have a different agency for that, most times. I would love to know who’s being paid to write product reviews – because I will never, ever read them. I am fundamentally opposed to being compensated for the reviews I write at http://www.mommygearest.com. How can people trust what you’re saying is true? I would, however, love some advice about how the heck to make a few bucks from this whole blogging thing. A post on that would be most helpful. :)

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Birdman September 11, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Thanks, Liz. I will be saving this for sure. It fully answers so many questions I’ve been wondering lately, and some that I had already asked you. I appreciate the time you took to compile this list, and you can rest assured that I will make good use of it.
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Linda September 13, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Thank you for this point!!!
Someone asks you to review a product or write about a brand or event without mentioning money.

As many of you know, I do PR for a retail brand. I have been doing PR for 16 years. PR is VERY hard in this market because it’s no longer PR. I went to school for journalism and for most of my career I pitched. I sold a story and whatever story came out of my pitch is what we got.

This is a difficult topic to figure out. Because on the brand’s end, the ROI has to be the right fit. That’s where it gets tricky in my opinion.

I love reading the comments and so glad I’m not alone in this.

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Mom101 September 13, 2012 at 7:17 pm

You’re definitely not alone.

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Molly Schneeberg September 16, 2012 at 12:54 am

Love and thoroughly appreciate this post Liz, thank you. As a business owner, I am relatively new to the “mom blogger” world (from the PR side, rather than just as a mom reading the blogs) and I can so relate to the guy who sent you the request to pay for a review. It does feel incredibly complicated, and the desire not to do the wrong thing or offend anyone can create a cautiousness that holds us back entirely…or in the case of this guy (and likely me, although no one has been kind enough to inform me of such) inadvertently doing something even more offensive! Your post made me smile, both in compassion and commiseration. On behalf of business owners I’d like to say thank you for not blasting or outing the biz guy and even more so taking the time to help him understand the right approach and giving him another shot. As a mom I have always valued the information I get from blogs – as a business owner I have a much greater appreciation for all that goes into creating, curating, dissecting and disseminating that information in a way that makes it valuable. Your post helps me understand the blogger / brand relationship much better from “your” perspective and gives us all a chance at navigating this new territory a bit more effectively. And, I must say I am extremely relieved to hear I am not the only one so confused by it all :)

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Mommy Outside September 18, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Thank you for this post! It is incredibly refreshing to see a well though out, and then well written post on this topic. I have seen so many knee jerk reactions translated into childish blog posts lately regarding this subject that it was actually starting to get depressing. We need (and this goes for both sides) to remember to handle ourselves with class and respect and not always be ready to pounce. This is a tricky business and to make it more complicated most of our communicating is done electronically which, as convenient as it may be, is far more likely to result in miscommunication.
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nicole Feliciano September 18, 2012 at 11:56 pm

Thanks for the reminder to be kinder (I’m a poet tonight).
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Dan Greenberg September 19, 2012 at 10:34 am

Hi Liz,
Thanks for writing this! We’re a small, ramen-budget start-up (conXt); and we’ve begun reaching out to bloggers (we submitted to you via Cool Mom Tech and had to restrain ourselves not to submit also at Cool Mom Picks :) ), and hopefully committed none of the errors described above! As a non-PR professional and an entrepreneur who believes so fervently in their product, one thing we found really surprising, not so much in the parenting network but more in the brides/wedding network, is that many bloggers won’t write a review at all without some kind of sponsorship. As entrepreneurs, we of course believe so much in our product that we think everyone should want to evangelize it! Your post, and the comments on it, helped me understand that for many bloggers, their blog is their business, much as our start-up is ours, and different bloggers follow different business models. While we can’t afford the sponsorships, I now understand where these bloggers are coming from!

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Mom101 September 19, 2012 at 10:38 am

That’s really nice to hear Dan, thanks. I will comb through the inbox of doom and try and find your email!

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Dan Greenberg September 20, 2012 at 8:02 am

Thanks Liz!
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Heather - Dollar Store Crafts September 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Thanks for this. I am having one of those “PR people are breaking my heart” weeks this week. And I’m not even an emotional person.
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