I wanted to call this “50 ways to love your blogger” without listing 50 but I didn’t know if “50” would scare people off. This is 15 including sub-points.
I’ve had this blog since 2008 and get pitched by PR companies regularly. I’ve worked with a bunch of these agencies, some that I liked, some that I didn’t. There are about 3 that I really like to work with.
Here are some do’s and don’t, of pitching and beyond.
1. Read their blog
Sounds obvious, but I’ve gotten some pitches that seemed to be from people who had never read my blog before. “Spray and pray” rarely works.
2. Read their “about” page.
Things to check for: Location, guidelines, things that the blogger will and won’t blog about, etc.
This responsibility involves the blogger playing their part too: Bloggers should provide this information, being clear on what types of product and pitches they’ll accept and what they won’t. I sometimes accept things out of my usual scope but there are certain things I refuse and I’ve listed those.
3. If you’ve got an established relationship, confirm information anyway.
If you’ve already got a relationship with a blogger and have sent them stuff in the mail before, confirm their mailing address. People move. I once had an awkward situation when something that I wasn’t expecting (see #11 below) was sent to the wrong place, someone who the package wasn’t addressed to opened it and the PR company was phoned and questioned.
4. Assign one or two agents to communication, no more
Sometimes I wonder if the left hand knows what the right is doing. I’m all for teamwork, but it starts to look scattered. (also see #10 below)
5. Offer a call to action
I don’t mind media releases but tend to skim and delete them.
6. Check their social media engagement
I believe that comments on a blog don’t tell the whole story. People comment on my blog posts via Twitter and Facebook and in person. You won’t know all that by looking at my social media obviously (I have a Facebook page for this blog but don’t use it) but it’s still useful to look into my story. My Klout score is 62 with a high of 63.57 in the last 3 months. (FYI, Ina Garten’s is 63.) I think that more people read my tweets on a regular basis than my blog, and people retweet, extending reach. I have a theory that many people prefer reading social media to reading blogs. Reading 140 characters takes less time than reading a blog post. I’ll examine that some time in my other blog.
Also, sometimes I go to an event and tweet the heck out of it but then find no place for it in my blog. The tweets are still a valid promotional tool, especially in conjunction with Instagram, which pushes to Twitter, Facebook and sometimes Flickr.
7. Supply information in a timely manner
Be accessible. If we have questions answer them asap. If you can’t, get someone who can.
8. Maintain relationships
This goes for blogger and PR agency. Don’t just contact me when you want something. One of my favourite agencies is run by a woman that I consider a colleague because she interacts with her bloggers on Twitter on a regular basis. This is also Networking 101.
9. Send too many emails
We get it. You’re enthusiastic. You want to follow up. However, I know some bloggers who get dozens of pitches a day. If you email me and I don’t respond it’s possible that it’s gotten lost in the pile, or I’m not interested, or I’ve forgotten. Feel free to follow up, but only do it so many times. Twice should suffice.
10. Have multiple people in your agency send the same email
It looks unprofessional, again, like one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.
11. Be secretive or play games
Don’t email me about a “secret” campaign, a “private” client, or a “surprise gift” that you want to send me. A while back I had a multi-email exchange with a PR company about a “secret new product” that they wanted to send me. They were emailing me for my mailing address. Not to offer the product, not to pitch, but for my mailing address. When I asked about the product I got shipping dimensions. I eventually found out what they wanted to send me, after I pressed them for product literature, and it wasn’t something that I’d want. To me this suggests that perhaps you’re not confident in your product or your ability to sell it. Do you think I won’t like it so you’d rather ask for forgiveness than permission? Or maybe you’re thinking, “It’s not part of her scope and so she’ll probably say no but when she sees it she’ll fall in love with it.” I do sometimes like surprises but err on the side of caution.
Things that are wrong with this:
- My mailing address is my home and so appearing stalker-ish is just one risk. I live above a business on a major street. No doorman, no buzzer. There is no safe place out front to leave stuff and I occasionally wonder if my regular mail will get stolen. I don’t even use the front door on a regular basis. Thus, I need to know when I’m expecting mail. I used to have stuff sent to my office when I had one, and that was fun because my colleagues would gather ’round and ooh and ah.
- I’m conscious of the environment and money. I don’t want packaging wasted on me for something I won’t use and I don’t think it’s fair to spend a client’s money on a blogger who doesn’t want their product. It doesn’t mean that your product isn’t good (maybe it’s not, maybe it is), it means that I don’t want it. It’s rather presumptuous to think I do. There are other bloggers I can point you to who will take it.
- The clutter factor.
Writer/blogger Stephanie Dickison addressed this last one in her book The 30-Second Commute: A Non-Fiction Comedy about Writing and Working From Home. After four months of writing her product review blog she started receiving a couple packages a week. Then she was getting so much that she needed to beg people to take her extra swag but after awhile they didn’t want it either.
It got to the point where I had piles of boxes teetering behind our bedroom door and was constantly rearranging them. Currently the linen trunk at the foot of our bed houses some of the products, along with spillover still left behind the door…. There is more where a shelf of CDs use to be….
She also lists an inventory of products “lurking behind the door” at the time of writing. I counted 44. That doesn’t include the food items and gadgets in the kitchen.
Not that she or I are complaining about the gesture but think about the clutter, the environment and the expense. At least I don’t live in a little New York shoebox apartment.
12. Make the blogger feel obligated to write about the product or event
A colleague that I respect that also runs an online magazine once gave me this random, unsolicited piece of advice at an event: “Never feel obligated to write about it.” In my experience we usually will (or tweet it – see #6) but there are reasons I won’t: It wasn’t what I expected. I don’t see what I can add that the other dozen bloggers at your event haven’t written already. I don’t like your product and don’t want to be negative. You didn’t supply me with the information I asked for. And so forth.
- Dave Fleet has a page of “pitching tips” on his website. He’s also got a post called Blogger Relations – You’re Doing it Wrong that I’ve commented on a few times. He posted it in August and this topic has been on my list of things to write about since.
- My friend Eden wrote an article called Ten tips to help you get the most out of working with brands for the Food Bloggers of Canada website. I’m mentioned a few times.
What do you think? Weigh in below.