This is one of my favourite posts from the first iteration of this blog. It received a lot of engagement. I’ve modified it slightly.
Originally posted 2013-10-01
With many years of blogging, I 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’ts, of pitching and beyond for anyone pitching bloggers.
1. Do: Read their blog
Please read some posts to get a sense of the 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. I’ve had people get my name wrong and make reference to something nonexistent in my blog, which made me think that the invitation was meant for someone else.
2. Do: Read their “about” page.
Things to check for: Location, guidelines, things that the blogger will and won’t blog about, etc.
Bloggers, make this easy on the people pitching you by providing information about you and your blog.
- Information about you and your blog could include home base (I was once sent an invitation to an event in Vancouver, then realized that I hadn’t specified that I’m Toronto-based), reader demographics (optional, I’ve never done it, but could be helpful), mission statement.
- Pitching guidelines – how to pitch, and what. Be clear on the types of products and pitches that you will and won’t accept, especially things that you will absolutely refused. State potential conflicts of interest.
I sometimes accept things out of my usual scope but there are certain things I always refuse.
3. Do: 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 was sent to an old work place, someone whom the package wasn’t addressed to opened it and the PR company was phoned and questioned.
4. Do: Assign one or two agents to communicate, 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. Do:Offer a clear call to action
I don’t mind media releases but tend to skim and delete them. What do you want from me?
6. Do: Check their social media engagement
I believe that comments on a blog don’t tell the whole story. Some blogs have disabled comments because they found they got better engagement on social media and, for the bigger blogs, moderating comments took up valuable time.
People comment on my blog posts via Twitter and Facebook and in person. My Klout score is 63 with a high of 64.1 in the last 3 months (Klout measures influence across social media and brands with influencers). It appears that more people read my tweets on a regular basis than my blog, and people retweet, extending reach.
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 I can cross post to other social media platforms.
7. Do: Supply information in a timely manner
Be accessible. If we have questions answer them asap. If you can’t, get someone who can.
8. Do: 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. Don’t: Send too many emails. Don’t sound desperate.
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. Don’t: 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. Don’t: 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, unless you’re willing to reveal it when asked.
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 learned 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. Maybe you don’t think I’ll like it so you fear asking permission. Perhaps you think that I won’t think I’ll like it, but that after I try it anyway it will be my favourite thing ever.
Why this is a don’t in my opinion:
- My mailing address is my home. 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 use the front door on a regular basis. Therefore, I need to know when I’m expecting anything that won’t fit in the mailbox. I used to have packages sent to my office when I had one. That was fun because my colleagues would gather ’round and ooh and ah.
- I’m conscious of the environment and your client’s budget. I don’t want packaging wasted on me for something I won’t use and I don’t think that it’s an efficient use of your client’s budget. By declining your product I’m not implying that said product isn’t good, it means that I don’t want it. It’s rather presumptuous to think I do. There are other bloggers I can refer you to who will take it if it’s not a good fit for me or my blog. This also links back to point #1, knowing your blogger.
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 began begging people to take her extra swag. 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. My favourites from her list: Ultra-sonic toothbrushes, tea (which I’d forget to drink), high end sipping tequila in bottles so big that she had to put 5 “u”s in “huge”. That doesn’t include the food items and gadgets in the kitchen.
Not that she or I are complaining about the gesture – there are worse problems to have – but think about the clutter, the environment and the expense. At least I don’t live in a little shoebox apartment in Manhattan.
12. Don’t: Obligate the blogger to make the blogger 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.