Okay, so this isn’t exactly a letter. I’m taking a little artistic license here to make a point. Some bloggers blog for fun. Some bloggers blog to make money. Many (myself included) do it for both.
I’ve been professionally blogging for a little over a year now (unprofessionally for about 10) and I don’t think a single day goes by that I don’t hear a fellow blogger complain about horrible treatment from a business owner or PR rep. I’m really just talking about verbal abuse here. Insulting emails that do nothing except create loads of negativity.
Now, I’m not using this post to bash PR agencies. Quite the opposite in fact. I have a ton of friends who work in PR. They’re good people! I also work with oodles of different reps all the time on my blog. Some are for reviews, some are sponsored posts, and still others are fun traffic-building giveaways. Just like all us humans, these PR reps come in all shapes and sizes. Some are an absolute pleasure to work with, while others aren’t fit to be called human.
I think part of the biggest problem is miscommunication and more importantly, misinformation.
I’m in a rather unique position myself, as I used to run a company (a social shopping site called JoeShopping.com) and worked closely with many bloggers for promotion. I learned the hard way how not to deal with bloggers. And now I’m on the other side of the fence, blogging.
Blogs are Not Charity
I was recently having a discussion with a friend of mine who’s been a writer for years and now works at a well-established PR agency. I was trying to impress upon him the true value of a sponsored post from a blogger. He understood but just had a real hard time paying for PR. “PR should be free,” he said.
Sorry, but when it comes to blogs, that’s just not true.
I’ve worked in magazines and on content websites. Will they publish articles and stories solely because they were asked to? Possibly. The key difference between a magazine or news site and a blog is: circulation. Magazines make money. It’s a business. They either charge for subscriptions, advertising or both. Blogs, on the other hand, generally don’t charge their readers. Sure they put up ads, but honestly, unless you’re one of the biggest blogs in the world, you’re not making big bucks from those.
No, if a blogger’s looking to monetize their blog, it’s all about sponsored posts. Just because you’ve put together a spiffy email and sent it to them, doesn’t mean they have to write about it out of the goodness of their heart.
Forget about the fact that it takes time and effort to actually formulate a blog post. Basically you’re asking a blogger to give you free advertising and free marketing for your product.
Will it ever work? Absolutely. I’ve published articles before without getting paid for them. If it’s something I strongly believe in or think is just too darn cool or hysterical, I’ll share it. But that doesn’t mean you should act shocked and disgusted when a blogger writes back to you with their rates.
If you’re not up for sponsored posts, that’s fine. But don’t insult a blogger by throwing back emails at them along the snarky lines of, “Sorry, but we’re not in the game of buying coverage.” Or my favorite phrase of late from PR reps, “We don’t pay to play.”
Just say you don’t have a budget or you’re not interested.
Free Content Isn’t Free
So many of the pitches I get include something along the lines of, “I think your readers would truly love this information. We’ve even put together an article for you to share. We can supply you with high-quality images too. And it’s all free!”
I’m not even joking. Some PR reps have spun “free images” as if they’re giving bloggers the most valuable online tool ever.
That’s just not how it works either. I may not be paying any money for that content, but I’m giving up potential advertising dollars by putting it up for free. I’m also taking time to format the post and get it up on my site.
There’s also the fact that if a PR rep is sending me a pre-written article to put up, I’m fairly certain they’ve sent it to loads of other bloggers as well. Which means the same exact content can be showing up on tons of different blogs. When it comes to the almighty Google, that’s known as “duplicate content,” and can end up doing more harm than good.
So again, PR folks, don’t be shocked when a blogger ask if you have a paid placement budget for your content. And certainly don’t try to spin your “free article” as if you’re doing us a huge favor.
I can’t tell you how many pitches I get regularly from PR reps who claim they’re “big fans” of my blog or they’ve “been reading for a long time and absolutely love it!” If it’s true, that’s awesome and honestly, I’d be more inclined to work with them.
But most emails are just form letters with my name and blog name filled in… if that. I’ve gotten form emails with the phrase “BLOG NAME HERE” in the email itself. (I should really go buy blognamehere.com) Do yourself a favor and at least take two or three minutes to actually read the blog you’re interested in working with.
Just the other day I received a pitch from someone looking to do a giveaway for a breast health supplement. It included my name and other detailed info, so she clearly took some time looking around my blog. Yet, she thought I was a woman, as she mentioned she’d even get me some of the product to try for myself.
I know I need to lose a little bit of weight, but I don’t think my man boobs (moobs?) need any extra attention, thank you very much. Yes, I know men can get breast cancer, but this specific product is 100% targeted and made for women.
Sure, the word “mommy” is in my blog name, but so is daddy. Not to mention my name is Andrew (not Andrea) and there are a few photos of me in my header and sidebar alone. Oh yeah, plus just a quick glance at my About Me section would tip you off by the words “daddy blogger.” Just saying.
My point is, if she took the time to learn my site and spin her email in a much more personalized manner (“I can provide you with a sample product for your wife to try out”), I would’ve at least been more inclined to respond to her and keep a conversation going.
Chances are, PR reps are sending out dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of these emails, so they’re hoping a few bloggers will just jump at them. But if they slowed down and spent just a few minutes with a dozen or two of these blogs, they’d start forging a much stronger relationship with bloggers and vastly increase their chances of some excellent coverage.
The Big Secret
Okay, one final point here for you PR reps out there. I’m going to let you in on a big secret. A huge, monumental reveal. Are you ready?
Bloggers… talk to each other. Gasp! No, it’s true. If you insult or piss off one blogger, do you think they’re going to just sit quietly and pout? Uh uh. Bloggers share embarrassing photos of themselves and their kids. They love airing their dirty laundry for the whole world to see. Do you think they’re just going to let your PR faux pas pass without any retribution?
I belong to a handful of mommy and daddy blogger groups out there. Some are small Facebook Groups, others are huge message boards. Bloggers share everything. TMI is a fantasy in this world. They most definitely refer other bloggers to PR reps they like and you better believe they also share huge warning signs/red flags when companies or PR reps screw them over.
So if you ever think, “Ah, it’s just one blogger. Who cares if I piss them off?”, you clearly do not understand what blogging is all about. Relationships.
You want to build a huge army of bloggers to promote your clients or products? Awesome! Then just treat them as individual human beings. Reach out to them in a personal manner. Get to know them as people and respect what they do. You might be surprised at how far a blogger is willing to go for your client when you treat them right.
I guess you could say the blogging industry as a whole needs a good PR rep. Anyone know where I can find one?