An Open Letter to PR: There’s a Right Way to Work With Bloggers

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PR-bloggers

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.

The horrors!

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.

Don’t Lie

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.

Hear no ear hair

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?

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32 thoughts on “An Open Letter to PR: There’s a Right Way to Work With Bloggers

  1. I agree with a lot, since I’ve been on both sides of the fence too. Even when I worked in PR, I knew my press release had a better chance of being printed or getting an interview if I had paid for an ad in that magazine that year! So don’t BS about pay for play. If I have a relationship with a PR person and I have free space, I am more apt to put up some press or my spin on press. But I can’t do that for every press piece, because then my site would have no funds to keep me running. And yes, some things are so awesome and fun I post about it because it relates to me. But those pitches are far and few in between the mass emails using the wrong name or wrong blog name.

  2. Great post Andrew, or should I say Andrea? LOL!

    I agree with everything you said 100%.

    It irks me to get those generic pitches with my name added after the fact and a single line about my blog that was clearly written AFTER the pitch because it’s a different font and/or font size. Apparently they think I’m stupid and don’t realize that I KNOW my info. was added in, just like hundreds of others that the pitch went to. Sigh… And I get plenty of those “Insert Blog Name Here” pitches too.

    I’m with you. If I have a great relationship with a PR person I’m happy to post content for free if I feel it’s something my readers might enjoy, entertaining or something I feel strongly about. Sadly I get dozens of pitches every day about a contest a company is having, a sale, this and that and then they have the nerve to say “Send me a link when it’s posted”. Huh? Are they serious? Then when you DON’T post it or reply they send you a follow up e-mail (or in some cases several follow up e-mails) wanting to know when you are going to post about it. Ugh!

    I blog for both fun and for income. I treat my blog like a business. I wish all PR people would see is that way too. Most do but there are a few out there (maybe they are “newbies”?) who seem clueless and don’t see us as real people.

    This is a great post. :-)
    Kimberly recently posted..Movie Review: As High As The SkyMy Profile

    • Hah! I forgot about that, Kimberly! Yeah I always crack up when my name and blog name are in a completely (and obvious) different font!!! Hah.

  3. Great article, Andrew! So spot on. As the social media world continues to grow, I think brands will have to evolve and grow too. They haven’t actually had time to catch up with all of this but they’re going to need to to stay in the game. In the meantime, a few bad PR reps are making a bad name for the brands they work for.
    Dawn recently posted..5 Fun Recipes That Will Delight Your Entire FamilyMy Profile

  4. Great article, Andrew! I usually just ignore press releases or offers to give me hi-res images to share on my blog for “free”, and if I do respond with rates I’ve never received a response back. I have been fortunate to work with amazing PR reps. Thanks to articles like this, hopefully I’ll never have to deal with bad PR. And one of my pet peeves is the generic canned pitch where it’s obvious they did not check my site out. Just scan over a blog’s front page and click on their “About Me” section… it’s that easy. :)
    Donna recently posted..Your Man Can Stay Cool during Warm Weather in a Soft CoatMy Profile

    • Exactly, Donna. I don’t expect PR to spend hours researching every single blogger and site. I do a lot of blogger outreach for my day job and at the very least, I try to scan the About Me to get their name and a little bit of their personality so I can include even just a few words or a sentence in my otherwise standard pitch.

  5. Blognamehere.com – haha

    You are so right about RELATIONSHIPS! I, too, might post something for free if I really believe in it, or if I already have a good relationship with the rep. But even with all other factors left out of the equation, if I posted everything that gets sent to me, my site would be nothing but one big ad – and mostly for stuff I don’t know much about, don’t especially care about, and from companies that don’t care about ME. Not only is there no value for ME in that, but then the site would have no value for the readers, and the exposure would have little value for the people who want their content posted.
    Rachel R. recently posted..10 Pet PeevesMy Profile

  6. Andrew, occasionally, I do post for free when I don’t have the time and energy to cook, photograph and write. However, they have to treat me like a valued partner and the content has to be quality, a good fit for my blog, and of value to my readership. It’s all about building a relationship.
    Anne-Marie @ This Mama Cooks! On a Diet recently posted..Dairy Free Key Lime MousseMy Profile

  7. “I think part of the biggest problem is miscommunication and more importantly, misinformation.” This is such a HUGE part. More and more PR are including blogs in their efforts, but without fully understanding what a blog is first. We aren’t a traditional news outlet. We don’t sell advertising the same way a magazine does. etc. Even saying ‘Hi there, I’m not sure how you run your sponsored posts, but we might be interested in a partnership. Could you send over a media kit or some info?” would go a long way. We might still turn down the offer, but it wouldn’t be half as insulting.
    Kenda Smith recently posted..FED UP: The Movie Everyone Should Watch – What if the people you were told to trust are in on the lie?My Profile

    • Exactly my point, Kenda. I often write back to PR with my rates and sure 75% are ignored. Some come back saying it’s too high, and others go the insult route of “Are you serious? I pay 1/3 that to bloggers with a PR1 and they’re happy to do it.”

      I guess respect is the key word here. And understanding.

  8. You are right, there is alot of miscommunication on both sides. I dont think many companies know how time consuming it is to come up with blog posts. I know its same on the other side with bloggers expecting more for their time. I did blogging for a while, I could not continue it very long. I have a huge appreciation for the work that goes into it. I love your blog! Thanks for sharing the posts and the hard work you do.

    • Right?!? I mean I know bloggers talk to each other, but man, after spending some time in some forums and FB groups and especially after hanging out with a few dozen bloggers on a Disney trip for a few days, I now realize just how much they share!

  9. Andrew, you have a way with words :)

    I turned down working with a network this last week that pays well when I saw a list of complaints about the specific contact reaching out to me, and difficulty other bloggers have had with her. I figure is someone else from that company contacts me, great, but I won’t work with this specific rep after bad word of mouth as a result of her mistreating other bloggers was out there. And I told her se, politely :) I’m hoping it helps her, and hopefully she realizes she should treat those she currently works with in a more honest and professional manner.
    Penelope recently posted..Share An Ode To Mothers + Help MetLife Donate $50,000 To Dress For Success #MoemMy Profile

    • Thanks, Penelope! :) And your scenario is 100% exactly what I’m talking about. A little courtesy and respect goes a very long way when it comes to bloggers. On the flip side of what you said, I’d be willing to write up posts at a lower rate than normal if it’s with somebody who came highly recommended from another blogger and who does treat me right, even if the pay is lower.

  10. This is so true. I also think they forget that bloggers are also consumers, so when they poorly represent that brand it has the opposite effect of what they were aiming to achieve. As you mentioned bloggers talk, and we also blog.

    I actually never post for free out of principle, but everyone is different.
    lisa recently posted..Welcome!My Profile

  11. I have been on both sides of the fence. Can’t tell you how many bloggers hit me up for cash or swag by promising to be very influential but couldn’t provide me with any of the data I needed to demonstrate to my client that the blogger should be included in the campaign.

    I can’t recommend you based solely upon your assertion you reach lots of parents and that your readers respect your opinion.
    Jack recently posted..Are You Burnt Out On Blogging?My Profile

  12. Hi Andrew. The fact that the one PR agency you mentioned is still using PageRank is a dead giveaway that they’re clueless. PageRank is meaningless. MozRank and Moz DA/PA are the savvy ways to judge. Okay, back to the main topic – I think a lot of agencies just treat every blog like a new skinny, scrub blog, and that’s more proof that they’re clueless. No, my dear agencies, some of us have traffic to speak of, decent MozRank, MozTrust, DA, etc. Loads of them reading this probably think I’m speaking Greek. No, my dear agencies, I am speaking English, I’m just speaking the digital language you weren’t taught in college. Do new, low-quality scrub blogs exist? Yes, sadly. But that’s no reason for PR girls and guys to lump us in that boat wholesale. There are too many agencies who are digital laggards and as Gini Dietrich (highly respected agency guru) and others have said, these agencies, large, small or in-between, are destined to die if they don’t learn/evolve.

  13. It’s crazy how people don’t realize that a little attention to detail can go a long way. Great post!

  14. You said it best. There are so many Fabulous PR Reps out there that really get it and there are so many that are clueless. “Free images” Oh my such a bonus. I usually delete those but if I have established a relationship with a PR Rep and we’ve worked together on posts before I occasional give a little to get a little and there have been many times the little has turned into bonus that I was surprised to received.

    the bottom line is treat people with respect and you get respect. Love your article Andrew

    and “moobs” Lmao that was funny
    Tricia Nightowlmama recently posted..10 Tips For Dealing with Allergies! VISINE-A for Eye Allergy Relief #EyesonVISINEMy Profile

  15. I am not a blogger but a reader- and I mean I read a TON of blogs. You can tell when someone in PR has made a pitch and the blogger posts it- it isnt ‘them’ the writing has no personality or character . In fact I might see the same exact posts across several blogs !

    • Ellen, you’re a professional blog reader and commentor in my mind! :) Appreciate all your comments! And yeah, you can absolutely tell when bloggers do that. And there’s nothing wrong with blogs who do that, it’s just not something I’m going to do. Also, as you put it, you can pretty much tell it’s a copy and paste job, which probably doesn’t get you too excited about the product or event at all, right?

  16. I have one of those little unimportant blogs, and I was still included in the Chevy Girls campaign a few years ago. It obvious that not all PR people are looking at the same things to qualify people for campaigns. I’ve looked at campaigns which were offering bloggers very little value, but they still wanted LOTS of page views, etc. I don’t do a lot of the stuff everyone churns out because everyone is churning it out and I don’t want to end up being ‘just another cog in the machine’. There are lots of blogs I enjoy where they all start the same campaign on the same day.

    Honestly, it was tempting for me, especially when blog giveaways first started, to get ridiculously competitive and want to do ALL the giveaways. I had to step back and remember why I started my blog – to journal my travels, talk about things I enjoy, and save a few memories. It’s morphed a lot along the way.

    Even with a blog which isn’t full of paid posts, giveaways, etc. I get some of those emails. They love my blog and are huge fans for however long? But they have never commented or communicated with me in any way? That’s odd.

  17. Spot on, friend, spot on! I am so insulted when they try to pawn off their “hi-res” images as gold.

    I get emails weekly from reps wanting exposure on my old blog that I haven’t written on in a year and they all say that they’ve been a reader for a long time. I hate lying online, offline, always but especially when someone is trying to get something from me.

    I hope a lot of reps read this and are encouraged to built relationships instead of just pushing their content. A little kindness goes a long way.

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