Beyond PR

Sep 24, 2012

‘Dear Blogger’ & Other Pitch Mistakes PR Pros Make

“My time is worth something,” said fashion and celebrity blogger Cynthia Smoot, aka @OhSoCynthia, at last week’s Social Media Club of Dallas monthly meeting.

A PR person in the audience had asked the panel if bloggers always expect to get something for free. Every head in the room turned in unison to see who was at the microphone. I think I also heard a gasp from somewhere.

Cynthia took it in stride, lifting her chin with her Oh-So-Cynthia grace and crossing her legs to show the fabulous pair of boots she was recently given for covering a fashion event.

Dallas bloggers: @OhSoCynthia @TexasHolly @FoodBitch @LivingLocurto @Pelpina

Holly Homer, @TexasHolly contributed that they are bloggers, not journalists with a salary and expenses being paid for by a media company. They blog because they are passionate about what they write about and sometimes have a day-job. To cover an event or try a product they have to give of their personal time.

Food critic @FoodBitch works at an advertising agency by day and writes about food by night. She said some PR people have even expected her to pay for entry into their event, even though they invited her to come and cover it for her popular Dallas food blog.

I cringed. We in PR still don’t quite fully comprehend those writers who call themselves bloggers. And yet, our industry is constantly seeking to ‘work with bloggers,’ i.e. get them to promote our stuff to their audiences.

So let’s cover a few basics about working with bloggers that we’ve all heard before, but apparently we need to hear again.

First, a pet peeve, “Dear blogger,” is tops on FoodBitch’s list, as is “Dear _____.” Or how about “Dear Mommy Blogger,” suggested Amy, @LivingLocurto. All the bloggers nodded in agreement. This certainly aligns with the daddy blogger sentiment I wrote about two years ago in a post appropriately titled Don’t Call Us Daddy Bloggers.

Pelpina Tripp, @Pelpina asked that PR pros do their research. Don’t send her pitches if you’ve never seen her work and don’t know what interests her audience. She gets a lot of email. She doesn’t have time for pitches that are not appropriately targeted. Holly added, “If you don’t bother to check out my blog why should I care about your pitch?”

And while we’re on the research subject, Amy begs that if you mention someone in your pitch that you link to somewhere online that explains who they are. “Don’t make me do the research. I don’t want to Google the person you’re talking about.”

Cynthia then mentioned that a huge pet peeve for her are press releases without images to use in her blog or to see the product you’re talking about.

A PR practioner in the audience said, “But a lot of publications don’t accept attachments.”

“Bloggers accept attachments!” responded Cynthia. All the other bloggers agreed emphatically. They need images and only get them in less than 5% of pitches.

A few more suggestions included:

  • Make your pitch interesting for the blogger’s audience you are pitching
  • Write subject lines that capture the attention of who you are targeting
  • Make your email subject line clear about why you are contacting them

If you are a blogger or a PR and would like to add to this, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!

Victoria Harres is Director of Audience Development at PR Newswire, the main voice behind @PRNewswire, social media lead for @Business4Better and a frequent speaker and writer on social media for business. 

17 Comments on Blog Post Title

Niamh Fitz 15:12 EDT on Sep 24, 2012

Reblogged this on Love PR?.

foodbitch 18:21 EDT on Sep 24, 2012

Just wanted to clarify that the instance I spoke about above was the exception, not the rule. I was surprised, in that instance, to get a bill at the end of a media dinner. Usually, the PR pros set expectations clearly, as they should!

Holly Homer from June Cleaver Nirvana 21:38 EDT on Sep 24, 2012

Thanks so much for explaining what we said so well! It was a really fun evening and I learned so much from my fellow bloggers about what they expect and see on a regular basis.

Jeszlene 22:31 EDT on Sep 24, 2012

As a blogger and a PR, I too cringe at the “Dear Blogger,” comment. It’s like pitching a press release to a fashion magazine and addressing it “dear magazine person.” In spite of certain controversies regarding bloggers’ status as journos, good PRs need to pitch professionally (and respectfully), according to tradition media relations etiquette, across all platforms, for consistent positive response. After all your reputation is all you’re worth =)

Victoria Harres 09:41 EDT on Sep 25, 2012

Thanks for the clarification FB! @Holly It was a terrific evening and you guys did a great job! @Jeszlene You are correct. Etiquette is the key as you say!

Thanks all for reading and leaving a comment!

Nancy Nichols 13:12 EDT on Sep 26, 2012

All of you people need to read the FTC rules regarding writing a blog and receiving free anything without full disclosure. Also, if you are in PR and write a blog post about a client without disclosing you are representing that business, it is a violation of FTC guidelines.You are “not journalists with expenses paid by a big media company.” That doesn’t let you off the hook.

Sarah Skerik 13:49 EDT on Sep 26, 2012

Hi Nancy – thanks for the comment, and the link to the post and ensuing discussion on Sidedish. The bloggers quoted in our recap appear to be fully aware of and in compliance with FTC guideliness — see @OhSoCynthia’s editorial policy, and @TexasHolly’s disclosure. The situation described in the Sidedish post is repellant, and an example of someone doing it wrong (though I was glad to see she at least made it right with the restaurant.) There are plenty of good apples to be found among bloggers. It’s unfortunate, however, that folks with questionable ethics persist, ruining experiences for innocent bystanders, and creating problems for bloggers who are on the up-and-up.

Victoria Harres 13:54 EDT on Sep 26, 2012

Nancy – Thanks for reading the blog and the comment! Actually FTC regulations was discussed during the panel. It’s something that all are very aware of and know to disclose. I had read your article yesterday actually and cringed at the details you describe.

Nancy Nichols 16:04 EDT on Sep 26, 2012

I think you missed some of the FTC guidlines: “2. The definition of “disclosure” is more specific. It’s not enough to make a general disclosure on your About page anymore. The discloser must be contained in the post itself. “So long as the disclosure clearly and conspicuously conveys to the reader the relationship between the blogger and the advertiser, the disclosure will be adequate,” states the article. That means you can write something as simple as, “Company ABC gave me this product to review” and you’re done.

And, it’s not enough to disclose the relationship just on your blog post. If you tweet about your post, or you tweet about a product for which you have been compensated, Sack suggests you add #paid ad, #paid or #ad at the end. I can’t say as I’ve seen any of those monikers yet, including during presentations at IACP from marketers who want to work with food bloggers. I have seen #spon, though.”

Adriana Glass 14:21 EDT on Sep 27, 2012

This is exactly what I just blogged about, it’s great to see these bloggers relate the same experiences. Also, great point about the difference between a publication employed journalist and blogger, there are intrinsic differences which PRs must be sensitive to if they want any kind of relationship – and that goes back to research, research research. Great post!

Victoria Harres 17:07 EDT on Sep 27, 2012

Thanks Nancy for the reminder that we should all revisit the FTC guidelines. I found this terrific video on the FTC site that informs bloggers on what’s expected:

– – Vicky

Chris 17:13 EDT on Sep 27, 2012

I found this statement interesting. “Holly Homer, @TexasHolly contributed that they are bloggers, not journalists with a salary and expenses being paid for by a media company. They blog because they are passionate about what they write about and sometimes have a day-job. To cover an event or try a product they have to give of their personal time.”

That is called a hobby. Nice work if you can get someone to pay for your hobby. Just because you choose to give your time doesn’t make you entitled to receive payment for it. It is a commercial transaction. If I “hire you” (by comping your attendance at an event, for example), then it is up to you to disclose that you have been hired. I also have an expectation of what I am actually getting for what I have spent. If it is, “I won’t write nasty things about you”, that is a protection racket and you should contact your local branch of the mafia, they do it so much better. I don’t intend to accuse anyone mentioned in the article of this kind of shakedown, but I have heard of such behavior.

Amy S 19:19 EDT on Sep 27, 2012

I am a blogger. I am an accountant. I am a restaurant owner. I am also mentioned in Nancy’s original post about this issue. Before this person walked into our restaurant and said she wanted to come to the dinner, we had never seen her. There was no discussion of PR comps, because we don’t have them for these elite dinners. None of this would have been written about had Nancy not been in attendance that night. But it was so extraordinary, so intrusive, so overwhelming that as owners my husband and I felt that the truth of what she witnessed that evening was for her to tell. I spent the evening torn between what Nancy would write (and reminding myself it could have been some other critic that witnessed it), and what other guests that evening who paid $80 per person might say about this person’s behavior.

Amy S 20:01 EDT on Sep 27, 2012

I need to add one thing, because I think it is pertinent to Nancy’s story about this incident. When presented with the bill, this blogger did in fact tell our manager than she thought it was a comp. It may have been a misunderstanding on her part, but I know we did not communicate to her, at any time, that her dinner would be on the house.

Sarah Skerik 09:39 EDT on Sep 28, 2012

Amy – thanks for sharing your experience about the unknown blogger and ensuing assumptions and/or misunderstandings. We can all learn from those situation – bloggers on how to comport themselves, and business owners on how to protect themselves. I know I’m not the only one who appreciates the discussion!

Yolanda 16:03 EDT on Sep 28, 2012

Some of the replies here are …just wow. You are the ones that end up in my “never write about” folder. Here’s the thing- are there bad apples out there? Sure, just like everywhere else. However, most of us are pretty good and have worked hard to grow an audience. An audience, that seemingly you PR reps want.

Bloggers work for themselves. We have to report income and products (yes- that $20 item that cost like $1 to make? we get taxed full MSRP) and whatever else. As far as FTC, us that do this as a serious living have plenty of disclosures and everywhere that is necessary. Media is changing- and one thing you are very wrong about journalists not getting paid. Sure YOU don’t pay them… but someone does. You think a professional journalist would write an article about you if their outlet didn’t compensate them (in some form) to? Ha.

I invite you to read this: maybe some of you will learn how to work with bloggers better….otherwise, well, good luck to your clients. They’ll need it.

charr 19:05 EST on Feb 7, 2013

cant believe the entitlement. lets get this straight. youre a blogger because you think you have a valid opinion on a specific topic, that seems to generate interest in a community. as a result, companies want to make you and your audience aware of their product. if its organic promotion, great. in most cases, its not. some companies will pay you to write about them, whether in cash or trade. others, hope that you like their product enough to give it a mention. at some point this will become you feeling like you deserve payment in exchange for promotion, which totally kills your argument about ‘passion’. i mean its fine. it is a business after all. but dont go on like its all about the time/passion/authenticity, when really you just want free shit, free entry and internet fame.

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