September 21, 2011

How not to treat bloggers and how not to pitch blogs

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_mbX7X5qGMrM/TTROLWnEGzI/AAAAAAAAAHc/t-wh7qZsGVU/s1600/angry-blogger-300x251.jpgChris AbrahamLast week, I talked about how blogger outreach is scary, and I talked about why this fear exists for most people before they start talking to bloggers. In great measure, these fears exist because of the horror stories that have resulted from wrong-headed approaches.

In the five years that we’ve been reaching out to bloggers, we’ve learned just as much about how not to pitch as we’ve learned about the right ways. The main thing to keep in mind is how you feel when you are on the receiving end of a misguided PR pitch. If you just stick with that mindset, you’ll avoid the lion’s share of pitching mistakes.

I have been getting pitches for my blog, Because the Medium is the Message, since 2004 or so. Now, Marketing Conversation gets loads of pitches as well. Some of the insulting things that abuse me to no end include sending your pitch to “Dear Blogger,” or to “Abraham” when my name is Chris Abraham and my partner’s name is Mark Harrison and there is no one named “Abraham Harrison” in my company. I can generally tell when a compliment is hollow: they’re either too general or way too recent and specific. It is very easy for even the least sophisticated of my fellow bloggers to sense sucking up or kissing up, especially if you haven’t done any homework or any research at all.

Also, if you don’t have your formatting sorted and it looks like you obviously copied and pasted back and forth and I can make out weird spacing and a strange mixture of fonts and sizes, I can tell you’re probably cutting corners and doing things carelessly and without concern for how I will perceive it — as though half-assed is all I am worth since I am not a Mashable or TechCrunch. People don’t like it when they can obviously tell that you’re going through the motions until something else better comes along. Bloggers will always call you out if they sense you’re just calling it in.

No, I also don’t blame the agents too much. They’re often understaffed, juggling too many balls, have insufficient experience, or lack technological skills and are just doing their best. The agencies are why these agents are oftentimes coming up short. And, at the end of the day, many agencies have given up on earned media because earned media can be risky and it can oftentimes be an all or nothing venture. Outreach failure is easily possible when there is very little cultural awareness and understanding of how best to appeal to these thousands and thousands of very real people who wield very real power and influence over popular consensus and perception.

A meaningful PR campaign is not about link-farming

Don’t come away from this article thinking that you need to hire me or Socialmedia.biz to get some of that white-hat link-farming SEO love. Let me warn you: it doesn’t work unless you spend a lot of time, money, energy and creativity to actually put together a plausible and meaningful PR campaign.

Bloggers did not fall of a turnip truck. If they don’t see the value in the pitch, they won’t post. If they fancy that you’re just asking them to post because you want to vampire bat on their Google juice, then you’re likely to be in a whole lot of #fail and possibly a whole lot of pain. The white-hat link-farm organic SEO pwn effect is only secondary if you are, the entire way along, a total Mensch and have amazing assets, viral-quality video, a great pitch, an accurate target, and a gentle, kind and generous follow-through.

It is sort of like dating. You need to remain present during the entire date and not even get angry or resentful — or hostile — if you are not invited upstairs for a night cap. If you’re caught just calling it in and going through the motions, just being on the date because you’re hoping to get lucky at the end of the night, you’re likely to end up either hurting someone else’s feelings or destroying your reputation. Enjoy the company, enjoy the date, enjoy the diversion, enjoy the desert, enjoy the wine, enjoy the walk in the park, enjoy the play, enjoy the coffee, and then be surprised and appreciative when and if you’re invited upstairs for a night cap.

If you are truly present in blogger outreach, and what you do is driven by what’s good for the blogger as well as what’s good for you, you might be pleased with the results.

Via BiznologyChris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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  • Craig Kessler

    Hey Chris,

    Long time reader (although have not left a comment in a real long time). I respect your post on pitching and as someone who performs blogger outreach on a regular basis I appreciate the feedback. Many different bloggers give their opinions and sometimes they are similar in this approach or vary. For instance, the “sucking up” that you seem to not like, is often highly accepted by others. Of course everyone is different. Also every niche is different, what they want is different, how they want it is different. Like you mention, people are always understaffed, overworked, and mistakes can happen. I myself have made some of these mistakes and am learning from them.

    It's great to continue the conversation and learn, and as a PR guy who does blogger outreach, I always prefer to speak with my close contacts to learn from them and how I can be better. Bloggers or traditional journalists may receive hundreds of emails a day, and the truth is sometimes the generic approach could work and some people prefer it. Again, everyone is different.

    I don't necessarily think bloggers should attack or go out of their way to hurt individuals if they get a bad pitch, they can simply click delete. Sometimes blogger could also care less about the story, and it's more about “what's in it for me?” in terms of compensation, prizing, or opportunities. As an A-list marketing blogger like yourself, I don't believe you fall into this category (or at least from what I can tell over the course of my reading your blog). A great follow-up article could be “How Bloggers and PR Reps can Better Work Together and Build Relationships” which would be helpful for both sides. As someone on the younger side myself and looking to grow my experience, skills, and career, I look to you and others for guidance. I thank you for the great content from your experience and would love any recommendations of books, online courses, etc. to further learn.

    • kylelacy

      I agree with Craig on the deleting part.

      The PR, Blogging, and digital world must get better at working together. For some reason.. we still have a hold between the two industries.

      • cabraham

        The hold is because the PR world and the Blogger world have a relationship like the relationship between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials: neither understand the other. The PR folks, like the Boomers, feel like the Bloggers/Millennials are “entitled” and need to respect their superiors more — “don't they know they can't be VP right out of college” — and the bloggers actually have no age or position-based respect for the PR industry, don't actually want to be journalists, don't care or respect the concept of embargo, and want to make the magic shortcut from college to VP without following the Boomers' anachronistic requirements for engagement. So, the reason is because most Bloggers act like dicks because most PR people act entitled as well. There is a communications problem that we at Abraham Harrison has sorted out by virtual of being over-nice all the time to everyone no matter what they can do to or for me, for us, for our clients.

    • cabraham

      Hey, sorry for the delay, Craig. Well, sucking up is fine! I love it. I think you misunderstand me. It is like anything else: if I even remotely believe that you're authentically kissing up because you actually are a reader (and just don't say do — as in “long time reader,” when it is not true). And we also really want to believe you like we want to believe that all orgasms and compliments are real as well.

      What I mean is when they're patently untrue and there's not the time, energy, or care to make it seem like it could be really true and authentic. So, kissing up is fine but being lazy, being careless, being disrespectful, and cutting corners is what it is all about.

      And assuming that just because we're not A-listers we deserve cut-corners. And, the more work you put in towards reaching out to each blogger, the more time you've wasted either in the outreach or the comment by only going 80% and not going 100%…

      Imaging all the ten-minute increments you toss out when you do all sort of nasty cut-and-paste and the fonts are mixed up and the name is wrong or the topic is mis-targeted or you say something that does actually insult the blogger.

      Then all those hours and hours of time and energy goes out the window — and worse, if you do a particularly bad job, then you can actually eat some serious crow and get some nasty egg on your face.