Here are my thoughts and suggestions for PR people who want to know how to pitch stories to bloggers. Oftentimes when PR folks send a story to a blogger they’ll get a nasty reply giving out about spam, or “I am not a journalist”, or worse still, complaining about the PR person or their client publicly.
How to prevent that happening
I think the primary thing for PR people is to understand that most bloggers really, really hate spam, and when approaching them you should avoid at all costs appearing like spam. That means not sending unsolicited form emails, press releases etc.
Some bloggers tolerance levels for spam can be quite low: after after receiving just a single unsolicited email they might decide to name & shame you (or your client!) as a spammer, vow never to purchase from your client again, etc.
Of course all bloggers are not alike; the blogosphere is very diverse. For example my spam-tolerance level is quite high – if I get spam I don’t like, I’ll usually just delete it and move on.
How can a PR person approach the blogger without setting off these sensitivities?
There’s a few options:
- If the blogger has their email address listed publicly on the site, see do they mention what kind of emails they want to receive. Send them a short initial email introducing yourself and asking if they mind if you send them on something for consideration. Maybe tell them why you picked them to contact.
- If they don’t have email, you could leave a comment on one of their blog posts, saying you’d like to get in touch, and leave your email address for them to contact you.
- You could call them if there’s a number listed- your mileage may vary. Speaking for myself here, I prefer contact by email 100 times over a phone call because I can deal with the email whenever I want.
- Even better, but time consuming, is to genuinely develop relationships with the blogging community. Online social networking like Twitter is great for getting to know people better too.
- And possibly the best, but most time consuming, is to actually start blogging yourself.
What can bloggers do to improve the situation?
How about putting some sort of “incoming PR request” policy on your contact details page. State how you like to be contacted (or if not at all), about what, and anything else that might be relevant.
Is it about bloggers wanting free stuff?
One impression some folks have is that bloggers simply want to be bribed with free stuff and they’ll write about anything. And I’m sure some do! But I think most bloggers do it because they’re passionate about whatever it is they blog about.
That said, clever PR folks can make good use of social contracts as mentioned in Dan Ariely’s book (I really love that book & think this excerpt is particularly relevant for both).
For bloggers: where do you draw the line ethically on making money or taking non-monetary payments? Many bloggers make significant incomes directly and indirectly from blogging that they would not earn if they didn’t blog.
Is it about bloggers wanting to be treated like journalists?
I don’t think it is, although the lines are getting very blurred, I believe there are many bloggers with higher standards than offline journalists.
On the flip side there are simply so many bloggers, so yes, the vast majority are not of journalistic quality.
Ok, that’s my unpolished thoughts on the matter, please leave a comment with questions and/or suggestions.
This post was a follow up to last night’s Collision Course event, a blogger & PR folks get together organised by Damien Mulley. We had 15 bloggers and 25 PR folks together, with a well directed discussion. Many bloggers gave their opinions to the PR folks on how they should approach & pitch stories.
Follow-up posts from Collision Course
- Takeaways from Collision Course 1
- PR and Bloggers Can Live Together
“We live in two worlds: one characterized by social exchanges and the other characterized by market exchanges. And we apply different norms to these two kinds of relationships. Moreover, introducing market norms into social exchanges, as we have seen, violates the social norms and hurts the relationships. Once this type of mistake has been committed, recovering a social relationship is difficult. Once you’ve offered to pay for the delightful Thanksgiving dinner, your mother-in-law will remember the incident for years to come. And if you’ve ever offered a potential romantic partner the chance to cut to the chase, split the cost of the courting process, and simply go to bed, the odds are that you will have wrecked the romance forever.[…]
The fact that we live in both the social world and the market world has many implications for our personal lives. From time to time, we all need someone to help us move something, or to watch our kids for a few hours, or to take in our mail when we’re out of town. What’s the best way to motivate our friends and neighbors to help us? Would cash do it — a gift, perhaps? How much? Or nothing at all? This social dance, as I’m sure you know, isn’t easy to figure out — especially when there’s a risk of pushing a relationship into the realm of a market exchange.
Here are some answers. Asking a friend to help move a large piece of furniture or a few boxes is fine. But asking a friend to help move a lot of boxes or furniture is not — especially if the friend is working side by side with movers who are getting paid for the same task. In this case, your friend might begin to feel that he’s being used. Similarly, asking your neighbor (who happens to be a lawyer) to bring in your mail while you’re on vacation is fine. But asking him to spend the same amount of time preparing a rental contract for you — free — is not.”
Note 2: For example, I hope that this blog post has some useful information for people, but I know that I could easily spend another couple of hours shaping it into what I’d consider a decent journalistic quality article. Just out of interest, time to write this post is currently 61 minutes (I wrote it in Word so can check that). Later edit: with formatting, linking & images, this post took over 90 mins to write.