Blogging Etiquette in the Face of a PR Pitch: What Miss Blogging Manners Would Do

As a blogger, I’m sure you receive a fair number of emails pitching you with products. As someone who does public relations for companies, I’m sure you carefully pick your bloggers for the pitch. We both have difficult jobs. Bloggers have to weed out the crap and PR pros need to find the right people for the job.

The job of someone who does blogger outreach can be difficult. They’re tasked with contacting bloggers about different initiatives, sending out story ideas and “press releases” (hopefully with a social component, since those are preferred by many bloggers). Unlike traditional journalists, if you’re doing blogger outreach, your focus should be a lot more on relationship building with the right people.

It’s not always the people doing blogger outreach who don’t get it right. Public relations representatives sometimes actually do a great job sending targeted pitches to the right people. They invest a lot of time finding just the right bloggers, carefully cherry picking out the right people to whom to send a perfect pitch. These are the people who really make a solid effort — they review the blog content and realize that their pitch might be a further extension of content that they had already seen on the blogs they are targeting.

When the pitch goes out, it’s up to the blogger to take the story to heart and possibly share it with their readers. Sometimes they won’t, and they’ll ignore the pitch altogether. That’s just fine. Sometimes they might respond with a “thanks but no thanks” response that shows that they at least put effort into considering a fit on their site. That, too, is just fine. If you’re sending a carefully crafted pitch, you’re probably sending it to a handful of people and hoping that a small percentage of those bloggers is actually receptive to your message.

Imagine If You Had to Pitch to Bloggers

What if you were involved in the task of blogger outreach? Let’s say you worked with a client to give away a freebie to readers of specific blogs. The client approves the pitch, which you targeted to the blogger, and you send it off to the chosen bloggers.

Now let’s assume one of the bloggers responds with, “I have read your email carefully and it would appear that you have omitted the part where you request my advertising rate card.”

(Yes, forget about organic promotion. The money is where it’s at for some bloggers, and story tips or ideas are unwanted. I bet you’d wonder what the FTC would say, especially given that this particular blogger has a disclaimer stating that they will never post sponsored or content where money exchanges hands.)

Instead, you decide to clarify your specific role in this initiative. You say, “this is merely a story idea as there’s no advertising budget. Would you like to run with the story?”

The blogger responds with something that goes along the lines of, “they could pay you to email me, maybe they should pay me to blog about it.”

They then write two nasty tweets about a poor approach that they likely thought you never saw.

Yes, seriously.

Perhaps some of you PR pros are nodding your heads in agreement at this point. “Hey, I’ve had that happen to me!” It becomes painstakingly obvious that some bloggers have zero respect for the people they are dealing with, realizing that their fame and authority as a blogger puts them in a position to request favors or speak down to people sending requests to them. I’ve seen and heard it before. That means you’ll get more requests for money, and the sadder thing is that if you meet them in person, their attitudes aren’t much different. It becomes clear in your dealing with some bloggers that they operate on a firm foundation of “pay or walk away.” (Do their readers know how greedy they’ve become? Do their readers even realize that most of the content on these blogs is likely swayed by the glory of financial riches?)

But greed is not what this blog post is about. It’s about how you should handle yourself as a blogger.

Your Responsibility as a Blogger

There are some social media etiquette rules that people sometimes forget to follow, I suppose. After all, words onscreen are not facial expressions, and it seems some people lose sight of human emotion when they get caught up in the fame of becoming a well-known blogger.

As bloggers, we might hold the public relations representatives to a higher standard, but relationship building goes both ways. If an organic story pitch is not of interest to you, that’s fine. Let it be. Demanding that someone pay for content with because they emailed you a story idea is a way to burn bridges, not build them. If you feel that you must respond to the email, your tone is everything. Convey your thoughts nicely, even if it pains you to do so.

Bloggers typically have a lot on their plates; those working for big publications who have to fulfill a daily quota of stories can see hundreds of pitches per day. They’re overwhelmed. It’s hard enough to churn out content, and then there’s a pile of email waiting for their attention in the form of story pitches and ideas. Yet those sending story pitches are overwhelmed too. They’re tasked with weeding through hundreds of blogs (if there are even that many in the specific niche), reading the content to get to know the blogger better, and finding the right angle to pitch the story to. And that doesn’t even account for the deadlines they have. But as mentioned earlier, relationships go both ways, and the approach goes both ways too. As the blogger, you have the upper hand.

Here are seven rules that you should always follow as a blogger when dealing with public relations pros (though some can be applied to your relationships with anyone):

  • Rule #1: Act professionally. Remember that professionalism is everything. This relates to courteousness too. Keep your tone polite.
  • Rule #2: Be humble. By blogging, you’ll reap some nice rewards (and awards). Don’t let that fame get to your head. You might be great and receive a lot of accolades, but it doesn’t make you any better than the people you deal with. In most cases, you’re not as important as you think you are.
  • Rule #3: Remember who you are dealing with. PR people aren’t in the ad sales industry.  Their goal is to send press pitches, not to buy ads on your site.  If a blogger outreach consultant or social media agency emails you a story pitch, read their signature.  If it doesn’t say “media buyer” or if they haven’t explicitly asked for your media kit, chances are they can’t follow through with an ad buy.
  • Rule #4: This could be the start of something big. The right PR person is just as connected with the rest of the world as they are with bloggers themselves.  In fact, a relationship that starts on the right foot might actually translate to better things down the road, including special event invites and freebies that might as well be equivalent to a really good ad deal.  Perhaps, real ad sales will follow.  A bad first impression will never get you to that point. A great first impression can be very rewarding.
  • Rule #5: It’s a relationship, stupid! Did I mention at all in this article that these are still interpersonal relationships? To quote The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin, act the way you want to feel.
  • Rule #6: Remember where you were when you started. There’s more to blogging than just dollar signs. There’s relationship building (see rule #6), influence, branding, and more. Don’t have a narrow focus because the grass seems greener when the riches are easily attainable. At the end of the day, blogs are a relationship-building tool. That’s probably how you got to where you are now, by sharing your voice and providing insights that helped build those relationships, like having your readers trust you. Think about what you did before to get you where you are today. Never stop doing that either. The options might be more plentiful nowadays but you should stay true to why you started blogging to begin with.
  • Rule #7: You need PR people as much as they need you. Maybe not now, but your future could depend on them.

Bloggers have a real opportunity here, but it should be said that they need to evaluate why they’re blogging and what keeps them doing it. Did passion drive them to blog? Is that still the case? Thankfully, of the thousands of people I’ve met in my past 4 years of publicly blogging, there aren’t that many individuals who cause alarm or worry. Most of you get it. You realize that there are other people sitting behind a computer screen to talk to you, and they’re not much different than you are.

Bloggers have a responsibility to themselves but they also have a responsibility to everyone around them. There will be times when despite how the public relations person sees it, the story doesn’t fit the blogger. But handling that correspondence gracefully is what will separate one blogger from others. Handling all incoming inquiries professionally (and even quickly) can do wonders on indirectly building up your blog (and maybe even your brand) with high regard.

You don’t just build your blog on your blog. There’s this thing we also call offsite optimization, which is a big term for SEO but also can apply to growing your blog. Every single blog-related correspondence you have with someone matters to your bottom line. That’s why email communication should be treated with utmost respect and caution. Handle those communications gracefully and you’ll be viewed the same or better than beforehand. (The only way to go from there is up!) If you choose the impolite and inconsiderate way out, you’re hurting your blog and yourself.

Do you have any stories to share about blogger relations? Did I miss any rules? The comments, as always, are yours.

Tamar Weinberg is a hustler and juggler. She is the VP of Marketing at Ruxly Creative, a creative marketing agency. She's the Director of Sales at Internet Marketing Ninjas, a 100+ employee search engine marketing agency located in upstate New York. She also rocks global sales at financial media publication Wall St. Cheat Sheet. Finally, she is the Chief Strategy Officer of Small Business Trends. Oh wait, and she's also the community manager at Namecheap. Yeah, like a boss.

45 Comments

  • February 10, 2010

    Hugo

    I think that the biggest takeaway from this post for me is the understanding the mainstream media world and the blogger world are quickly becoming one and the same. Therefore, if you’re serious about blogging, you need to make a concerted effort to learn traditional media/publishing etiquette.

    Keep the good stuff comin’, Tamar.

  • February 10, 2010

    Todd Defren

    Great stuff, Tamar. I’d also selfishly recommend PR pros check out this link, which contains a handy PDF bookmark of Blogger Relations tips:

    http://www.pr-squared.com/2007/11/prsquareds_social_media_tactic_4.html

  • February 10, 2010

    Susan Getgood

    Very good advice. I cover many of the same points in the book I am currently writing (Professional Blogging for Dummies). Respectful outreach deserves respectful response.

    That said, I’m still seeing and hearing about far too many poor pitches. And more than a few stories have been shared with me by bloggers who sent polite “no thank yous, not a fit” and received fairly obnoxious replies in return. Or the same pitch again as though no reply had been made. Seriously, if the blogger says it’s not a fit, it’s not a fit. Don’t argue the point. Move on.

    There’s a need for more civility and respect on both sides.

  • February 10, 2010

    Tamar Weinberg

    Susan, absolutely! That’s why I wrote this. This is the “second half,” if you will. It takes two to tango, and both partners need to follow some rules.

    Hugo, I LOVE that analogy.

    And Todd, this, coupled with the article I just mentioned in this comment, are great for the other side. But bloggers shouldn’t be jerks either. That’s what this article touches upon.

  • February 10, 2010

    Todd Defren

    Consider my suggestion to PR pros as a preemptive strike! I just know that the BLOGGERS who read this will likely (and quickly) point out flaws in the PR pros’ approach. ;)

  • February 10, 2010

    Kay Sexton

    Ha! I just blogged about a related subject – the investment that literary bloggers (like me) make in reviewing books and how some small presses seem to treat bloggers with a degree of contempt. I’m not the New Yorker or Times Literary Review, for sure, but then why bother contacting me to review a title if you’re not going to follow through on the contact? And similarly, review bloggers (like me) should at least offer an offline review if they accept a book and don’t feel able to review it in public. After all, if you’ve invested the time in reading the book, why not give back some honesty and expertise in an email to the PR person – knowing why you didn’t review the book can help them hone their future pitches and help you build a good reputation.

  • February 10, 2010

    Tamar Weinberg

    Kay, it’s not just small presses, surprisingly. :) Some big PR firms think they are better than bloggers.

    I think there needs to be equal respect from both sides. Everyone always paints the PR pros as evil, but hey, as a blogger, did you ever think to look in the mirror?

    That’s what I’m trying to accomplish in this post. I had a feeling the comments would point fingers back on the PR side. Believe it or not, there are bloggers who need to be put in their places too.

  • February 10, 2010

    Gera

    I understand and agree with all the points Tamar. Etiquette is necessary in all areas.
    I wonder, what should I do when I receive “professional” pitches by email with BCC or without my name?
    You read them and they are very serious, just today I’ve received twice! Some cases I’ve replied them, in others directly to trash.

    For PR people at least find out the name of the blogger and do not send the pitch with hidden email or, worst with CC, to all the emails just sent ;-)

    All the best,

    Gera

  • February 10, 2010

    Tamar Weinberg

    Gera, it’s your call. Obviously it’s more impersonal that way. I think it typically depends on the story pitch. In most cases, though, I’ll just ignore.

  • February 11, 2010

    Ken Wohl

    In the coming month I’ll be be contacted bloggers that either my company has already built a relationship with or that are within my company’s niche. My company, Leftos.com is going through a complete revamp and relaunch so it’s important that we let these bloggers know what we’re up to.

    This blog post was extremely helpful from two ends. One, it makes me understand blogging better, two, I’m about to begin blogging my own experiences in business and I want to be the best blogger possible. I want to make sure I am as professional, helpful, approachable, and helpful as I can be.

    You did a great job of showing the perspectives of both ends…the blogger and the PR person.

    Thank you very much for sharing your insights. You’ve definitely just gained a new loyal reader!

  • February 11, 2010

    Tamar Weinberg

    Thanks Ken! Glad to have you stop by!

    And if you’re not sick of this topic yet, I share a story about the other side of the coin on this post.

  • February 11, 2010

    Ginger Lennon

    Great post, Tamar. It’s refreshing to see a post defending the PR pros that work hard to create thoughtful, targeted pitches to appropriate blogger contacts. Question for you — as more and more PR people see the value of connecting with bloggers, versus just traditional media, do you think we need to be more explicit in our pitches as to whether or not we have an advertising budget?

  • February 11, 2010

    Tamar Weinberg

    Ginger, good question, and I think that the answer is no. If you’re reaching out with a story tip, it should be pretty obvious that you don’t have an advertising budget. Usually that’s the case anyhow.

    If bloggers see dollar signs, that’s a fault with the person reading the email, not a fault of a miscommunication on behalf of the PR person. You should say it like it is. Those who are greedy will ask for more and you’ll just have to tell them that there’s nothing else to add.

    If they ask for money for coverage, they’re not a good subject anyhow, nor would they be good people to work with.

  • February 11, 2010

    Heather Villa

    Being polite and respectful should be a common courtesy. While I think it’s great that people like you put out these etiquette tips, I think it’s really a shame that it needs to be done. B2B correspondence should be polite and respectful foremost.

  • February 11, 2010

    Tamar Weinberg

    I know! I feel so strange writing so many “etiquette” posts, but people engage/interact without a care in the world and kind of forget about human decency.

    Thanks for stopping by, Heather :)

  • February 11, 2010

    Barb Chamberlain

    Loved the point about not trying to convert a story pitch coming at you into an ad sales pitch going back the other way.

    Bloggers might be well served to understand that if I approach someone in the professional mainstream media with a story idea, there is no way that any self-respecting reporter would ever respond by trying to refer me to the advertising sales rep.

    There is supposed to be a wall between the two. The wall gets weaker in certain types of publications, for sure; I’m not suggesting it’s perfect.

    Bloggers are clearly in a different position than reporters because they are often also the publisher, and the publisher IS interested in ad sales. That makes it a lot trickier and everyone is finding their way through this new landscape.

    Now I’ll jump over and read your recommendations on the other side.

    @BarbChamberlain

  • February 11, 2010

    Tamar Weinberg

    Bloggers might be well served to understand that if I approach someone in the professional mainstream media with a story idea, there is no way that any self-respecting reporter would ever respond by trying to refer me to the advertising sales rep.

    That’s a really brilliant point, Barb. While bloggers will argue that they aren’t traditional media, in the case I illustrated above, the situation with the blogger in question (in the “imagine if”) actually happened. Ironically, this individual is actually a “journalist” according to the blog.

    Does that mean that journalists who become bloggers are entitled to more on the blogger side? I don’t think so. The lines are blurry like you say, but look at who is contacting you, blogger! Most PR people aren’t in a position to buy ads.

    Thanks for chiming in :)

  • February 11, 2010

    Craig

    This is a great post, especially since I just took a new job specifically for doing promotions and blogger outreach on behalf of the client and go through this all the time. I’m in the middle of reading your book now as well to learn more tips and better practices. It can be a pain specifically when bloggers are strictly looking for money, especially when you have put the time to build a relationship and help them out.

  • February 11, 2010

    Tamar Weinberg

    Craig, thanks for coming by! Yeah, it will be a challenge and there will be bumps in the road, like the experiences I provided above, but at the end of the day, it will all be worth it :)

  • February 11, 2010

    Craig

    @Tamar Thanks for touching base. Doing blogger outreach from a small start up in a heavy competitive industry I know how difficult it can be when you take months working on helping others to build relationships and your competitors with a lot of money simply can pay for text links, reviews, and exposure on blogs. Something I learned first hand from an acquaintance blogger I built a relationship with, just tough.

  • February 11, 2010

    Baby Genie

    Really enjoyed reading your post Tamar – as a PR and mummy blogger I get to see it from both ends.
    As a PR you have to constantly stop yourself and find the time to research, research, research and as a mummy blogger you have to stop yourself from emailing PRs back and telling them if they call you Caroline instead of Catherine and refer to your 7 year old daughter rather than 18 month old son, then no you won’t accept M&S vouchers in return for blogging about pile treatments!!!!

  • February 11, 2010

    Tamar Weinberg

    LOL, yeah, exactly!

    (P.S. Please use your real name next time. I don’t know what to call you) :)

  • February 11, 2010

    Sarah

    I don’t actually take advertising.

    Of course, if you had done your research, you would have known that.

    Nor do I post content from publicists unexpurgated on my blog

    Of course, if you had done your research, you would have known that.

    I don’t ever run stories like the one you were suggesting,

    Of course, if you had done your research, you would have known that.

    I am however English, and run a nice line in sarcasm.

    If you had an ounce of moxie you would have worked out that I was making a point.

  • February 11, 2010

    Tamar Weinberg

    Thanks for chiming in here, Sarah. Good to see you.

    I apologize if what I read was not what you intended. You asked me to request your media kit in response to my pitch, so what do I know? Further, your website disclaimer says the following few things:

    1. “I do not accept money from advertisers to write about product, and I have never & will never post paid-for or sponsored content”
    2. “I am always happy to receive relevant press releases & samples of product, on the understanding that not everything I receive will make it into copy and that I will write my unbiased opinion.”
    3. “It’s fun to run competitions & giveaways on [blog], so do please suggest them.”

    Without knowing your true intentions, I take what I read at face value. That’s all we really can work on, anyway. Sorry I was wrong.

  • February 12, 2010

    Baby Genie (Catherine)

    Eek yes sorry, I’m Catherine, nice to meet you!

  • February 12, 2010

    Tamar Weinberg

    Nice to meet you, Catherine :) Thanks for visiting!

  • February 14, 2010

    Kurt

    While it is interesting to see the other side of things, Tamar, I feel your introduction does not fairly represent many bloggers – myself included. I have written thousands of articles and never once accepted direct payment for any of them – in three very exceptional cases I accepted a review copy of an item as ‘payment’ for a post – each time I provided full disclosure of the relationship.

    However, I *do* earn money from advertisements and *am* offended when people ask for free ‘articles’ about a project or product that is clearly designed primarily to earn them money. While I will make *rare* exceptions for people who are truly producing something relevant, innovative and about which they are passionate, I will never respond positively to a third-person marketer contacting me. Period.

    Look, I think I’m a nice guy just like the next guy, but who doesn’t hate spam? Who looks forward to telemarketing calls? To be honest, I am extremely nice to telemarketers for the most part because I understand their job sucks and many folks are mean to them … but we all have our limits – blogging is my passion as well as my profession and my contact forms are more sacred to me than my rarely-used land-line – and when the spam piles up too high I don’t think it is greedy to point out that there is profit motivating these contact attempts. In my opinion, if this ‘problem’ persists it is not the fault of bloggers who have become jaded over time but the marketers who have forced them to act in that way.

    First, with all due respect (and I do have a great deal of respect for you!) your initial examples are problematic in my opinion:

    (A) If you or your client does not have an advertising budget, then how *are* they paying you to email people? You seem to gloss over this question. Your first paragraphs detail all of the time, effort and work involved in targeting the right bloggers for pitches – clearly that is not done pro bono. In my opinion, if they can afford a talented marketer to do these things then they can likewise afford to purchase advertising space, which leads me to the next point …

    (B) I have myself (yes, I will admit AND stand behind it) responded to pitches with rate cards. However, your example omits that in many cases the rate card does *not* at all conflict with FTC guidelines as it does *not* necessarily (certainly never in my case) come with any kind of sponsored post offer – my rate card includes advertising slots in the sidebar available at monthly rates and with the responsible “nofollow” attribute added. Particularly when your site(s) (as mine do) clearly state(s) you do not accept press-release-style emails or requests for sponsored articles it seems perfectly legitimate to respond with something snarky or harsh to people who do not even take the time to read your policies in advance. I have had to become more and more bold with my pre-contact-form explanations in order to ward off excessive emails, and even now I get tons of irrelevant ones on a regular basis.

    I would like to give a few themed examples to illustrate my point of view – and would welcome any responses to these (either from fellow publishers or PR people):

    1) Commercial Products: Recently someone contacted me about a cool product they were selling (solar-powered pavers) that I actually liked – but when I asked for a free sample (worth about $100 retail – but cost to them likely $25 or less) in order to provide a reality-based review they made a comment about how these things cost money, etc…. I read that as: your time and effort is not worth anything – but our product is. Does the fact that their costs come in the form of materials and mine in the form of time make theirs any more ‘real’? Why should I feel bad about brushing them off or even being outright rude when they implicitly devalue my time? There are two ways to look at this, and in either case the blogger is being disrespected in my opinion. On the one hand, they may be a non-profit, free-time blogger – in which case why would they want to write about some commercial product they are not even getting a chance to see in real life? On the other hand, they may be a for-profit professional blogger, in which case they value their blogging time in part in terms of money and ‘compensating’ them in some form is not unreasonable. Most likely they (like me) fall somewhere in between.

    2) Commercially-Sponsored Initiatives: I had someone from a PR company contact me recently to ask if I would write about a “non-profit” initiative (I put that in quotes for a reason) backed by a huge commercial company – a subsidiary owned by one of the two largest beverage-producing entities in the world. When I responded that I do not do free PR for large corporations they insisted it was for a good cause and no profit was being had. Excuse me, but since when is branding worthless? If I were to blog about this I would essentially be endorsing the parent company and giving them free publicity – to suggest otherwise was devious and underhanded on the part of this PR person/firm in my opinion.

    Anyway, as I said, it was good to see the other side of this, and none of this is meant to be overly critical of you Tamar since I think you DID represent that other side well, but I feel perhaps some additional balance in terms of empathy for the blogger could have been added.

  • February 14, 2010

    Tamar Weinberg

    Kurt, thanks so much for the super detailed insight and awesome response. I should note that I previously had the hypothetical situation in the article written as “this is what happened to me” (and Sarah has subsequently chimed in after I informed her that she inspired this post), but I revised it initially in the interest of being a little more polite and cordial.

    If you or your client does not have an advertising budget, then how *are* they paying you to email people?

    From being on the business development/ad sales side of blogging AND on the actual blogging side of blogging, in addition to being on the marketing side of things and even someone who has to buy ad units on blogs, thereby putting me on every single corner of the spectrum, believe it or not, each role is quite different. Of every ad inquiry I’ve ever received, perhaps 2% of them explicitly express interest in editorial coverage. (Yes, seriously.) On the other hand, of every editorial pitch I’ve received, maybe 0.5% of those have actually translated to *potential* ad sales.

    The bottom line really is that people might have a PR budget, but they don’t have the same budget for buying ad units.

    I need to reiterate that this post illustrates not a general issue but a SPECIFIC instance. While I respect your POV, Kurt, if your blog makes clear statements that you accept pitches/giveaway ideas, then you shouldn’t eat your words and be a jackass about it in your follow-up emails to the person sending the pitch. Naturally, there’s another part of this: the PR person better know what the blogger will write about or not. If someone pitches me an article about the NBA even though I blog about social media, you bet I might consider snark in response, but a topical pitch that shows that you really do understand what the blogger is about doesn’t warrant the same kind of treatment.

    Furthermore, ever hear of banner blindness? Not many people WANT to buy banner ads because they would rather the pitch feel natural — they want the coverage to jive with the blogger. The blogger, of course, needs to agree to this, though. But when the blogger, who says she doesn’t accept advertising revenue, has the audacity to demand a request for a rate card, I think that this particular blogger has her priorities wrong. That’s why this post was written.

    The FTC comments I gave are, again, specific to an instance that occurred. That said, your (B) point is valid but not particularly applicable to what I was writing. Let me put it this way: I was a bit peeved by this mistreatment even though it happened more than 2 months ago.

    Bear in mind, Kurt, that your blogs are VERY well established. As such, you deserve to call the shots within reason, and the first illustration you gave is a fine examples of this. I still argue that there’s something called human decency, though. Don’t be a jerk in response if it shows that the person tried and that they value and respect your time.

    Having been involved in two of the most popular Technorati blogs (both in the top 10), I know when a pitch is crap. I think that your example about the commercial product is exactly what is wrong with the marketer. You’re absolutely right. You invest time every single day to produce great content and a lot of people forget that for some, blogging is a business.

    I’m a bit conflicted as for what I’d do about the Pepsi initiative, to be honest, though. However, it’s your blog and your call. You’re entitled to say no or ignore it altogether.

    My main point about this post is that you’ll get pitches and sometimes they won’t work. Just don’t be a smart ass about it.

  • February 14, 2010

    Kurt

    I largely agree and it looks like we see eye-to-eye on a lot of things.

    As for the Pepsi initiative … there were multiple attempts on my part to be cordial before the communication broke down. I explained multiple times that I did, in fact, donate coverage and advertising space to good causes but that I did not feel a large corporate-backed, co-branded initiative of this kind was truly not for profit.

    For starters, with even a conservative estimate of the man-hours involved, I am quite sure that the campaign cost most than the $20,000 it was intended to raise – and probably generated 10 to 100 times as much PR value. It begs the question: if it were really about doing good, wouldn’t the company simply donate the $20,000 directly?

    Moreover, the person who contacted me had an email pointing back to their PR company’s website on which they described their overarching re-branding strategy for the juice subsidiary in question. Their profile page for that company, to add insult to insult, did not even mention their ‘non-profit’ component. In short: it was clearly all about the money, and this was just one for-profit piece of a larger business-centric whole.

    Probably the most damning part of the exchange was their emphatic statement that any profits would be passed on to the good cause. Again, it comes back to the question of being misleading or downright devious – by not counting brand value in their calculations they pretend that this is all in the spirit of giving and that I should be happy to donate my time/resources to help them. That is as bad as a rich person pretending to be homeless and beging money from you on the street – or a con artist convincing you that they are passing gifts from you on to a needy child, while taking and keeping the most valuable ones for themselves – at least in my opinion.

    Anyway, I get that this article revolved around a more specific case and, from what I have seen of that case, you are 100% in the right – I just wanted to clarify some points made in the introduction, and state for the record that (under different and specialized circumstances) I could see both of those blogger responses being valid.

    Likewise, I try not to be a smart ass in general in my responses, but (fortunately) in my case I think I have a critical piece that justifies my rudeness on the rare occasions I employ it: specific policies stated boldly above the contact form that include a statement about generic press releases and certain other forms of requests being summarily deleted and their senders permanently blacklisted :)

  • February 14, 2010

    Tamar Weinberg

    Yup! I think we do largely agree. Personally, I can see the Pepsi initiative as a tricky case, and if it were up to me and I felt a disconnect, I would make it clear — just as you had — about how I felt (or ignored the pitch altogether). In the communications that ensued that you showed me outside the comments here, though, you handled it professionally. You’re not the type of blogger I’m really calling out here.

    In my specific instance, this particular blogger did not say “hey, I don’t think it works, maybe you want to go for advertising instead?” thereby being honest and polite about alternative ways to get my story pitch some exposure. This person’s response, quite frankly, was downright rude. If her response was more cordial, this post would never have come into being.

    Ironically, on the very day this post was made, I got an email from JR from overmyminutes.com with this very pitch:

    After reading some of your stuff, I thought this would be right up your alley and interest you.
    http://www.prweb.com/releases/2010/01/
    prweb3392654.htm

    (Don’t bother clicking on the PRWeb link. I made it two lines for good reason, since it’s not worth your time. In case you’re wondering, his pitch was about some iPhone app that monitors cell minute usage. Do you see me blogging about that stuff at all?)

    So I responded with:

    I’m just curious – did you really read my stuff? How is this up my alley?

    Four days later, I still have no response from him. I’ll send him a link to this comment as soon as I post it.

    The response above actually was more of a smart ass response than I’m used to sending, but I’d say that the pitch deserved the response. Clearly JR did not read my website or even the contact form he submitted from because I explicitly ask for no new product pitches. I guess some people don’t bother to spend time to prevent themselves from crossing the line.

    We both are aware that we’re in a position, as is anyone handling some sort of popular media, to receive terribly off-topic pitches, illustrating that the person put no effort into actually researching the blogger. However, I think that rule #1, acting professionally, should be adhered to in most/all cases. In your case, you always were professional, though you were blunt because of the need to drive home a point.

    The bottom line, though, is that bloggers have jobs, but so do PR people. Some PR people represent the client and do the grunt work; they have no choice about the initiatives they represent. That might have been how it was for Pepsi, but instead of treating the PR person with contempt, you criticized the initiative as a whole. That’s totally fair and you’re entitled not to cover it for whatever reasons. After all, it’s your blog.

    At the end of the day, I respect if bloggers pass up my pitches when I send them. But instead of burning bridges, let’s take the opportunity to see how we can help each other in the future. There’s nothing to lose.

  • February 18, 2010

    YM Ousley

    I won’t put any names out there, but I have a strong hunch as to who the blogger mentioned is, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard of her responding rudely to an at least semi-targeted pitch.

    This isn’t giving a pass to the PRs who do a press release blast and call it a day, but if someone includes relevant information about your blog – and I’m sure Tamar did so, they’ve at least taken the time to get an idea of what you blog about, why you might be a good fit with their client, etc. It’s not to say that you’ll always agree, but “sarcastic” responses, rude brushoffs aren’t necessary. If a story doesn’t match your audience, don’t respond to the pitch, simple as that. If it’s so important that you feel the need to respond, a simple “I don’t think this story fits our coverage” is sufficient. Any digging by reps past that – have at em with advertising pitches, barbs and whatever you’d like, but digging into PRs for breaking some sacred, unpublished rule is unnecessary (especially if you present what could be considered a mixed message).

  • February 18, 2010

    Tamar Weinberg

    Thanks YM. You’re right. From our perspective, if your website says you accept pitches, then accept them and take them with gratitude (or with silence). Don’t be a jerk about it.

  • March 2, 2010

    v sobol

    As former head of an in-house PR department, I used to run across this problem (so called reporters looking for ad $) in the offline world all the time. It was a major turnoff and after that the relationship was never the same, and we tended to avoid those publications. The same should apply for bloggers as well.

  • March 5, 2010

    Julia

    Tamar,
    I just found your site and love it. Your rule #5, in particular, hit home for me. As a “veteran” (read, “old”) marketing and PR person, I think we are wise to remember these basics. Social media is an amazing new platform we have (especially for us new small business owners)…but we need to remember to play well together! Thanks, Tamar.

  • March 17, 2010

    Ken

    With all respect, there’s a certain level of entitlement here that I find unbecoming. Many bloggers blog primarily for pleasure, not for money. Many others receive only an extremely modest amount of money. The concept that bloggers, as a result of the nature of blogging or the internet, owe anything to PR professionals is questionable at best.

    I blog on an extremely modest scale. Yet I get from 2 to 10 press releases per week and several PR inquiries per month. Most are extremely unsuited for my blog — something that even the most brief examination would reveal. It’s not clear to me why I should view those emails differently than other unsolicited email.

    Since you feel free to offer etiquette tips to bloggers, let me offer some to PR professionals (and amateurs) in return:

    1. Don’t send a press release, or PR inquiry, to a blog unless you have read it enough to make a reasonably informed determination that it is suitable for the subject matter of the blog. Otherwise you’re spamming.

    2. Take the no and walk away. Take the silence and walk away. If a blogger doesn’t respond, it’s very probably because they view your press release or PR inquiry as unsuited for his or her site. They do not owe unsolicited emails a response. If you write follow-ups — particularly ones that suggest an entitlement to a dialogue — you may find yourself the subject of an unpleasant blog post. See, for instance, Scott Greenfield’s take at the Simple Justice blog on this very post.

    • March 17, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      Ken, I don’t think there’s a sense of entitlement at all and I’m not sure why you see that. I explicitly mention that silence is acceptable in the post at least twice (point #2).

      Further, this is a follow up post to a post that already articulates your point #1.

      I appreciate Scott’s comments but he missed the ball and inaccurately portrayed me as a PR person. As I commented on his blog post, which I’m pasting below because it hasn’t been posted yet on his site, he doesn’t have a clue who I am. I actually come from the throes of bloggers. Here’s what I wrote for reference:

      Scott, I appreciate your commentary, but you’re missing a few important points.

      “No, Tamar is not a blogger, but a public relations person who, no doubt as a public service, created rules for bloggers to be nicer to public relations people.”

      This is part of the problem. Bloggers (like you, Scott) make the assumption that I’m not a blogger. Excuse me, but did you bother to read the portfolio on my blog (one of the widgets in the footer)? Here are my blog posts for Lifehacker. Here’s Mashable. I’ve written 1886 blog posts for Search Engine Roundtable and a couple dozen for Macgasm. And guess what? There are more blogs too. The bottom line: Actually, yes, I really am a blogger. I actually engage in blogger outreach because I’d like to think I have a pretty good idea how bloggers think.

      Furthermore, you acknowledge that there’s two sides of the coin. Yes, I agree on that point as well. The blog post that you so eloquently wrote about is a follow up to this post which talks about the two way street that you brought up. This was part two, the follow up. I’m going to bet you didn’t read part one.

      I appreciate your comments, Scott. I do. But like “PR pros” are required to do due diligence about the blogger to see if the pitch is of interest to the blogger, so too should bloggers make sure to look the whole picture. That post which you quoted linked out to my other post which pretty much nods in agreement on your comments. Yet you have made this specific commentary entirely one sided, indicating that you didn’t look at the other point of view.

      It might be in your best interest to read a little more about me, update the comment you made which doesn’t accurately depict who I am, and then reassess whether we’re really working against each other here or actually fighting for the same goals (for the most part).

      • March 26, 2010

        dan solomon

        I think the sense of entitlement observed here is that this makes little distinction between a pro blogger and someone who blogs out of passion.

        Anyone who blogs for free, but is expected to have a certain attitude toward someone who gets paid for emailing bloggers about things they want bloggers to write about, is liable to be annoyed. Expecting professionalism from people who are not blogging as a profession isn’t reasonable, and I can understand why it would come off as entitlement – this is a person who, at the end of the day, doesn’t need you. They can exist and do what they do without any PR emails at all, while the PR person may have a difficult time continuing to draw a paycheck unless they can get blogger attention. When you consider it that way, the PR person is really making their living by asking the blogger to give them something for nothing. It’s understandable, I think, that suggesting that one is supposed to behave in a proscribed manner toward people who get paid to ask them for favors would come off as betraying a sense of entitlement.

        The math changes a bit when you’ve got pro bloggers and journalists and pro PR people. At that point, the relationship is a bit more symbiotic – the PR people understand that the ideas and content they provide can directly help the writers pay their bills, and the writers can be expected to constantly be seeking out new ideas in order to offer steady streams of content to the outlets for which they write. We’ll call the people in the paragraph up there “bloggers” (which is probably what Greenfield meant) and the people in this paragraph “content providers”. Bloggers have little use for a PR person, and may resent the fact that the PR person draws a salary for trying to convince the blogger to do work for free. Content providers use PR people to help them generate more content, and so can (and should) treat them as though they’re more valuable.

        –d

        • March 26, 2010

          Tamar Weinberg

          Dan, you make all good points.

          I’d argue, though, that my advice (most of it, really) doesn’t necessarily apply to specific PR outreach but human decency. If someone approaches you nicely in “real life,” and you brush him off rudely, what does that say about you? Even when telemarketers call me, I say “I’m not interested.”

          With regards to bloggers versus non-bloggers, the irony of everything that I’ve argued about with Scott is that techipedia.com isn’t much different than his blog. We’re both in the business of business promotion, essentially. I don’t actively do it for clients — I do it to connect with people. Relationships, for me, is what this blog is really about. It’s a nice way to build a bridge.

          In any event, I get paid to blog on some avenues and I also blog for free on others. Actually, when looking at my “resume” of blogs, there’s about a 50/50 even split (not to mention the other blogs I don’t publicize which are almost all free as well).

          Therefore, I’m a paid blogger and a free blogger. I also, much less frequently, do blogger outreach. As I mentioned in a comment to Scott, I do this type of outreach because I’d like to think that I understand a blogger’s mentality. I mean, I’ve only been there for nearly 10 years (and 5 years in a more public capacity).

          • March 26, 2010

            Ken

            I’ll put this more nicely than I think Scott would: if you think he’s blogging to promote his law practice, directly or indirectly, I think you don’t grasp his blog.

          • March 26, 2010

            Tamar Weinberg

            I debated commenting on that and I posted it. I guess I shouldn’t have.

            “Essentially” is the key word here, and perhaps it wasn’t the right word to use. I don’t use this blog at all (if you’d read my articles) to promote myself or my business. It just so happens to be a byproduct of it (on a very small scale — and even less because I haven’t been accepting new clients for months). My focus with this blog has always been community. I like having intellectual and respectful discussions with highly intelligent people.

            In fact, if you compare the visibility of me promoting my service to his, I think his credentials as a lawyer are a lot more prominent than my credentials as a consultant. But to a newbie, it looks like he’s self-promoting. In fact, this entire parallel was actually mentioned to me in passing by someone who was aware of the conversation that was happening there. Personally, I never explored his website beyond the posts about me.

            Thankfully I have no desire to go there again. I do not play well with trolls.

  • March 26, 2010

    dan solomon

    Of course human decency is important. It’s little effort, after all, to just delete an email without giving it a second thought. I agree that this is the way these situations should usually be handled. That’s got very little to do with bloggers and PR people, and more to do with general interpersonal reactions, but if your point is simply “be nicer to the people you encounter in life”, I’m with you entirely. It’s not an obligation, but I find that I’m a lot happier not getting up in arms over people who bug me about things I’m uninterested in, and I suspect that’s true of most people. It’s also generally decent not to expect, when you approach a stranger to ask them to do you a favor (as PR folks contacting unpaid bloggers are), that they owe you anything whatsoever.

    Generally, when homeless people ask me for money on the street and I haven’t got any change, I say, “I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t help you today.” I think it’s important to be respectful of people whose lives are probably fairly stressful and challenging, and I’m sure one of the challenges a person like that faces is being constantly looked down upon. But if someone approaches me and acts like I’m supposed to give them money, or that just the fact that they saw me buy a hot dog and know I have fifty cents means that they’re entitled to it, I don’t generally call them “sir”.

    I don’t know how the person who responded with the bit about the advertising rate sheet was approached. It may have been a humble, human email that explained why this was a relevant topic for their blog and their readers, in which case she was probably being inconsiderate. But if it was something that treated the blogger like it was her job to receive this email, then the disrespectfulness of the exchange may have started before her reply.

    –d

    • March 26, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      Dan, this entire blog is really about human relationships through the online medium, especially as it relates to marketing (but even more just about using these tools). Interpersonal relationships are paramount — do them right or don’t do them at all.

      As far as being approached with the messaging that you’re supposed to comply with the request, I hope that this post didn’t read like that. Bear in mind that the blogger outreach I’ve done (at least for the subject of this post) was for a corporate client, and if you know anything about those types, these posts go through a chain of approvals both on the marketing side and through the clients themselves. It is of everyone’s best interest to provide options versus making demands. If you saw the messaging, I’m sure you’d agree that it was pretty innocuous.

      Therefore, yes, I stand firm about the fact that her response was inconsiderate. NOBODY is obligated to take the story, and the copy didn’t read like that. It might be of interest to their readers — but that’s that. There’s even explicit messaging that says that the particular promotion doesn’t have to be on the blog at all.

      As far as this particular blogger as well, when something like this appears in the blogger’s disclosure policy/disclaimer, even with all that messaging, I don’t think I’ve overstepped any boundaries: “I am always happy to receive relevant press releases & samples of product, on the understanding that not everything I receive will make it into copy and that I will write my unbiased opinion.”

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this particular blog post stemmed from one encounter with a blogger. I used her as an example for others. There’s really not much more to it than that. I’m not stereotyping all bloggers as jerks — in fact, I’m isolating one blogger as inconsiderate. I was angered enough by this incident that I tried to turn it into a learning experience for all (but mostly for her). Most people are not like this. Really.

  • [...] While there are no hard and fast rules about responding to PR pitches (relevant or not), basic manners apply.  Here are seven guidelines that you should follow as a blogger when dealing with public relations pros (taken from a fantastic article called Blogging etiquette in the face of a PR pitch): [...]

  • [...] Wouldn’t it be nice to know where our regular reads go when they disappear? Just as in life when a relationship or friendship is over .. a blogger should leave us with some kind of message … an explanation and or a goodbye would be nice and considerate, don’t you think? In all the blogging etiquette information I read, no one included the need to say goodbye … but, I would like to add that rule. ♦ If you are ending a reading relationship, say goodbye! Are there any blogging etiquette rules you would like to add to the list? (two good lists I found were: Blogging without a blog and Techipedia [...]

  • [...] Do it more than once. I get a lot of messages directed at me. I am more inclined to notice people when they tweet at me again and again. (I respond to emails pretty quickly, so you don’t need to email me more than once. Of course, pitches that you send that are off-topic normally won’t get a response.) [...]