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.
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.