Good pitch/bad pitch series for the holiday
I've been writing a holiday good pitch/bad pitch series over at the new site. Come over and check it out:
Blogger relations: Relevance
New post up at the new site about the importance of relevance in blogger relations.
Revisiting the 3Rs of Blogger Relations
Latest post is up at the new site, http://getgood.com/roadmaps/2008/11/02/revisiting-the-3rs-of-blogger-relations-part-1-respect/
Since posting has been fairly light over the past month, I'll keep doing these cross-post alerts for another week or two, but eventually they will stop. If you like Marketing Roadmaps, even just a little, please resubscribe to the new feed. I am NOT planning to redirect the feed.
Blogging and biting
Over at the new Marketing Roadmaps site, a new post entitled About Bloggers: Our bark is worse than our bite.
I'm delaying redirecting this old feed because I would like to clear out duplicate subscribers. I suspect a number of readers are subscribed in more than one feedreader and I'd like to count you once not two or three times.
On November 1, I will stop these cross-alerts, so if you like my content, please subscribe to the new feed.
Honey, I'm not home: Sci Fi's 08 digital press tour
cross posted to Snapshot Chronicles
Readers of Marketing Roadmaps may recall a series of posts I wrote about a year ago on the Sci Fi Channel's digital press tour. Sci Fi invited members of the digital press up to Vancouver for a weekend at which the network's current shows were featured – Battlestar Galactica, Eureka, Stargate Atlantis and the then new, now cancelled and extremely horrible Flash Gordon.
The representatives of the online sites were treated to tours of the sets of the shows, Q&As with the some of the stars and a chance to break bread with Sci Fi executives Mark Stern and Bonnie Hammer. By all accounts it was a success for both the digital media and the network.
After I completed the case study, I half jokingly told Courtney White the PR rep from New Media Strategies that she should be sure to invite me next time.
And she did. In part perhaps because I have a feature on my personal blog Snapshot Chronicles that covers science fiction television, but mostly I suspect because I recently pinged her to follow up on the case study for the blogger relations book I'm working on.
So here I sit on a Southwest Airlines flight to Denver. This year, the focus is on SciFi's unreality show GhostHunters and the premiere of the new Amanda Tapping series Sanctuary on October 3rd. Apparently there was a big GhostHunters event already planned and Sci Fi decided to combine this year's digital press event with it. The event is being held at the Hotel Stanley in Estes Park Colorado which horror fans may recognize from Stephen King's The Shining.
Red rum anyone?
I'll be covering the event in three places, with three slightly different perspectives.
On Marketing Roadmaps, I will be focusing on the outreach program itself. How successful is it for the network and the writers? Is everybody getting their full value. I noticed some repeat attendees from the first one, but the sites I spoke with for the case study will not be there. Is it a content issue – they aren't interested in GhostHunters and Sanctuary as much as they were in the content of the previous event?
Or a cost issue? Sci Fi is reaching out to a population it refers to as digital press. Some of these are blogs, but many are online portals. The writers may even be paid and, paid or not, many consider themselves journalists. This is a very important distinction when discussing blogger relations. Not so much from the content or hospitality perspective but definitely from the expense one. Attendees pay their own travel expenses.
As a result a purist might argue that this isn't really blogger relations. Well, I've never been a purist. Online engagement can take many forms. The term “blogger” in fact is already a misnomer, as we may be reaching out to customers on Twitter or through Facebook or even a branded community. As long as the blog/site in question has an element of community, where readers can comment or converse with each other in some fashion, it is social media.
On Snapshot Chronicles, I'll be writing about the hotel and the general experience of the event, with an emphasis on photos. I saw two elk on the way into town and grabbed a quick snap from the car, and the scenery is just gorgeous. I'll also have a review of Sanctuary after it premieres. I've seen the screener but those don't always have all the effects. I'm not really a GhostHunters viewer so not entirely sure what I'll do with that content, but I'm keeping an open mind.
I'll also be doing a guest post over on BlogHer about the trip. Among other things, the post will cover a breakfast scheduled with actress Amanda Tapping, formerly of the Stargate franchise and now the star and an executive producer of Sanctuary.
Most importantly though I plan to have fun, and wash last weekend's Las Vegas dust right outta my hair.
Blogger relations faux pas
Here are a few more pitches that illustrate the points we've been discussing in the blogger relations series. Later this week, we'll take a look at the new incumbent for crappiest pitch ever. Literally.
Um, no I write about marketing, blogger and public relations and social media. On a blog.
I love this one. Really I do. I just wish they had included a cover note.
Oops. You should always get a reporter or blogger to agree to the embargo BEFORE you give her the news.
Wow! My blog is cool!. But Arthur, do you know what I write about? Have you read my blog? I'm guessing not, because if you had you would know that I do not like unsolicited jpeg attachments and rarely discuss products. Other folks write about the widget du jour. Not me. And.I'm still scratching my head on how you managed to spell your own name wrong. The letters aren't close enough on the keyboard for it to be a transposition... Could it be that you did not send the email yourself?
This isn't the worst pitch I've ever received, but it rubbed me the wrong way. The tone was a bit arrogant and didn't establish the collegial feel I expect the publicist was aiming for. If I interview someone, I want to actually interview them. Not submit three questions for an intern to answer using the messaging document. It's also a bit off target; the publicist probably got my name from one of the media databases. I don't write about branding and advertising that much, a fact for which the branding agencies should be generally grateful as they probably wouldn't be too thrilled with what I'd write. Let's just leave it that I think branding agencies get paid far too much for what they actually deliver.
Make sure you don't commit a blogger relations faux pas. Re-read your pitch before you send it.
Some Blogger Relations Mathoms
As part of a fresh start to Fall, I'm cleaning out my email box today. In the process, I've run across a few blogger relations issues that really can't support a full post but deserve mention.
Don't use gmail, yahoo or other free service email addresses to send pitches. People like to know that they are dealing with a reputable person, a reputable organization. Your email address, traceable to a firm or organization through its website, helps convey that information. Related: don't send the email from someone else's account, ie the email FROM: field is one name and the signatory on the email is someone else. Nothing says "processed using an email database" better than an email sent by one person on behalf of another.
Media databases like Cision and Vocus that include bloggers are an okay place to start building a list for blogger outreach in certain high-profile blog categories like tech, parents and marketing, but don't just spam releases without a cover note. Vocus offers an opt-out button, and I find I am using it when it is simply a release with no note. While I am sure there is a work-around if someone affirmatively requests materials, once someone has opted out from an entity, the system isn't supposed to let it send anything else. In other words, no second chances. Now, this might force agencies to actually begin contacting bloggers before emailing them, but I am not terribly hopeful.
Why did you send me this pitch?
If you get an email like this from me or any other blogger, don't take offense. When I do it, it means that the item might be of interest, but you didn't tell me why you thought I'd be interested. Now, if I'm just a name in a database, and you have no clue why you sent me the item, this does have the effect of calling you out, so to speak. The best course is to apologize. But don't simply offer to take me off the list -- ask me what I would be interested in.
Often as recently happened with a junior staffer at an agency I respect, the rep just gets so wrapped up in the pitch that she forgets to identify the WIIFM. That's why I always advise starting there -- tell the blogger, or journalist, why you thought he'd be interested before you get into the pitch for your thing, whatever it may be.
And finally, a pet peeve.
The true meaning of Unsubscribe. It's the action we take when we have subscribed to something, by choice, and then decide that we don't want to receive it anymore. It is NOT a synonym for opting-out of a mailing list to which you have been added without your permission. Increasingly, however, I've noticed that organizations are using unsubscribe in that context. Even the opt-out mechanism on Vocus has an <Unsubscribe> button instead of <Remove> or some other verb that would be more accurate, and I have seen it used on other PR pitches sent to bloggers.
This really bugs me. Since I did not subscribe to your list in the first place, how can I possibly unsubscribe? I suspect the use of the language is motivated by the CAN-SPAM Act. The thinking probably goes something like this:
Adding these people to our mailing list without their permission is probably in violation of CAN-SPAM, but people get so much email these days, if we imply they subscribed, maybe they'll forget that they didn't opt-in to ours and we won't get in trouble.
- The secret sauce for the perfect pitch
- Where's the beef: the content of a good blog pitch
- Blogger relations category on Marketing Roadmaps
Tags: blogger relations
Link Exchange Requests are NOT Blogger Relations
I'm working on a longer bad pitch post that will cover some recent faux pas perpetrated on bloggers by marketing and PR professionals in the guise of blogger relations. In combing through my pitch file, I found some link exchange requests, which reminded me to tell you about the "special place in hell" reserved for those that send link exchange spam. [An HP Photo Book for the first reader who correctly identifies the special place reference. Mum, you can't enter.]
Link exchange requests are spam. Full stop. They are sometimes sent by newbies who don't know better but most often by spammers who just don't care.
Note the time sent: a sure sign of a mass email program. This one is probably a porn site.
Spelling errors, highlighted in both. Another sign of the spammer. No relevance to my blog other than I mentioned a trip to California.
When you are cataloging the list of PR agency sins, don't tag them with this one. While there are always exceptions to any "rule," link exchange requests are rarely used by reputable agencies with any online experience -- even those that send crappy blog pitches to <insert name here> with multiple jpeg attachments.
What should you do when you get a link exchange request?
If you sense it is from a newbie who just doesn't know any better, send them a brief email. Tell them that you add people and sites to your blogroll that you find interesting or valuable to your readers, but you do not do link exchanges. If you sell advertising, by all means offer it up as an alternative. If the blog or site is on target to your interests, perhaps offer to check it out but make no promises. Give them the link to this post if you think it will help. If it really was a mistake on the sender's part, they should appreciate the kindly meant advice.
Spammers? Block the sender in your spam filter and delete the email.
And think about that special place in hell just for them.
PS -- The reference to my mom is a clue for anyone who has heard me speak recently, as I often use an anecdote about her as an example. And did you know, faux pas is a pun in French. Literally it means "false step" but it also rhymes with "faut pas," as in "il ne faut pas," which translates roughly to "one must not."
Bloggers versus PR: Why can't we just all get along?
The answer is that we can get along, and very nicely, in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Where everyone benefits from the exchange, and neither party feels abused or taken advantage of.
The problem is that such an atmosphere is hard to come by.
Good relationships don't happen by themselves. It takes work on both sides to develop and nurture them, and they can be severely damaged by a poorly written email, an unthinking comment or an ill-conceived reply. Just like any relationship.
And when the relationship breaks down, sides form. It's all about who is right, who is wrong. Assigning blame.
Blecch. What a waste of time.
Sometimes PR and marketing people do send horrible, spammy email pitches. My email box is full of them -- the ones I get and the ones my readers forward to me. It's like trying to score on the first date. It's no way to start a long-lasting relationship. Even the better ones are often filled with pitchy language -- "message points" -- that are like poor pick-up lines. They sound good in front of the mirror, not so good in practice.
And bloggers aren't perfect either. Sometimes they over-react, classing simple mistakes as egregious errors, and respond with rants, negative posts and even blacklists. It may feel good to channel Peter Finch:
But it's not always productive. Sometimes it sets off a chain reaction that makes it near to impossible for the parties to ever form a positive relationship.
As I've said many times, it starts with respect. Mutual respect. Both sides must understand that this is a business relationship; both parties need to benefit. The company isn't doing the blogger a favor, and the blogger isn't doing one for the company. They are both getting something out of the deal. If not... it's a bad pitch.
And bad pitches are bad business. If a company has evaluated its promotional alternatives and made the decision that reaching out to bloggers is a smart business decision, it is such a waste to do it poorly.
So here are some tips that may help us all get along a bit better.
PR folks, re-read your emails before you send them. Ask yourself, is there enough value for the blogger in the pitch? Would I want to get this pitch? How would I feel if I got this pitch in my in-box? If the blogger asks you questions, don't feed them message points. Answer the questions. If the blogger tells you that the pitch was totally off base -- even if she rants -- just apologize and ask nicely what kinds of things she would be interested in. And then deliver. Don't spam her again.
Bloggers, if the pitch is off target, perhaps only slightly, tell the PR reps. They won't learn if no one tells them. I had a call a couple weeks ago with an agency who has been featured a couple times in my bad pitch series. They wanted to understand the problems with their pitches. Good for them for asking, and you can be sure I told them. Whether they make the long-term changes I suggested remains to be seen, but it was a start.
Now, if you, the blogger, reach out, and they, PR, push back inappropriately, as one PR person did when she told a friend that bloggers like to be addressed by their blog name instead of their own name, cross 'em off your list and move on. But sometimes, a really great relationship can start because people sorted out a mistake instead of shutting down.
Walk a mile in the other person's shoes. You'll be amazed at how far that will get you.
Here are a few recent posts from other folks that you might find interesting:
- Bloggers: Be Proactive in Educating PR Pros (Todd Defren)
- Building Quality Relationships Online (Kami Huyse)
- The Momosphere And Why Companies Want To Hire YOU! (Jill Asher)
- Blogger Relations Series (Toby Bloomberg)
Tags: blogger relations
Mathom Room: Compensation Architect, Media Bullseye, Intuit and relaunch of PBS Parents
The mathom room is that place where I put all the interesting stuff that I want to tell you about but just don't have time to devote a whole post. Here's this month's collection.
Compensation Architect is a new blog that I developed for Santorini Consulting, an enterprise software implementation firm. The blog is a guide to designing, managing and implementing compensation systems; its principal author David Kelly is a recognized expert in the field. If you are, or someone you know is, involved in setting or managing sales compensation systems and policies, I urge you to check it out. Design by Leslie Doherty of Catapult Web Development.
I keep forgetting to mention that I was a guest on the Media Bullseye Roundtable podcast on August 1st. Sarah Wurrey, Jen Zingsheim and I talked about BlogHer, whether the web is impacting reading standards and the impact of Randy Pausch's life and death on the interwebs.
I'm going to have more to say on the JingleGenerator from Intuit as a blogger relations campaign, but for now, just enjoy messing around and creating jingles using this tool. I'm not sure anyone would actually use one of these jingles in a promo campaign but it's kinda fun to create one. And I absolutely love this footnote from the press release:
1Tommy Silk is a totally fictitious character, created solely for the promotion of theJingleGenerator.com because we didn’t have the budget to hire someone famous or use their name without getting our pants sued off. Any resemblance to real music moguls, living or dead, is purely coincidental. So there.
Silk? He's sort of a cross between Austin Powers, Tommy Mottola and Tommy Lee.With maybe a dash of Van Halen. And funny, though not nearly as funny as the footnote. Enjoy.
PBS has relaunched pbsparents with the Supersisters blog written by sisters Jen Lemen, Kristen Hammond and Patience Salgado. I love the idea of hearing from siblings on a subject. One of the most compelling blogs I've ever "read" was 3191 a photo blog by two sisters who lived on opposite coasts, took a photo every morning and then posted the results. I think Supersisters has the potential to be just as compelling. Check it out.
That's it for the mathom room. I'll be back later in the week with more blogger relations, good and bad.