A few are useful, such as announcements of books in my field or writing tools or people I might like to talk to. (For instance, myWriterTools who pinged me earlier this year or the folk at MindJet who sent a very thoughtful email asking me to look at their product or HP – a client – who set me up with an interview with their CTO).
Sadly, the vast majority are completely pointless and a waste of their clients’ money. Here are some of the problems:
- Irrelevant. Products that have nothing to do with the subject of my blog. Today, for example, I got a press release from KMR Communications in New York for Le Baby hair gel. Yes, hair products for children. This is almost a daily occurrence now. Please look at my blog before you pitch me something.
- False promises. A PR firm working for Roger Connors and Tom Smith, authors of How did that happen? offered a guest post about accountability for my blog. I rarely do guest posts but the book sounded interesting and the offer seemed sincere so I explained a bit about my blog and audience and gave them some suggestions for an article. What they sent me (about three weeks later) was a generic piece that had been published on dozens of sites. Either don’t offer a guest post or do it properly.
- Unrealistic expectations. Occasionally I rant about companies or products that let me down in some way. OB10 being the most notable example. PR companies monitor blogs for adverse comments and often respond very quickly to them. This is nice – I’m open to discussion and feedback and, yes, even correction. But having put things right, don’t then ask me to delete the blog post. That’s not how it works it. In the case of OB10, I did add a postscript saying that my particular problem had been fixed.
- Nothing to offer. The majority of PR pitches I get as a blogger give me nothing I can use. No demos, no high-level interviews, no fabulous gifts or freebies. (Guy Kawasaki got an Audi R8 for a week!) They just send their announcements and press releases and hope that I bite. But on what?
Here are my top tips if you are a PR company and you want to engage with me:
- Read my blog and understand what I’m interested in. No more pitches for children’s shampoo. I’m going to start naming and shaming.
- Give me something I can use. Guest posts, demos, interviews with interesting people, comment, link love, Twitter follows, cool pictures and videos, put something about me on your blog.
- Don’t promise more than you can deliver.
- Don’t give me shit and pretend it’s caviar (are you listening ‘How did that happen?’ people?)
- Build a relationship. Let’s be friends. Be consistent and reliable. Find ways to help me, e.g. with introductions or content. Do this before you want me to do something for you.
- If you disagree with me, disagree in a bloggy way (e.g. with comments as well as direct email) and disagree agreeably.
- Ask for my help and feedback on something. Then listen to me. Bloggers are great pundits, critics and product mavens. We love opining. Ask us to opine and we’ll be your friend. (Don’t do what OB10 did and ask me to introduce them to my customers so that they could ask them for their feedback. No. Sorry. My contact list is private, thank you.)
- Write short emails and get to the point. 100-150 words is enough for a pitch.
- Blogs are personal. I like to talk to people. I like people’s opinions. The corporate angle is okay for a journalist, but a blogger wants to get to the people behind the story.
- If all that fails, freebies are worth a try. Come on Audi! Where’s my A8. And my other blog, Golf Hotel Whiskey, reviews planes, airports and pubs, restaurants and hotels for pilots. Plenty of opportunities there for naked bribery. (In the interests of full disclosure, there will always be full disclosure.)
As a recovering journalist I have a pretty low opinion of PR firms. (See The top ten lies of PR companies and How to annoy a journalist.) However, there are some good ones out there and I know that some of them would like to sell their clients an ethical and hard-working blog outreach campaign. I’m listening if you do it right.