Pitching to bloggers

Michael O’Connor Clarke has a great post about how flacks should treat bloggers when thinking about pitching a story to us, inspired by a somewhat clueless pitch left in the comments of a previous blog post. As Michael explains, trying to pitch to a blogger by leaving a standard press release in their comments is not the most effective way to do it, because we are frequently more interested in fisking the pitch than the story itself.

The effect is analogous to what happens when you stand in front of a dog and point to the stick you want him/her to retrieve.

The dog will look at your finger.

Michael was a lot kinder in his post than I would have been. Leaving a pitch in the comments to a post that is not even vaguely related to the story you are pitching shows a complete lack of understanding of blogs and bloggers but, more than that, it shows just how lazy the flack is. You know what we call unwanted marketing intrusions? Spam. You know what this comment is? Spam. And you know how most of us view spammers?

I’ll let you answer that last one yourself.

Undoubtedly, Kristine from Backbone Media, “an Internet marketing company” without a clue, thought that she was doing Michael and his readers a nice fat favour by posting directions to their own site, but you know what? I’m not impressed. There are many effective ways to reach bloggers, but comment spam isn’t one of them, and any internet marketing company which fails to grasp the conversational nature of blogs obviously doesn’t understand an increasingly large chunk of the internet and, I would say, is probably just as full of shit as the next snakeoil SEO salesman.

If you want to get your story out to bloggers, try putting a bit of effort in and actually having a conversation. I rarely get pitched to, but recently I had a nice email from one Patrick Hurley telling me about his company’s new product, AirSet. He had patently read my blog, was friendly, didn’t waffle on, and generally made a good impression on me. When I get round to testing AirSet, I will go to the site already feeling good about it, and Patrick may well get more than he bargained for (in a nice way) as I have something up my sleeve he doesn’t know about but which is relevant to his business.

Why does all this make a difference? Why am I so snarky about Backbone Media and so nice about AirSet? (You’ll already have noted that I have linked to AirSet, but not to Backbone Media.) Well, it’s because one treats blogs as just another outlet for their story, something they can use to promote their own agenda without giving the blogger any thought, care or choice in the matter (yes, the comment can be deleted, but that’s after the fact). The other treats the blogger as a fellow human being, opens up a conversation, gives them the choice of whether to explore or ignore their product with absolutely no intimation of obligation.

Which approach would you prefer?

8 thoughts on “Pitching to bloggers

  1. A pitch in the comments box is not something I’ve experienced, but one company keeps emailing me unsigned ‘Dear Friends’ emails, with – and I quote the one I just this minute received verbatim – “Thank you for your kind help to transfer our information as bellows in your nice website or your newsletter or your brochures… Please do not hesitate to contact us when you need further information, Kindest Regards”

    They’re one of the flashiest restaurants/wine sellers here in Vietnam and I’m the biggest (only) foodblog in Vietnam. I’ll stick to my street stalls thanks very much.

  2. Argh. If only we could bottle clue and sell it. But alas and alac, we can only hand it out using a nice, fat 2×4 around the head.

  3. The pitch wasn’t all that bad. Granted, doing it in the comments section is a lousey idea. She should’ve done it directly. But, all she is asking (essentially) is for Clarke to take a survey. Yes, she’s also promoting her own company, but it’s just a survey. She’s not asking him to promote a product.

  4. Guilty! Yep, I had poor manners. I used to blatently pitch my product/services to any blogger that I thought would further my agenda. It does not work and it is disrespectful to the blogger. Blogging is time consuming and takes real effort.

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and all the A-List bloggers out there for putting up with clumsy, stumbling novice bloggers like me. I think the grace and patience I’ve seen in (most of) the A-Listers just shows why they ARE A-Listers. I have since tried to be a little better behaved; I definitely take time to read the conversation threads and usually only join in when I think what I have to offer relates to the subject at hand.

    As blogging continues to grow in popularity, there will surely be others who will test your patience; on behalf of them, thanks for your indulgence. They’ll eventually get a clue; or not…

  5. My personal favourite to date was a piece of comment spam over at my personal blog that opened: “Dear lovely one, I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ our Lord…”

    A Nigerian letter in my comments – how novel! Sadly, they hit me on a bad-tempered day and I deleted it. I really should have left it there and had some fun with the thing. Poop.

    MikeD – I agree that the pitch itself wasn’t necessarily all that bad. But as we’re discussing here, it’s the fact of the act – not the content of the pitch – that sets one’s teeth on edge. I’m sure some of the junk we get stuffed into our mailbox every day is utterly fascinating, but it’s unsolicited, irritating junk – so it still gets trashed. Bad analogy, but I’ve got a headache…

  6. Hi Sue,

    I work for Backbone Media, Inc and instigated the corporate blogging survey. I ran a similar survey last year from my blog personal PR Communications. One of the early dilemmas I found last year was that not everyone puts their e-mail address on their website. Rightly so as you get a ton of email spam from spam bots when ever you leave a working email address on a public site. So with some trepidation I posted comments on people’s blogs. And most people were okay with the post. I note that Corante does have a contact us page, in which case we should have used that form to contact Micheal rather than commenting.

    On your comment about conversations, I totally agree, in my corporate blog research last year, I discovered that the principal benefit of blogs to such software companies as Microsoft and Macromedia was thought leadership and the ability to get feedback from their customers. Promotion was a secondary benefit. It was due to this discovery on my part that I was inspired to run a second more ambitious survey this year.

    You see I think that blogs really help companies build brands. There has been a lot of hype about the benefits of blogging, mainly around blogs affect on political and social commentary. There has been little analysis on working corporate blogs. Last year when I conducted the corporate blogging survey. I discovered while there are some promotional benefits to companies the main benefit was from thought leadership and customer feedback on product development. I realized those companies who gained the most from such types of websites were the software companies that let their product builders connect with their customers.

    Basically, most companies think of marketing as a promotional effort and when they consider blogging they wonder if the enterprise can gain them higher rankings in search engines and extra PR, it can but only by focusing on the real idea behind the marketing concept. That marketing is all about finding out your customer’s needs and fulfilling those needs by building a better product or providing a better service.

    I think a great example of this is Super Fast Pizza, the company makes sure that pizzas are delivered within 18 minutes by installing ovens and refrigerators in their vans. Super Fast cooks the pizzas on the way to the customer’s house. They also do not take an order unless they can guarantee delivery on time. I think this example is easy for anyone to understand, Super Fast by making a better service or product is really marketing to their customer.

    I think that a lot of companies don’t really actively use the marketing concept in their ongoing product development efforts. And that just as Search engine marketing has taught a generation of business people the value of measuring success accurately, blogging is going to really teach companies how to build better products more quickly.

    Many blogging consultants are focusing on the promotional benefits of blogs, they are correct but only partly, the reality is that product builders at software companies are gaining a lot of good customer feedback from their blogs. The blogs that do best on customer interaction and thought leadership are those run by established companies, a ready audience if you will. The best people to run a blog are the product builders in a company. Software companies can use a blog as a promotional and SEO tool but only if their initial strategy is one of thought leadership.

    Sue, I know you have doubts about search engine marketing or search engine optimization. However as a marketer that has worked with a lot of small companies, I think the Internet has given them a level playing field to compete with larger companies. A small savvy company in SEO really can compete with a larger company. But by basically following the idea of generating relevant, clean good content.

    We have not been reading every single blog extensively before sending out the survey request email. Our goal is to get as many corporate blog participants into the survey as possible. We had identified your company, but as your company is a blogging publishing company we should not have included you in the survey. I am only really interested in talking to companies who are already brick and mortar companies rather than blog publishing companies. Now that’s not to say I would not request put a request into the Boston Globe, as a traditional media company, especially for the jobblog. But I am really only interested in chatting with companies that already had a product or service before blogging. So I made a mistake in having us contact your company, the post was not relevant to your company so I can definitely understand that the post was particularly inappropriate in the context of pitching to the right people.

    I don’t expect you to change your opinion of Backbone Media and our comment, again, as your company has a comment form that was the much more appropriate way to get in contact, and I will writing a note to Michael with an apology, we did not see your contact form when searching for a way to contact the company. But I hope you will understand that our efforts are a genuine effort to understand the benefits of corporate blogging.


    John Cass
    Director of Internet Marketing Strategies

  7. John – as bloggers we are all people (first) who happen to work in some field that probably interests us (second) at some corporation (third).

    That priority is very important. It is, of course, the opposite of the traditional corporate hierarchical structure.

    To a large degree, in the blogworld we connect as people first (through conversaton) around areas of interest (topical relevancy matters), with the benefit to your clients — corporations — being keenly dependent upon those first two facts.

    You have to know these things. It’s not about a “we should have used your contact form.” It’s about connection, meaning, and relevancy online–i.e., your (more importantly, your clients’) direct participation.

    My two cents.

  8. C’mon, the pitch was terrible, bordering on pathetic. How about a simple “Hey, I was reading your blog and found it interesting. My agency is conducting a survey on xyz and I think your input would add value to the results and help make the blogosphere a bit better. Let me know if you’d be interested in participating. I’d be happy to give you the full results at the end of the study if you think they’d be worth posting about.”

    I’ve been a flack for 15 years and pitches like the one by Backbone Media are simply embarrassing.

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