How NOT to Pitch Bloggers

I’ve seen a LOT of bloggers calling out PR pros specifically in posts the past couple months. When you’re finished reading this, scroll back up and check out this example for your reading and learning pleasure from Eric Karjaluoto that he posted last week.

They all share the same tips for approaching them the right way – read their blogs, start a conversation, contribute through comments. It’s the same thing offline reporters have been telling PR folks for years –read my past articles, know what I cover.

The challenge is that many clients care more about quantity than they do quality. The only PR stat many CEOs or board members look at is total number of impressions (circulation, audience, readers, etc.). They base their perception on successful PR on that one little (or big) number. So clients want to see massive call reports and the bigger the better. They want as many emails sent and phone calls made as possible within each hour. That approach doesn’t give the account team time to research the people they’re pitching.

Our industry jokes about “smile and dial,” but that’s one of the reasons we get a bad rap among reporters. We’re doing the same with email blasts when we “spray and pray.” The difference – and it’s a big difference – is that managing editors aren’t going to give up precious editorial space for a reporter to vent about bad PR pitches. Bloggers, on the other hand, have much more liberty to draft a negative post to vent their frustrations.

What Eric and others are asking for – dialogue – takes a strong investment in time and energy by either clients, agencies or both. And the relationships aren’t built overnight.

As we all find ourselves beginning to target blogs and other social media, my question is “Does this change the way we reach out to bloggers going forward?” I believe it should if we want to give ourselves the best chance at success and lessen our chances of becoming the subject of blog posts about “PR Idiots.” But that will take a shift in focus from both clients and agencies that values quality over quantity. At the least, they should be valued equally.

Do you think we need to change our approach? Do you completely disagree?

*Image by Stefano Brivio.

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6 responses to “How NOT to Pitch Bloggers

  1. Ideally, we should have been sending out targeted pitches to all media, not just social media…but for many – that is not the case.

    Do I believe that the reason why many PR people send e-blasts is because of client pressure for a large quantity of press…maybe for some.

    I think in all likelihood, we are talking about newbies to the profession who thought it was an easy job and are not passionate about it like the rest of us – or maybe the simply didn’t know any better. But now they do, if they’re paying attention to blogs like this.

    However, if they’re on the spam lists, they’re clearly not monitoring blogs or researching them, so they might not know better…(Sorry for the ramble)

    Basically, I think it’s all about education. And hopefully enough people are realizing how influential bloggers are, and that they need to change their habits across the board to succeed with their profession and clients.

  2. @llevy – thanks for taking time to respond so thoughtfully.

    I agree that education among newbies may be part of it. But that doesn’t let their bosses off the hook. Whose job is to educate them? Their bosses.

    But in my experience, it goes beyond inexperience. I have a friend who was told to pitch the Wall Street Journal on her very first day at her very first job. And it wasn’t a soft story to sell, but very technical. She was scared out of her pants and didn’t have a good conversation with the reporter.

    I’ve experienced first-hand and have heard from others who were given media lists with hundreds of contacts and told to produce a call report for the client three days later. This was from VP-level folks. There’s no room for research, tailoring a pitch, etc. I think those not making pitch calls are quick to make the client happy and hand over the dirty duty to newbies.

    This isn’t good practice for many reasons, including bad journalist relationships. But it also burns out some really good future pros at a young age.

    Thanks again for sharing your insights. We do need to make sure we’re educating newbies on good media relations!

  3. I think you’re both right. We definitely need better education of PR people — but not only about developing relationships (and of course measuring them) but we need them to think like business people — What is the inherent value of “impressions” — in traditional media it was based on the notion that if you generated enough impressions you’d sell something, but there’ s no evidence that that is still true. So they’re pursuing quantity for no purpose. With luck, sooner or later, smarter people who think in terms of business value will come along and replace them all.

  4. Yeah, that’s true. Unfortunately not all clients are ready to sign on to do awareness studies to help measure impressions from PR tactics. Hopefully those “smarter” people will realize that PR does not necessarily equal sales.

  5. Katie – Thinking as business people and in terms of business value is a great point. Quantity for no purpose is what’s being done by many today, though they probably don’t think about it that way.

    Lindsey – That’s definitely a problem. We all know that goals should be measurable. And many clients have the goal of raising awareness. Unfortunately, though, most don’t have or won’t provide budget to do benchmark and post-effort awareness studies. And many would rather spend that $20k – $50k toward efforts to raise said awareness than to measure it.

  6. David, I totally agree with you. Bloggers outreach should be handle very carefully. It takes time, dedication, and real interest for their work. That’s something you can’t fake. It is important to educate management (in-house) and clients (agency) so that as you said they can at least value quality and quantity equally. Now days, it’s not about how much coverage you got in a month, but about how many relationships are you cultivating for the future.

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