Monday, September 29, 2008

Me and the bad pitches: Or why bloggers get peeved by marketers

Lately I've been a bad pitch magnet. I send most of them right along to Susan Getgood, because she writes about them at Marketing Roadmaps.

Some of them would be bad no matter who they were sent to...the pitches for "female plumbing" solutions and sites where you can share stories about smelly baby things. I'm not even kidding. Even you folks who are you really want to focus on the smells??

Some of them were just really badly targeted to me. Beyond the smelly stories site pitch, I got a breathless, excited pitch from someone I didn't know about a book signing the next day in New York accompanied only by an author book titles, no links, now way for me to figure out who this person was, let alone if I was interested in seeing him sign books. Found out later he's quite a prominent children's book author. But other than getting my geography and parental status wrong, yeah everything was spot on.

Sometimes the pitches are actually quite targeted, but the problem is this: I don't exist to market for you. You are not paying me to market for you, nor are you suggesting advertising on my blog. You want me to turn my blog into a little word-of-mouth machine for you, but you are offering me very little in return. What you're peddling better be incredibly fascinating, or my motivation is incredibly low.

Case in point: I write a sorely neglected theatre blog. I got an email from a PR person about the national tour of Tony-winning musical Spring Awakening, which is currently playing my home region. Now, I saw SA in NYC and loved it, LOVED it. But I'm pretty busy, and I wasn't planning on seeing it while it was in town.

PR person tells me that the cast is blogging about the Tour, some text, some video, and isn't that revolutionary and cool, and I should write all about it. Just let her know if I have any questions. Oh, and she hopes I'll get a chance to see the show while it's in town.

Well, lots of theatres launch social media sites or blogs or the like, but few keep them up. Back when I started blogs for local theatre companies here in the Bay Area it was indeed news that they were even doing it. But nearly 5 years later? The very existence of their blog is not news.

It did make me think, though, that I wouldn't mind seeing it again and reviewing it and getting a little link love form their sites and blogs myself, so I replied like this:

"Thanks for the links, I'll check them out. Is the producer offering media passes to bloggers? I saw the show in NY, so don't know if I need to see it again here, but would be happy to review if given media passes."

And guess what: no answer whatsoever. Not even to say "That's not my department", which was likely true.

So, sure, they'd love me to give them a bit of free publicity. My sorely neglected blog is good enough for that (a link is a link is a link, I suppose). But it's not good enough for the price of one ticket. The tickets I can promise you they hand out to any "traditional" journalist like candy, without guarantee of any review either, let alone a good one.

A friend of mine saw it and said the house was far from sold out. That's too bad, because the show is truly brilliant. But I would have to say the approach taken by their social media PR team exemplifies the kind of approach that bloggers are increasingly rejecting outright. Left to my own devices my fandom might have driven me to write about the show organically. But a clumsy PR approach put me off of doing that, so not only did they not get the positive bump they were hoping for, they squelched a potential organic positive mention. Two strikes.

Remember: It's not all about you. Most of us don't actually need you. We do this mostly for love and passion and for our readers. When we monetize we're getting a lot more savvy about placing appropriate value on what we do. There really does have to be something in it for us to talk about you. Yes, an absolutely great idea to blog about is something in it for me. But here's the third strike: you have a way different view of what is awesome for me to write about that I do. Just bear that in mind when you're telling me how amazing your product or service or new article or newly launched online site, blog or community is. I'll be the judge of whether it's amazing for my blog and my readers, have no fear.

I don't fool myself that I'm offering new advice above, but I hope a few examples...and demonstrating how even something properly targeted can go awry...are always helpful.


I get a lot of these too. I've decided that the people doing this heard somewhere that you improve your traffic by getting links from other blogs. But, they didn't read the rest of the explanation about how to go about doing that sensibly. Misguided.
Generally when people e-mail me that kind of stuff, I'll write back with some information about my advertising options.

The ones that really get me are the ones that begin with "dear blogger." If you don't care enough to find out my name or my site's name, why should I care enough to promote your product? Does anyone actually fall for that?
It is very interesting for me to read that blog. Thanks for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more soon.

Best wishes
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