I’ve been blogging now for eight years. I’ve been fortunate enough to build a strong community & following. And I’ve been able to find multiple outlets to write for in order to make a living. That also means I’ve received a lot of pitches, press releases and PR emails from people asking me to write about products, brands, websites and whatever else you can think of.
Some of those emails have made me want to write about those products. Most of them did not. But what’s really weird is that, over time, the strategies and implementations used by those people hasn’t changed very much. Sometimes it comes across as lazy, other times manipulative. And in the same way my readers know when I’m phoning it in, I’m aware of when PR people are doing it too.
So here’s a list of recommendations I have from my side of the fence that, I think, will make your life a lot easier. Well, maybe not entirely easier, but much more likely to get me, and other content creators, to write about the thing you want us to write about.
And trust me when I say I know where you’re coming from and what you’re dealing with. I spent five years working in PR in the entertainment industry and five more working in online media. I’ve dealt with clients. I’ve been the client. I’ve dealt with outlets and websites. I’ve been the outlet or website. I get it. Consider some of these my learnings as well…
1. Stop Generalizing
My email provider has a terrible spam system. Emails that aren’t spam end up in my spam folder and spam ends up in my inbox. So I constantly have to keep checking my spam folder for emails not trying to sell me black market Viagra.
Like most content creators, my email has found its way onto a lot of generic lists. One person sends me everything and anything related to sports. Another person sends me everything and anything related to real estate. And so on and so on.
Eventually, when 99% of the emails I get from that person are completely irrelevant to what I’m writing about, I stop removing them from my spam folder and just let their emails meld into the junk.
I write a blog about Syracuse sports. I care about Syracuse sports. I don’t care about the MLB or UCLA basketball or the state of football helmet design.
I also write a blog about Seattle real estate. Not all real estate. Not West Coast real estate. Seattle. Real. Estate. Everything else is irrelevant to my interests.
I know, you’ve got clients and projects that don’t always fit naturally. But as hard as you might push for me to write about Argentinian politics, it’s just not gonna happen. And the people who send me those kind of topics are more likely to just become spam to me.
2. Don’t Pretend To Know Me. Know Me.
I write about a college sports team for a living. That college happens to have a lot of graduates who go into PR and media work. Invariably, I’ll get a pitch every couple weeks from a fellow Syracuse grad that spends at least a paragraph trying to convince me why this person is a huge Orange fan, trying to find common ground with me with references, stories and anecdotes. And then once that rapport is done, they tell me why I need to write about shaving cream.
When I’m done reading that paragraph, all I can think is…I’ve never spoken to this person before and they just spent so much time and effort pretending to know me. I feel weird.
You know what I’ve very rarely ever receive? An email from a PR or agency person when they WEREN’T pitching something. You went to Syracuse and you work with clients that you’ll want to pitch on my site? Then check in with me. Give me a heads up on who you are. Stop by the site and add a comment or interact on Twitter like the fan you tell me you are.
I’m not saying I want to hear from you every day. Or every week, really. But there’s nothing wrong with an organic heads-up from time to time. I hate talking on the phone and I’m too lazy to meet you in person. Take advantage of the only way you can connect.
And then, when you’ve got something to tell me about, you don’t have to pretend we have rapport cause we already will.
3. Get To The Point
I appreciate the time and effort that you put into your pitch. It looks like its chocked full of stats and figures and quotes and fascinating tidbits. All seven paragraphs of it. If I wasn’t lazy and accustomed to skimming information on the Internet, I’d probably read it all.
But I am so I didn’t.
The other email that was one paragraph long, however, received my full attention. That one got right to the point, told me why there is value in it and gave me clear ideas on where to go from here. I like that you offered me opportunities to learn more if I want to but also provided me with everything I need if I want to just write it up right now. I’ll go do that now and then immediately move to the next thing because my attention span is nil.
4. I Am Not Honored By Your Humble Offering
I started working in PR in 2002 when the world of blogging and independent websites was nascent. I worked for an entertainment company that put marketing and advertising budgets behind everything it produced. Do you know how much of that money went to bloggers/content creators? None. Zilch. Zero. And if one of them even asked for any, we laughed behind their backs at the very thought of it.
But now it’s 2014 and it’s a very different world. Blogs aren’t just hobbies anymore. They’re jobs. They’re businesses. They’re means of earning a living.
There was a time when offering me a t-shirt and poster was enough to get me to write about whatever you wanted. Those days are loooooong gone.
You want me to put in the time and effort to craft something interesting, worthwhile and engaging so that your client can sell products or leverage my community? You’re gonna have to pay for that. Or at the very least, you’re gonna have to give me something of value for it.
Can’t give me cash? Hook me up with an affiliate code so I get a percentage of sales made off of my post. Can’t provide any kind of financial incentive? Give me something AWESOME to give away to my readers.
Not only is it fair to the content creator but it’s always waaaay cooler for the audience. Trust me, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that people love free things. Give me something valuable and you’ll get value back. Promise.
5. Do My Job For Me
I’m only half-joking. Actually, I’m one-tenth joking.
My day usually goes one of two ways. The first is that I’m so swamped I spend the entire day playing catch-up just to make sure my sites have all the content they need for me to feel like they’re in good shape. The second is that I can’t figure out what to write and my mind is completely focused on trying to find something interesting and engaging to talk about.
In either instance, I’m not in the mood to write 300 words from scratch about your client’s new product, even if it’s something that makes sense for my audience.
You know what would be awesome? If you included a pre-written blog post in your email. Not a press release. Not a link that I have to click on and go digging for information. A straight-up blog post.
If I like it, I’ll use it. I’ll change some wording. I’ll personalize it. I’ll make it my own. But I’ll keep all the pertinent info and I’ll make sure it’s interesting and engaging and exactly what I was trying to write in the first place.