What Bloggers Should Know About Public Relations And Advertising
What Bloggers Should Know About PR And Advertising
What Bloggers Should Know About PR And Advertising
by

I was dumbfounded when I read a recent New York Times article about mommy bloggers that indicated a conference session topic at an event called Bloggy Bootcamp was how to let public relations firms know you don’t work for free. A few months ago, I reached out to a prominent mommy blogger on Twitter to let her know that I had a client whose products she might be interested in – not a pitch, just a light toss that indicated I may pitch her down the road. She responded by saying, “I’ll be happy to work with your client. My fee is $125 per hour.” I was stunned.

It seems that some bloggers (not just the mommy kind) have a vast misunderstanding of what public relations professionals are supposed to do or be used for. It also seems that some think receiving a pitch for a product somehow entitles them to call themselves consultants and charge hourly rates to someone else for writing content for their own website. Far be it from me to criticize a blogger’s ability to make money, but these attitudes deeply concern me. While the media landscape is evolving to account for new media roles, blogger ignorance to how traditional communications and marketing works may forever ruin the notion of an unbiased media.

Here are some thoughts that all bloggers and public relations professionals should consider to help us all get along and prosper:

Soliciting Money For Your Blog Is Advertising Sales

Cash register by Lisa F. Young on Shutterstock.comWhether you are selling banner advertising, known in the advertising world as “online media,” or advertorial content (yes, blog posts) for a product or service in exchange for a fee or sponsorship, you are selling an advertisement. When you publish that advertisement, the Federal Trade Commission requires you to disclose what you received in exchange for that post or content element. The advertisement, whether it’s a banner ad or advertorial content, is referred to as paid media. You, the blogger/media outlet are being paid to display or post the advertising message.

Should you want to ask someone at a brand or company to consider paying you money for advertorial coverage, banner advertisements and similar online media, you typically would call upon that company’s media buyer or media planner, the marketing director or other individual who handles buying online media, not a public relations representative.

Public Relations Is Not Paid Media

The term “paid media” refers to any element of a brand’s communications that is purchased from a publishing company (i.e. advertising). Editorial coverage (not advertorial, which is paid media) is earned media that a brand receives from publishing companies because the information was compelling enough for its audience to cover the information. While some earned media occurs naturally in the course of a journalist or bogger talking about the industry, public relations professionals are agents of a brand who attempt to proactively inspire or entice earned media coverage by pitching story ideas and funneling brand information to media outlets.

PR Should Not Pay For Coverage

While there are always exceptions, public relations professionals do not have an ad budget. They do not purchase advertising for companies, and shouldn’t. PR pros either successfully pitch relevant stories to writers who are covering the topic, or they don’t. Bloggers should know enough about public relations to know they either have relevant information to help you write better, more well-rounded stories or they don’t.

Bloggers Have No Obligation To PR

Like their traditional media brethren, bloggers are not obligated to respond to public relations professionals. Bloggers do not have to cover a brand, respond to the pitch, read the press release or consider covering the item the PR professional is offering. If a blogger chooses to respond to a pitch, there are really only two appropriate responses:

  • Yes, I’m interested.
  • No, I’m not.

A Bloggers’ Obligation Is To His Or Her Audience

While a blogger doesn’t have to communicate with public relations professionals at all, there’s a pretty good chance they write about the industry or even the company that the PR pro represents from time to time. At some point, the blogger may need information about the company or a product they can’t find online, a logo or company image to use with a piece they’ve written, a quote or reaction from the company to some piece of news or a clarification or explanation of something the company does. Public relations professionals are the appropriate contacts for inquiries. Not communicating with the PR folks at all could limit your ability to serve your audience with accurate information. Furthermore, sometimes the pitch or the press release is about some news or a new product that the blogger’s audience should know about. By ignoring pitches, or demanding paid media treatment of said information, a blogger is doing a disservice to his or her audience as that limits or adulterates the information the audience is given.

The Traditional Method Has Merit

The media and public relations landscape is changing. Bloggers are essentially the first publishing channel and media outlet which play both paid and earned media roles. Newspapers, magazines, television and radio outlets have journalists to produce the content and sales teams to solicit or handle advertising. The division of these roles is an important protection for the audience to help them trust a media outlet’s content is not unduly biased. It’s kind of like the separation of church and state. Bloggers dissolve that separation which public relations has yet to figure out appropriate reaction to. I worry that if bloggers continue to fail to see the importance of that separation and PR’s evolution is to being regularly paying for coverage, then the notion of an unbiased, fair and accurate media could be lost forever.

Bloggers Are Bloggers, Not Marketing Consultants

I researched the aforementioned mommy blogger who wanted to charge my client $125 per hour to pitch her and discovered some interesting facts. She had no work experience or formal training in marketing, public relations or advertising. She had a blog with a nice sized audience, but had worked in a non-marketing service industry field until she had children and opted to stay at home. While plenty smart, she was unqualified to consult with a company on how to market or promote their products. Sadly, there are thousands of bloggers (and social news site vote-getters) out there just like her who think (or are being taught by conferences like Bloggy Bootcamp) that being a successful blogger makes them qualified to consult with companies on marketing. When she told me she would “work with” my client for $125 an hour, I replied, “Ummm. I’m the consultant. You are either interested in telling your audience about the products or you’re not. We won’t be paying you to pitch you.”

Sadly, some companies apparently do. It’s not a slight against the blogger, but against the companies. Brands should not pay for media coverage. You either make a compelling pitch that wins the interest of the blogger or you don’t get covered. If that blog’s audience means that much to you, add them to your media buying plan and see if you can purchase advertising there, or come up with a better pitch.

Why The Current Environment Is Fuzzy

Bloggers don’t have an obligation to be fair and balanced. They don’t need public relations contacts the way traditional media outlets do. While bloggers are often not trained journalists, they also aren’t normally skilled at positioning their work for advertising sales and monetization. Bloggers want to make money doing what they do, and deserve to do so. Brands want their products and services represented well in traditional and new media content, and they deserve that, too. What a blogger has that brands want is editorial content which is not something you can buy in traditional media channels. Bloggers want to sell it. Companies are being asked to play by new rules that cross established ethical boundaries. The environment is evolving, but there are no hard, fast rules for what’s right and wrong here.

Yes, consumers are smart enough to find content they trust on their own. No, there isn’t just one way, or even a right way, to monetize a blog or even prescribe content for an audience. But bloggers should understand the issues at hand, the environment in which they’ve thrust themselves by becoming a publishing agent and how the world of advertising and public relations work to be most successful at what they do. It’s not that PR doesn’t have to change, too, but that bloggers should understand the context of the marketplace.

Romero was quoted in the New York Times article as telling the crowd they were there to be seen, “as a professional.” If you want them to be seen as professionals, then you should teach them about the profession (communications) they are now a part of, not how to show their ignorance of it.

As in need of evolution as that profession may be.

For more great thoughts on how bloggers should handle, PR, see my pal Tamar Weinberg’s Blogger Etiquette post.

Image: Cash register by Lisa F. Young on Shutterstock.com

About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at JasonFalls.com.
  • Bethany Cousins

    Wait, wait, wait! So, what was her reaction to you pretty much putting her in her place? I’m dying to know! Lol

  • Charlotte Barnes

    I know I’m fairly late to the discussion but I had to leave my comment here as this is one of very few articles I have come across that seem to be covering this subject.

    I work for a media agency and a big chunk of my work involves outreach and link building. Most of this is done via press releases and articles submitted to relevant websites. Your bit about bloggers understanding “the context of the marketplace” really hit home for me. I am constantly finding myself up against a wall of distrust when attempting to pitch original and, might I add, relevant articles. The experience has incensed me to the point that I wrote my own piece detailing the difficulties media agencies often come up against when trying to submit content – https://www.spiralmedia.co.uk/asking-much-original-content/

    Like you, I’m not saying that bloggers and the like should not be making a living from their blogs, but that working with us is surely more beneficial than dismissing every submission that isn’t offering payment as spam. I can’t speak for everyone out there but I never write advertorials, even when linking back to my clients. I write for the reader and if my client has information that backs up a claim or a fact, I consider that to be relevant.

    This is a great article and it was really worth the read.

    • Thanks for reading and replying Charlotte. You’re right — this one’s a few years old. But it still holds true. In fact, I may revisit soon to revive the discussion. Thanks for the inspiration!

      • Charlotte Barnes

        No problem Jason, happy to contribute! It’s definitely still a valid discussion I think and I’m always ready to add my two cents.

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  • Miss B

    Wow! Really? Okay, so I get the whole PR/blogger/advertising agent roles and I agree with you on that, but what “mom blogs” any different than any other site on the Internet that displays advertising, works with “partners” and “sponsors”? What makes paying for a review any different than paying for an ad spot on a television station? The local religious channel might not have the most viewers of all channels in the lineup, but that doesn’t mean advertisers won’t pay for a spot on there…as a matter of fact, they do.

    So, put yourself in the blogger’s shoes..maybe the blogger gets pitched 200 times per day…someone in there is going to say, “Okay, I will pay your fee” and that blogger then gets paid for sharing their readers, just like television stations get paid for sharing their viewers with companies. How many PR reps run around asking television stations for “free air space”? So, why would they approach bloggers and assume that bloggers have the time to talk about all 200 of the products that they are approached with daily and why should the assumption be that bloggers haven’t worked their behinds off to gain the following that they have?

    There’s no high horse here for PR reps, advertising agents, or bloggers. Yes, everyone should work together. Since when did celebs and quasi-celebs NOT get paid for promoting products? And, those bloggers with the social media prowess of celebrity status should also get paid.

    • Thanks for the response, Miss B. I think you’re failing to see a couple of finer points here. First, if a blogger offers editorial content in exchange for money, that is not an advertisement. That is a paid editorial placement. It’s not a banner ad, but an organic endorsement of the company. Without disclosure, the audience is being misled into thinking the editorial endorsement is natural and without bias. This is why the FCC requires disclosure of these types of endorsements and bloggers not providing such can be fined up to $17,000 per incident. (Brands paying for the coverage can be fined, too, so it’s guilt on both sides.)

      And PR professionals do, in fact, pitch television stations in the same fashion. And magazines, and newspapers and radio stations, etc. Public Relations pros try to get the news or editorial arms of those organizations to cover their product or service in an UNPAID and natural, organic fashion. If the editorial team decides, “Yes, this story is worth covering,” they use the PR professional as a resource to get information. The challenge then falls on the news/editorial representative to produce a fair and balanced story that doesn’t taint their unbiased editorial position.

      Sure, there are news and editorial organizations that don’t care if their content is biased. They can write favorable reviews without balance if they like. But blogs are the first such publications where paid editorial placement is rampant. Most traditional outlets separate editorial from
      advertising to maintain a air of editorial balance, ethics and integrity.
      Accepting paid editorial placements dilutes those qualities in the eyes of
      the audience.

      Appreciate your passion here, for sure. And I’m not saying bloggers who
      take money for editorial coverage are bad or wrong. I just think that many
      need to understand the nuances of marketing and public relations, plus
      advertising, in the traditional marketplace so they can be more effective
      and wise in how they approach monetization of their blogs.

      Fair?

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  • Wow I read this article and it was very informative, and I read everyone's comments as well. It's difficult new to blogging for some because there are “blogging conferences” and boot camps that tell bloggers “get paid what you are worth” don't work for free, but I can understand the point of view in this article and I've never told anyone I get a fee for blogging for them.

    My guideline is simple. If I like the product pitched to me, it's a good fit for my readers, it's something that excites me or I wish to share it. I take the offer to blog about. A product review means a product must be sent to me or I somehow must engage with the product because well… anyone can't write what they want but I don't believe in sharing information with my audience unless it's honest and something I've done before.

    I've had PR reps pitch me a product for someone else they think might be suitable and my answer is always great, send me some info and we'll see what happens. Like you said, you can yes or no. You shouldn't charge for that service. If someone is offering information because as you said you thought the product would be great for her blog, I don't care if her audience is over 100,000 reach I think it's wrong to charge for that information.

    Maybe that's why I sometimes get companies that go… “really you don't mind writing a post for us on our new product and you don't want money???”

    I don't blog to make money. I blog because I love being a in independent journalist “mommy blogger” stay at home who writes, freelance writer, online tale teller, whatever you wanna call me. I love writing and sharing neat things with my audience on life, where I live, news I think is interesting and yes product reviews and offering giveaways is also fun.

    I think bloggers need to flip it around and wear the shoe. If you were pitching an idea to someone that might be of interest to their blog and the person said okay but pay me first then we'll chat… you darn well know you would not like it.

    Can't everyone just get along? lol Sometimes being online is like babysitting without getting paid, draining, frustrating and just not worth it, but I love kids so…

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  • Amazing article. Basically, the reason why I believe this article to be a proper reflection of the real situation towards PR and advertising when it comes to blogging is because can be summed up to “have a vast misunderstanding of what public relations professionals are supposed to do or be used for”. Some entrepreneurs I have interacted with came to me thinking that PR and advertising were something completely different and separated than the social media activity. It's like they don't see that social media is supposed to be used to improve the already exisiting areas of business online.
    Fantastic post.

  • Amazing article. Basically, the reason why I believe this article to be a proper reflection of the real situation towards PR and advertising when it comes to blogging is because can be summed up to “have a vast misunderstanding of what public relations professionals are supposed to do or be used for”. Some entrepreneurs I have interacted with came to me thinking that PR and advertising were something completely different and separated than the social media activity. It's like they don't see that social media is supposed to be used to improve the already exisiting areas of business online.
    Fantastic post.

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  • It's important to acknowledge the distinction between PR/bloggers and advertising – blogging is an amazing newly popular field that is one person's opinions or ideas, not a paid campaign to gain publicity. Great post.

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  • This is a great article Jason. No idea why I didn't find it sooner, except I guess I've been too busy hitting PR folks up for money.

    (No! Kidding!)

    I agree with you pretty much 98%. A lot of what you say is gold and I'd love more bloggers to read your advice. The line about putting your audience first is my mantra and I think people are sick of hearing me say it at conferences. Eh, what can you do.

    That said, I think one of the challenges is that bloggers aren't quite citizen journalists as a commenter above suggested. Some are, some aren't. PR is reaching out to bloggers as publishers, authors, editors, reviewers, individual consumers, “brand ambassadors,” and more. It's confusing! On both sides. In fact, the Blog With Integrity campaign which I helped to found is hosting a webinar for pr and marketing in a few weeks, sponsored by Council of PR Firms, on this very thing. http://www.blogwithintegrity.com/?page_id=111 As far as we've come, it's clear we still have a long way to go. We're all figuring this out together, as we go along.

    I might put the onus back on you though in this particular case; I think that with a little research, it's not too hard to figure out which bloggers (moms in particular) are creating websites exclusively around paid content or free products.

    I hear a lot of complaints from PR friends about the bloggers demanding money for posts. A thought: If PR stops engaging the paid advertorial bloggers that they perceive to have no ethics, the advertorial bloggers cease to exist.

    • Good points, Liz. Thanks for stopping by and for sharing the link to the BWI
      webinar. Hope lots attend. I'll try!

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  • jason- this was a really good read, especially for me, someone who is fairly new to social media and blogging. in terms of pitches that i receive, i hate them for the most part. they're not even remotely creative or interesting. however, i do feel obliged to at least respect them enough to write back and say “thanks but no thanks.” as a blogger, i'm not looking to be seen as a journalist. i cuss too much and say “vag” way too often, according to some critics. thanks for giving us bloggers some good info to marinate on.

  • GerardB

    Long overdue post on this topic. Thanks for tackling it.

    If bloggers want to be taken as seriously as traditional journalists and print media, then they need to adhere to the same traditional journalistic ethics of not taking money for coverage. It's really that simple.

    No matter how much you love a particular brand, serving as a “consultant” for a brand that or having your tab picked up for a trip to cover an event or product compromises your integrity. Period. It's the same reason many non-media companies forbid gifting of people in purchasing. No matter how ethical you are, it's about appearances and the possibility that one day, just once, you will slip and put aside your integrity for the largess.

  • Jason

    Well, well — you've hit a hot topic here haven't you. I'll keep my 2 cents short. I think the real challenge here is the revenue model for blogging. Currently there are two avenues — take ads or “pay to post” and neither is especially appealing. So serious bloggers like the one you note in your post are looking to create revenue from their efforts by using established and accepted forms of payment — in her case an hourly “consulting” rate. Fair enough.

    However, instead of hashing about the rightness or wrongness of the existing models, wouldn't we do better to discuss/invent new models? As you well know, creating great content is time consuming and those that create it have historically been rewarded with money. So how can we reward great bloggers without muddying the waters? That's the convo I'd love to see.

    LMK your thoughts man.
    @TomMartin

  • I've chewed on this for a couple of days before responding. Here's what I'm thinking:

    *** PR and marketing want what bloggers already have: authenticity and community (and many want it very badly.) To be very blunt, bloggers do not necessarily need PR and marketing. An independent travel guy like Gary Arndt does not tend to seek out travel/tourism PR folks like many writers do. He goes, he experiences a destination, he writes/photoblogs/videoblogs about it. That's it. He does not need any PR help to be wildly successful at doing that.

    Sure, in terms of basic human relationships, he'd like to get along with folks and not unnecessarily burn bridges, but he does not NEED PR services, Jason. Y'all have no carrot for him. Pitches are an annoyance, not helpful. For bloggers that do tech product reviews or many other situations, then yeah, maybe they'd like the connections they can get through PR. But a lot of perfectly successful bloggers do not give a rat's patootie, and that probably includes a lot of parenting bloggers who could give a fig about PR access. They can raise their kid and blog about it without needing a single insight from Huggies or Gerber PR.

    PR folks must accept that in many cases, y'all need us more than we need y'all, and bloggers are figuring that out. Your extortionist was simply a lot more crude than was required to get her point across. It's not the way I'd operate by any means, but each individual blogger supports his/her own individual power structure. That's why we're such a PITA. :)

    ** Let's talk about pitches. If this is “how PR and marketing are done,” then I'm glad I'm late in life to the game as a participant. What a raging pain in the butt and horrendous waste of effort; I achieve email IN box zero this weekend, then open that IN box Monday morning to find 38 messages (slow morning. Yay.) The vast majority are travel-related pitches that I don't care about, from distro lists that I never signed up/double-opted-in for, and that have NO way to easily unsubscribe in accordance with CAN-SPAM (and these are from “professional” PR orgs. I can tell from the email addys.)

    This way of operating is total bullshit, and we are calling the industry on it, and we're right, Jason.

    Sure, I can “just delete,” but the point is, I SHOULDN'T HAVE TO. I'm being spammed. I shouldn't have to take the time to shovel manure out of my own IN box every damned day. Does that make people like Gary and I a little pissy? You're darned right it does. We don't care if that's “the way of the world in PR,” it ain't our way.

    You do not operate that way, Jason, and like some of the other sharp PR folk we both know, you got to know me as a person before every pitching me about anything. In fact, I don't think you've ever pitched me because we don't tend to move in the same industries, but remember that time you asked to give me a ring and talk some tourism stuff? I was MORE than happy to chat, because you're a sharp guy and can teach me things. I'm smart enough to know when I can be taught. :)

    ** This dialog is painful but important. You are in the vanguard of your industry simply by being a blogger and having a clue. Thanks for grabbing the topic and engaging in the comments, two things that most of your peers wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole. That's why you're going to succeed, and they're going down in the online Thunderdome. Congrats, Mad Max.

    • You so rock. And you're right. Can't argue with any of that.

      My only response is that PR folks need to be better at knowing which
      bloggers could use the occasional story idea and which ones don't want it.
      Not all don't. The ones that don't have no obligation to tell anyone they
      don't, so PR folks try. While I'd love for the bloggers to be nicer about
      the no thanks, they aren't obligated to be, I guess. Maybe the discussion
      will spark some solutions out there. PR isn't going away, not even bad PR.
      We can try to educate and eradicate, but as long as one blogger or media
      outlet out there will pick up on a pitch, there will be PR folks throwing
      them around.

      I just wish we could figure out a happy medium where bloggers understand why
      and don't hate us all because of it.

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  • I find this post interesting. I think you could have responded to the blogger another way.

    “I'm open to discussing a sweepstakes or some other promotion that would benefit traffic to your site with my client but as for cash, no.”

    You should have just used a little tai chi and misdirection :-)

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  • Jason- I figured Tiffany could explain her views better than I could.

    I hear you on the mom blogger name point: For example, my site name would imply I write about my kids. But I really don't. Punditmom's name would imply she writes about her kids- but it's more about politics. So I see the semantic disconnect- oddly, when I chose my URL I didn't know there WERE mom bloggers.:)Let alone that I was becoming one. But hey, not a bad club.

    As for pissed at you for being a man: really no. Ask my husband, I love men, y'all are great, but I wouldn't want to be one. I've just had a frustrating week with seeing smart, entrepreneurial women painted as clueless unethical dodo-heads, and I came out swingin kind of hard. Mostly because I DON'T expect that generalization from you- I consider you a quality source of information, and pushed back harder than I would have on a site run by someone who would never get it anyway.

    So thank you very much for your openness to discussion and discourse, I really appreciate it. Have a great night-Lindsay

  • Many posts since I have posted and I can't say all I want to say, because it would take to much time and space. But I must say something. Sasha said “Public Relations = relationships with the public”. Well….NO! Public Relations includes relationships with the public, they are not the same and they don't have the same meaning. I am saying it because this idea followed me by the ears. Everybody who hears about pr, they have the same idea, that the pr means relationships with the public..

    • Love to know what you think it means. While there has traditionally been
      media as a go-between, public relations certainly is focused on building
      relationships with the public. Sure, some people don't do a good job of it,
      but the term is descriptive of its purpose in my mind.

      • Thanks Jason for being open to my comment.

        FYI- great blog.

  • thesmartmama

    Reading through the comments, there seems to be some disconnect. Many of the traditional PR or journalist folks talk about advertising separate from content. But what is overlooked is that the typical exchange of perks for favorable coverage (as mentioned by Catherine below) doesn't work the same in the blogging world for the most part because the bulk of bloggers are not salaried staff. They may be getting some revenue from advertising – usually very small – but it is vastly different being on staff at a magazine or paper.

  • Good post. I did something similar last year with 15 tips for PRs dealing with bloggers and 15 tips for bloggers dealing with PRs – http://bit.ly/c2uVts & http://bit.ly/bUs0Le

    • Thanks for the links, Craig. Will check them out ASAP.

  • Jason, there's a great discussion going on here. Not going to rehash it, but suffice it to say there are Good and Bad folks in both PR and blogging, and always will be.

    I think things are fuzzy only if we let them be. The FTC came out with the disclosure rules in part b/c they didn't think the audience could always trust the content they found, as that great article on Sea World may have been bought and paid for via a free trip which was not disclosed.

    “The environment is evolving, but there are no hard, fast rules for what’s right and wrong here.” I'll reveal my idealistic idiocy on this one. I'm ALL about gray areas and yet I know my rights from my lefts, ups from downs, and yes, rights from wrongs. Ethical boundaries are being blurred and crossed only if we choose to do so.

    • I'll give you that, Davina, but also know that ethics and morals are very
      different from laws and regulations. What one person finds offensive,
      another thinks is perfectly fine. So there are gray areas. I agree with you
      … paid is paid and transparency prevents audience confusion, but I also
      know there are some that think if you go to a group dinner that a company
      pays for, then write about them six months later you're supposed to disclose
      that where as other say it's unrelated an nominal. Skip it.

      But thanks for the thoughts.

      • Stephen

        “also know that ethics and morals are very different from laws and regulations. What one person finds offensive, another thinks is perfectly fine.”

        Is that kinda just another of saying “if there's not a rule against it it's ok?” because I'm not sure about.that.

        • Not at all. There are certainly some clear unethical behaviors out there,
          but like the group dinner I mentioned previously, there are some that are
          unclear as well.

  • I've got a background in PR and journalism and I'm now channeling both these threads of experience into a commercial writing business, offering clients my services as a company blogger and writer of all sorts of communication tools. I understand both sides of the coin. I think, as far as bloggers are concerned, there is a need for total transparency. While they will obviously be considering revenue streams such as “advertorials” and “advertising”, there needs to be a few degrees of separation between their objective blogger content and content that is clearly bought. Unfortunately, it does seem that there is often a confused approach to blogger/PR relations, as many bloggers and PRs remain confused about how to work in harmony. PRs are much more used to working with traditional journalists — the mechanics of press launches, press gifts, press trips are well-versed. Journalists get perks in the hope of favourable coverage. With the PR/blogger relationship, the muddy waters have yet to clear.

    • Nice thoughts, Catherine. Thanks for chiming in.

  • thesmartmama

    Jason – You may be making every effort to send relevant information to appropriate bloggers. I will give you that. But it seems like you are virtually alone in your efforts when it comes to PR people pitching bloggers.

    And make no mistake about it, you are doing it for your client, not the blogger.

    I don't accept advertising on my blog – although I have 3 affiliates. I rarely do product reviews. I really don't want PR pitches about new products or activities. But I still get them. All the time. The content PR folks provide is rarely tailored to my blog or of interest. I have a very niche blog – non toxic living. I also write about Proposition 65 and the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act because I'm an attorney, and I also write about XRF testing and lead content because I do that too. So, I get pitches for every green, natural, safe, wellness, healthy item, and also every home, baby, kid, consumer product item. About 50 pitches per business day. About 1 in the 250 or so pitches I get is actually from a PR person who has read my blog in any detail and understands what I write about.

    And when I do get something that peaks my interest, the PR person usually cannot answer any questions with sufficient detail to make the content of interest to my readers. So then I end up spending more time following up. Let me give you an example. Take a new baby shampoo – I would want to know the source of each ingredient (plant v. petroleum or for palm, sustainable or not?); processing (any petrochemistry?); for ethoxylated ingredients, the level of quantitation/detection for 1,4 dioxane; for aloe juice/gel, whether it is pre-preserved wtih parabens before formulation or from powder; etc. Then it is packaging, transportation, etc. So, needless to say, it takes time for me to review a product to the appropriate level of detail. I can't post about it without such information because it would not be consistent with my “brand.”

    So you are right. I can purge the solicitations. But I do try to give PR folks the benefit of the doubt by at least skimming them, although I can say most PR folks don't give me the courtesy of at least finding out about what I write about before pitching me.

    That being said, what I do get a lot from brands/PR folks is requests to pick my brain. Pick my brain about what green bloggers might be interested in the product. Pick my brain about how to answer ingredient questions. Pick my brain about what is “of concern” to moms vis a vis packaging, ingredients, etc. Pick my brain about labeling issues.

    And if a company wants that, then the company can pay.

    • Absolutely agree with you on the pick your brain part. That is asking you
      for advice, which is consulting and warrants a fee. My point is I'm not
      going to pay you to present you with information that you might find useful
      to your audience to write about. The information, which serves your audience
      and helps your content and traffic, is the payment.

      And again, I'm not apologizing for bad PR. I know there's a lot of it. But
      there are really good, smart PR folks out there doing a good job of
      targeting and outreach and pitching relevant stories that get trashed when
      bloggers apply the all or nothing label to the PR industry. We're getting
      better … hopefully more measurably than you report … and there will
      always be bad seeds out there, but there are good ones too.

      Thanks for the comment.

      • thesmartmama

        It goes both way – a lot of PR folks apply the same all or nothing label to bloggers. Perhaps I don't get the good PR pitches because I've been labeled a “mommy blogger” on the lists as opposed to a “non toxic” or “green” blogger.

        And that's why I get tired of the off base pitches – because the PR person is NOT pitching something that is at all useful to me. I don't just hit delete – I usually respond explaning what type of stuff I would be interested in. Which takes time.

        And in the 4 hours since I posted, I got 20 way off base pitches. Addressed generically.

  • I'm a blogger with a degree in Journalism (although you'd never know if from my typos) and although I wouldn't charge someone to pitch me I do return almost every PR pitch I receive (I get about 100 a week) with a form letter giving my demographics and explaining that I don't do paid reviews or giveaways but that if they're interested in advertising I have a lot of flat-rate options. Most of the PR pros ignore it or explain that they don't have a budget but occasionally it works and the PR firm will convince the client it's a good deal. I'm sure it pisses off PR people who have to wade through my long pitch talking about why they should advertise with me, but it's kind of therapeutic to know that I'm not the only person spending hours each week reading pitches that I'd never be interested in.

    • Wow. A visit from a superstar. Thank for swinging by, Jenny. I like you're
      approach a lot. It's a good way to flip the treatment around while still
      accomplish the goal of getting some advertising dollars from time to time.
      Good on ya. And in case you didn't recall, we had dinner in Vegas last year
      with the Blog Catalog dudes. Very nice of you to come by and comment here.
      Thanks.

  • Stephen

    That's well put. That's that's the feeling I got off it too and you put it into words better than I did.

  • Ken

    I'm not going to tell you how to do your job. But I will tell you that your message that you are looking out on any level for ME as opposed to your customer is, to me, inherently incredible and inherently suspicious, and makes me less likely, not more likely, to hear out your pitch.

    When an opposing lawyer tells me “I'm really concerned about your client, that's why I'm offering this deal,” I always look for the knife at my back. It's not just about having had bad experiences with PR people (though I have). It's about deep suspicion of any sales pitch in which the agent for someone else tells me he's actually looking out for my interests.

  • Stephen

    No, that's wishful thinking. It doesn't help me. It so happens in your example that SEO bores me to tears, I don't make my money through search results and so I don't need to waste my time with it. People really only need SEO if they're doing something that looks a lot like your job. Otherwise it actually costs me the time it takes me to delete your email.

    The other thing is I don't know you, I don't want random strangers on the internet offering me unsolicited “help” – it so happens that children are supposed to report people who do that to their parents.

    If I'm on the subway, and the guy across from me says “You might be interested in Starbucks” he's not helping me, he's advertising Starbucks.

  • Kimberly/Mom in the City

    I think that most of us mom bloggers are smart enough to know the difference between paid and unpaid placement. I think that what (some PR) people need to understand is that we are not dumb irregardless of our past backgrounds. I know for a fact that it is not the norm for pr folks to ask journalists to write specific things about the products that they are pitching with links back to their website and to post specific pictures at a specific time, etc. THAT is advertorial and unfortunately (some) PR people are making such requests of bloggers (including moms).

    I am a mom blogger (I really don't care about the title) who does not charge for reviews or giveaways. Where some PR people cross the line though is that they do ask to “pick my brain” in regards to whom they should reach out to/the best way to do so/etc. for free.(basically, they want me to do what their clients are expecting them to do as their consultants). I'm sorry (not really), but I DO come from a business background. PR people should know better then to ask mom bloggers to do their work for them.

    At the end of the day, I love working with 99%+ of the marketers that I work with. It's that other .1% or less that is frustrating. I guess that frustration runs both ways.

    • Thank you for the perspective Kimberly. I would agree that if a PR firm asks
      for brain-picking or consulting, then you can offer up the rate/fee. That
      makes perfect sense. And I certainly don't mean to imply that moms, women or
      even someone without marketing experience isn't qualified to offer insights.
      Hell, random people get paid to sit in on focus groups. But this particular
      person flipped the “pay me” switch too soon and without apparent background
      to make that sell worth considering.

      • Thanks for the clarification Jason. I really do believe that civil conversations (on both sides) such as this one will help to bridge the gap between marketers and bloggers over time.

  • redneckmommy

    This post here, is why my degree (in journalism) and me stick to writing about dead kids and dildos. It's easier than worrying about everything else and a lot more fun.

    Great read Jason.

    • You have no idea how much I'm in love with you. Thank you for stopping by
      and bringing some levity to it all.

  • Oh Jason, how you so easily distract me from what I need to be doing. I plead with you to make less interesting posts so that I can get more work done.

    Let's start with the fact that I agree with everything you said in regards to the request for payment in those circumstances. Let's act like I typed a lot of words here to then convince you of the fact that I think you're a warm and cuddly teddy bear.

    Let's finish with this however. The response you've given to those who feel your email was spam is inadequate. Every business spammer thinks that what they are sending has value to the person at the other end….if only they would read it. And apparently a whole lot of businesses think I'm having trouble in the bedroom department because they think I would find cheap Viagra valuable. They would also all say “all you had to do is delete it if you weren't interested, no harm done”. But that's not really true is it? You've already wasted my time by the point at which I can decide to delete it. Did I just lump you and the entire PR profession in with the scum of the earth? Yes. Do I think that is true. Well of course not, but that's sort of the point. One mans floor is another persons ceiling. It's entirely possible that your pitch, your product/service message, etc. severely missed the mark with this blogger. To the point where they felt justified in implying, “Look, I don't see the *value* in what you're proposing. But if you're willing to make up for that with *creating* a value (i.e. money) I'll take the time to listen”. The only thing that differentiates spam from legitimate email is the perceived value the recipient places on it.

    So the way I see it, if you miss the mark badly enough you just sent me spam and wasted a portion of my day. To a much greater degree than those traditionally pitched by PR folk a blogger is dealing with a lot of spam management and mitigation (comment moderation, email contact being publicly displayed, etc.). This tends to create a more antagonistic view to any email received which wasn't requested, sought out, or opted into.

    I'm not providing solutions here. And I'm most certainly not condoning the response of the blogger. I am however pushing back on you slightly for the “all you have to do is delete it” comments.

    Can't wait to see you in St. Louis. You can proceed to batter me about the head when we get together

    Cheers,

    -Matt

    • Totally fair response Matt. Sorry for distracting you with a good topic.
      Heh.

      I agree that getting unsolicited email, DMs, etc., is annoying and all of it
      can technically qualify as spam. This is why I try to tell clients we should
      build relationships with bloggers/media outlets long before we ever pitch
      them. Perhaps there are even some we never pitch. Sometimes we just need to
      be the person they know they can contact when they need information about
      our company. I don't get pitched very often by Scott Monty at Ford, but I
      reach out to him sometimes (probably more often than he to me) when I want
      to know something about Ford's social media efforts. The relationship works
      both ways.

      I'm not defending irrelevant pitches. They shouldn't happen. But they will.
      I'm only suggesting that the delete key is one click, and you're done until
      the day they don't.

      • The key word there was “relationship”. Something very difficult to create with an unsolicited email. And I'm guessing not your first choice when we're talking traditional businesses, with published phone numbers, addresses, etc. But we're all trying to figure this blogging thing out where you may have no other means of communication. Like I said, I'm not offering solutions because I don't have the answer. But ideally the blogging community as a whole will begin with publishing “If you are in x role, and want to contact me about y type of opportunities, please do/don't and follow z process”

        On the topic of “relationship” I will say however that I was disheartened to see a lot of your commenters below seem to equate the fact that you're being paid by one party to mean that you cannot offer value to both parties. I don't think they've taken that train of thought to its logical conclusion.

        -Matt @techguerilla

  • While I agree today's situation isn't great, I will also say that PR firms had a hand in creating this environment. I get a high dosage of press releases emailed to me. I also get pitched by PR firms. If you bother me that much, eventually I will want to get paid for my time, because blogging is not paying my mortgage.

    Of the PR firms and marketing execs that email me, many have not read my blog nor know what I write about — more importantly what my audience cares about.

    Email is NOT a replacement for PR Newswire. I have an RSS feed from newswire for by industry. I have Twitter and I have Google Alerts. I do not need nor want your press release. If it is interesting, I will pick it up off the wires.

    What do I want? An interview with a C-level who won't be pitching the whole time. A podcast with a company official that will be engaging about both the product but its uses and why my audience should give a crap.

    • Good info, Peter. I like you're approach, but would offer that the vast
      majority of PR firms and PR managers for companies don't use the newswires.
      You're missing a hell of a lot of potentially useful information if you only
      take info from there. Just a thought.

  • jessicasimpson1981

    AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ken

    I think that Scott Greenfield (http://blog.simplejustice.us/2010/03/17/pr-to-b…) has the right take on this one. It's odd that you don't interpret the demands for money as what they may well be — pointed comments that bloggers aren't blogging to make money for you.

    And to be as blunt as Scott, I fail to see why upjumped spam deserves my respect.

    • Thanks for the link. I think your comment shows the main point of contention
      for me – PR people are trying to help bloggers by providing more information
      (or perhaps better information) than they have to provide good content for
      the audience of the blogger. There's value in that information.

      And again, if you see it as making money for the company, not serving your
      audience, then just say “no thank you” to the pitch.

      • Ken

        “PR people are trying to help bloggers by providing more information
        (or perhaps better information) than they have to provide good content for
        the audience of the blogger. There's value in that information.”

        Well, no. PR people are primarily helping their clients. If they didn't have the client, they wouldn't be spending time trying to place the stories on blogs. And I strongly suspect that if a blogger were willing to write about a story even though it was a bad fit for the blog and not of interest to the blog's readers, the PR person would still be happy. Please don't try to pretend that PR people are motivated by helping bloggers. That's insulting to blogger's intelligence. It's an unconvincing hard sell.

        Despite having extremely modest traffic, I get 2-10 press releases per week and 3-5 PR inquiries per month. In years I've printed exactly one — an update to a story I had already written about. The rest were highly unsuited to my blog, and strongly suggested that the people sending them had never read the blog or didn't care about suitability if they had.

        • Sounds to me like you've only had bad experiences with PR folks, Ken. I'm
          sorry for that. While I'm not foolish enough to think there isn't benefit
          for the PR person or their company or client, I've always hoped to get
          coverage, but never at the peril of the blogger or his/her audience. If my
          pitch doesn't compel you to want to write about the item and doesn't meet
          your standards of being relevant to your audience, then I didn't make it
          compelling enough. That's on me. All you have to do is say no.

          I hope you have some better PR experiences soon. No, PR folks are not
          100-percent altruistic in their intents, but they aren't all shucksters
          either.

          • Stephen

            Honestly, if a PR guy is working for his client's benefit that's a good PR guy. Otherwise there's no point paying the PR guy.

            You're betting helping the client, not the bloggers. They aren't paying you.

          • Can I not be helpful to the blogger, too? If I know you blog about SEO tools
            and a client creates a new keyword research tool that does one or two things
            the others don't do, or at least does them for free, does it not help you to
            inform your audience about the item? It makes you look good to them, shows
            them you're being helpful in providing them with valuable insights …
            benefits you. It would also benefit me getting my client's tool out there
            for people to use/try, etc.

          • Stephen

            No, that's wishful thinking. It doesn't help me. It so happens in your example that SEO bores me to tears, I don't make my money through search results and so I don't need to waste my time with it. People really only need SEO if they're doing something that looks a lot like your job. Otherwise it actually costs me the time it takes me to delete your email.

            The other thing is I don't know you, I don't want random strangers on the internet offering me unsolicited “help” – it so happens that children are supposed to report people who do that to their parents.

            If I'm on the subway, and the guy across from me says “You might be interested in Starbucks” he's not helping me, he's advertising Starbucks.

          • Ken

            I'm not going to tell you how to do your job. But I will tell you that your message that you are looking out on any level for ME as opposed to your customer is, to me, inherently incredible and inherently suspicious, and makes me less likely, not more likely, to hear out your pitch.

            When an opposing lawyer tells me “I'm really concerned about your client, that's why I'm offering this deal,” I always look for the knife at my back. It's not just about having had bad experiences with PR people (though I have). It's about deep suspicion of any sales pitch in which the agent for someone else tells me he's actually looking out for my interests.

          • Stephen

            That's well put. That's that's the feeling I got off it too and you put it into words better than I did.

  • Great post and terrific responses in the comments. The article from Tamar was very helpful in understanding the reactions here.

  • As a blogger who writes occasionally and mostly for fun, it's always interesting to see how bloggers and PR mix. Everywhere I look I see posts like this and others that seem to show there's a huge disconnect between the two. Yet from what I also see, it looks like PR needs bloggers a lot?

    I agree that PR is different from advertising and that at the end of the day, there's no guarantee for coverage (unlike advertising). Maybe that's what needs to change?

    I read these two posts about the same topic and it seems it's going to be one that's debated for a while:

    http://dannybrown.me/2009/06/09/how-pr-and-blog

    http://dannybrown.me/2009/04/09/tipping-the-sca

    Nice post, Jason – first time here but I'll definitely be exploring more!

    j.

  • Jason,

    I really hate those PR pitches for something that doesn't even fit my
    blog! I have been thrown so many pitches about something that I don't
    even know, I usually use one of my many auto response letters telling
    them thanks but no thanks!! Anyone use one of those types of auto
    responders? Anyone know of Any good ones??

  • Jason,

    No worries, my friend. Having worked with bloggers as a representative for others for so long, I've come to accept they are as different as, well, people. And like people, few have any inclination to change. The ones who benefit clients the most are those who seek out the relationship because we can serve them rather then assuming they might serve us.

    Best,
    Rich

  • MeanDean

    I saw this same sort of 'concern' from directors when I was singing Opera.

    Far too many singers found themselves waiting tables and driving taxi cabs because they were paying for PR instead of producers paying for their performances.

    Most of these artists got nowhere with said approach – where as those of us whom insisted on charging for our skills got traction.

    • Not sure if I understand the analogy. Do you mean opera singers were asked to do PR appearances for the Opera companies without compensation?

      • MeanDean

        I mean singers were asked to perform in “showcases” as a form of “self-promotion” … they were told it was good PR for their emerging career.

        One other thought, if someone asks to be paid, it's up to YOU to have the good attitude – you can't change the other person. So why not just say thank you and move on rather than kvetch?

        • I did say “thank you” and moved on, but I kvetch because I fear the more
          bloggers who take the pay-for-play approach emerge, the less we all will be
          able to trust the information we get from them. My hope is the discussion
          makes for a better blogger-PR relationship for as many as are willing to
          ponder the issue.

          • MeanDean

            I think it's your fear that rubs me the wrong way. Think of it from this perspective, how is a great blog post any different than the same content in some other medium?

            How is a skilled blogger any different than say a skilled opera singer, or computer programmer, or athlete for that matter?

            Perhaps as both sides ponder this paradigm shift, an evening or two with über-blogger Glenn Reynolds' “An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths” might help for better relationships through a better understanding of the blogger's perspective (http://is.gd/aM8Yw)?

          • What exactly to sense I'm afraid of?

            In terms of comparisons, it's hard in all cases, but think of it this way: A
            blogger is a content provider who serves an audience. A PR person holds the
            keys to certain content that might help that blogger provide good
            information to that audience. The blogger doesn't have to use it, but it's
            there if they want it and the PR person is paid to provide it.

            It's hard to really compare to opera or athletes because they are skill
            providers not content. They can't get their skill from somewhere else.

            A computer programmer may, however, rely on finding open source code from
            other sources to provide the solutions they are looking for. They take the
            code and make it theirs, but sourced some of the core elements from
            elsewhere. They didn't need it … could have written it from scratch, but
            found a useful source they could pick from. The PR person in this analogy
            would be the original coder, or perhaps one that was sharing a certain
            company's code (maybe Google's) to promote that style of coding or multiply
            the use of that company's spin on the code. (It's a stretch of an analogy,
            but I think it gets there.) The original company benefits from having the
            expertise in the most widely used code set, perhaps?

            Again, the analogy isn't easy because it's about content. But does that at
            least peak at what I'm hoping to get across?

  • Although the topic is indeed quite a serious and worrying one, I have to say that after reading the first paragraph with the attitude of that 'mommy blogger' I started laughing. I did NOT expect that kind of …prompt answer. I mean, we all want to be paid for our work, true…but is this the right approach to do it?

    • I would say no. I guess others disagree.

      • Peter Rad

        I have to say that when you call her “mommy blogger” – it seems disrespectful. Why not just blogger? If she is “only” a “mommy blogger”, why did you contact her at all? Oh, right, you wanted access to her audience for your client so you could get paid. But it's not okay for her to get paid. I see.

        • She calls herself a mommy blogger. I was only describing her as such because
          that's what she is. It is not a reference to her sex or parental status, but
          rather a description of her blog an its content.

          And it's perfectly fine for her to get paid. She monetizes her blog through
          advertising. I'm tying to help give her information that will appeal to her
          audience, thus driving more traffic, thus helping her montetize. But I'm not
          going to pay her to pitch her. There are lots of other bloggers (mommy and
          otherwise) out there who understand that pay for play is inappropriate in
          editorial coverage.

      • Stephen

        What stunned me was that it seems you've never witnessed someone asking another person for a favour and the other person sarcastically demanding payment for it?

        I suspect she was just annoyed some stranger expected her to do their job for them, really. The money's irrelevant, if they start bidding at $125/hour they just don't want to work for you.

        • Ah. Here's the jab, though. I know her. We had a relationship … albeit
          superficial and of the online contact variety. We've followed each other on
          Twitter, even engaged in a few conversations, for almost two years. I never
          pitched her in the first place, either. Just said I had a client whose
          products her audience might be interested in and could I send her some info
          when we had something relevant to send. She replies with “Pay me.” That's
          more of why I was stunned.

          And again, I wasn't asking her to work for me. I was asking her if the
          products my client had might be of use to her audience and could I help her
          get more information about them. She can write about them and say they suck
          if she wants. I was only thinking her audience typically reads about similar
          products from her and would she take a look at them. She benefits from the
          content. She gets something out of the relationship with the PR person. I
          didn't ask her to write for my audience. I asked to help her with material
          she could use to write for her own.

  • Jason,
    I saw you speak at the UT offsite yesterday, and you seem like a good enough guy. i agree with your initial claim that bloggers should not be paid for reviews. We can all get along on that point by now, I hope.

    Here's a few issues I'll toss my two cents in on:
    1. Marketing professionals calling people that didn't rear them from infancy “Mommy” is not putting your best foot forward. It's seen as diminishing and condescending by many women bloggers who have children. We're not all “mommy bloggers”- and you don't know if the one on the other end of your message is allergic to the term. Do your clients a favor and try something less oinky. And I don't mean only in direct pitches like “Dear Mommy Blogger” We read marketing blogs, too. And marketers whom I routinely see bandying that term about? I dismiss as too lazy to get to know the diversity of the folks they're trying to reach. And that's cool- it's a code. It tells me who will value my contribution as a brain, not their borrowed unpaid megaphone. That's who I want to know.

    2. I haven't read the emails, but your take on the blogger's reply seems hasty. Do you know she referred to pay for play posting, or was she offering some other service that could have provided valuable insight into her demographic? I routinely do brainstorming sessions with brands where an hourly rate is paid- and though it's generous, I can tell you my ideas and insight pay for themselves- with some change for the company to rattle around.

    3. “She had no work experience or formal training in marketing, public relations or advertising.”
    Yeah. Plenty of guy brand consultants don't seem to be getting your finger pointed there. And if what they're advocating works, meets FTC and client ethical standards, and brings the Kwan, I guess they didn't need those student loans anyway. College doesn't guarantee intelligence.

    4. Journalists are on salary as they screen pitches, build relationships, and cover events. Bloggers aren't. Don't expect the same level of dedication to your client's messaging needs. Newspapers routinely give their advertisers better and more prominent editorial treatment. (And yes, my BA is in Journalism and I paid my time covered in ink.:) Are their ads supporting blogs as well? If there's no model for paid media, why expect the same level of support as your outlets where you place paid media? We don't live on air, coupons, or free coffeemakers.

    That said, the PR professionals who are building new models are appreciated. Some bloggers are budgeted for in roles that can be paid, ethically, for providing value and content on an external site. Those guys are moving the buckets.

    Your slam against Tiffany Romero at the end is shameful.

    I'm sorry, did you take some time off the tech guy back slapping circuit to travel to Baltimore for the event? I doubt it. Yet you imply several paragraphs above that you know what her content and messaging is. (RE: At Conferences like bloggy bootcamp…”)

    You don't. She's as ethical as they come, and conveys that at her events. You should apologize and contact her for her views, as well as put an addendum at the bottom of your post. Because your statements about her business are based on a snippet taken out of context from a feature piece. That's shoddy and unconscionable editorial treatment of a good digital citizen. And not very liability minded, as your baseless statements could harm her business.

    When she says “Your work has value” she's not referring to paid reviews, but the endless parade of requests for coverage and presence and giveaways and reviews- many of which are well crafted and legit- and some are clearly of the “Get the mommy bloggers to do it for free cause we think they're dumb as sticks” camp.

    Many women keep doing these things in the hopes of it leading to a paid gig with the brand. Some came into blogging when the economy tanked. I don't blame them for hoping- but you and I both know about the cow. And the free milk has soured.

    Women conceiving and executing entire multiplatform campaigns while an agency gets paid, sits back and tracks their links, posts, and tweets generated is really not a fair model. I'm NOT saying that you have done this- but lord knows I have seen it done. And it's sad.

    This demographic is not a borg, or a hive mind, or a swarm of uneducated charlatan chicks parading en masse as consultants. You can maybe get one gig on your perceived potential. After that, it's because your ideas gave a client goodwill or money. You know this.

    And as for “bloggers should understand the context of the marketplace.” We agree on this point. So should you. This post is not conveying your knowledge clearly, but your fear of competition.

    There's enough pie. Let's stop throwing mud on the mommys.

    • Well, @RockandRollMama, I like a good ass whoopin' from time to time. Thanks for that. (And I'm not being snarky.)

      Let's go in order:

      1. The blogger I referred to is a self-identified blogger about being a mom. I do not qualify all women or all mothers as mommy bloggers. The rest of your rant is likely tainted by the fact you think I would fall into a sexist mindset and just haphazardly apply labels and prejudices. If you knew me better, you'd know that's not my style.

      2. She clearly told me in order to consider a pitch for coverage on her blog, we would have to pay her $125 per hour. I wouldn't have accused her of such otherwise. If she wanted to extend her ability to consult with my client on other areas of marketing, she did a poor job of it by saying she would consider writing about us if we paid her.

      3. “Guy brand consultants.” You're flatly accusing me of being sexist. If the she was a he and didn't have experience or formal training in marketing, public relations or advertising, I'd say the same thing. I certainly recognize that formal training doesn't make you better and people without it can be really, really good (Chris Brogan doesn't have a marketing degree, or a college degree for that matter – I think – and I think he's a stud in the Internet marketing world). Why don't you read my words and not my mind next time. I'm not what you accuse me of being.

      4. I've never expected any level of “dedication to my clients needs” from bloggers or from traditional journalists. Neither are paid to serve my client. They're paid to serve their audience. If my client has something that might serve there audience, it's my job to illustrate that successfully enough for them to want to cover it. If I don't do that, or they don't agree that it doesn't serve their audience, then all they have to do is say, “no.”

      (Other points as you stopped numbering, too:)

      – I don't think what I said at the end was a slam against Romero but rather an opinion that she's teaching behaviors that make her audience appear ignorant of how the media/PR/journalism system has worked in the past. And, in my opinion, if she is teaching bloggers how to charge PR people in exchange for coverage, then she's teaching unprofessional and unethical behavior. I'll stand by that.

      – You are right. I did not attend the event. I spend about 45 minutes reading the site, researching blogs that wrote about the site and finding relevant information online to confirm the content was generally about the subject matter. And anyone who attended or organized the event is welcome here to clarify or correct my assumptions.

      – I'll leave shoddy, unconscionable, liable and baseless alone. You seem to be pissed at me for being a man, not for something I wrote. Nothing I wrote attacked her business or the conference, just the topic of one panel.

      – I can assure you if a blogger ever “executed (sic) entire multiplatform campaigns” they either did so as a paid consultant of the brand or wanted to do it for free because they love the brand, which is their choice. If they did so in hopes the brand would later hire them, well that's not good business sense I guess. But that's very different than writing about a noteworthy item a brand might have to offer.

      – “This demographic” – We're not talking about the same things here, so I'll pass. You're putting my words in a box they don't refer to and accusing me of being sexist. When I say “mommy bloggers” I refer to bloggers who write about being moms. If that doesn't make them “mommy bloggers” then blame my English teachers for screwing up my understanding of adjectives and subjects.

      – I welcome the competition and have never thrown mud. If said mommy blogger wants to pitch her “I know how to blog” services to my clients, she's welcome to. I'll even introduce her to them.

      Thank you for the push back. I enjoy being called out when I'm wrong. And yes, perhaps my language may have come across as being generalizing or even harshly critical of Ms. Romero or her conference. For that, I am sorry. it was not my intent.

      But you have clearly put me in a couple of boxes here that I do not belong in as well. Welcome to the club.

      • sitsgirls

        Hi Jason!

        I am Tiffany Romero. Came over when I heard my name and apparently what I “taught” was being discussed.

        First of all, I hope you know that the NY Times article chose some rather odd, insignificant and really, out-of-context details to portray a fabulous day of networking, discussion and collaboration.

        I actually wasn't the speaker on the subject of working with PR- since I don't do reviews myself, I really wouldn't consider myself the right person to educate bloggers on the topic.

        I am however, a brand ambassador for Fishful Thinking- a great program from Pepperidge Farm focused on positive parenting. I participate in weekly conference calls, stay active on their online community and share the program offline as well. I am compensated for my time, experience, connections and effort. I am also paid for my time running a large private summer day camp. And, I think being paid for both is appropriate.

        The quote from the article was during the PR session wrap up {in which the presenter actually did promote doing reviews for free}, and was in regards to being asked about running a campaign or being involved with a brand beyond reviews- something much more significant and time consuming than a post.

        Having said that, I haven't been offered a product yet that I am interested in receiving for free in exchange for posting. I have no problem with review blogging- it's just not my thing. And, as a devout believer in capitalism, if a brand is willing to pay $125 an hour for a certain persons input, good for her- maybe I should have her presenting at boot camp! ;)

        We also had an attorney who works FOR the FTC as a speaker, and she shared some great information with our bloggers- I was surprised at how many misconceptions there are out there about the guidelines and was thrilled we were able to offer the information straight from the source.

        I take my integrity very seriously.

        I am surprised you would call it into question over one quote without any other context- especially in an article that chose to talk about “tutu tutorials” and “the expensive hobby of blogging” when describing an event full of smart, savvy, bright and fabulous women.

        Hope this makes sense- I'm typing as I watch the Office and keep losing my focus each time I laugh. Which, when Dwight is involved, is a lot.

        • Jason- I figured Tiffany could explain her views better than I could.

          I hear you on the mom blogger name point: For example, my site name would imply I write about my kids. But I really don't. Punditmom's name would imply she writes about her kids- but it's more about politics. So I see the semantic disconnect- oddly, when I chose my URL I didn't know there WERE mom bloggers.:)Let alone that I was becoming one. But hey, not a bad club.

          As for pissed at you for being a man: really no. Ask my husband, I love men, y'all are great, but I wouldn't want to be one. I've just had a frustrating week with seeing smart, entrepreneurial women painted as clueless unethical dodo-heads, and I came out swingin kind of hard. Mostly because I DON'T expect that generalization from you- I consider you a quality source of information, and pushed back harder than I would have on a site run by someone who would never get it anyway.

          So thank you very much for your openness to discussion and discourse, I really appreciate it. Have a great night-Lindsay

          • Thanks R&R. I appreciate the discussion and certainly hope you see there
            wasn't really a generalization. There are some bloggers, even some who blog
            about being a mom, that react to PR in the frustrating ways I described. The
            barrels weren't supposed to be pointed at everyone, but general enough to
            offer the ideas to all.

            Thanks for keeping me honest.

        • Thank you for coming by to right the ship, Tiffany. Your input is
          appreciated and important as I admit not having a fully informed
          understanding of your event. I apologize if there was any over-assumption
          that caused discomfort. The combination of my experience with the one mommy
          blogger and other discussions with different types of bloggers who don't
          fully understand where PR folks come from, coupled with the subject of the
          session sparked the idea for the post. Hopefully, it served a good purpose
          of informing a few folks.

          Thank you again for the cordial response. And for what it's worth, I agree
          the NY Times article seemed a bit minimalistic and dismissive of women
          bloggers. That, too, was unfortunate.

    • jessicasimpson1981

      To your points – I think that everyone has a right to make money. Coming from a media relations background I think the most important thing is to distinguish that bloggers are citizen journalists and thus complement traditional media efforts. To be frank it is much easier to get a blogger to cover you then a lifestyle reporter at NYT. In my opinion, I think that the media and trained journalists still need the respect they have worked and earned and I am very protective of my many friends who still work in the more traditional media space. As a PR professional I would approach a blogger much differently then a reporter or editor of a publication. I also wouldn't pay a blogger to review – in an editorial format – my product. I would however pay them for an advertorial or an endorsement. I see the points here in both the original post and your response and I think the key take away is to make sure there is full disclosure, open communication of what is needed and what is wanted to be accomplished and then best evaluate who to target. Thanks for letting me rant!

      • Thanks for the points, Jessica. You can rant here anytime.

  • GoodForHer

    “She had a blog with a nice sized audience” – she doesn't need a title, degree or your approval. She's making $125/hr and that's a beautiful thing. PR doesn't make the world go round, money does. Pay up, or go hit up someone else to do your work for free.

    • Glad to take my great ideas that her audience could benefit from somewhere else, thanks.

  • Thank you for this post, Jason. I've often wondered how it's 'supposed to work'. I've been in the dark and fumbling around for a lot of the way, just kind of figuring things out as I go!

    • You're very welcome. Keep reading, though. I'm not the only qualified opinion here.

  • adjustablemattresses

    I have noticed, with considerable satisfaction, that the majority of my concern belong to PR And Advertising.
    Now, do not fear this software is not necessary to follow what I shall have to do. We shall now accompany a little way, but soon we shall take leave of them and follow you on a way which is quite your own.

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  • Best. Post. Ever…mostly. :)

    No, really, I'm a PR pro and a blogger, and I get really miffed when I am on the reverse end pitching to bloggers who want me to pay them. I'm all for paid banner adverts, products to test our etc.

    But paying a blogger for materials in their posts?

    I would run in the other direction from that blogger b/c they aren't upholding what they are supposed to be doing for their readers and audiences and as the PR pro on the other end, it really won't help your brand b/c you're not targeted.

    There is no relationship in that type of setup.

    That's what PR is, it's about relationships.

    • Well said, Sasha. Thank you for that perspective.

  • ann

    A lot of webmasters and web surfers would classify an email from a PR representative as SPAM. We certainly do not want to hear from all the so-called PR professionals located from New York to New Delhi (and all the spots in between).

    • You have the power to delete or say “no.” You also miss out on great ideas for content to serve your audience with if you maintain that attitude towards all PR outreach efforts.

  • While I agree generally that the reaction from this particular blogger was a little … surprising, I also think that Jason is presenting bloggers as one-dimensional beings. There ARE bloggers who are marketing consultants, just as there are (patently!) PR professionals who blog. There are also almost as many motivations for blogging as there are bloggers, and for some that includes payment.
    While I have absolutely zero direct monetisation ambitions for my blog, if someone were to approach me about (e.g.) enterprise architecture because they'd seen something on my blog about it, I think I'm justified in seeing that approach as a potential opportunity for consulting … I'd like to think I'd take a little more time building the case before hitting you with a bill, perhaps (conversation –> relationship –> transaction) … but the fact that I'm a blogger doesn't mean I'm not a professional in SOME pursuit.

    • Here's where your comments seem to misfire: You can pitch your consulting services to that company all you want, but that shouldn't effect your blog. Your role as a consultant and your role as a blogger are separate and should remain that way if you want to maintain credibility with your audience.

      I have 6-8 clients active at any given time. Of the clients I have right now, I have written about NONE of them. They are my consulting clients. We have different business relationships and arrangements than people who pitch me ideas for my blog. In fact, I would go so far as to say I'd rather NOT write about my clients because there's too much bias in what I'm saying. Separate the two and you'll see my point … serve your audience as a blogger … serve your checkbook as a consultant and don't let the two cross paths if you can help it.

  • belindaang

    Thumbs up for the post. As much as I am against paying bloggers, the culture has kind of set in especially with an organisation like “nuffnang” in Singapore, who acts as the “agent/managers” for many bloggers. So now, when you approach them, many will tell you to “contact their managers”. I think bloggers will start losing their credibility in due time especially in a tiny country like Singapore where there are only a handful of so-called influential bloggers. The same folks get invited to the same events all the time and all the content looks the same. It has become more of a platform to show-off individual glamour than sharing useful information.

    Bloggers are NOT marketing consultants I agree. It does takes more than having a good readership and the interest to do research to call themselves a marketer. So Cherie, I have to disagree with you.

    PR professionals and marketers should also remain relevant to bloggers if they want the relationship to click. Rule 1, STOP flooding anyone's mailbox with press releases. And never start your mass mail by saying “Dear Editor”. Big taboo… People have names. I ignore every single mail that comes along my way like that. Relationships, relationships… make genuine contact and sound their interest before flooding their mails with irrelevant attachments. I firmly stand by these principles both as a Digital PR practitioner and as a target influencer for many companies.

    Clients also need to understand bloggers are not media and they are not simply a tool that freely disseminate messages. They have no obligation to write anything for you nor does it have to be absolutely positive. Although consultants should always try to educate, but to be fair, if a client demands a guaranteed coverage, some form of incentive to the blogger should be considered.

    Again, to ensure desired results, always make sure the content is relevant and the experience is a positive and well-remembered one.

    • Thank you for the thoughts. Well said, Belinda.

  • Kim

    Excellent post! I totally agree that companies should not pay for coverage. Any blogger that accepts such a fee is deceiving their readers.

    • I agree, but would say they aren't deceiving their readers if they disclose as they are required to by FTC regulations. Many don't, however. Even if they do, the relationship between the author and reader must be very strong for them to get away with it sans some sort of loss in credibility.

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  • “I'm not sure why a PR firm should expect anything for free from someone they don't know.”

    You can say that of millions of ongoing interpersonal interactions in the world. This isn't limited only to blogging.

    Assuming Jason's messaging completely was relevant to the blogger's beat and he pitched directly to the blogger's interests (which I would trust that he has done), why do bloggers have to see dollar signs instead of an opportunity to work together? Again, I point you to this post which amplifies Jason's concerns (but also references the other side of the coin and the incorrect form of PR outreach which you are fighting against).

    I'm a blogger. I've been involved with two of the top 10 blogs as ranked by Technorati. I KNOW we get pitched. I also KNOW that it's a good idea to build relationships with PR people and not to burn bridges with them. It's why I've made that point many times over in this post.

    When I reach out to bloggers in the capacity of a PR person, I explicitly only elect to reach out to the bloggers who I firmly believe I can help. I won't reach out to just anyone. That's also why I say I'll contact 50 bloggers and not 5000. It's a question of quality, not quantity. It's also a question of reaching out to people who will obviously BENEFIT from the outreach.

    Gary, please read my post that I've linked to three times now because you're essentially [dis?]agreeing with me on points I've already made clear in the post I've written. We're arguing but essentially we're saying the same thing. I'm fairly certain we're of the same philosophies. As a blogger and someone who does marketing on behalf of clients, I'm on both sides of the coin and I have to think along those lines.

  • Interesting post! However I have to disagree that Bloggers are Bloggers, not Marketing Consultants. Some bloggers do get paid for offering their services and marketing purposes on their blogs. They do research and product testing before pitching a product or a concept. There are some ethical Bloggers out there who really users of the products/service they advertise or promote but there are some who are just after the money.

    • But performing product reviews doesn't make you a marketing consultant. The blogger-as-consultant role players are charging companies money just to blog about them, not actually perform consulting roles. That's advertising. Granted, there are some bloggers out there who also are qualified marketing consultants (like me) but there's a BIG difference in someone who wants me to write about their new tool and someone who wants to hire me to help with their social media strategy.

  • I think the big issue here is that bloggers are now finding themselves in the position of journalists and in many cases simply don't realize how much they don't know about how such pitches work. Ideally it is about matchmaking. The PR person pitches a product or story idea to a blogger because the topic seems in keeping with what that person is already writing about, and would be a good fit for his/her audience. If the blogger agrees then he/she writes the story.

    I have to admit I'm also surprised by those who think the blogger should be compensated. Generally either the blogger is blogging for fun (for free), for salary (in the case of blogging as part of a job) or for the ad revenue. This blogger is going to be writing once a day, a week or at some frequency anyway, and is probably always looking for new ideas. If the pitch resonates, then it can also be a time saver as it has provided both an idea and a good portion of background information to go with it. The blogger will need to do some more research and or product testing, but the pitched concept has provided a head start.

    Since the blogger was going to write a post about something anyway (presumably for free), I can't see how they can justify asking for pay simply because an idea was pitched by a company. As you said they should either be interested in the idea or not.

    As a blogger, the only reason I've not yet written an article based on a pitch is because the pitches have either not been targeted to my audience or have focused on promoting businesses that compete with my own. But if someone suggested the right idea, I'd be happy to write about it (and to make the appropriate disclosures.)

    My point of view may stem from the fact that I'm a Web developer with a background in marketing who has worked closely with PR in past jobs, but I think the traditional system can still work with newer media. No matter who is writing what, the end goal must still be to serve readers.

  • I think the big issue here is that bloggers are now finding themselves in the position of journalists and in many cases simply don't realize how much they don't know about how such pitches work. Ideally it is about matchmaking. The PR person pitches a product or story idea to a blogger because the topic seems in keeping with what that person is already writing about, and would be a good fit for his/her audience. If the blogger agrees then he/she writes the story.

    I have to admit I'm also surprised by those who think the blogger should be compensated. Generally either the blogger is blogging for fun (for free), for salary (in the case of blogging as part of a job) or for the ad revenue. This blogger is going to be writing once a day, a week or at some frequency anyway, and is probably always looking for new ideas. If the pitch resonates, then it can also be a time saver as it has provided both an idea and a good portion of background information to go with it. The blogger will need to do some more research and or product testing, but the pitched concept has provided a head start.

    Since the blogger was going to write a post about something anyway (presumably for free), I can't see how they can justify asking for pay simply because an idea was pitched by a company. As you said they should either be interested in the idea or not.

    As a blogger, the only reason I've not yet written an article based on a pitch is because the pitches have either not been targeted to my audience or have focused on promoting businesses that compete with my own. But if someone suggested the right idea, I'd be happy to write about it (and to make the appropriate disclosures.)

    My point of view may stem from the fact that I'm a Web developer with a background in marketing who has worked closely with PR in past jobs, but I think the traditional system can still work with newer media. No matter who is writing what, the end goal must still be to serve readers.

    • Compensation doesn't have to be monetary. It could be providing sample products, prizes for a contest on the blogger's site, or other things. There just has to be something more than “please mention us on your site”.

      • …or it could be timely access to information that would be of value to readers, in advance of the general public.

        As a former reporter, the information that was most valuable to me had an expiration date.

        Letting me know about things before I saw it on the competition was the value proposition.

        If the Bloggers in this instance want to monetize their value in a journalism function, then behave as journalists and treat the information itself as a thing of value. The monetization comes elsewhere.

        If the Bloggers want to monetize their value as writers and marketers, then let them get jobs working with firms and pitch their services directly. That's right — if you expect to be paid to blog, then you need to be making the outbound calls soliciting the business.

        • If you run a site that deals with news, that might be true. Not all sites are news sites, however.

          • It doesn't have to be news.

            If I am offering you information that you can run on your site that puts you at a competitive advantage with respect to the other sites competing for your audience, then it's valid.

            If you are a blogger who isn't monetized and doesn't give a rat's ass about how many readers you have, then there's likely no incentive to publish anyway. But if you are monetized through ads or subscriptions, you'd be putting yourself in a worse position relative to other sites.

            You're only seeing the value in the publishing of the information, and demanding the blogger be compensated for that.

            You're ignoring the value the blogger receives for getting access to the information — and the value of the relationship with the PR intermediary who provides that information.

            If it's not worth your time, ignore the pitch. Ask to be removed from future emails — or even better, politely decline by stating what your focus and niche really is. But demanding money is a display of ignorance of the value of the information, and more often than not it will be declined by companies who don't want to run afoul of the FTC.

          • You are assuming the whatever information a company is giving out is valuable. From experience, I can say that the vast majority of the time it is not. The information is self serving for the company which is giving it.

            I'm not advocating bloggers asking for money to talk to PR people. The blogger in question in the original post was out of line.

      • I like Ike's responses below about the information being of value in and of itself. If the information would be of interest to my readers then I don't need a gift to want to publish it. And if it's not, a gift won't make me change my mind. (Though it might be appropriate for an advertorial blog that discloses what it receives.) But you hit the nail on the head, the information needs to be valuable and we all get plenty of pitches that aren't. I think that's what really distinguishes the PR professionals from the wannabes. A pro will take the time to match the content to the blogs or other publications for which it is a good fit. Others will mass e-mail pitches to a large number of bloggers based on insufficient research. Unfortunately there are a lot of the others out there.

    • Well said, Cool. Thank you for that.

      • Ye are welcome.

  • I must disagree with Ann Marie. I am a public relations professional too, and I don't think that a blogger can be a journalist or a pr officer if he doesn't have the proper studies, and I don't refer to a certificate to prove it, but some basics information. If somebody like Ann, who does have studies and he has a blog, it can be, but if somebody owns a blog and that's all, this doesn't make him a journalist or a pr officer or something related.

    • Thanks Bianca. I don't think Ann Marie was saying a blogger is qualified to be a PR person or journalist without proper studies, but the point is the same – to perform official journalism for a trusted media outlet or PR on behalf of brands, they ought to be vetted in some fashion.

  • Jason,

    Super post. I think there is a lot of gray area in blogging currently. I'm a public relations professional who also has a blog on PR and other topics of interest to me. Blogging like public relations is about connecting and sharing information and points of view. I think blogging is evolving from just being a way to share details informally to a more formal media vehicle to get information out. I think many bloggers are filling a gap which traditional media is not. We may need to redefine who a blogger is. Are bloggers free-lance journalists? Are they columnists? I'm most likely opening up a can of worms here… perhaps this should be discussed elsewhere, but it is something think about. A lot of folks still think it when they read something even on the Internet it must be true or it wouldn't be published. Bloggers and PR professionals need to focus on transparency, trust, knowledge, and creditability. It is our responsibility to ensure the free flow of information. I think I'm feeling a blog post of my own coming on…

    • I think one big problem for PR companies have in working with bloggers is that there are so many of them. Working with traditional media was more manageable. There were only a small number of local outlets or national outlets you needed to know about. There are thousands of bloggers, and getting to know all their sites, traffic stats, etc is a job in itself.

      I think there is room for a blogger middle man. Someone who develops personal relationships with bloggers, talks to them on Skype or meets them in person, and knows who's who in the niche. They can then serve as a single contact point for any PR company who wants to deal with bloggers in that niche. When they contact a blogger, it wont be with a cold opening, it will be with someone they already know and trust.

      • I think a blogger middleman is a good idea. Relationships are so important. As a PR pro, if I'm going to start a conversation with a member of the media, I'm going to research what that person writes about. I don't like my time wasted and I don't like wasting other's time either. I'm working on a post currently expanding on some of what I've wrote above.

      • Not too bad of an idea, Gary. I would say that some PR folks who have bridged the gaps and formed relationships with some bloggers (I'd humbly submit myself as one) are doing that in small ways already. But you're right … a blogger middle man might work. Maybe Cision or Vocus can add that to their list of things.

    • I certainly agree about the focus on transparency and trust. Unfortunately, those aren't important to all bloggers (or PR folks). There will always be bad seeds on both sides.

      And categorizing bloggers? I think we just need to define the characteristics of a blogger and have it as a separate category. The problem is, all of those traditional roles exist within blogging as well.

  • Everyone is promised about the 6 figure income that you can make by blogging, it's no wonder they want to charge $125 an hour!

  • erikdeckers

    While I can see why a blogger would think he or she should get paid to review a product (and I have to admit, I would love to be paid for reviewing something), I lean more toward the side of “get over yourself” of the argument.

    If a blog promotes themselves as providing advertorial content, then they can be paid, provided they were and advertorial blog in the beginning, or have made the switch to being an advertorial.

    But I don't think mommy bloggers can/should ask for payment for reviews. If they want to be taken seriously as citizen journalists, they can't see payment any more than big-J Journalists get paid by advertisers or PR pros for placing stories.

    Conversely, as the PR pro who's making the pitch, if I pay a blogger, I fully expect nothing but glowing reviews for my product. Don't say nice things about my product? You don't get paid.

    And if that cloud is hanging over a blogger's head, how can I trust anything he or she says?

    • Fair points, my friend. I do think there are a lot of bloggers with very different intentions or purposes for their work – Like Rich refers to below – but you're right in a lot of ways. Being paid for a review taints the review. Still, it's all in how you position the content and what you disclose to your audience. I have sponsors for my blog. I'm honest about receiving money from them, but I also promise my audience to never take money for something I don't support or believe in.

  • jeffespo

    Jason – I love this post. While I have the pleasure of working with many great mommy bloggers, there are some that don't understand what PR folks can/cannot do. While I don't pay $, I am more than happy to give products for review.

    The ugly exchanges that you mention have happened to me a few times. The most request offenders are those who don't buy their domain, but are on a .blogspot or .wordpress and ask for $X before getting past the hello. Unlike many of my flack-brethren, I take a look at the bloggers I reach out to before firing off a Tweet or email to them. Tamara also makes a great point about the 2-way street. If you were to ask the bloggers who I work with frequently, I am very accommodating and will also go above and beyond to help them with events that they are running or promotional materials for their conferences.

    • Thanks, Jeff. Appreciate your thoughts.

  • Phil Perkins

    I have to agree with Gary Arndt. Her asking for money may be misguided, but I think the PR industry's approach to dealing with bloggers is the bigger problem. Blogging is about relationships. If you're not ready to build a relationship, then don't reach out, don't send an email, and most definately don't pick up the phone.

    You spend a fair amount of your article framing her as “a nobody from no place special”, which I thought was unfortunate. She has accomplished enough to warrant you calling her, so she deserves some respect for her accomplishment.

    You might consider that she didn't feel you properly engaged her as a peer, and she was signaling that you need to take her seriously. Ultimately, your job as a consultant is to get your client positive press. By responding with “Ummm. I'm the consultant”, I'd be concerned that she's much more likely to write a negative article pertaining to your client.

    Any business minded person is going to try to figure out the best way to monetize an asset they've developed. Blogging as an industry is in its infancy, and these entrepreneurs are experimenting with different business models. It's the natural evolution of every business out there.

    • Jason's post sounds very similar to a similar issue that I encountered not very long ago.

      I don't think Jason intended to convey that he's not interested in building relationships with people. Take a look at the post I just linked which is very similar. The bottom line is that relationship building goes both ways. If your immediate response to a completely harmless pitch is “Pay me and I'll THEN deliver for you,” well, yeah, you might as well be a nobody in my book — you definitely aren't worth my time. Even people looking for my consulting services don't immediately get a “I'll give you advice for $XYZ/hour.” I want to understand how I can help them first.

      As a blogger, you owe it to the reps and brands who actually empower you to be cordial and polite when communicating with them. Most importantly, don't forget the people who helped you get to the position you were in to begin with. They stood behind you before you asked for money — would they feel the same way when greed sets in?

      • Company contacted blogger, blogger didn't contact company. It was the company that wanted something from the blogger, the blogger probably didn't even know the company existed. While I admit the approach taken by the blogger in this case was sort of tacky, I'm not sure why a PR firm should expect anything for free from someone they don't know.

        The company was the one trying to initiate the relationship, not the blogger. “Hey, you don't know me but please give us some free publicity” isn't a way to start a relationship.

        When I'm contacted by a PR company, my first instinct isn't to figure out how I can help them. I didn't start my blog to provide free services to PR firms. They certainly aren't thinking of how to help me. They are getting paid by a client and want something from me (for free) to please their client. There is no relationship building going on.

        The PR industry has to get out of the institutional mindset they've lived under for decades. If they want to work with bloggers, they have to approach them as people and they need to build a relationship BEFORE they want something from the blogger.

        I think there is a business to be had in blogger relations. Someone who can develop personal relationships with 100 or so bloggers in a niche and match business with bloggers that are a good fit.

        • “I'm not sure why a PR firm should expect anything for free from someone they don't know.”

          You can say that of millions of ongoing interpersonal interactions in the world. This isn't limited only to blogging.

          Assuming Jason's messaging completely was relevant to the blogger's beat and he pitched directly to the blogger's interests (which I would trust that he has done), why do bloggers have to see dollar signs instead of an opportunity to work together? Again, I point you to this post which amplifies Jason's concerns (but also references the other side of the coin and the incorrect form of PR outreach which you are fighting against).

          I'm a blogger. I've been involved with two of the top 10 blogs as ranked by Technorati. I KNOW we get pitched. I also KNOW that it's a good idea to build relationships with PR people and not to burn bridges with them. It's why I've made that point many times over in this post.

          When I reach out to bloggers in the capacity of a PR person, I explicitly only elect to reach out to the bloggers who I firmly believe I can help. I won't reach out to just anyone. That's also why I say I'll contact 50 bloggers and not 5000. It's a question of quality, not quantity. It's also a question of reaching out to people who will obviously BENEFIT from the outreach.

          Gary, please read my post that I've linked to three times now because you're essentially [dis?]agreeing with me on points I've already made clear in the post I've written. We're arguing but essentially we're saying the same thing. I'm fairly certain we're of the same philosophies. As a blogger and someone who does marketing on behalf of clients, I'm on both sides of the coin and I have to think along those lines.

          • Based on the contacts I get from PR people, just because they think it is relevant to my audience doesn't mean I think it is relevant to my audience. PR people will always think it is relevant or at least spin it as such.

            Also, 95% of the contact I get from PR people is generic. It is usually something sent to a mailing list of bloggers. They never really looked at my site and have no real clue if it is a good fit. I got on the list of “travel bloggers” and so I get sent press releases about “travel”. That is about as sophisticated as it gets.

            I did read your article. The problem with it is that “the relationship works both ways” isn't true when it is one side initiating the relationship and wanting something.

            I agree with you about bloggers building relationships with PR people. I meet with them in almost every city I visit around the world. However, I'm not the one spamming them every day, they are the ones spamming me. Also, I should note, my experience is with people in travel. People I've spoken to in technology seem to get it.

            Personally, I used to delete everything I got from PR people. Now I have a standard response I send back saying it isn't a good fit for my website, and I attach a short pdf providing an overview of my site and my recent stats.

          • Gary, you speak from experience. I speak from experience.

            If the pitch isn't of interest to you, don't post it. As someone, though, who blogs about travel, I'm going to assume (I'm not doing blogger outreach here, so forgive me since this is all haphazard without in-depth research) that you like travel-related content. If I send you something relevant to travel, I'm assuming that's relevant to you or your readers. Maybe you'd like that restaurant in Bangkok because you happen to be there. Heck, I don't know. When I do blogger outreach, I explicitly reach out to the blogger because of the type of content they write that is relevant to my client's promotion. I definitely won't be reaching out to you about running shoes or a cool new kitchen gizmo. Obviously, I'd do a lot more research to assess whether you're the right match, but that's the idea.

            I beg to disagree on your comment about relationship-building. Relationships do go both ways. PR people need to respect the blogger. Bloggers need to respect the PR person (when it is within reason). If the pitch is anything like this, I wholeheartedly recommend speaking up. But if the response is completely altruistic? As an example, “Hi, you're a travel blogger. You might be interested in this freebie travel guide that does XYZ… I'd like for you to try it and maybe even share it with your readers if you're interested” is intended to give before you get. And nobody is begging for coverage. The key, here, is that you'd be better off saying “if you're interested, feel free to share it.” It's not an immediate request to receive. As many people know, I HATE taking without being able to provide something in return. In situations like this, the things I provide are value. Sometimes it won't work and that's fine. (Sometimes pitches I receive don't work and that's fine, but I won't offer consulting instead. That's just wrong.)

            I think your approach is a good one if it doesn't fit. But I think — and maybe I read this wrong — that Jason's problem is that some bloggers are taking this a little too far. If a product doesn't interest me and won't fit my readers, why the heck would I offer consulting services? Would that even be fair to the potential client? I guess I'm lucky that I'm in a position to choose my clients, but I will only choose those whose service offerings or products interest me. If it's a no, it should be just a no — a silent one at that.

          • Your assumption would be wrong.

            That is the problem. No one is looking beyond the tag you get slapped with. I get pigeon holed in “travel”, so everyone assumes that I'm interested in every hotel in the world doing some promotion. You get a database of several hundred URL's all under the “travel” category and spit out messages to them.

            I never write about hotels, airlines, spas, or cruises. I only write about my experiences and thoughts traveling. I might mention a hotel if I stayed there, but I'm not going to just talk about a place I've never been. That isn't what I do.

            The assumption you made about my site is natural. Everyone does it…and that is the problem. No one in PR is actually paying attention to what I'm doing (or anyone else for that matter). I have the most popular travel blog in the world, but to PR firms I'm just a URL on a spreadsheet. Few companies bother to find out how I'm different in terms of editorial focus or traffic from other sites. Most of the emails I get aren't even address to me by name. That isn't relationship building.

            Believe me, I'd LOVE to have a better working relationship with PR firms. There are a few that I get along with great, and they are the ones who “get it”. However, they are a small minority.

          • Like I said, I am not tasked with doing outreach so I stated that I wasn't doing an in-depth analysis of your site. I saw your first post with the video but didn't look much further. If I were to do some outreach, I would review a good chunk of posts. PR dude Todd Defren's blogging bill of rights recommends 20 posts. That's a good number to read to assess whether it's a good fit.

            That said, your outreach concerns are perfectly justified. There's more to a site than the tagline. Even close friends of mine pitch me about “social media” even though I explicitly blog about “social media MARKETING.” It's what people do. Outreach should absolutely reflect the blog, not just the blog's tagline.

            I think we both agree that outreach should reflect what the blogger is about. If I actually had a travel product to pitch, I'd review “travel blogs” (and find yours, I'm sure), check if there's something you've written about that's relevant after seeing if there's a synergy based on all other posts, and then send you my pitch if your blog is still related to the product and the information is still helpful. Then (and only then) is the outreach justified.

            Deep analysis is a big part of it. You and I would agree, though, that lots of PR people look for quantity. Their pitch, therefore, is totally off. And yes, with my previous messaging, I would be off too. When it comes the time to start doing the actual outreach, I make clear notes about what the blogger talks about and what is interesting to him/her and tailor my messaging to that.

            Sadly, most people don't do that because it's too much work.

        • Thanks Gary. I'll only add (since Tamar has done a nice job of representing similar points here) that it's not that PR folks are asking for something for free that the blogger wouldn't normally do (provided the outreach is relevant, of course). It's that the PR folks are trying to help bloggers by providing them with relevant information, resources or even story ideas. PR folks should never expect blanket “I love this” posts from bloggers, but making sure the blogger knows they are there to help and can provide at least one side of a company's stance, product's specs, etc., is helpful if the blogger is open to it.

    • Thanks, Phil. I certainly didn't intend to come across that the blogger in question was a nobody from no place special (which I didn't say, by the way), I only wanted to point out what I think is a problem area and a concern in the social media world. Just because a person becomes a blogger with a dedicated audience, or even a successful traffic-driver by using social news sites, that doesn't make them a marketing expert or consultant. I would probably hire someone like this blogger to help me figure out how to build a blog or a large blog audience. But being an expert blogger is a far cry from being a marketing or public relations consultant. She's an expert in one small niche area of digital marketing. Just like the Digg and StumbleUpon traffic mavericks are experts in another small area of digital marketing.

      I wasn't reaching out to her to help my client blog. I was simply telling her they had some products and innovations her audience may appreciate knowing about and that I could assist her in learning about them if she were interested. Since I would never pay a blogger to cover my clients, we would decline her involvement … which hurts her audience.

      You're right that my job is to get my client positive press. Frankly, I think it's just to get my client press since even the negative can help us improve the products and services we offer. But my job is not to compromise the integrity or ethical standards of my profession or allow a coveted blogger to hold my client hostage for that coverage.

      I do agree that bloggers are experimenting and this is a by-product of that. But I am worried that if this type of experimenting is successful for them, then we can kiss unbiased coverage of products and services goodbye for good.

      Thanks for the pushback.

  • Sorry, this is old school thinking. PR people need to catch up or get turned irrelevant. I don't mean to be mean, but the world is changing. Change with it or lose out.

    And, the fact that you were stunned by someone who wanted to be paid for their efforts is ridiculous. Why should they give you free work? If they want to give you some free coverage, great. If you don't want to pay them, that's fine, too. But for you to be surprised that someone would like to be paid for their work is just clueless.

    • See James, this is what pisses me off about that kind of blogger attitude: PR people aren't asking bloggers to do their work for them. We're trying to provide the blogger with information to help them do their own work.

      Is it easier to write about a subject (say the iPad, for instance) if you have product information, specs, images and explanations from Apple? Sure it is. Where do you get that information? From Apple's PR people.

      If a PR person approaches you with information you don't want or need, just say “no thanks.” If you keep your door open, though, a pitch might come through that helps you inform or entertain your audience with a subject matter you may not have found otherwise.

      Do PR pros need to improve the accuracy and relevance of their pitches? Hell yes. But the notion that PR is asking bloggers to do their jobs for them is clueless, my friend.

      • Come on. PR companies are not in the business of helping bloggers. They are in the business of helping their clients. Saying they are helping bloggers is pure spin. If the client wasn't paying them, they wouldn't be contacting me. There is nothing wrong with that business, but call it for what it is. They are not out to help bloggers do their job.

        • Make no mistake, I know the PR person gets paid and does a good job if they
          earn placements, but I have NEVER pitched a blogger without the intent of
          being useful to them on behalf of my client. If the never publish a single
          thing, I get paid to help answer their questions, facilitate information
          flow, interviews, provide them with images/videos and other resources, etc.
          My job as a PR person is make covering my client and their products easier
          for the blogger. If that's not being helpful, then I'm not sure what is.

          No, it's not 100 percent altruistic, and yes, there are PR people who miss
          that part of the job. But I intend to be helpful to media members of all
          walks and media type because that's my job.

          You can call bullshit on some PR folks, but it doesn't fly with me because I
          take great pride my ability to help others.

  • Pingback: PR Vs Advertising for Bloggers | Blogpress Singapore()

  • Although, I try to blog like a teacher. I've been tossed some pitches that I don't get how that relates to my technology blog. I can understand why she might want to charge a fee to hear a pitch for some blog post for her. I find it easier to find Advertisers who are willing to work with you and make sure they will include you in their discussions on their home page.

    If you really want to make money with your blog, I have found you have to consider your audience and that out ways any advertiser throwing ideas about my blog. If it doesn't fit, I tell them nicely. It definitely makes my audience more receptive on all my blog posts.

    Good Post though, I enjoyed hearing your side of two coins though!!

    • Thanks for the perspective, Laforge. I think we all know what the irrelevant pitches feel like and yes, they are frustrating. I applaud you for taking the time to politely decline rather than slapping an invoice at them or being rude. Bravo to you.

      (And yeah, I wish PR folks would get better so you wouldn't have to deal with the irrelevant, too.)

      • Jason,

        I really hate those PR pitches for something that doesn't even fit my
        blog! I have been thrown so many pitches about something that I don't
        even know, I usually use one of my many auto response letters telling
        them thanks but no thanks!! Anyone use one of those types of auto
        responders? Anyone know of Any good ones??

        • I hate them to. I just delete them without reading far into it. You might
          also publish a pitch policy (see mine at
          http://socialmediaexplorer.com/how-to-pitch-sme/) and tell them if it's
          irrelevant you'll delete it, not respond, put them on a blacklist, or
          whatever. You may also reach out to Vocus, Cision and similar media database
          companies and make sure they have your information correct, or ask them to
          remove you from their lists altogether.

          • Jason,

            How has that worked for you so far with the pitch me patch? Has it
            stopped all together or are they still trying to pitch irrelevant
            stuff?? If it is working for you I might add something to my contact
            me page about pitches and stuff like that!!

          • Keep in mind the bad PR folks (ones who just blast and don't target) are
            still going to hit you. Best to make sure the media databases get you out of
            their systems or at least have accurate info on you. I still get 20 or so
            bad pitches a week. I just delete them and forget about them.

  • Wow. I'm only dumbfounded that you didn't know this to be the case.

    Bloggers are very different people, Jason. Some operate like teachers. Some like journalists. Some like publishers. So on and so forth. Given how many communicators in our industry have benefited from perks (sometimes far, far away from their client pool for affiliate programs, free product usage, etc.), I'm surprised you would never consider that some bloggers want in on the cash consultants charge to attempt to place something for free. (Heck, some people in our industry are attempting to make money on volunteer contributors.)

    But that is not everyone ins our industry. And, it is not all bloggers. There is a certain percentage that are pay-for-opinion bloggers, but that hardly constitutes the larger pool. But even more importantly, contrary to what our profession thinks, they don't have to understand the public relations profession. The public relations profession has to understand the differences between various bloggers (and most importantly, that most have no intention of being professionals, journalists, or subscribing to the rules as etched out by communicators).

    Best,
    Rich

    • Well said, Rich. I was only dumbfounded by her audacity in saying we would have to pay to pitch her. She clearly either hates PR and sees no need for it, or has a mistaken understanding of its benefit to her audience.

      • Jason,

        No worries, my friend. Having worked with bloggers as a representative for others for so long, I've come to accept they are as different as, well, people. And like people, few have any inclination to change. The ones who benefit clients the most are those who seek out the relationship because we can serve them rather then assuming they might serve us.

        Best,
        Rich

    • Now THAT was profound:

      “Some operate like teachers. Some like journalists. Some like publishers.”

      It's only fitting that some should act like Carnies.

      • You know, Ike, I have to a better job at including Carnies. There is no excuse.

  • I agree and have the same issue as well from a digital PR stance and read the article and felt the same way, especially since I as well work with a lot of awesome mom bloggers. They do not realize that we have no handle on buying ad space and cannot even bring it up at all. Like you say we are strictly supplying information that hopefully will interest them and their readers. It's very frustrating to find bloggers who are interested and know it will be good for their readers but strictly won't cover a topic just because there is nothing directly in it for them. I understand that it takes time to read, review, write, post, etc but bloggers need PR as much as PR needs bloggers. Unfortunately I think bloggers will continue to go in this direction and only hurt us PR people more.

    • Thanks Craig. I would say that even though there is an equal need, depending upon your perspective, it could be minimal. Plenty of bloggers tred along fine without PR. Many PR professionals are successful without ever reaching out to bloggers. But if bloggers shun the PR folks, then one day find themselves in need of company information, etc., they certainly aren't doing themselves any favors.

      My hope is that with discussions like this, bloggers can start to at least see where PR folks come from and understand the dynamics of the traditional world. It's not that bloggers must change to adhere to what PR is accustomed to, but knowing that custom can be a big help in making the relationships better.

  • michaellittman

    Brilliant!

  • Now we're talkin business! ;-) Nice piece of work that shows very well the opportunities of PR and social media.

  • Jason,
    I just wanted to thank you for this article. For me, you hit the nail squarely on the head. I am one of those people who is looking to step into this arena but has absolutely no idea how the marketing/advertising/PR profession is structured or operates. I really appreciate the candid insights of your article and will file this away under my “things to remember to avoid looking like a schmuck” header.
    I have been a subscriber to your RSS feed for a couple of months now and really enjoy all of your articles, even though I don't comment, but when I read this I had to stop by and say Thanks!
    Keep up the great work.

    • Thanks, Bryan. Glad the discussion helps. Keep reading, though. I'm not the only perspective in all this.

  • As a blogger, let me say I can understand why she wanted money. I get buried in press releases and requests from PR people. Almost all of it is in the form of “gimme gimme gimme”. They want you talk about their product or service, but offer nothing in return. Not a link. They don't even bother to get to know you or even pretend they read your site.

    The fact is, if you are a company trying to make a profit and you want to be on my site, buy advertising. If you can't, tough cookies. I'm not a charity, and the company certainly isn't either.

    The blogging is about relationships. I can't say I've met very many PR firms who have made and effort to try and make relationships. I'd gladly provide a tweet or a link to other bloggers in my niche who have become my friends, but I am not going to do it for someone who doesn't know me, what I do, and has no desire to create a relationship with benefits for both parties.

    While asking for an hourly fee does seem a bit ridiculous, the far larger problem is with the PR industry and their inability to understand and deal with bloggers.

    • Gary, I feel you, I do. Let's assume, though, that Jason's messaging was 100% pure. He's a blogger too. I'm sure he gets pitches (Jason recently wrote about something he was pitched about; I got the same pitch, so I can only imagine that we also get more on our main blogs). Sometimes, despite EVERYTHING YOU ARE DOING RIGHT in the PR industry, you will STILL get people who want money. That's the kind of attitude that stunned Jason. That's the kind of attitude that really irks me.

      Despite any attempt in building a relationship, people will throw it in your face because they think that they can. There's a sense of entitlement in it with the blogger knowing that s/he has an audience and therefore can dictate how all incoming messaging should be handled.

      I totally understand the problem with getting buried in PR requests, Gary. TOTALLY. Like I said previously, being involved in two of the top 10 blogs means that my email inbox has probably seen more activity in an hour than most blogs see in a week/month/year (depending on the day) :) So yes, Gary, I get it. I also know that stereotyping all blogger outreach folks and treating them ALL with disdain despite the fact that SOME are making a TRUE effort is wrong. Jason isn't talking about ALL bloggers. He's talking about ONE blogger. My post (have you even read it yet?) talks about SOME bloggers — not all. The other post I referenced talks about SOME (most) PR people — not all. There are people who suck and there are people who get it but never get the chance to build relationships because they are assumed to be in positions to make monetary handouts just because they hit the “send” button.

      [and I see that you just responded to me as I type this, so response coming shortly.]

    • Thanks Gary. I don't deny a lot of PR reps are pushy and never seem to understand they are asking someone to break out of their routine to publicize their product or service. I also agree good PR is based on building relationships and encourage PR folks to build them before ever pitching. Sometimes the demands made of them prevent such ramping up, but they should still be more respectful of your time.

      I don't disagree that many PR folks don't get it. But I think there are also a number of bloggers who see them as spam-only interruptors who don't see what value PR can bring to their blogs if they choose to carve out relationships with them. Sure, you can exist without PR and PR without you, but as you forge relationships (which are a two-way street) there can be great benefit for both sides.

      Thanks for the comment (and ongoing discussions with Tamar here!)