As some readers may know, there was another foofaraw last week in the world of online PR. Gina Trapani, editor of the super-popular LifeHacker, posted a black list of PR spammers. Like Chris Anderson before her, she was tired of being inundated with press releases and spammy PR email. Unlike Mr. Anderson, she’s blocking entire domains instead of individual email addresses. Blogger Matt Haughey added his two cents along similar lines.
In particular, they were very critical of the black list as a tactic for dealing with PR spam. I’m not. It’s imperfect, but I’m sure it’s turned down the tap on Ms. Trapani’s and Mr. Haughey’s deluge of marketing email. From the only perspective that matters–theirs–it’s a workable strategy.
An Uneasy Collaboration
There’s always been an uneasy collaboration between journalists and PR people. The rise of the web has stirred up that alliance, and the power has shifted away from the marketers. Here’s the truth: bloggers don’t need marketers. If you start with that humble assumption, you’re better off.
We’re busy revising a book on this topic, so I’ll spare you the (frankly, quite obvious) song and dance about joining the conversation, listening first and all the usual bollocks.
Instead, I’ll tell you what works when I get pitched. I’m in the somewhat unusual position of being both a–all gay jokes aside–pitcher and catcher in this relationship. I’d been blogging for years before I sent or received my first pitch. Fortunately, I don’t suffer a flood of inquiries. On the average day, I might get five. But it’s enough that I’ve stopped replying to them all. And, as you might imagine, I’m pretty sympathetic to marketers.
How to Pitch Me
I’m going to skip all the obvious advice, and focus on when strangers have successfully convinced me to write about their product or service:
- Demonstrate that you’ve read my blog. And by ‘read’ I don’t mean that it showed up in search results and you emailed me. If you’re monitoring mentions of competitors’ brands and found my site, that’s cool. Just recognize that I’ve written about your competitors, and explain why you’re different.
- Figure out what I write about. It’s not rocket science. Last year somebody pitched me a biography of a 17th century Portuguese nun. That’s not something I’m in the habit of writing about.
- Geography matters. If your project is Vancouver or BC-based, I’m likelier to write about it.
- If your project is a good cause, or has a social change angle, I’m likelier to write about it.
- If you include references to photos or video that I can embed and link to (shamefully, this almost never happens), I’m likelier to write about your project.
- Make me feel special. If I recall correctly, Bill from Workspace (where I currently sit, writing this post) invited me for a preview tour of his coworking office.
- In terms of ‘breaking a story’, I almost never care about exclusivity. I think I’m an exception in this regard.
- If it’s something you created (as opposed to being a PR flack), I’m likelier to write about it. Last month Ellen Bernfeld, the singing voice of “Pizzazz” from the 80’s cartoon “Jem and the Holograms”, pitched me on her YouTube video. I didn’t write about it–I’m not backing Senator Clinton–but it was cool to, you know, get pitched by a cartoon villainess (and the video’s creator).