Bloggers: Be Proactive in Educating PR Pros (UPDATED)

Not even the most rascally of bloggers or journalists expect or even want the PR industry to die; really they just want better PR.  But while they writhe in pain at the volume of misdirected pitches, few bloggers take action beyond whining.  If anything, the PR and marketing pros themselves seem to be the only ones engaged in the slow-drip of Blogger Relations education.

If you are a successful blogger, part of the reward for your hard work is that you’re gonna get pitched. 

(That’s not a bad thing.  Not all pitches are bad.  A good pitch could help a blogger write their best-post-ever.  A good pitch could result in some cool toys to play with; a free trip; an interesting meeting; a job offer.)

But you have some control over this.  Why not take the time to inform marketers about HOW you’d like to be approached?

An attempt was made back in 2005 to standardize this mechanism.  I think it’s worth re-visiting.  I asked our in-house graphics whiz to bang-out “boring” and “fun” versions of the original badges. 

If you’re a blogger who wants NO PITCHES, the badge alone should suffice… 

Boring pr no              Pr no creature-small copy

If you’re a friendly type who wants to hear what everyone has to say, similarly the “PR OK!” icon says it all (though you might want to link the icon to your contact info)…

Boring PR ok              Pr ok creature-small copy

But if you are like MOST bloggers, you don’t mind a GOOD PITCH and tend to despise & discard crappy pitches.  This is where you need to Act Responsibly.  Educate!  Tell the PR pro “what makes a good pitch.” 

Link the “PR?” badge below to a separate section of your site in which you describe your personal preferences and gripes…

Boring PR question              PR question-small copy

Sometime this week, I’m going to add the funny li’l “PR?” avatar to my sidebar nav.  It will link to a new page on PR-Squared on which I’ll inform would-be PR pitchmen that they are welcome to send me a note, but that I’ll be looking for:

“A brief pitch that demonstrates an understanding of my blog’s typical topics.”

I was planning to gin up a list of 5–or-so benchmarks but, on reflection, this is all I’m looking for from anyone.  I don’t necessarily care that the PR pro is a regular PR-Squared reader or participant (though that’d be nice).  I just don’t want them to waste my time with stuff I would never write about.  (That’s all any blogger wants, at a high level.) 

But it never hurts to be completely unambiguous.  If bloggers make the effort to be clear about their expectations, they have more justification to be enraged at bad pitches.  The blogger can take some responsibility for their in-box; if they don’t do something to educate would-be pitchmen, they’ll continue to be abused. 

These badges might help cut down on the bad stuff.  Know a cranky blogger?  Maybe you could share this idea with them?

UPDATE:  Embed code now available.  And my new, official “PR PITCH POLICY,” which will be linked from here on out to the cutesy avatar in the right-side nav.

Posted on: August 25, 2008 at 10:12 am By Todd Defren
22 Responses to “Bloggers: Be Proactive in Educating PR Pros (UPDATED)”


  • @PRJack:

    “the problem is that currently there isn’t really a reliable way to figure out exactly which bloggers are the most suitable to target with specific information of interest.”

    Why couldn’t someone just go to Google Alerts, Technorati, and Topix, do a search for the keywords of interest (competitor names, product names, category, etc.) get the RSS feeds, and monitor the news for a few months to surface relevant bloggers. Then visit the blog to see if there’s PR policy badge. Seems like you’re going to get a lot better prospect list than relying on the categories that Vocus/Cision has squeezed bloggers into.

    I understand many will say, “There’s just no budget!!!” but if it’s a question of a) professional standards (this is the bar for what’s expected by bloggers), and b) results (mass pitching doesn’t yield as much coverage), then this isn’t a reality being created and imposed on clients by PR agencies, but by the nature of bloggers.

    So if a client can’t pony up, perhaps they should focus their PR budget elsewhere.

  • PRJack says:

    A couple of things pertaining to the comments above…

    Craig, I think that a blogger that gets info from external sources – rather than digging the info up themselves – is not automatically a bad or biased blogger. A good blogger – just like a good journalist – will know what to do with the info and how to incorporate the info.

    Jeremy, that’s a good point, however, the problem is that currently there isn’t really a reliable way to figure out exactly which bloggers are the most suitable to target with specific information of interest. And with marketing budgets being what they are the stark reality is that there is no way to do a thorough search through all bloggers to find only the ones that may be pertinent to a specific message. This doesn’t mean that mass pitching is good or should be done, but it might put things into better perspective.

  • To address the worst offenders you’re going to need to get this info into Vocus and Cision.

    The problem is that a lot of mis-pitches are the result of building a list and mass mailing to everyone without any clue about who they are or what they /really/ write.

  • Craig Oda says:

    I don’t think the buttons would be a good idea because a blogger that obviously welcomed PR pitches would probably have less credibility than a blogger that was viewed as digging up their own informational sources. PR people, including me, will almost always have a slant on the information that is presented.

  • Mark Panay says:

    Great idea.

    We’re getting ready to launch our new service and deciding which blogs to target can be quite a task and the last thing we want to be accused of is sending off faceless impersonal “spam” to bloggers.

    This insanely simple idea, let’s us know at a glance… This should be supported widely – I think the badges need a little work though – lol.

  • PRJack says:

    Great stuff Todd.

    Here’s the thing about traditional media… we know what they write about (cover, talk about, etc) because they make no bones about telling us up front. Publication or program statements delineate what is discussed, what topics are covered, what aspects are of interest. Journalists have beats that can be very focused and/or specialized and it isn’t very hard to figure out who deals with what. (Though that being said, we still see too much poorly executed pr that doesn’t understand the link between what’s being pitched and who it’s being pitched to!)

    With bloggers, we rarely have that kind of pre-determination of focus. It’s more of a game of ‘hunt and peck’. How much easier would it be if bloggers made a definitive statement about what they are interested in writing about–or to keep on topic with your post, what they are interested in receiving information about. This seems onerous, I realize, but it would go a long way to improving relations in both directions.

    When you consider just how varied the topics that a blogger may comment on, it just makes that much more sense to have something in the same vein of ‘pitch’/'no pitch’ buttons… “Info I’m interested in”.

    That way a blogger can still talk about all the various things s/he wants to talk about – personal, general interest and professional – but should only be getting info that they want to use. And if they don’t get the right info, then they’ve got every right to be ticked off!

  • Brian Block says:

    Coming from the PR side, thank you Todd. This would make things much more clear for a lot of folks who want to treat bloggers like print editors. Respect the wishes of the bloggers. They are really cool and deserve the good stuff.

  • Excellent idea Todd. Love it.

  • John Carson says:

    Nice idea, blogged.


  • This is a great post and funny, super idea :-)
    Sharing now :-)

  • Kami Huyse says:

    Proactive. That is what we all need to be. Thanks for using your resources once again to be just that.

  • it’s funny – the more I do blogger outreach the more I feel that it’s just not about us. and the more I hear calls of “you have to tell us how to pitch you” I think we’re only annoying most bloggers even more.

    the badge is a smart idea – if your focus is on the PR person. why should a blogger have to do anything? the overwhelming majority are NOT journalists, and there will never be a process to do this. The purpose and mission of a blogger has never been, and will never be, to receive pitches from people like me. so why should they go out of their way at all?

    The answer has always been, and will always be, developing relationships with online opinion leaders WITHOUT having to pitch them. Sometimes that’s not possible, but most of the time it is. It’s about being truly social in our networking.

    I spend time reading and listening to what bloggers in the communities I care about are saying, and then I contribute my thoughts. I make it my business to know the subject matter. I ask members of my team to know different communities as well. When I conduct outreach, I try to build a program that bloggers find compelling and valuable. I’ll put my results and reputation next to anyone in the business.

    Furthermore, when a client comes to me and says “I want placements in blogs,” I tell them it’s the wrong metric. You want placement on a blog? buy an ad. The metric that matters is building a relationship with someone who expresses her or his thoughts online. And the only way to do that is to be genuinely concerned with what they’re talking about, and you can’t do that in the context of “hey, I have this client who wants something from you” and you have nothing of value to contribute.

    To be candid, I think we all know this and many of the commenters above are thinking this scenario isn’t possible and they’re trying to do the best they can in the context of what’s presented to them. I just refuse to accept that – I turn down some work and I sometimes anger colleagues. But I know I’m doing this the right way and I’m building sustainable relationships that I’ll have for years to come, building value for clients and my company.

  • Todd Defren says:

    Thanks for the great comments!

    One issue a couple of you raised was, “Bad PR pros won’t bother ‘checking guidelines’ anyway.” I have 2 responses to that:

    1) All evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, I am not sure that that is true. A lot of PR pros are TERRIFIED of blogger relations; they might quickly warm to the idea of checking for guidelines, if they clearly exist.

    2) At least with a CLEAR POLICY online, the cranky blogger can reply to the bad pitch with the link to their guidelines, vs. suffer in silence, with pent-up anger ready to explode! I’d think it would be harder to live WITHOUT such guidelines…

  • Catherine Markel says:

    Great idea- but do you think would-be spammers/inappropriate pitchers would actually read & heed?

  • Phil Nieman says:

    The idea of the “PR Guidelines” badge is great. The blogosphere can be a better and more collaborative place if everyone plays nicely together. Always better to educate people on what you expect so that both parties may win.

    Toby Bloomberg has a great post on when brands talk to bloggers. ( Her six key takeaways for bloggers fit nicely here.
    * Relationships are based on communication.
    * Educate us about what you want and need.
    * Have patience.
    * Respect
    * Values are important
    * Etiquette Is Important – Please Play Nicely


  • Shane Gibson says:

    Thanks for this. I had this issue come up last week. My blog / podcast is focused on sales people and sales management. The PR person for an organization asked me to interview the VP of Marketing for a virtual trade-show company.

    Although I like their business model I don’t want to dilute the message for my listeners. Sending them some guidelines would definitely help them as well as they could refine their pitch to fit my audience. A lot of PR people just like sales people often forget to answer two simple questions:

    What’s in it for me (and my audience)?
    What’s unique about you?

    Thanks for the great post. The badge will be going up shortly with the guidelines on both of my blogs.

  • I think it really helps if the PR Pro os a blogger or engaged already, too. I think it comes back to knowing the media.

    At the same, bloggers — wow, the drama. I saw it again in Gnomedex this weekend, and quite frankly, I am beginning to tune out. I just don’t know what to say. We have less issues at LComm, but it just takes one screw up. There’s a lack of humanity in all of this. We need to get back to that.

  • Sarah says:

    As blogger AND an AC at a PR agency, I’m always trying to get my colleagues to understand how to do blogger outreach. SHIFT has some great resources that I’ve printed and used to try to make my point. However, I’m constantly frustrated that very few “get it” or even want to learn. Instead, they just tell me that I should be the blogger contact for EVERY account. I don’t mind helping out where need be, but it’s time for them to join the 21st century!

    PR Squared and SHIFT gives me hope that there are some agencies who actually understand and embrace the converging and expanding technologies.

  • Good idea – I’ll bet you a beer that 90% of the Good Pitch guidelines would be fairly similar which would bring us back to square one.

    And while this is a common sense idea, the concept of standardizing seems to run counter to the request of PR pitches not to be standardized.

    Lastly, part of the issue is that bad pitches are usually received from people that don’t read the blog that they are pitching, which in most regards makes them a bad pitch.

    So, in addition to your idea, what if bloggers submitted their PR guidelines to all of the PR wire services, media clipping services, and in general getting them some notice within the body of selected posts throughout the year. This will go a long way toward our mutually beneficial goal.

    OK, even if it is not 90% we should still have a beer.

  • Hi Todd,

    Love those badges! This is a great idea. While I can understand popular bloggers get tons of annoying, spammy pitches, I think a blogger who cuts him/herself off completely from all pitches will end up missing some important and fun opportunities.

    I can’t wait to add one of the “PR?” badges to my Little Baby Lump ( blog!


  • Karen Swim says:

    Todd, what a wonderful idea! Luckily for me, I entered blogging late and have learned from all those that came before me. I think on topic pitching should be a life mantra, it is applicable in all situations. In anticipation of my smashing blogging success, I am going to add a badge and a PR policy to my blog. :-)

  • Here’s the funny part. As much as I like to comment about wildly off-topic pitches sent to me, I enjoy receiving them just to see how PR and marketers are crafting their messages. It’s a form of intelligence gathering, I suppose, figuring out where people’s relative skills are, what things are happening, and what people think is important and worth talking about or promoting. It also lets me know, as an information gathering tool, which PR agencies would be worth working with in the future, as the ones that do their homework and pitch me accurately clearly invest more time (and thus will do a better job when I hire them) than the shotgun approach.

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