Friday, January 12, 2007

Educating Media People About Blogging

I am frequently having PR people send me information about products they think I "might be interested in mentioning" on my blog. It's become rather an annoyance and I've decided that rather than just deleting them, I would start writing back an honest response pointing out how I feel about these "offers." Today I sent this to a company wanting me to write about a weight-loss product:

"The product you're representing sounds like it might be interesting. I can appreciate that this is a new product and you're trying to get the word out about it. However, what you're asking is whether I would like to advertise it for you for free. Since I spent many, many hours working on my website and currently have paid advertising on the site, promoting a product without compensation is not something I'd be interested in doing."

Much to my surprise I got this response:

"Thanks very much for your speedy reply and honesty – I truly appreciate it and understand your reasons. Have a wonderful weekend!!!"

I'm just mentioning this here in case others are not sure how to handle "offers" like this. If my site did not accept advertising or promotional materials at all, I would have also made that clear. This product was something I might have considered having an ad for; it did look very interesting. However, obviously they were not offering that, judging from the response.

(Edit - In re-reading this I realized that I should clarify that I talk about products all the time without compensation when it's something I personally use and love and think my readers will love it. However, I don't need PR people giving me suggestions about what to write about.)

This Post was written by Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen.


Sam said...

this is no surprise to me. Before my new 'about' page which allows me to ignore these mails I used to send a personal, polite note of declination (is that a word) to each and every one, and often got sweet responses such as these. There are human beings on the other end of a promotional offer too and it will do us well to remember that.

My favourite response i ever got after declining a product, explaining I was non-commercial, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah, was from someone who said, and I am not kidding, this is a direct quote, especially read the last sentence:

"We do understand your skepticism, however the only thing we are asking of you is to receive a free shipment of the product and in return to discuss your experience with it on your blog. This product is not yet on the market and since you seem to be quite an influential blogger, we thought you might be interested. If not, would your wife be interested in trying out the product?".

You can imagine how well that went down. In the end, just to spite them for their foolishness, I took their product and didn't write a whisper about it.

Rachael said...



Scott at Real Epicurean said...

I'm far too unimportant to have this sort of thing to worry about : (

Vanessa said...

I'm often accused of being overly optimistic but I try to assume the best about people, until their behavior proves otherwise.

Because I do marketing for a job I know how difficult it is to get attention drawn to one's product. I actually envy those marketing tangible products because they have so many more avenues available to promote their product. A polite no thank you on the blogger's part should suffice.

Sam's experience is typical of a total dolt who obviously hadn't been to her blog enough to even know her gender. Whew, is that pitiful.

kiplog said...

My comment on this will be a bit long, since I've recieved an after-holiday blitz of this stuff.

We all know this is not a new thing. PR people are paid to do a google search for certain keywords related to the product they're shilling for, and when you're found, you'll get an email.

Newspaper and magazine writers get releases and packages every week. Talk to the those professionals and they'll tell you most go in the dumpster. I've got nothing against businesses who do this - that's why they call it business.

I'll take free stuff, but I do most of these start-ups or cheap-marketing or clueless people a favor and don't rip their products to shreds. I'm not a picky person, I'll eat anything, but the last 5 products I've received in the mail (since Christmas) were inedible/undrinkable/unsuable. If they spent more time tasting or using what they make, than they did marketing...

Somebody's publisher just sent me 20 pages that they had ripped out of the cookbook they were pushing. I assumed they could only afford to market their 100 page book to 5 people and that was someone's brilliant solution. Apparently no one had learned the term 'PDF'.

Emails like you received go unanswered by me. PR people not good enough to find my physical address are being paid way too much.

These people are so bad at what they do, I've considered advertising to do this as a service. I've done enough collateral for PR people, so the next stupid PR request I get, I'm writing directly to the company with a critique of their PR agency and a proposal to do it better.

The 'your wife' note, while insulting, is just a typical sales technique of vacuum/baby picture/telemarketing salesman's pitch - if the husband/wife is wishy-washy, pitch to the spouse. I get wrong guesses on my gender on a regualr basis too, showing that they're just not reading (or I'm not writing manly enough)

Kalyn said...

Jumping back into the discussion a bit here. Ignoring these types of e-mails is all fine and good, as is sending a polite "no, thank you" but I am going on the assumption that these people talk to each other and that eventually some of them will realize that bloggers are not there to promote their products for free. This company *did* offer to send me a free product, assuming that I would agree to write about it. My goal in responding more directly than I normally do was to let them know that they are misunderstanding how to maket to bloggers. I tried to do it in a polite way, but one that makes it clear that their assumption that I'm going to give them free advertising is rather insulting. That's why I feel it's worth responding.

Sam said...

Kalyn - I think I am the opposite to you - having done what you are suggesting for over two years, more than sick of explaining the situation, seeing things havent changed and looking forward to a future made easier by the delete button.

The letter I quoted above was a response to the following email from me:

"My blog is independently minded and I do not accept solicitations.
It's up to me to decide what i write on my blog and I will not allow myself to be dictated to.
As such, I will not be promoting your product, unless I discover it, myself, independently some time in the future and feel it has enough merit to deserve its own post."

That was one of the first solicitations I ever had I think, and even though I developed my responses to be more a little more savvy over time, two years down the line I have had enough. I am not being paid to educate marketeers any more than I am being paid to promote their products.

sorry - i know that sounds a little brusk - but my bruskness is not directed at you, it is directed at them.

Andrew said...

sending samples of wine to critics is well established (in the UK) - the national newspaper writers will receive hundreds a month (Me? I do get a few) but it is established that even if sampled the wine might not get written up.

Because I am only a Z list writer I do tend to write up all the wines I receive - especially if they come from an independent merchant/importer rather than a PR company.

I would be happy to receive samples of anything; I wont guarantee I'll write about it or even like it though. But if they get my name wrong or have obviously no idea who I am or what I do then...

nika said...

It sounds you all have each your own self-specific and well-fit way of dealing with this. I would just add that, just like we all let the cyalis and viagra spam emails roll off our backs, dont let this stuff upset you.

No reason to be concerned or fret. Settle on your policy, keep to it, and move on.

We, your readers, truly come to you for YOU, not something your are advertising on your blog. Sure, I care a bit more about something you might suggest (just like I would if an off-line friend pointed out something). I am an adult, if I need something, I buy it... or not.

kitchenmage said...

Kayln, et al,

Maybe you should write up your policy (as Sam has), if you haven't already, and then just send a canned:
"Thanks or contacting me. Please read my policy on accepting free stuff at (link)."

Short, sweet, write once, use many times.


ps - Im with Andrew, send me stuff. I may write about it, I may not, and if I do, you may not like what I say. But feel free to send stuff. grin

cybele said...

There are so many media folks so it's gonna be tough to educate them all!

Recently I got an email from a company that sold something that was marginally candy ... but more specifically it contained artificial sweeteners (I have had a bad reaction to aspartame in the past and don't like to consume it).

I emailed back the rep and said that I was unable to review the product because it contained artificial sweeteners (and pointed to my policy page) but I wished them the best of luck (and recommended two other blogs who might like to sample the product).

She emailed me back to say that there was "you would have to drink 70 diet cokes to get the amount of aspartame in a single serving of our product."

I wonder if I said that I was allergic to peanuts she would reply that "there aren't that many peanuts in there."