Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pitchy, Pitchy: What flies and what flops?

Between my regular freelance work and my cooking blog, I get inundated with PR pitches from flacks eager to get a mention of their product in one of my articles or posts. The vast majority are either off-topic or just plain annoying (what is up with the ALL CAPS thing, anyway?), but I don't banish them all--not that I could--because there's always that one odd one that slips through with actually valuable information.

I am sure I am not alone in experiencing this, eh?

What I was hoping to hear from the rest of you is how you feel about all of the food and drink related pitches you get. What works? What doesn't? Are there tones that work better than others? Are there things that flat-out offend you? (An example: I go a little batty when I get an email from a complete stranger asking me what my site traffic is so they can send me free stuff I don't want. As if!)

Disclosure: I am presenting on this topic at a conference this fall, and want to get as much research in as possible before running off at the mouth, as I am sure to do anyway. I would, of course, never quote you without your permission, but I suspect that you're all going to suggest things I hadn't considered.

Thanks so much, in advance!

This Post was written by Deb from


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Pet peeves: PR people who send emails that start with "Hey, Lydia!" (no joke -- this really happened), or "We've worked together before" when we haven't. Some of their pitches I just delete, and to others I send my review policy, which I keep in a handy Word document. What works best? PR people who take the time to figure out what I do on my blog, and send a pitch tailored to my content.

Anita (Married... with dinner) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anita (Married... with dinner) said...

The thing that sends me off the deep end are the people who address me as "Dear Married". It's not difficult to find our names; they're at the top of each post, and on the About page.

I've started writing back to these people asking them to take me off their lists permanently; if they can't be bothered to figure out my name, I can't be bothered to delete their emails.

I also get frustrated with pitches for products that we would never in a million years support. Why would any PR person (even an intern) think that a blogger who writes about local/sustainable food would be interested in their ready-to-serve, artificially flavored rice mixes? Even the most cursory glance at our recent posts would make that clear.

Kitt said...

PR pitches with obvious typos are my peeve. And one recently promoting a Food network show that had me excited when I saw the subject line ("Open casting call for a new show!") until I found out they were looking for the worst cooks ever.

Gee, thanks.

(I posted about that one and one with an egregious typo here.)

davidL said...

Catching me in the first or perhaps second line is vital. It needs to be a pitch that's specifically to me, in which case, I'll likely keep reading.

The subject needs to be something that relates to me and/or the blog: chocolate, ice cream, France, baking equipment, baking books. Anything hokey gets deleted and I'm always surprised at how few of these people realize that I don't live in the US. (Hint to pr folks: It's at the top of each page of the site.)

I hate when people say, "We think your readers would be interested in..." To me, that's incredibly insulting, for them to tell me what they think my readers would be interested in. Delete.

That also means a high-pressure sales pitch, and subsequent "When are you going to mention our electric watermelon peeler on your site?" So I don't respond to those.

Keep it short, to-the-point, and no pressure.

Sara, Ms Adventures in Italy said...

Definitely agree with the previous a bit about me and my blog (that's what the About page is for!)

I think the best pitches are ones that don't ask for anything in return: a link, a review, etc. Let ME be the judge if I like your product or not. If I do...someday I may talk about it, even if it's only with my mom. And if I hate it, get ready to accept that criticism, too.

A while ago I read that someone automatically deletes any email whose greeting isn't at least tailored personally (Dear Sara / Ms. Adventures in Italy), etc. and I tend to agree. Dear Blogger and generic intros are the ultimate indication my response doesn't matter to them.

Sheryl said...

Echoing the sentiments of everyone who dislikes when the PR person doesn't do some research and personalize things. Our site is geared specifically to supporting businesses in our city (Toronto, ON, Canada), yet I regularly get press releases to events in NYC or LA!

My guess is that once your info is on a contact list, there's no stopping it. Our contact page clearly outlines the parameters of our geographic area and topics of coverage, so either PR people are really, really dim or they're trading/selling contact lists with one another.

FJK said...

To be honest, it's not the pr pitches that annoy me, it's comments on posts that are undisguised pr pitches! When I spot them that's an automatic delete.

I'll take a look at anything, make no promises, and always disclose in the post if something was a freebie.

Best ways to tempt me -- read a bit of my blog and send me ideas that make sense for me.

I'm probably more forgiving than some bloggers since I have worked in journalism, pr and marketing myself, but I'm also probably harsher on those who are truly clueless because of that.

Deborah said...

I can't stand when people assume I'm in the US. There's an about page... read it!

All PR people seeking to interact with bloggers should read the following:

Amy Sherman said...

The worst for me is the quid pro quo pitch. "We'll send you a sample if you promise to write about our product." That would NEVER happen to journalists but some PR folks seem to assume bloggers will do anything for a freebie. I also get pitches from people who expect me to write about their product, without even trying it. Crazy, but true.

Leigh said...

all i would say is, people should read the blog first. I get sooo much inrelated stuff that has no place on The Good Stuff. It smacks of a blanket approach and they get a firm rebuttal. I run a Food & Beer blog. Why would I advertise or feature Tea? or garden equipment? The ones that are valid, or ask for my feedback before soliciting, usually win through. A good approach can lead to a fruitful relationship based on trust and respect for each others skills.

Becke (Columbus Foodie) said...

I got a pitch a few weeks ago - my blog is big on local/sustainable foods, and a Walmart (of all places!) over an hour north of me is pushing their local foods now, and wanted me to be their "celebrity guest" at a parking lot party they were having (or some such nonsense) - my answer to them was basically that it wasn't very sustainable for me to use all that gas to drive 2 hours there and back, and that I couldn't in good conscience get involved due to my disagreement with Walmart's business and employment practices. I dunno, Walmart has a right to make money any way they want to but doesn't pushing the whole local foods/sustainable agriculture angle seem a bit hypocritical to the rest of you?

Then there was the guy who isn't even local to me who wanted to give everyone in my dining meetup group a bottle of their sauce to try. Uh, thanks but no thanks.

Not to say I haven't accepted freebies - but mostly for stuff I'd do or use anyway. Press passes to some local food events, some free produce from one of my favorite farmers at the farmers market who I write about anyway (her way of giving back to the blogging community, she said). But yeah, I get super annoyed at the people who send me stuff I'd never even consider in a million years, which should be obvious if they spent 5 minutes reading my blog.

Becke (Columbus Foodie) said...

wanted to add to my last comment - the stuff that I do accept? There's full disclosure on my posts if I talk about it. I do make it known that it was a freebie so people are aware of that when they take what I say into consideration. But freebie or not, I don't sway from my opinion or sugarcoat.

Sam said...

My approach is a little different perhaps than most people, because my website states I do not accept any free products for reviews, do no advertising, nor reciprocal links. This doesn't deter many, many requests a day reaching my inbox, where they get ignored by default due to my automatic response mail which lists all the reasons I won't respond the writer of the PR or whatever email. (Send a 'test' email to if you want to see what the auto response looks like). However, none of the barriers deter PR from writing to me anyway. Some of them dozens of times. Some of them inviting me to events every week in NYC. (Hello, I live in CA). Some people write to Fred as if he ever laid a finger down to help with blogging duties!. C'mon give me a break, idiots.
However, although I rarely respond to one of these emails, I do in fact read (or at least start reading) all of them. Very, very occasionally, something actually interests me. In which case I will act upon. it. That means if it is a book I like the sound of I will go and buy it myself and I won't even tell the PR company who alerted me. If it's a charity, I might support it, if it's an local event I might attend. But these successes are far and few between because most of the PR that is sent hasn't been researched properly and is mostly not suited to my ideals/personality/interests/location.
Email is cheap. If they had to actually spend money on sending me PR material, by mail, for example, I am pretty certain they would put a great deal more effort into being better targeted. Most of what I have witnessed is the opposite - lazy, shoddy, opportunist work.
Another observation is that many of these emails are badly composed with bad grammar and incorrect spelling.

Hope that helps - let me know if you need any further info.


Cate said...

Agree with so much that was said here already, but I'll add another. I hate the ones that *look* like they're personalized and they're not. The first two lines will be referring to something I recently talked about on my site, and then the rest launches in to the usual form letter. In the real world, with snail mail, that could fly because we wouldn't all be receiving them at the same time and couldn't compare, but these days... nope. If you want it to look like a tailored email, either try harder, or perhaps not as hard. But give us a little more credit.

Sheryl said...

Sam, the snail mail version becomes a bit of a joke too. At least when the pitches come via email first, you can ignore them.

Then you start getting emails and phone calls from PR companies checking to see if you've gotten the vodka/ basket of smoothies/ 8 loaves of bread that they sent earlier that day, usually without informing you of the shipment beforehand. I don't know how many cranky emails I've gotten from PR companies when their courier showed up at my apartment only to find nobody home because I wasn't aware some unsolicited package was coming.

Or the time I rushed to the post office to pick up a package thinking it was some important documents only to discover a bottle of vodka and a press release about their new packaging!

I've started to get a weird kind of glee from writing emails thanking them for the goodies but sorry, this doesn't fit into our area of coverage, so we won't be writing about it.

nika said...

I got a comment (spam) recently that critisized my blog - too many photos... I was insulted and wondered what to do re: accepting until i realized that it was link spam... I was then angry with myself that i wasted any time at all thinking about this.

My biggest recommendation is to take none of this personally and to delete with abandon. Life is too short for sales pitches for "real food" and automated watermelon peelers.

Eve Fox said...

I've started getting a lot of these and mostly find them very irritating. The ones that bother me the most are hte ones where it is clear that they have not ever read my blog, don't know what I focus on, or where I am located. For example, I live in CA and get invited to a restaurant in NYC which is very nice but just not likely to happen... or I got some promo for new snacks from Eagle but my whole blog is about cooking from scratch, using local ingredients, and appreciating food - so prepackaged crappy snacks are not exactly my thing...

I have gotten one or two that I found interesting or useful (a publisher asking if I'd like a copy of an interesting sounding book which I agreed to after making it clear that it was not a guarantee that I would review it) or an invitation to open a tastebook account.

I appreciate the ones that are straightforward and not pretending to be something they are not and that have actually taken the 2 minutes they need to glance at my blog and see what it is about.

Sharee said...

My problem is when pr people refuse to even acknowledge your existence cause your blog is only 12 days old. No gift baskets, no invites to be a guest somewhere, not even a lousy email. I won't let it bother me too much though.

Katie said...

LOL Sharee, I totally agree with you. Im sure I would be *Gutted* to find a bottle of vodka in my post box! I did get an arsey email from a PR company asking when I was going to write a review of a cafe they were representing. I went to the launch evening which was so packed with people we couldn't get in the door. We had to sit on the patio in chilly October weather, I had 2 glasses of wine and one canapé before I left with my starving guests. Im sure they wouldn't want me to write that as a review!

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