Bloggers and PR: the cold, hard truth

Iceberg - don't hit the cold hard truth (courtesy *christopher* on Flickr CC)PR practitioners, if you remember this, you’ll be a lot less frustrated….

Unless you have a signed contract with a blogger for advertising or some sort of goods/services exchange, bloggers owe you nothing.

Nada.

Zilch.

Not one tweet. Not one Flickr photo. Not one Facebook mention. Not one blog post.

They do not owe you “buzz” just because you fed them tacos or beer at some event.

You want a tit-for-tat arrangement, go buy advertising or set up a contract that they will tweet X number of times about your brand in exchange for Y sponsorship money (or whatever.)

PR folks are paid to figure out how to build relationships with bloggers.

Bloggers are not paid to figure out PR (um, they’re usually not paid at all for blogging.) They do not blog to build your brand. They blog for themselves and their readers.

I’ve been stewing on this since reading Amber Naslund’s excellent A Dear John Letter to PR Folks. My favorite quote in her post:

“My blog is an intellectual adventure for me, not a channel for you. (emphasis added) I intend to keep it that way.”

Yes, it’s a pain, but if you want what bloggers already have, then you’ll have to do what we did – work for it.

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14 Responses to Bloggers and PR: the cold, hard truth

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Bloggers and PR: the cold, hard truth | Sheila's Guide To The Good Stuff -- Topsy.com

  2. Bravo!

    I read Amber’s post and was thinking a lot of the same things you posted…except I couldn’t mush those thoughts into coherent sentences.

    “They do not owe you “buzz” just because you fed them tacos or beer at some event.” <–Exactly.
    .-= Amy @ Taste Like Crazy´s last [post] ..Goals: Wish I had Some =-.

    • Hi Amy,

      Thanks very much; I always know that when a blog post idea rams its way into my head while I’m doing something totally unrelated (teeth-brushing, in this case) it’s best to drop everything and jump onto the laptop. 🙂

  3. If you’re talking about the numerous press releases, invitations, etc., that arrive in my inbox every day, I’d absolutely agree. It’s information and I can do with it what I will without any obligation — and that includes hitting my friend the delete key. I see no reason to be rude to people who are doing their best to do their job.

    However, if it’s a PR person with whom I have a relationship, or want to connect with, I don’t think it hurts to follow up with a responsive email indicating that while this particular topic wasn’t a good fit, I’d be interesting in learning about blah, blah, blah (whatever the reason is why I want to connect with them).

    And, if a blogger requests and accepts a product for review or an invitation to an event, I believe that do have an obligation — to write an honest and timely review. Timely would be different in the case of a short term event (i.e., a theater or exhibition review) than for a product, and it is ultimately up to the blogger to decide what, when and how to post about it, but I believe that there is an implied contract there. (Of course, if something was totally dreadful or there was a problem, I would modify that position to say that the blogger should advise the PR person why they won’t be following through on the expected review.)

    There is give and take in all business relationships. Bloggers who understand that, and conduct themselves professionally, will have little problem with PR relationships.
    .-= Mary Jo Manzanares´s last [post] ..US Supreme Court is Open for Public Visits =-.

  4. Hi Mary Jo,

    Well, you know my views on those wads of PR emails that I never opted in for and that do not have the required Unsubscribe link, so I’ll spare us all that rant….

    If a blogger asks for interaction (particularly for a product to review) then it would be nice, it would be considerate, it would be appropriate for that blogger to then review the product that he/she asked for. They do not owe anyone free publicity, however, which is what I’m crankily driving at.

    PR outreach is an effort to drum up publicity. I have no problem with that, and if I as a blogger want to help that effort to drum up publicity because I like the product/service/destination, then everyone’s happy (as long as I follow disclosure rules, of course.)

    If I already have a relationship with PR people (the first step that so few of them take – do they LIKE “cold-calling?”) and they ask me to an event that makes sense for my work, if I decide to go, then chances are excellent that I WILL cover it in some way. Why wouldn’t I? Good PR connects me with things that I’m interested in, and those are the things I want to write about.

    But, I have no obligation to do so.

    It would be nice if I did so. It would help the PR person if I did so. The PR person might think that I’m more polite or “professional” if I did so. I might get invited to more events or get more “stuff” to review if I did so.

    But, I have no obligation to do so.

    I’m getting very wary of people who have just figured out that they need to run out and “get some bloggers,” as though we are Tinkerbells sitting around waiting to sprinkle social media goodness on their product or service.

    Honestly Mary Jo, you know I do destination marketing, too, and I don’t have horns or fangs. I’m a warm n’ fuzzy sort, really! People are great! Hugs!

    But I’m also aware that most PR didn’t give a rat’s patootie about bloggers a few years ago, and now we’re the Flavor of the Month. I see icebergs in that….

  5. Kay says:

    Sheila, I appreciate your, uh, enthusiasm (anti-enthusiasm?) regarding unsolicited releases, but I wanted to chime in on Mary Jo’s comments. I agree with much of what she wrote.

    Maybe it’s because I’ve been writing professionally (i.e., paid) for 30+ years and am press release inured. But over those many years I’ve found lots of ideas, references, passing references that became stories, etc. in those releases and from following up with folks who sent them.

    As for the relationship building, that comes not just from actual events/meetings/etc. Most of my journalism is via phone; I’ve met few of the PR people with whom I regularly work. Our relationships were started in many cases via that press release that I didn’t request but did read for potential story material.

    Basically, I just don’t like burning bridges, even those I haven’t crossed before. You never know when it will be a beneficial one to cross.

    But I also know that everyone is different. My more encompassing approach has severd me well and brava for what works for you.
    .-= Kay´s last [post] ..Come on in and get your tax freebies! =-.

    • Hi Kay,

      Sorry, I’m hard over about opting in and the Unsubscribe link. Life’s too short to shovel unwanted crap out of my email IN box every cotton-picking hour.

      As you know, I am big on relationship-building, online and off. Do it all the time. Do PR myself and have plenty of PR professional acquaintances and friends. Not an advocate of bridge-burning. Have been known to be a pretty good schmoozer.

      But….

      Most bloggers do what they do for the love of the craft and connection. They probably had no plans to be a “PR target” or part of someone’s “sales funnel” when they started writing about quilting or travel or gardening or chess or whatever.

      If they want to be part of the great PR dance (and many bloggers do,) then fine, but they need to know the expectations that they’re strapping on, and that it’s OK to say, “no thanks.”

  6. I know you don’t have horns or fangs (but I do love that visual!) and I also know that you are up for good discussions on topics. And you probably know that I agree with most of your rant, too. That’s why I am comfortable disagreeing with the part where I do.

    I think there’s plenty of room for win/win relationships — between bloggers and between bloggers and PR peeps — even when there isn’t complete agreement.

    Horns and fangs. . . .
    .-= Mary Jo Manzanares´s last [post] ..US Supreme Court is Open for Public Visits =-.

  7. My goodness, quite the conversation here.

    I won’t agree or disagree here, I would just like to add that a lot of times both bloggers and PR folk make assumptions they shouldn’t be making. Perhaps it’s when things come to that “uncomfortable” area where people don’t like asking for stuff.

    So let’s stop all that nonsense and get nice and clear when we have any sort of interaction. When I’m offered a media rate at a hotel or I’m sent a review copy of a book, I say thank you and I confirm my understand of the deal: I’ll definitely review your book on my site, but I can’t guarantee a positive review, or thanks for the media rate and I’ll endeavour to mention you on my review but that is up to editorial discretion. For example.

    Because I’m always super clear, I’ve never had a problem. If both parties make the effort to be a little more clear and make fewer assumptions, the world will be a happier place. 🙂

    PS – Sheila, can we start a new post about PRs who add us to their email list without asking. I don’t care whether there’s a unsub link or not, it’s just rude. 😀
    .-= Andy Hayes | Travel Online Partners´s last [post] ..Tracking Website Performance: It’s Not as Hard As You Think =-.

  8. Gary Arndt says:

    I’ve come to accept that most PR people don’t have a clue about bloggers. I used to get pissed off at all the unsolicited mail, but late last year I changed my mine. I realized they had no clue who I was or what I did. I was just an entry in a database marked “bloggers” and I got sent an email because I was on that list.

    I don’t know if I can change the PR would, but I figured at a minimum I could educate someone in PR about me. I began using all the unsolicited press releases as an opportunity to contact the people who sent it.

    I currently reply to most press releases with a short explanation that this isn’t what my blog covers, and then attach a short pdf file giving an outline of my site with some recent stats.

    So far, success hasn’t been universal, but I have gotten some positive results.

    I think blogs are hard for PR people because there are so many of them and they are run by people, not institutions. It used to be there would only be a set number of magazines, TV stations and newspapers you needed to contact and you could know most of the people in your niche on a personal basis.

    Most PR people have no clue what blogs exist, which ones are the most popular or are considered good. They also don’t realize that to really work bloggers, you have to develop a relationship BEFORE you want to pitch something. Become friends with someone, talk with them on Twitter, understand what their blog is about, and when the day arrives you want to pitch them something, it will be much, much easier and you will know the right people to pitch.

    I believe there is a role for a blog middleman that works between PR firms and bloggers. Someone who can do the leg work of getting to know 200+ travel blogs and can work with PR firms to find the best partners.
    .-= Gary Arndt´s last [post] ..Daily Travel Photo – Rome, Italy =-.

    • Hi Gary,

      I think your point is well taken. Gee, who could be such a guy….? 🙂

      Hey, if it works for whatever timezone you’re in (I know it’s Thailand right now) the biweekly #tourismchat discussion on Twitter is hopping: it’s every other Thursday 2 – 3 pm CST. Next topic (on April 22) is….blogging!

      Also, I think we should try to get more folks to attend the annual BlogWorld and New Media Expo in Vegas in October. It’s kind of a madhouse, but there is a lively travel track and a boatload of bloggers attend. It’s a good connection opportunity for PR pros, I think.

  9. Gary Arndt says:

    I’ll be honest. I didn’t think BlogWorld was worth the trip last year. It seems aimed towards new bloggers. Every session I sat in seemed like an intro level course, and the travel track didn’t have that many travel bloggers in attendance. TBEX was a much better experience.

    I don’t see myself going back. I’d rather attend the LA or NY Times travel shows.
    .-= Gary Arndt´s last [post] ..Daily Travel Photo – Rome, Italy =-.

  10. True, it’s entry-level stuff for you, but a bunch of CVBs ARE entry-level in this space. BlogWorld’s diversity and content might have a lot more value for them.

  11. Audra Clemons says:

    wow, i just stumbled upon your blog, and as someone just getting into the travel industry, your blog and comments have been worth their weight in gold. Thank you. I think Mark Twain said it best,”I have never let my schooling get in the way of my education.”

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