Pitching me, and my disclosure policy

Based on a slightly ranty post called “How to reach out to bloggers, and what makes us crazy,” here are my thoughts:

Pitching

I get a ton of pitch emails, the vast majority of which are deleted.  Most are not well targeted to me or to my readers. Those that are done well are usually not interesting to me because I usually write about my personal experiences, not general travel news, I don’t care about contests and I do very few product or hotel reviews.

The few pitches and emails that resonate indicate that:

  1. The person actually reads my blog, and not just to get my name to “personalize” their email blast. I particularly like the copy/paste of my name such that the greeting is one font and the press release pasted below is another. Awesome!
  2. The topic ties into a place that I’ve been to and/or written about, or plan to visit.  Tough to determine where I’m going, but you can Google my name and location name for places I’ve been. Really, why waste your time? Seems sort of random to send those “just in case you’re traveling to….” emails.
  3. The email topic ties to my focus of budget, independent travel. I’ve lived in the Middle East as a preteen and in Asia and Europe as an adult, and have traveled all over the US.  As a reasonably experienced traveler who enjoyed the expat experience, I am so NOT the kind of person to stay in some bubble (like an all-inclusive package resort in Cancun or Jamaica) so please don’t inundate me with all that off-topic fluff.
  4. I would much rather support state/county/city tourism organizations and locally-owned, independent hotels and restaurants than chain places or more commercial travel businesses.
  5. (Here is the biggest insight of all, and the one most ignored) I’d rather deal with someone who has already “hung out” on my blog, by leaving a comment or two on some of my posts. Problem is, hardly anyone who’s blasted an email at me has ever stopped by and left a helpful comment and participated in the blog’s conversation BEFORE filling my IN box.

I don’t mean to sound unfriendly, but I am rarely at a loss for blog post ideas; with another blog besides this one, offering training in social media for tourism, speaking engagements and other irons in the fire, my problem is TIME.

If after all that, you still want to pitch, I’m sheila “at” sheilascarborough “dot” com.

I usually don’t respond if I’m not interested, and I’m OK with one follow-up “any interest?” email (which I may or may not respond to depending on how badly that day’s email volume is sucking all the life out of my head.)  If you don’t have an “Unsubscribe” option in all of your emails in accordance with CAN-SPAM, I get really crabby.

Thanks very much for listening.

Disclosure Policy

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What the heck IS a “blogger,” anyway? Am I just an online writer? Am I a journalist? Are there any rules for my writing behavior?

I think it’s important for anyone reading this blog to understand exactly where I’m coming from, so you’ll know how to judge my work.

I do consider myself a quasi-journalist, mostly because my Mom was an actual journalist and I was brought up understanding concepts like “off the record,” “on the record,” backing up your opinions where possible, quoting people carefully and completely and finding alternative opinions where possible.

But that’s just me. Blogging allows a lot of individual perspectives, and that’s why I like it. Many of my fellow bloggers do NOT consider themselves journalists, and that’s fine for them, on their blog.

So, expect me to be honest and truthful here, and tell you right up front when something is my opinion, and when something is as factual as I can prove it.

Let’s talk about freebies. This is important. Some bloggers say that whatever the “rules” are about disclosing freebies/good deals/free trips, such rules don’t apply to bloggers. Fine for them, but not fine for me, and not fine according to the Federal Trade Commission and search engines like Google (which generally penalize paid-for content.)

If you’re paid to say nice stuff, that’s advertising. If you get free stuff and are asked to say nice things about it, that’s advertising. There are rules that apply to advertising, so you’d better know when you’re doing it (the blogger) and when you’re seeing it (the consumer.)

Here’s where Sheila’s Guide comes in. I write about tourism, social media, tech and travel. Because I have an audience (thanks, readers!) sometimes I’m given products to look at, and sometimes I’m given free travel to go check someplace out and write about it.

I feel kinda weird about all this.

I’d rather pay for my own stuff, and then I can totally own my opinions about it. I’m bossy that way. Other bloggers don’t have this angst. That’s great for them, but this is me.

Here is my policy:

*** If I’m given free stuff to review (and I’m really not into product reviews, so don’t send anything) I’ll tell you I got free stuff when I review it.  If it makes sense to do so, I’ll then probably give it away. This doesn’t apply to things like travel socks. I don’t think you want my used socks. Jussayin’.  For reviews, don’t come here, go to the BootsnAll Travel Gear Blog or my friend Tim Leffel’s Practical Travel Gear blog.

*** If I’m given a guidebook to review, I’ll review it and then usually give it away through a blog post giveaway.  I won’t give it away if I’ve gotten it all ratty by writing in it or spilling things on it during a trip.

***  Press trips/familiarization tours/fam tours. I’ve been invited on a few of these trips, and while my experiences were positive, free travel is not really my style.  If I go, I disclose the fact that the trip was paid for in every post I write, in my tweets, in my Facebook updates, on Instagram….you get the idea.

Really, I’d rather be paid to conduct some social media workshops for you while I’m there – I can teach in the morning and do travel bloggy stuff in the afternoon/evenings, for example. This results in a much more businesslike relationship, I think.

Sheila Scarborough at Jelly Coworking Round Rock TXI have a lot of strong opinions on the “perks” of free travel, and have blogged about it in two posts on here:   What do new FTC blogging rules mean for press trips and fam tours? and Are blogger fam trips a good idea, or are they Jurassic PR?

Thanks again for reading; your comments and thoughtful input are inspiring. I hope to live up to your expectations.

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