Relationships in PR – My pitching tips

Using social media
photo credit: Ethan Hein

This past Wednesday, February 3rd, I was invited by Sara Pereira (Pereira PR) to join Jenn Lowther (6S Marketing) and Curt Cherewayko (Business in Vancouver) to share my thoughts and experiences from the blogger perspective to The PR Group (a meetup Sara has been organizing)

This group has been meeting since last summer, and it’s geared towards public relations folks. The idea of Wednesday evening was to engage in a conversation through a question/answer period on how PR folks can conduct better blogger relations campaigns.

I recall 2008 as “the year of blogger relations”. At least, that’s what I saw from my liveblogging of several events where other influential bloggers spoke about how they got pitched (and in some cases, the strategies they used to pitch other bloggers). I have been on both sides of the fence. I’ve conducted blogger relations campaigns AND I have been sent pitches. In the past couple of years, as my readership has increased, I’ve been sent more and more press releases, getting to the point where I receive up to 100 PR-type emails a day (thank you GMail for your filtering and labels features).

I shared a few of my own thoughts/insights and given that I wasn’t feeling all that well (this week has been challenging), it’s kind of difficult for me to re-summarize them. But from what I can recall I said at the event, I spoke about my pitching policies and a recent post I wrote about how to pitch me (and what mistakes to avoid).

One element I emphasized is know your client’s audience – I was making the case that for theatre companies, it is probably more relevant to get a blog mention than it is an ad on a newspaper or a review on a weekly. People go online to find tickets to the events they want to go to. The same applies to restaurants, everyone looks for online reviews. For example, I *know* for a fact many reviewers in traditional media and I disagree on our assessments of restaurants. So, I pretty much never read those reviews.

Another element I emphasized was build a real, offline relationship with bloggers. I told the audience that (as almost everyone knows), I’ve decided to dramatically reduce the volume of my public appearances to focus on my own development (and obviously, my teaching/research/consulting). The reason I accepted to speak at The PR Group meetup was because I knew Sara in person and we’ve had a good working relationship as well. Given my super busy schedule, I could have said no, but the pre-existing relationship I have with Sara mediated my decision.

The third element I touched on was make the blogger’s job easy. I receive dozens of pitches that are so bad I could publish a whole blog with examples of failures. Lack of personalization/customization, PDF versions of press releases, etc. This is particularly true in the case of boutique PR companies, which by definition are based in more client-focused.

I was asked to provide some suggestions as to what to do/what to avoid. From my pitching policies post and my “Pitch Me” post, here’s a compilation (a little bit blended from both posts).

- Read my blog. That means, read at least a few entries (5-8). Realize that I write about a very broad variety of things (restaurants, local businesses, environment, theatre, dance, my personal life, product reviews).

- Don’t pitch me with a generic “Hello” or “Dear Hummingbird604″. My name is Raul. It’s clearly written on every entry. Try to personalize it as much as you can. You may even want to use the first paragraph of your pitching email to customize it and make me feel appreciated and read.

- I have Acrobat Reader, but given the volume of requests I receive to write about stuff, you’d make my life 3 times easier if you provided me with text that I can just cut-and-paste. Easy peasy.

- Photos – it’d be fantastic if you could send me links to Creative-Commons-licensed photos from the get-go. Makes it easier for me to insert in my entry.

- I receive hundreds of emails a day. If I tell you “yeah, I’d love to write about this but I may forget” – please follow up. I won’t get mad if you send me three emails. Trust me, I’m way more understanding than people think. And don’t be disheartened or disappointed if I don’t write about your play/event/dance exhibition/performance/resort/restaurant/etc. I do keep a file of those things I do want to write about and things that I wish I had written about but didn’t have enough time to do so. One of these days, you’ll score a home-run!

- Pitching me via Twitter works only if you send me a personalized email to follow up. I receive hundreds of @ replies every day. I can’t recall everything even if I want to.

- Pitching me usually works well when you email me on a day that I will be having some time to write. For example, Tuesdays are usually my flexible days when I do book time to blog. So, pitches that I receive by Monday night, are usually well received.

- Ticket/freebies/giveaways are great ways to promote your client’s business. I am always more interested in giving tickets away than receiving complimentary tickets myself. Of course, if you invite me to review your play, it does help to set aside tickets for my review, but I find that my readers love freebies, and sponsoring a contest usually is a very good promotional tool within my blog. Full disclosure – I will be disclosing ALWAYS who sponsored the ticket giveaway.

- Make sure that you understand that I’m very transparent and open and keen on disclosure. I write fairly long paragraphs about who pitched me, what I’m giving away, who sponsored the giveaway, etc. (for a couple of examples, see my reviews of the HP Canada printers and my printer giveaway). Even though the FTC regulations only apply to US bloggers, I’m a big overdiscloser, so be aware of this.

EDIT – Another key point I just recalled that I made was to give every blogger you pitch a different angle. This is particularly important if you pitch several influential bloggers who may share a bit of the same audience. So, for example, pitching me environmental stories is a good idea, as that’s what my research and teaching are about. Pitching me new restaurant openings, theatre/dance/arts performances is also good. When a film festival approaches me, I usually pick the environmentally-focused films. That way, I can provide a different angle to my fellow bloggers.

At some point, within the next week or so, I think I will be publishing a refined version of this post as My Pitching Policy. Jenn and Curt also shared very good points from their own perspective, and overall it was a great event. As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or drop a comment on this post.

Related posts:

  1. 4 additional thoughts on pitching bloggers and online influencers
  2. My guest lecture on Pitching Bloggers (Simon Fraser University PR program) #sfuPR2011
  3. Build online relationships, promote others as you do yourself
  4. My passions: creating relationships
  5. QUESTION PERIOD: How to deal with relationships and dating?

Comments (2)

Anita WebsterFebruary 5th, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Hi Raul – I really like the points you make here. Sorry I missed the event. As you say, when PR people pitch you it makes good sense to think it through then make it as easy as we can for you. The proverbial win-win! Cheers.

Sara PereiraFebruary 5th, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Great post Raul – you were fantastic that night and now it is even better, because all of the PR people have some advice to refer to on an ongoing basis. Thanks!

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