Bloggers can spot boilerplate text and poorly researched inquiries from a mile away. If you want to get on their good sides, avoid these common faux pas in your outreach.
To begin writing this article, I had to start digging in the trash -- my email trash, that is. In all seriousness, I could not write about what not to do in a PR pitch without some real examples -- examples I could and would not make up. Names have been changed or redacted to protect me from beatings. There are really only four simple no-nos for approaching a blogger with whom you wish to collaborate or employ, or from whom you'd like to just get some publicity.
No-no 1: Letting us know we are just another name on a list so long you can't be asked to personalize it
Don't make it painfully obvious that you are working from a boilerplate so bland or a list so long that we won't even read beyond the first line. Don't use "Hi Blogger" as a salutation. We know what we do, but do you know who we are?
If you can't personalize, at least cop to it and call it what it is: a mass mailing hoping to reach out to the largest possible audience for your incredibly timely, useful, and compelling content, product, or service. A breathless "Sorry for the mass mail, but I had to get this out to you soon because..." is so much more authentic. If you do use a name, try to use the right one. I can't tell you how many emails I receive that are addressed "Dear Melissa" (so that I know they are working alphabetically by first name) or "Dear Truck & Tire" (so that I know they are going down the list by blog name). Which brings me to...
No-no 2: Not pitching within the blogger's genre
I can't plausibly pitch or even casually mention how great I think holistic weight loss or truck tires or day trading or cloth diapering is because my readers know I don't do that. The reason you're writing me in the first place is that you are hoping my readers take me seriously and will follow a recommendation. They will stop trusting me if I start spewing information about something I haven't done in years (diaper a newborn) or wouldn't do in a million years (tout healing crystals). They will call me on it. In fact, the one time I actually did mention something because I happened to know and use the product myself, regardless of the peripheral relationship to my regular topics, readers wrote to alert me to the possibility that someone had hijacked my site and was posting spam entries. Alors!
Bloggers be smart, but readers be smarter.
No-no 3: Not making an effort to format your email or clearly define the topic
In fact, I'd much rather receive an email with an image for an intro, along with a quick idea of who you are, where you're located, and what this is going to be about. I hate being invited to something fabulous only to scroll down 50 lines to discover it's tomorrow, 3,000 miles away. Also, please, please don't make me squint or resize my window to fit the entire screen to figure out whether I need to pay attention.
No-no 4: Not recognizing the effort on both sides
Acknowledge that you know what is involved on both ends of the communication. I already know that you are sitting in a cubicle with a mile-high stack of notes and lists and databases and goals and measurables. I know that you have a boss who expects you to hit those numbers and expects you to get quality -- not to mention quantity of quality -- mentions. You can get 100 fledgling mommy bloggers to mention you in the hopes they might someday move up to your "send free sample" list and eventually -- God's body -- your "pay per mention" list. But can you get someone who has a sizable, loyal audience and a lot of credibility to work your content, product, or service into a post in such a way that readers will think, "Well, she's never led me astray before, and if she mentions something it's because she believes in it and thinks I would genuinely benefit from the tip"?
Rule of thumb: If I would mention it to another mom at a baseball game or during the school run, it's something I would mention online (hint: generally, not healing crystals.)
I know you work hard, and I appreciate the amount of work you do for the amount of reward you get, not to mention the unpleasant ranting and reactions you sometimes endure. But keep in mind that I also work hard, and I am not being paid by the hour or the job, as you are. I am writing heartfelt content and building a following and trying to keep people entertained, engaged, and coming back because they like it here. You have a paycheck coming at the end of the day. My remuneration is in my good name, which in turn earns traffic, which translates into ad dollars if the gods are smiling. For the money, we have to work harder.
Please try to be clear about who is on the receiving end of the favor. You initiated the communication, and if you do it well, we will both be on the receiving end. I love when that happens.