For a blogger turned PR professional, there is no feeling quite so sad—and comical—as receiving an awful email pitch.
You know the pitches when you see them. They sometimes start out with "I found your blog, [insert full URL of blog] and truly enjoyed reading [insert arbitrary post], as well as [insert other arbitrary post]."
The pitch then talks about an "opportunity" for you to cover something that's not connected to either of the two posts that were in the email. I used to blog about cooking and sustainable agriculture, and I once got a pitch about organic carpeting—that sort of thing.
I'm not saying that pitching a blogger is easy. It's an art, and it's foreign to many of today's PR professionals rooted in more traditional outreach. As evidence of this challenge, we've seen all sorts of PR pitching flubs in the news lately. These go beyond just the run-of-the-mill, boring pitch. Some of my personal favorite headlines include:
Pharma company sticks their nose where it doesn't really belong
Lesson: Be ultra-sensitive toward online patient communities. There is a time, place and person for well-constructed, informed outreach about potentially life-saving drugs.
You have to be transparent about the company you represent. Health care communicators should listen to the conversations, but don't fish for bloggers' contact information on a Facebook page or online forum that is intended for patients. Not only is this bad PR, but you could get in trouble with the FDA.
PR stunt attempts to dupe bloggers into thinking they ate gourmet food, when really it was frozen dinners
Lesson: Bloggers aren't stupid. But if you want to tick them off, try to make them feel like they are.
VP calls blogger a b*tch; firm exposed in what becomes one of blogger's most popular posts
Lesson: Follow every common sense point listed here:
1. Get to know whom you're pitching.
This is easy because most bloggers are pretty transparent about their personalities and interests. Check out their tweets and LinkedIn pages. But most importantly, read through their posts to make sure they cover topics that indicate they'll be interested in whatever it is you have to share. Also, if a blogger hasn't posted in a few months, it's probably not worth reaching out to him or her.
2. Keep your emails short and casual.
Bloggers don't have time to read through a three-page email. Who does? Keep your pitch under seven sentences—something they could read in less than a minute.
If you're used to talking to reporters on the phone, use the "I can hear you saying that" test. Read your email out loud. If it would sound ridiculous to say what you wrote during a phone call, you shouldn't have it in your email pitch.
3. Show some respect.
This means compulsively checking to make sure you call the blogger by the right name. And don't b.c.c. or c.c. anyone else on the email. As in the faux pas above, that's a good way to get yourself in a heap of trouble.
You would think it goes without saying, but never call a blogger a name. If the blogger responds to your pitch and indicates that he isn't interested, even if it's in a rude or snarky fashion, either move on or politely thank him for his feedback. Remember, a "no" response is more helpful than a non-response.
4. Flattery could get you somewhere.
Maybe. There's genuine flattery, and then there's fake, forced flattery. This works much better if you actually are impressed by the blogger, because your compliments will be honest.
Be sure to see if the blogger has had any big news lately, because it might be worth congratulating her or mentioning it. Did she just land a book deal or a new job? Did she have a baby? This is just a nice thing to do.
5. Don't be afraid to follow up.
Send a quick note, and reply through your original email so the blogger has information to refer to. Follow up especially if you have any sort of added incentive, like a better interview opportunity or something free that he couldn't get elsewhere. Keep a follow-up email at two or three sentences at the most.
Kelly Barrett is a digital associate with Spectrum. A version of this article originally ran on the Spectrum blog.