12 things to remember when you pitch to bloggers

Should you use words like “urgent,” “quick fix,” or “press release” in your subject line? Bloggers reveal what they want from PR pros.

Pestering bloggers—it’s a PR rep’s time-honored tradition. A client has something to announce or show off, and PR reps go out of their way to get attention of bloggers. But what’s the best way to approach them?

At the recent PR Summit in San Francisco, the following four bloggers and I tried to answer that very question.

  • Ryan Singel (Wired.com)
  • Jolie O’Dell (Venturebeat)
  • Beth Spotswood (SFGate, Huffington Post, and CBS)
  • Michael Leifer (Guerrilla PR)

Here are 12 tips and arguments that came up during the discussion:

1. Keep it short and sweet. Far too many email pitches have endless copy. Ryan Singel was really impressed with a particular five-line pitch. It’s OK if you have more information. Just send it once the blogger expresses interest.

2. Avoid ALL CAPS, jargon, and the term “press release” in the subject line. All the bloggers said they delete any emails that have “press release” in the subject line. Plus they get annoyed with all caps and industry jargon.

3. Personal is best, but bloggers will accept mass-mailed requests. Bloggers definitely appreciate the personal approach where the PR rep knows the bloggers, what they cover, and what they’re interested in. Though they understand the problems with “spray and pray,” they are still receptive to mass-mailed requests, provided they’re on target.

4. Getting on a blogger’s radar is a win. Just because someone wrote about your competitor, that doesn’t mean they want to write about you right away. In most cases they won’t, but it’s still really valuable to get a competitive product on a blogger’s radar. Even though it’s not published right away, you need to count that as a win for your client.

5. “Me too” or “not me too” comments on blogs. The bloggers showed annoyance for people who left “me too” comments on a blog post, a.k.a. a comment that says, “Oh, we do that too” with a link to the business. They find the practice annoying, and I agree that blatant self-promotional without additional insight is irritating. But I believe if someone is writing about a competitor in your space and you don’t leave a comment, it’s a missed opportunity. Realize that anyone that reads that post is pre-qualified to being interested in that subject. Take advantage of that real estate, and place yourself in the conversation.

6. Don’t call. Seriously, don’t call. Once again, all the journalists agreed that they hated when PR reps call to make a pitch. Their biggest pet peeve is the call to ask if they received the email they sent. One PR rep, Ken Shuman from Trulia, asked, “Why are bloggers so allergic to phone calls? You call us when you need something.”

Ryan Singel responded, “You’re right; it’s not fair.”

7. Urgent requests are OK, but use them sparingly. Bloggers are receptive to urgent requests and respond to words like “Urgent,” “Quick Fix,” or “Time Sensitive” in the subject line. But be judicious of your urgent announcements and requests. Bloggers admitted that some PR reps took liberal advantage of the urgent requests and as a result been filed under “cry wolf” reps for which all future requests are ignored.

8. If a blogger writes your story, a “thank you” is enough. Don’t do anything overly effusive as that will break ethics policies at the outlet. A generous gift, even a fruit basket, and then the blogger feels like they’re doing you a favor, and that’s not their job.

9. Media requests can come from anyone. The bloggers don’t care if it comes from a PR person or an executive of the company.

10. Email is the preferred means of communication—but not always. On this panel there was a lot of disagreement as to whether you should use Facebook, Twitter, or some other social avenue to pitch a journalist. All the bloggers argued that PR pros should not invade their social space and should stick to email, although that decision should be made on an individual basis.

In my interviews with people on how they manage their social networks is that each person has a very clear definition—which stays in his or her own head—as to what each social network should and shouldn’t be used for. If you cross that individual’s unknown line as to what’s right or wrong, then you will definitely offend and possibly get unfriended. Tread carefully in social spheres.

Some are more responsive in the social space. I do know of cases where Twitter is the preferred form of communication. For example, members of the IT security industry have embraced Twitter and appreciate using the microblogging platform over email, explained Matt Hixson, formerly of Tripwire, an IT security company. A message sent to a security journalist via email might take days to get a response. That same request sent via Twitter will probably get a response in minutes.

11. Follow up emails are OK. Bloggers admit that they do sometimes miss emails that they’re interested in, but it doesn’t happen often. They will accept a follow up email, but if they don’t respond, then accept that as a “no.” Bloggers don’t have time to reply to every email with, “I’m not interested.”

12. Act like a journalist if you want to talk to a journalist. Marketing-speak definitely doesn’t win journalists over. If you write and talk like a journalist, then you’ll be read by a journalist.

David Spark is a journalist, producer, speaker and owner of the custom publishing and social media firm Spark Media Solutions . A version of this article originally ran on his blog, Spark Minute as a report for Interntainment Media.


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