Old Media PR vs. New Media PR
September 19, 2008 2:26 PM   Subscribe

Bloggers: Help me not annoy you.

So I have this shiny new job with Think Tank X, and part of this job is online/new media promotion. I've been charged with generating a list of blogs that would be interested in our (progressive, usually political) material.

My boss wants me to put said blogger list in a database so she can send out targeted press releases. I'm hesitant, because I know bloggers are resistant to traditional PR tactics -- i.e., dislike generic press releases, blanket mail blasts, etc. I also know that even with tags it's difficult to target information to bloggers who have a very narrow scope.

I've seen this question before, but mine is really more related to reports and op-eds and the like.

So bloggers: What do you like and not like when mailed information? Are you ever okay with generic press releases? Is there ever a time when you're cool with snail mail or phone calls? Should I just leave you alone? (Would you want to hear about this new report we're releasing?)

Thanks for any information.
posted by landedjentry to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Are you ever okay with generic press releases?

No, never.

Establish a relationship with me outside of whatever you're trying to pitch, and there's a chance I might be more willing to hear what you've got to say. Become a regular member of my blog's community long before you try to sell me something.
posted by nitsuj at 2:33 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you do send out blasts, always include some easy way for the recipient to opt out of any future blasts -- and make sure it works.
posted by Class Goat at 2:40 PM on September 19, 2008

Best answer: our very own mathowie's dear pr people: how to pitch bloggers is pretty much the best thing you can read on this topic.

generic and blanket are never okay, snail mail and phone calls maybe if we've already established a friendly relationship. otherwise, a short email of a paragraph, two tops, that tells me politely what you've got and why i specifically might be interested in it is the best thing you can do.
posted by lia at 3:14 PM on September 19, 2008

I have been working on some of the same things at my non-profit, with some success (we just started doing this in the last year).

Based on informal discussions with friendly bloggers (the ones writing about us anyway), we decided early on not to just add bloggers to the press contacts list for targeted press releases unless they specifically asked for that. We felt (and conversations with some prominent bloggers in the field confirmed) that it would likely be counterproductive, and was likely to produce the opposite effect of what we intended.

Instead, we have a fairly small group of bloggers that we work with and that we will send things to. My boss and I have developed personal relationships with all of them individually, by engaging with them through comments on their blogs, as well as through email and face to face conversations. We include them on some non-press mailings instead (the same mailings we send out to our members), and we will send out products to them only if they have specifically signed up to receive them.

Instead of pushing it, we are slowly working to extend our blogger contact network by looking at trackbacks and commenters on the blogs that do cover our activities, and then trying to engage directly (again through commenting/discussions) with those bloggers on the subject.

Given that we only have a very small group of bloggers writing about our narrow field anyway, this approach might make more sense for us (as a small, targeted non-profit) than it would for a large think tank. But it is a lot more useful - for everyone involved, I think - than trying to force the information down their throats (which is kind of how PR blasts work).
posted by gemmy at 3:39 PM on September 19, 2008

I disagree that blasting press releases is inherently bad. It's bad if that is all you do, or you expect that doing that alone will make you respected and taken seriously online... but those bloggers probably do want to see what it is you're PR blasting everyone else.

I think such spammy PR should be sent, though clearly labeled/tagged as suggested above (subject "TTX PR RELEASE 6/30: PALIN A SPACE ALIEN!) so that they can be sorted and filtered by those who care to do so.

But then ALSO follow the advice above about personal contact. The Press Release is the somewhat tacky, traditional and formal method... now also work on those relationships 1:1 and engage the bloggers/writers/op-ed journalists directly and personally, even if it's in the form of "In our press release last week we mentioned our new priority... here's how we think that will apply to net neutrality and why we think your readers may care..."
posted by rokusan at 4:25 PM on September 19, 2008

This sounds like unsolicited bulk e-mail, which is a nice word for spam. If you rephrase the question "are you OK having me send you spam?" I think you can answer it for yourself. Likewise phone calls.

Also remember that bloggers who find you annoying quite possibly won't bother opting out of your e-mail campaign, since those "opt outs" are used by spammers simply as confirmation that they've reached a good address. They may flag you as spam, and if that happens enough inside gmail or yahoo mail, all your messages will probably wind up getting blocked within those systems.

With an opt-in system, A) you are being vastly more polite, and B) you have reasonable confidence that the people receiving your mail are actually reading it.
posted by adamrice at 4:28 PM on September 19, 2008

I've got a somewhat popular blog in a business niche. What works for me is a short, personal email that makes clear that you've read my blog and are offering info that will be useful to my readers.

I don't mind getting generic announcements by email, since I have to keep up with news in my industry. However, as soon as I get one bulk email, I filter all future email from that address into a separate pile to look at when I have time, which may never happen.

Info on paper would seem wasteful and annoying, because it would just add to my recycling duties. It would also be harder to use--an electronic release is easier to quote.

I would also be irked if someone called with the equivalent of a press release. I would probably suggest that they take me off their list.

In general, a standard press release with a fake dateline and all says, "We're old school and therefore not in tune with you or your readership." I would be far more likely to pay attention to & use something more viral, such as a video or clever interactive.
posted by PatoPata at 4:48 PM on September 19, 2008

So bloggers: What do you like and not like when mailed information? Are you ever okay with generic press releases? Is there ever a time when you're cool with snail mail or phone calls? Should I just leave you alone? (Would you want to hear about this new report we're releasing?)

My basic feeling, as a ten-year blogger with a fairly popular niche blog is: do not contact me for any reason whatsoever. If you contact me by accident for some reason and I say "please take me off your mailing list" do not say yes but then defend what you did as if I am some sort of anti-progress dinosaur. Do not assume I do not have my own ways for keeping current and do not assume you have anything of value to offer me. I can not think of a single time I have wanted to be contacted by a PR agency except when Yahoo gave me a brand new bicycle, for free, with no strings attached, and even that did not come with a press release and even still, I feel weird about it.

I hate to be contrary here or in any way be negative about your job, but I reply "take me off your mailing list" to every solicitation or marketing pitch I get [maybe ten per week] and have not found one that was worthwhile, even though I am sure there are many nice people behind both the companies and the products they are pitching.

My feeling, and I do not presume to speak for anyone but me, is that you should leave me alone. Product-oriented bloggers may be a very different sort.
posted by jessamyn at 5:14 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think the above answers have already covered what I would say. I like gemmy's approach. Otherwise...

Tell your boss to start his own blog, post the press releases directly on it, and then make interesting comments on other people's weblogs to get them to read and link to his posts. Blogging should be a conversation.
posted by msittig at 1:03 AM on September 20, 2008

Yeah, start your own blog. You could even list it in Projects. If it's as good as you think it is, somebody might eventually make a FPP out of it.
posted by flabdablet at 1:35 AM on September 20, 2008

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