I love working with companies and pr agencies. There are some of you I consider friends and if you need something from me, I’ll go a mile to help you.
But to the majority of the PR Reps who I don’t know yet – remember, you get paid and I don’t. I don’t expect to be paid for reviews, but I normally charge for giveaways and mentioning contests.
If I am sending your message out, with your contest rules and promoting over my social networks- I should be compensated. It’s not unreasonable and I don’t charge very much. I also sell ads on my site and accept sponsorships and sponsored content.
I’m happy to come to your event, engage and spread your message on my website and my social media platforms. I would never charge for a product review or to attend an event. But if you ask me to create an original recipe and offer two coupons? Really? What about my time creating the recipe, crafting a printable version and getting the other groceries I need to buy? Sending me 10 coupons for a product I can just serve to my family? Seems much easier. Guess which one I’ll say yes to?
To those companies who contact me about publishing the results of their surveys? Um, sorry, not interested in that. Or coming to a huge, open to the public event and hoping to sit down with your celebrity? Frankly, I’m too shy for that. But if you invited me to a roundtable lunch where I could meet them and actually have a meaningful conversation — I’d be up to that.
Being paid for my time is even better. There are pr companies who realize that I do have a social media and event business and a database of NYC Bloggers and want to work with me and/or that business. And when they come calling, their emails and calls get priority over a press release. You have to remember that most of us (including me) barely make the hosting fees for our blog. Google Adsense pays practically nothing – in fact, the only thing I make a little money on is a video of Hasbro’s GoGo My Walking Pup on YouTube.
For all my great content, I get nothing. That’s why I freelance on other sites. To stop and have to write up your contest or new website, takes my time away from a project that will pay me (and help to support my family).
So this is my advice:
1. Check Our Sites: Before you email a blogger (any kind), skim their site. I’m sure you are reaching out to tons of blogs; but the pitch that actually reflects my content and mentions something about me (ie. that I have a very picky eater), will be responded to — even if I say no. I have a pet section, so pet queries are welcome also. I clearly state that I have kids ranging from 2- 6 (my oldest just turned 7).
2. We know that there isn’t a budget for Paid Reviews, but Contests and Giveaways are not free: Thanks to Cecily Kellogg, who gave a wonderful seminar at BlogHer, where she explained that PR usually means there’s product (but no budget for paying bloggers) but Marketing has the money. If I’m pitched for a review, I do not expect to be paid for it, but I do expect a sample. How else can I realistically and authentically write about something I haven’t touched? And if it’s a food, sending me one small bag or a smoothie bottle that broke in the mail and leaked over the press materials is just cheap (yes, it’s happened). If you have a small budget and tell me this, I can understand. But the big company whose rep sent a broken bottle to me? Cheap. You’re essentially telling me I don’t matter to you.
There should be an exchange of product if you want a review. Don’t send me one coupon for or one small package of your product. Don’t offer to send images (but not samples) of your high end product. It’s not worth my time, unless I feel it will lead to something more. Gift cards are fine also (but all bloggers aren’t going to agree to that). I do expect to be paid for contests and giveaways (or to get a product for myself). I have to make sure the language is written in a way that’s not going to get me in trouble legally. I have to make sure I have the facts correctly and write the info out. I have to format the image, I have to post to my social networks. I post to at least 4-5 different social media channels and do this a couple of times a day. It’s time consuming. Reviewing products W/0 a giveaway is actually much easier!
3. Sponsored Content Should be Paid: Once in a while you will see sponsored content which I’ve approved. Sponsored content means paid and it has to fit in with my blog. And sometimes being paid in gift cards can be fine for me (in a decent amount, I’m not talking $50) or a huge amount of product can work for my family. Every blogger may not agree with that and want to be paid in cash money (did you ever try to pay a bill with a drugstore gift card?). I can’t fault them for that. Everyone has to do what they’re comfortable with.
I did a lovely set of original posts this summer for a company I really like and they sent gift cards. It was worth my time and effort. I’d like to work with them again and be able to do more. But next time, I’d expect to be paid. Now, when I got a pitch from another big company, who wanted to send me two coupons to do create an original recipe, I said no, politely, and explained myself. They said they couldn’t pay me (no budget), but would keep me in mind for the future. I don’t expect them to come back to me any time soon, but I held my ground. I may come back to them in the future if I need them, so I didn’t slam the door. Yesterday I was contacted by a lovely woman who wanted me to mention her new site and the chance for one of my readers to win some money. Now, I wasn’t holding the giveaway, the site was, and it was a website, so there was no actual products to test out. I told her that I charge for posting giveaways. She responded that the company doesn’t pay for media coverage. I don’t think she understood that there is a difference between a review (which is my opinion) and a giveaway post (which is the company’s information that is broadcast).
4. If I am inviting bloggers to your event, I should be paid. If you want me to invite bloggers for you (more than 2-3), I consider it a job (because you are getting paid to do that) and I expect to get paid for my time. I’m NYC local, so it makes sense to get a little money in the budget to have someone find local bloggers for you. And I have a database of lovely bloggers who can make your event a success (hint, hint). A pr friend recently asked me to invite bloggers to an event she was doing. Before I sent out an email blast (like I would have done a year ago), I asked if there was a budget for hiring me for this. The rep was a little confused, she didn’t realize I had a huge database and said she didn’t have the budget. I totally respected her answer, and told her I’d come to the event, but I couldn’t email my database for her (since I charge for that). I left her a little baffled, but I know I stuck to my guns.
5. Stop Thinking that Boosting our Traffic is Enough: If you are working for a big diaper brand, do not ask me to post anything unless you are willing to send me some diapers. There’s a certain agency keeps asking me to post and never offers me anything — so surprise, I won’t post about them. Even though I use their product. When a big toy website asked me to post about them (for nothing in return), I said no. I didn’t actually use their site and wasn’t going to get a thing out of it.
SERIOUSLY, STOP THINKING THAT BOOSTING OUR TRAFFIC IS ENOUGH. It’s not. I don’t get any money unless people click on my google ads and buy something. And that happens so rarely. My traffic has been going up steadily since I started this site a year ago, because I’ve worked my butt off promoting it. Mentioning a big toy website isn’t going to get my stats up.
6. Don’t Assume We’re Newbies:I’ve been blogging for 5 1/2 years, even though my site is 1 year old. Don’t mistake that I’m a newbie and will work for nothing.
7. Bring the Funny: Funny pitches are always appreciated, even if I say no. But I will respond to you.
8. Don’t send it more than 1 time: This isn’t original – Dagmar of Dagmar’s Momsense said it recently: If we don’t respond to your pitch, sending it again isn’t going to change that. We’re all drowning in emails. It’s just going to make me mark your email as spam.
9. Asking for Stats is fine: I’m happy to send a screenshot of my stats. I’m happy to send amount of my twitter followers. I’ve worked hard. I’ve written for other sites (People.com’s Moms and Babies, Mommies With Style, two guides for iVillage, BabyCenter), but I don’t work for them anymore, so if you want anything posted, it will be on my site.
10. Decorum is always in Style: I filter myself over social media – I don’t say anything that would be considered unprofessional (even when I tweet for other sites and brands). Kitchen Aid had a huge fail the night of the Presidential Debates with someone tweeting something extremely inappropriate on the brand’s account, the person who did it should have realized that a) It was extremely offensive b) They forgot to switch their twitter account back to personal. Social Media is forever and most likely that person will no longer be tweeting for Kitchen Aid– Julie Pron of Julieverse wrote a great article this week on Watching Your Fingers. We need to be careful of how we come across via social media – you can’t take anything back. Even talking about political reviews on facebook, my policy is that I keep my views to myself. I don’t mention everything going on in my personal life on my blog or social media channels. While I’m no Dooce, I just can’t expose everything.
I don’t act greedy at events, I’ll take my gift bag and get my nails done (if it’s offered), but I won’t push someone down just to grab a free pen or a set of labels. I show up on time and dressed neatly (and smelling nicely). I treat everyone kindly. I know that how I conduct myself helps companies decide whether or not to work with me.
11. I have the Right to Change My Mind: There are certain things I review and certain things I don’t review. Like Kids CD’s. I may review a CD once in a while, but on average, I prefer not to review children’s music. Also I don’t review many apps, but if it’s from PBS Kids, I may do it — because I have a relationship with them (I’m a PBS Kids VIP and a Kids Club Thirteen Ambassador). And my youngest kid thinks Elmo is the best thing in the world. It’s my right to review what I WANT, because I don’t get paid for it and this is my space on the web. Most bloggers aren’t going to appreciate it when they turn down a product and then get harassed on it (yes, it’s happened).
And yes, there are some agencies and PR people who get it. And to those people who I like to work with, my rules sometimes change.
Julia Beck of Forty Weeks is a dream. So is Hilary Abbott, Robyn Ungar, Elisabeth Bergoo, Christina Simmons, Kate Clark of Britax, nearly everyone at 360 PR in Boston, and Mariana Mack to name just a few. I enjoy working with them. This post does not imply that any of the above firms pay me anything for posts, giveaways, or guest posts on their sites — just that these are Reps I trust and that I work with.
My intention for this post is to make PR Reps think — I’m not trying to start a war. But when I don’t respond to your pitch about a survey about psychics, don’t be surprised.
Hey Bloggers, what do you think? What will get a response from you? What gets sent straight to your mail trash? What are your rules?