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Editor’s Note: Jeremy Charette has graciously agreed to pen a guest column today on how not to pitch a blogger.
I can’t recommend highly enough forwarding this around, printing it out, binding it upon thy hands and upon thy gates… You get the idea. This is good stuff. The majority of bloggers out there get slammed with BS releases and emails just like reporters. Read this, take five minutes, and do a better job.
First off, thanks to Peter for giving me a soapbox to stand on, and letting me guest blog for him.
For those who don’t know me, I’ve been a Contributing Editor to Digital Media Thoughts for the past two and a half years. It’s a small site, about 300,000 monthly visitors, though we do get the occasional mention by the big boys at Engadget and elsewhere. I’ve also done freelance writing for Microsoft and TiVo. I hit up press events every month or two, and regularly chat with PR folks about new products and offer to do product reviews.
It amazes me how many PR companies are stuck in the ‘80s. So, in the interest of making my life easier (and hopefully helping some hack out there get a few more eyeballs), here are some tips for the PR agent vying for a blogger’s time:
1) Know what my site is about. I write about MP3 players, HDTVs, digital cameras, etc. I don’t give a crap about Hello Kitty cell phones, baby monitoring cameras, or some software that makes claymation movies out of my home videos. So please, take a quick look at my blog, get an idea of what it’s about, and send me stuff I’m interested in. Send the other stuff to HelloKittyBlog.com.
2) I don’t need any of the following: USB thumb drives, tech company t-shirts, baseball caps, mouse pads, lanyards, or paper press releases. Actually, USB thumb drives are handy if they have your product info and photos on them. After I’ve yanked a quote and a couple images, I’ll probably just toss it in the drawer with the other two dozen USB drives I own. And never look at it again.
3) If you send me product images, send me a few different sizes, or better yet, know what size my blog uses and send me that instead. If I have to resize a huge image before posting it, or you only send me a crappy 120 pixel product shot, I probably won’t use it. Heck, I might not even bother posting about your product at all. Bloggers are not only busy, they’re also lazy.
4) Please, please, PLEASE don’t use an auto-mailer to send me press releases. Most of them go right into my trash bin. Especially the ones that start with “Dear Digital,”. The ones I pay attention to are the ones that are written by a human being. “Hey Jeremy, nice to meet you last week at Digital Experience. Here are a few things I thought you might be interested in, let me know if I can provide you with any other info or samples…”. David Leong from Kingston won major points with me when he not only emailed me a press release, but also sent me a product sample and a paper copy of the press release with a HAND written note. Way to go Dave. I try to feature cool Kingston products whenever I get the chance.
5) Bloggers are by nature enthusiasts. They are also typically your target audience. They just happen to be the guys (and girls) other people are listening to. Press releases are boring. I can only get so excited about a product by reading about it. I need to see it, touch it, feel it. Send samples. Not necessarily review samples, just plain old samples. If your product is neat, interesting, or I love using it myself, I’ll write about it anyway. On top of that, I like giving away samples to our readers, which gets your product in the hands of real users. People who will tell friends. That helps you get the word out, and it helps me generate traffic.
6) On a related note, don’t make me fax back a review sample request form and guarantee of return with 30 days or some such nonsense. First off, I don’t own a fax machine. Second, these products are usually so cheap to manufacture that the actual cost of sending a few hundred or a few thousand samples is a bargain relative to the exposure you’ll receive. Even if it’s a $200 product, your client’s cost is likely half that or less. That’s a lot of eyeballs per blog for under $100. A company which shall remain nameless sent me a $14 product for review, and demanded it back in 30 days. When I pointed out that the two-way shipping cost was $17, more than the product itself was worth, they understood but still demanded it back. Fine with me. I went through the pain of having to setup shipping with UPS and billed their account number. I also never wrote about that company or that product again.
7) Put a human face on the company. Try to get me interviews with the CTO, or CEO, or better yet, the product manager in charge of something my readers might be interested in. Also, please see #4 above.
8) Whatever you do, (unless we are close friends) please don’t call me. I don’t answer phone numbers I don’t recognize. And if you do call, leave a message. Week before last, before the Digital Life show, somebody at Weber Shandwick kept calling me. They never left a message. I called back, but the rather rude woman at the switchboard said there was no way she could find out who was trying to reach me, and hung up on me. I never got an email from Weber Shandwick, and after that experience, probably wouldn’t have read it anyway.
So to sum up, learn from Peter. Be original, be human, be creative, and most of all: don’t be afraid.
Thanks for taking the time to read my mental diarrhea. If you’d like to reach me, email me at “jeremy dot charette at gmail dot com”.