Something unsuspected has happened to me. Having done earned media work for a decade and a half, I am now on the receiving end of pitches from PR companies.
This feels like karmic blow-back in the form of a stream of unsolicited emails. You see, I've always worked hard to bring a best-practice approach to earned media programs for my clients. Unfortunately, this is not what I see in my inbox. I'm disheartened to report that the "Spray and Pray" approach to earned media is alive in well in 2012.
For what its worth (because if you're reading this post you're not one of the countless clods who simply don't understand what it means to earn attention and build a relationship) here's my take on what it is to do earned media work well online:
Most work effort to engage with digital influencers (i.e. bloggers and content creators) is done by email. As relationships are developed, phone contact is possible, but many digital influencers simply prefer email.
Some blogs and digital influencers will post their pitch preferences. If a blogger has taken the time write these down, it is always best to follow these guidelines. It is one simple keystroke for a blogger to delete an email. It isn't much more effort to blacklist a sender (or an entire domain as Chris Anderson from Wired famously wrote about it in 2008 with his now infamous, Sorry PR You're Blocked post). It is not uncommon for bloggers to post their correspondence with publicists and PR people on their blogs, whether they are delighted or disgusted.
Obviously, digital influencers and bloggers are not the same as established (i.e. mainstream) media. The accepted practices between professional journalists and publicists do not necessarily hold for digital influencers. Until you've built a relationship and established a level of trust, it is best to exercise caution with embargos and exclusives. Because the majority of the communication with an influencer (at least initially) will be over email, how and what you write is key.
An effective influencer pitch:
- Has a descriptive, compelling subject line
- Is written to be clear and concise
- Is personalized and made relevant to the influencer
- Includes a meaningful value exchange
- Has a conversational style
Much ink (many pixels??) has been spilled over the years by people lamenting the brutal state of unsolicited pitches (largely from PR agencies). One of my favourite posts on this topic is this classic PR 203: How to Pitch a Blogger (or at least How to Pitch Jeff Pulver in 2008). Looking at B.L. Ochman's blog, I've found this more recent post that is a true gem. Check out her well-crafted and bang-on-the-mark post: Dear PR people: please take this quiz before you send out another press release or email pitch.
So where do I go from here? I'll do my best to resist the urge to critique, rant and rip apart the crappy pitches that reach my inbox. I'm an optimist so I've got to believe that one of these days I'll get a pitch from a professional who's taken five minutes to poke around my sites and get a sense of what I'm about; from someone who is genuinely interested in building a relationship. And if the stars align, what they've got on offer aligns to my interests and genuinely earns my attention.