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Wednesday
Nov022011

Bad Pitches I've Spared You From

Every day I get dozens of e-mails from public relations firms, companies, writers and others asking me to feature their stuff on my blog. The thing is, that isn't how I work. The content on this blog is mine and mine only (with the exception of a small number of hand picked guest posts). I don't do reviews or giveaways (except for a rare book). But, I do offer advertising space. So if a product I am pitched seems like a good fit with my blog, I let them know about the advertising options. However, most of the products and ideas that I am pitched are so far removed from my subject matter, my values and my perspective that they just get deleted.

To give you an idea of the type of thing that gets sent my way, here is a sampling of the pitches I've received within the past few days (note: wording changed slightly on the descriptions and no links are provided so that this does not inadvertently become publicity for the pitch I was turning down):

  • Life saving reflective products for humans and pets

  • Campaign to design a pink baby play place in support of breast cancer (pink washing?)

  • Video of executive of a big box store not wearing any pants while talking about a Christmas sale

  • Report on the social and political impact of moms who blog. The opening line of the pitch was: "Did your mom ever send you to your room? Was it so that she could have some time to blog?"

  • Octomom is going to be on a TV show

  • Holiday stain removal

  • Birthday bow tie

  • TV personality substitute teaching kindergarten classes

  • Same TV personality talking about Toddlers and Tiaras

  • Once again the same TV personality wants to challenge you to have dinner as a family

  • Guide to girl's night out

  • Kegel exercisers

  • Announcement of winner of a stamp contest

  • Adopted dog who teaches children manners

  • Ergonomic backpacks

  • Car racing video game tournament for kids

  • Halloween-themed booster seats

  • Gourmet food gifts

  • Documentary on vaccine awareness

  • An app that allows you to rate things you eat on a scale from healthy to fat

  • A Parent Blogger Club relating to a specific popular toy item

  • Dozens and dozens of proposed guest posts or "link to me please" requests for advice on everything from buying car insurance to diet and health to monitoring your kid's use of the Internet


And then there is the story of the pitch I did accept and now wish I hadn't. An author of a book wrote to me and asked me if he could send me a review copy of his book. The book sounded interesting and appropriate to what I write about, so I agreed.

A couple of weeks later, a courier arrived with a package that is about 20" long, 15" wide and 6" deep. I opened it up, removed an excessive amount of paper stuffing, and found a black box about half the size of the original box. I removed the packaging on that, opened it up and found that it was a disposable video player with three videos in it and the box also contained a plastic baby bottle styled as a ketchup bottle. There was also an empty space that I assume was supposed to contain the book. Unfortunately, it was empty. So I received all of this packaging and throw away marketing materials and electronics instead of a book that I thought might come in a simple padded envelope.  I contacted the author five days ago expressing my disappointment in the package that I received and haven't heard back.

What do you think?

  • Are you glad I click "delete" when I receive these?

  • Do you wish I covered more of these products on my blog?

  • If you are a blogger, how do you react to pitches that are inappropriate to your blog or your audience?

« Have you heard of Purple Crying? | Main | Why are adults allowed to say "shit" but kids aren't? »

Reader Comments (48)

Thank you for clicking delete. Your blog's signal to noise ratio is really high, and I think a large part of that is that you're so picky about what you'll review on request.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Jess: I have thought about doing that but with this pic instead: http://twitpic.com/733jzr

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Those are some impressively bad review requests. Glad you clicked delete! I rarely reply to review requests, especially when they are laughably unrelated to my blog content. If it's close (but no cigar), then I might send a brief polite decline.

Thank you for sharing all of these. Every time I see that excess packaging, I'm speechless all over again!

I'm glad that you delete. I politely respond to every pitch, inappropriate or not, once and then delete any future replies which, sadly, often turn into rude nagging. I wish I had the guts to refer them to the Blogess' page when they become demanding, but I just hit delete without reading the subsequent replies at this point.

Although, with all of your extra time you could start a second inappropriate review-only blog ;)

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZoie @ TouchstoneZ

LOL I snorted when I clicked through to your photo :)

I don't think any of those pitches are appropriate but I am amused hearing about them. I only get occasional ones and mostly I just ignore them. I have a couple of relationships with PR people that I've built up and that make sense and sometimes promote things they pitch to me. But I often say no too.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLara

I usually write back and say the product or whatever does not fit with my blog! I have only done 3 reviews and out of those reviews, 2 giveaways. I dont want to be a review/giveaway blog, not that there is anything wrong with that. The 3 products I did reviewed were for 3 amazing companies, and I love their passion for the environment. I know some bloggers are rude to the companies pitching, but even thought it bothers me and gets under my skin, I just politely decline! Why get all worked up over something so trivial? I once had a pitch for a cookbook about healthy eating and most of the recipes were meat/animal based recipes and I vegan....oh well!

i agree. you have to stay true to yourself and do what is comfortable for you.

PS-I think your blog is fabulous and just great the way it is. if you decide to add some reviews and giveaways, I will keep reading. If you started reviews and giveaways all the time, you might lose some readers. You have great content, why change? :)

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGood Girl Gone Green

All I can say is "thanks." I wouldn't be reading you if you tried to pitch me all that stuff!! If I want to shop, I'll go to a store. If I want educational and well written material, I'll come to your blog :)

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

I just reply with my rates. They rarely respond again.

What could I possibly want with information on what a Kardashian is doing?

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I delete the pitches that I consider the equivalent of comment spam, but I almost always take the time to respond to the pitches that advocate screen-time for kids, advertising in schools, etc. I have a much less funny response than The Bloggess has, but I do like to get the message out and I always include a link to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood for more information.

And I can say it is not a total waste of my time - sometimes I get a really thoughtful response back that yes, maybe they shouldn't have assumed my daughter would like a pink princess doll. Or that I would like my baby to watch TV. Or that I would like to participate in a big soda contest so my school can have a chance to win some money.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranna ~ random handprints

LOL, oh the poor stamp collectors of the world...

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTamara Watson

You turned down the Holiday stain removal? WHAT is that??? LOL
Tooooooo funny!

Lordy, I get tons of these as well! Like you, I don't do reviews or shill products (anymore, not since like 2007), and when I write about a product, it's just me doing it because I love (or hate) the product, not because anyone asked me to.

So, I delete. If someone is persistent, I'll decline politely and explain that they've pitched something that's completely irrelevant to my blog (or my interests), and had they actually read my blog, they'd know that.

I don't mind the pitches when they're polite and unobtrusive, but I very much dislike how obvious it is that they googled some term, got me as a top hit, and blasted a form email to me - no personalization, nothing more than "we love your blog!" Ooohh pleeeasssseeeeee....

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTere

Yeah, I got that one too.

I reply with my rates if I would actually accept advertising from them. Otherwise, I don't. If it appears to be a well intentioned PR firm that might work with other companies that would be a fit, I may reply explaining why that pitch wasn't a fit for my blog, but that if they did have other clients that were a better fit, that I would be open to advertising (read: paid...not free promo).

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I get a lot of silly ones too.

The ones I find most offensive are the ones where the person doesn't bother to change the greeting from "Dear (insert blogger name here)," or the ones titled, "Dear Mommy Blogger."

I get a lot wanting me to push cable cartoons. If they read my blog, they'd know we don't have cable and I don't let my kids watch much TV. I get a lot about video games. Again, we don't play them and they'd know that if they took the time to actually take a look at my blog.

Because I also write for a grocery store, I get a lot of contest promos, which I delete.

I try to write back when I've been invited to an event, because they need head counts for those and I think it's rude to not RSVP. I also let people wanting me to back certain food stores that I'm under contract to not align myself with any stores other than the one I write for, and for how long.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

I also appreciate that you weed your garden with an iron fist Annie!

I had to snicker the other day. I've been not-posting to my blog for well over a year (except for a false start a couple of months ago). I went into the e-mail associated with the blog a week or so ago and was able to make a timely response to someone trying to sell me a hands-free double electric breast pump. o_O Harper is 9 yo. I sooooo don't need a breast pump and it's really unlikely I'll be breaking my hiatus to blog about some random pump I know nothing about! LOL

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

I'm certainly glad you decline!

I don't get many offers but am just about to host my second giveaway...which will promote a business based in Ireland, where I'm from...and the business is centred around breastfeeding! Yay for that. I plan on being VERY choosy!

: )

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterÁine

Ha! A few of the pitches in that list are familiar to me too.
If it's a spray n' pray type press release I almost always hit delete. If the PR person on the other end has taken the time to personalize it (and I have time) I usually respond. Sometimes I send my rate sheet. If it's appropriate I link them to my pitch policy. I think having a posted policy has made a difference in the number of pitches I receive. A lot of PR people have told me they've read it and I've had good feedback. They know what I will and will not write about, even before they hit the send button.

The fact remains that although I might not be a good fit for "product A," I might be a good fit for something else. PR agencies have lots of different clients.

p.s. I think you should continue what you're doing because it's working for you!

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterandrea from the fishbowl

I dislike the proposed links for different "causes." They make me feel bad for not wanting to link to them or post about them. When I say no, it is not because I don't find value in what they do but is instead because their material just does not pertain to what I write about.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCorey

I'm glad you delete them, and I respect you more because of it. I visit a number of blogs, and I get super annoyed when they feature yet another contest/giveaway or product review. I'm well aware that they aren't recommending these products as a friend (as much as a blogger you read regularly but have never met can be a friend,) but they are advertisements disguised as word-of-mouth endoresments.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

This post is a hoot! As a PR professional myself, it is very difficult to target pitches to bloggers; there are SO many of them and not a lot of great (free) tools for narrowing the field to someone who might actually care about my pitch. I'm thankful to be an in-house employee though, where I can argue for quality versus quantity in regards to my PR efforts.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMonique

I have to agree. I've been to some blogs (that are extremely popular) only to leave disapointed because it seems all they do is pitch stuff. I don't mind it once in a while, if it really moves or interests the blogger, but if it's continual it just turns me off.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNadia

Wow, there is nothing there I'd be interested in reading about (here or elsewhere). Thank you for clicking delete!

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCandice

Now I kind of want to read your review of #4 :)

I'm not a fan of review blogs. Usually the person reviewing the products isn't filling a real need, or they don't know enough about what they are reviewing to give a useful review. Many end up being the restated press release. Eg some random mom reviewing a network hub that "changed her life" and was "so easy to setup". She recommended everyone should buy it, but not being an IT professional she glossed over and / or didn't know about its many shortcomings.

I like winning giveaways, but unless you only have one entry the odds of winning the giveaway on any given blog are super low. So a blog with lots of giveaways becomes "a lot of times I didn't win". Which tends to send me onto someone else's content.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary @ Parenthood

I can't imagine your blog accepting any of those pitches, and not even the best pitches, because it just doesn't necessarily work. Like you say, there are exceptions, but most of the PR being pitched to bloggers whether you get millions of hits or hundreds is just crap.

I can't resist an interesting book, though... or a local business. Sometimes I feel like my readers deserve to try to win something because they put up with me, but I do try to be very choosy and reviews and giveaways are so few and far between.

Oh jess, that is legendary. You really can't beat Wesley Crusher.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCybele

Wow. That's ridiculous.

I get frustrated when I start reading a blog, and it slowly turns from a blog into another advertisement. I don't care if a blogger supports a pitch now and then, particularly if it is relevant to their blog. However, when two out of three posts are reviews and other ads, I unsubscribe.

I don't think you have to worry about that as far as I'm concerned. Your blog has so much content a pitched post now and then is hardly on my radar.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCasey

Agreed about #4: talk about not knowing your audience at all!

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdarlene

VALIDATED!

The best are the one's where they make you feel like they are doing a favour by even emailing you.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen

what a weird bunch of stuff to get pitched! do they even bother reading any of the blog before they pitch??

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkatery

Some of them pretend to. They'll grab the name of a recent post and say: "I am a longtime reader of your blog and I particularly liked your recent post called XYZ." Then they launch into their copy and paste pitch.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Possibly the use of tools (free or otherwise) is the main problem. Seems to me that there is no substitute for humans when selecting bloggers to pitch to.

Mind you I'm not a fan of pitches generally. Used to send out a contract to people who sent us unsolicited pitches (mail, fax, email), with a $50 / contact rate. To accept the contract all they had to do was keep sending us pitches. To decline they could remove us from their spam list. Worked quite well. I only had to send out invoices to two companies (repeat offenders, or I wouldn't have bothered. Neither paid but the invoice got prompt action!) Now we have no junk mail signs and filters on our fax and email which are even more effective.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary @ Parenthood

I get a fair few. My 'favourites' are the ones that are addressed to "Dear Parent" or "Dear Blogger". I know some are automated (spam) but some have also clearly looked at my site - so why not bother to dig out my name? It's not exactly hard to find! If they can't be bothered to address me properly I can't be bothered to read the pitch (not that I do anything with the majority anyway.)

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJem

I also get offers for "guest posts". "I'll write a post on any topic you want!" Dear spammers, the reason I would ask people to write guest posts is that they have personal experience or expertise in a particular area. I don't really feel inclined to have you to rewrite a wikipedia article so that you can promote your site about education for radiology technicians (or whatever vaguely health-related thing that's gotten you to target my blog). I just hit "delete".

I also agree - thanks for weeding out the junk for us!

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

I got fed up, too: http://www.beyondpostpartumblog.com/2010/02/how-dumb-do-they-think-we-are.html

Now I just hit delete, unless I'm in the carpool line, in which case I waste their time by sending them just this link and asking them to guess if the answer is yes or no.

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmber @Beyond Postpartum

I feel like I need to begin by saying: I'm a PR person. It is my profession and career. I am also a mom, which is why I read this blog, not for PR reasons (or to pitch my company's products/services). This article makes me cringe because it furthers the problem we have in the PR industry, which is that many people who aren't good at PR, or lack the experience, oversight or both are set loose on reporters, bloggers and others. It has eroded the credibility of the profession for us all, which is a shame.

I can tell you, from a PR perspective, that blogger outreach is one that the industry is still trying to get its arms around (clearly!), and as a previous PR poster has said, is very difficult. It's certainly time consuming to find appropriate blogs, invest the time to read, create relationships. But it's the right way.

I guess, I'd say on behalf of the industry: There are good PR people out there and if yours is a blog for which accepting pitches, or forming a relationship with a PR person makes sense, please don't discount us all over some bad eggs.

Now, if I could just tell you about my company's...;)

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Beth:

I know that there are some great PR people out there and I've been lucky to work with some of them. They get to know me first, understand my audience, my subject matter, my values and my business practices before they send things to me. If any of that isn't obvious, I have no problem with PR people sending me an honest question about any of that. But just assuming that I would be interested in what some celebrity is doing or about some random product is not an effective way to approach bloggers in my opinion.

November 4, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Totally agree with you. There's a really great discussion on the same subject (just from a PR angle) happening over here: http://www.spinsucks.com/communication/effective-ways-to-respond-to-bad-pr-pitches/

It's not a blog I'm in any way affiliated with, just a great PR blog, that ironically was having the same discussion yesterday you were - you from the blogger angle, she from the PR (and blogger) angle.

November 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

I generally click "delete" too! I've found that any engaging (unless I WANT to do the review/giveaway) can just lead to more, "but WAIT! What we have to say about plastic surgery could VERY WELL be relevant to your audience."

Um? No.

I do a fair number of reviews/giveaways (maybe one a month or so), but most of them are birth-related books or videos. Lots of birthworkers read my blog, and I figure it gives them a chance to get a book for free that they might end up spending their money on anyway.

November 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

Oh, one of my favorites is one I received yesterday: "I will write content for your blog and link back to one of my business websites. I think we'll both benefit from this..." [and I quote] "MUTUAL BACK-SCRATCHING."

Yes. Free advertising for you is *not* what I call mutual back-scratching.

November 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

Wow, just wow. Thank you for not posting on any of those topics! I don't get nearly as many requests as you do but it is always painfully obvious when a person/company has obviously not read anything that I have written.

I don't read blogs with give-aways & reviews. I'm not here to be a customer. I want substance. Thank you for doing what you do. :)

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmie Hood

Gawd, glad to see someone else gets these really absurd pitches. Thanks for giving us a peek into your mailbox.

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterblue milk

Annie- thanks for addressing such an important issue re mommy blogging and marketization- I have an entire post on this issue- incl a link to you post on my blog- welcome comments and thougts- but please note my blog is currently unpolished and temporary- my blogspot account will be more professionally reconfigured to wordpress by end of year- and the Mother Outlaw blog will be officially launched in the new year...
Best
Linn Baran
Community Outreach and Promotions
Mother Outlaws Coordinator
MIRCI
http://www.motherhoodinitiative.org/motheroutlaws.html

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMother Outlaw

I love this post! The only thing I want you do do differently is to save any wine you might get to share with me the next time I'm in your town. :D

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJodine Chase

Jodine:

I NEVER get wine pitches. Can you believe it?

That said, I'd be happy to have a drink with you next time you are in town. Just give me a bit more notice this time! :)

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

No wine pitches? I guess we're on our own.

November 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJodine Chase

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