When Good Pitches Happen to Bad People
So the other day, I walked into the offices of my local newspaper. Through the process of endless emails, and follow up emails to check if he got my emails, and follow up emails to confirm that he got the follow up to the email that I had initially sent, he finally responded.
“Fine,” said the editor, “What do you have to show me?”
So excited I could barely stand it, I said, “Sir, I have this awesome listing. I believe that it is the most awesome listing of all the listings out there, quite possibly, even more awesome than the listing I sent you last week, or the week before. Now, I am not sure if this is really up your alley – I haven’t really taken the time to check what you cover honestly, but I LOVE your paper, and, most importantly, it is my belief sir, that your readers will LOVE this. So here it is. A listing of my latest campaign. Please share it with your readers.”
He looked at me with the look that I can only describe as confusion.
“Well, uh, I am sure that my readers would love this listing, and though our division is in charge of covering science pieces, I am sure that there must be readers who drink orange juice and would appreciate the discount code and would enjoy the video of the celebrity chef talking about cocktail recipes for which it can be used. But, this sounds like something for our marketing department. I’m sure they would be happy to discuss advertising with you.”
What? Marketing department? I couldn’t believe it!
“Well,” I said, in complete disbelief, “I don’t have the budget for that.”
It looked to me like maybe his face might have been changing colors.
But, really it was I who was trying to control showing any signs of annoyance. I mean, the nerve of this guy! Trying to get money from me. Who the hell did he think he was? The New York Times? People Magazine? The Huffington Post?? C’mon.
He cleared his throat, and said in a controlled voice, “I’m sorry. But, as much as I like orange juice – and believe me I do – and as much as I know my readers would really benefit from this offer, my work – our work – is in our articles, reviews, research pieces. I would be happy to maybe work with you on discussing the health benefits of your product, maybe set up visits to your orchards for one of my writers.”
I sighed, “Yeah, no. This campaign is running till the end of this month and the logistics for all that are too complicated and again (I tried to control my tone), we don’t have the budget for that.” (Plus, we just dished out a crap load of money on this celebrity chef and he is expecting some publicity too!) “Maybe in the future,” I tried to appease him, “if the opportunity comes up and we gear our focus in that direction.” I was annoyed, really. This back and forth was more time consuming than I wanted it to be.
“Well,” he continued, “This is what we do, without compensation. This is what brings us our readers. This is what gives us the audience you want to supply your discount to, get the hits for your video from. In order to be able to continue to do the work, that brings the audience, that would drink your orange juice, I need to make money. The way I make money is through ads – and maybe some paid partnerships or consulting work here and there – but, young lady, ads is what pays the bills to keep us going. This? Well, this is an ad.”
I stared at him in complete disbelief. I mean, I remember when his stupid little ol’ newspaper launched. I’ve been working in this business for years! Doesn’t he realize how this placement could improve our relationship? Doesn’t he realize that if he just published the listings and announcements and other campaigns that I am working on it would just put him on the map? I would tell everyone in my department and all of our clients how they can go to him for such things! His readers would LOVE him.
But there he was, with his little ol’ stupid newspaper, thinking he was somebody, suddenly wanting to get paid when I can easily go elsewhere, to another local paper with even more readers than him and surely get it listed at no charge. Heck, they might even give my coupon offer and celebrity chef video its own feature! And here he is talking about marketing and ads. Doesn’t he know things are tight? My client isn’t going to want to dish out extra cash for marketing on little ol’ stupid local newspapers!
Granted, I would never go to a legitimate publication and dare request that they promote my campaign, post my video and write up my listing for free, but this isn’t a legitimate publication. I mean, yeah, their audience is legitimate (it would look so great on my report! The clients would be so thrilled!) and granted, people know who he is and he is well-respected in the community…but c’mon! It’s the local paper! Why would I even consider budgeting anything to publish with him? I do that and next thing you know I gotta pay all the stupid little ol’ local newspapers out there for listings and campaigns!
I smiled, gathered my incredibly valuable offer (that he is now missing on for being so darn greedy) and walked out.
It’s ok though. Because I have another really awesome campaign with a national car company sitting on my desk that I just know he will want to share with his readers in his next column!
Ha, ha. I love this!!
On. The. Floor. Brilliant an d can I just get an 'Amen?!' I don't get nearly the pitches you do ; recently though I've had a few reach out to 'connect me w/chefs for interviews' at a high profile event on the W Coast. Asked about a budget for travel & accommodations and suddenly, the convo ended. Very disappointing to say the least. Well done Carol!
This was good! Please have your camera ready to take a picture of his face when he wants your next campaign. Love this!@ justice jonesie:
@ justice jonesie:
Thanks ; )
@ Smith Bites:
UGH!! That just BURNS me! (And thanks!)
Thanks Anna : )
Hahaha! Oh yeah. I will Sheree! LOL!
Yup. That about sums it up. Except our circulation is higher than many print magazines…and yet, somehow not worthy of the ad budget.
Bren @ Flanboyant Ea
or they want you to place a YouTube tutorial on your site which explains something that's not even related to my content (or something I like, so how they assumed I would be interested is still a mystery). And THEN to send a follow-up email asking "when are you going to put the video up?" Get outta here with a that hotmessness.
Not all your content is geared for advertisers is it? Seriously – I am just curious if there is an editorial side and a marketing side because, as a former PR pro, you know the difference. Should publicists assume bloggers want to be paid for any content they create – or is some of it added value for the readers (giveaways, contests, discounts etc. as long as it is relevant to the blogger and her/his audience?
I spend every day trying to learn how to do what *I* do – earned media – in the most respectful and considerate way and I care alot about what you and your colleagues think.
Carol CainBarbara Pflughaupt
Thanks Barbara – yup, you are absolutely right about the difference between editorial side and marketing. And I don't think that we should be charging for editorial content. That being said, with blogging sadly there is a fine line and I think some publicists have really learned to abuse that line because so many bloggers don't understand the difference. Bloggers who post content that clearly should be advertorial as editorial for free…and then bloggers who want to charge for content that is clearly editorial, as if it were an ad. Strictly editorial? Well, you know: reviews, opinion pieces, educational, etc. When it comes to contests, giveaways and coupons, this is where it gets shady for everyone because they are, in fact, ads. They exist for the sole purpose of promoting the client (the publicists' clients) UNLESS beyond this concept, they do an even GREATER service in promoting the publisher – meaning, that it fits within their niche, it further promotes them as "in the know" and sources of contact, info and such. Asking someone to put up a video, for example, for an event that they've never seen or been too, for either a product or an upcoming show? That's an ad. Providing the blogger with marketing material that she can use in her review of the show you represent (should she choose to do so), that simply further enhances her editorial content. Wanting content that specifically links to your client – who may or may not be relevant to the niche (though the general content is) – advertorial. Though I realize that PR and marketing are/should be separate, it is becoming more and more of a habit to ask bloggers to post content that is clearly advertising on our blogs as editorial. I am not sure why or how this is happening, but it's gotten out of hand. In my time "in it", we very rarely had these types of promotions that trickled over from marketing, but we had them. I think this is becoming more of a habit because so many bloggers don't understand the difference and because it's such a huge opportunity to promote and market to a larger audience at lower costs – especially if it comes in the form of a pitch from the PR department. None of my posts are meant to paint everyone as being the same, of course there are exceptions on both ends. This particular post was written after about a week of pushing back on pitches with "Yes, my readers would love this, but it's an ad – as I have never met these chefs, or been to this event, or have nothing personal to say about the material at hand in anyway that is not exclusively promotional and advertorial". Hope that makes sense.
It does make sense in the way the world of blogging is developing. And I completely understand you are not painting all publicists with the same brush, any more than I do bloggers :).
Not sure I agree that all contests, giveaways etc are ads because they also offer a blogger's reader value if it is tied to what the blog is about even if the blogger does not have the time or inclination to check it out. I work with a few family bloggers who are happy to offer products they believe their readers would be interested in, but they may not be themselves, or it is time sensitive in some respect. Again – I thin kthe relationship between the publicist and blogger is key.
I agree if you are asking bloggers to offer products, services, information etc. to their audience they should have the option of being able to experience and review them personally if they choose. That makes great sense. The above has always been my understanding but blogging originally was a sort of personal journal and now has become recognized as a valuable media resource depending on the blog. It changes every day and I have been watching for many years . I'll keep listening and learning as my blogger colleagues tell us what they want to work with us on that benefits their readers – and recognize that many consider it making their living and that unless they are being paid to write about it, they are not interested in featuring the content. Thanks, as always, Carol, for taking the time to cross the lines and help clarify the landscape .
@ Barbara Pflughaupt:
No, exactly, I agree Barbara – the contests, giveaways and so forth, have to offer the blogger value in return – being related to their niche, as opposed to just posting randomly – does nothing for the blogger – or the publicist really because bloggers who do this don't develop a loyal readership or audience, but rather generate hits from random, one time passerby readers who are looking for free stuff. I also agree that having the relationship helps. I love helping out brands and publicists whom I consider friends or whom i have a positive working relationship, as they do for me as well. I think that blogging definitely started as a personal journey and for many of us it still is. My reasons for blogging remain very personal and close to my wanting to inspire and share stories, but as my audience grows and the demand to promote on my site does as well, it becomes a smarter thing to develop guidelines to help interested parties, but that also enable us to continue our passion. I personally like the clear lines of ads and editorial, and would rather profit from offsite endeavors rather than blurring the issue on here, but yes, there is a growing number of bloggers who won't type a word without cash in hand. Not my approach, but I won't comment on how they choose to run their business. Thanks for always being willing to discuss!