I’m Not The Welcome Wagon, but I’ve Got Some Advice For You

I don’t know much about Mom Blogging that you don’t already know. You’re a mom, you’ve got a kid or two, maybe three, and talk about your new life as Mom, and, if you’re lucky, a community will form around you.

Every day more moms are throwing their hats in the ring. I understand why, too. Publicists are falling all over themselves to toss free things at any mom with a blog. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, I’m simply stating that there’s little quality control involved. Diana is swimming in pitches, and here are some of the stats on her site from Website Grader.

To credit Diana, she is in the top 4% of internet traffic, but, let’s be frank, there are 1,174,686 sites with more traffic than Hormonal Imbalances. That means almost two million site owners could be getting the same PR pitches she gets. Diana is annoyed with the tone of the pitches, believe me I understand. I have banned a huge PR firm from my inbox. I’ve had phone calls with Senior Vice Presidents who have assured me that I’ll never get a pitch from them again, yet I still get invited to their events.

Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Up until a few months ago I used to get over a thousand pitches a week. My inbox was overflowing, and none of them were relevant, they were a terrible waste of time for me, and for the poor flacks who sent them.

Sometimes I would reach frustration, and lash out via email. Well, that didn’t do anyone any good at all. Finally I set up a “thank you for your pitch” page. I send a super quick email with a link to it, and if they’ve asked to pick my brain, I send them to Nichole Jordan’s fabulous post that explains why you may not pick my brain.

I’ve been blogging in some form for a number of years now, but I’ve never seen PR and mom blogging interact quite like this. I’ve also never seen so many people call themselves publicists. In 2006 Peter Shankman sent me some flavored thing for kids medicine to review, it was startling, and I don’t think I had another review item until early 2009. It simply wasn’t being done on a large scale, and I’ve never had anyone give me talking points, though I hear about it happening. For lack of a better term, we may be jumping the shark. With masses diving headlong into review blogging, the value simply is not there. Review only bloggers are not trusted, and I can’t come up with any good reasons why they should be. If the only content on a site are multiple reviews and coupon codes do we have to call that a blog?

Back to Diana’s frustration. She has a nice blog. A bit of baby stuff, mixed in with some reviews… I have to admit I’m not a daily reader, but I can see how it’s engaging, and she has a community that is clearly interested, and that trusts her. She’s doing everything right, except she lost her cool.

I’m sorry, but unless you’re paying me, or sending me the product so I can review it before I pitch honestly it to my readers – whom I love – I don’t have any interest in working with you.

And – I’ll be blogging on this. Thanks.

There are two problems, and they are tiny. Starting with “I’m sorry”. Why? Why is she sorry? Why on earth should anyone be apologetic about being unwilling to work for free?

Then there is the “I’ll be blogging on this…” I’m guilty of this on a number of occasions. Ladies and gentlemen, the opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is indifference. Stop giving people attention who don’t deserve it.

I’m going to leave y’all with a few quick things, it’s a starter and not a complete list because I’m not the Welcome Wagon and I’m not prepared to teach you how to run your business unless I’m on the clock.

  • Have an about me page that lets people know how best to pitch you.
  • Call Constant Contact and ask to be removed from their database. I’ve NEVER had a good pitch come through Constant Contact, and I used to get added to dozens of garbage lists a day
  • Set up filters and read press releases a few days a week, they are never urgent, real life is urgent.
  • If you don’t have good time and money boundaries go get a job working for someone who does. You will be broke and tired working for “friends” at a cut rate.

If the Public Relations and Blogging relationship is simply untenable, then walk away. There are great publicists, and amazing PR firms, but they are quiet, because the really great ones are too busy making their clients grand to get into these ridiculous messes. Try to ignore it all, because getting screechy is funny for us to read, but it can’t possibly be a good use of anyone’s time.

UPDATE: I just saw a post from the PR firm’s president. Besides being long winded and annoying it included this phrase:

Now, let me address the situation that acted as a catalyst for this post. Diana is a Mommy Blogger who writes a blog called <blog name removed>. The good news is Diana did a great job naming her blog to represent her personality and the rage that clearly lives inside her. Jen, a much-loved Kel & Partners employee, pitched Diana on behalf of one of our clients. Jen is so kind-hearted that we often describe her by saying, “When Jen wakes up in the morning and opens the windows the birds start to sing and butterflies land on her shoulders.”

Totally inappropriate, and were I hiring a PR firm it wouldn’t be one that is deluded about the goodness of it’s own employees, and berates a Mom Blogger, just because they can.

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39 Comments

  1. acowboyswife

    Excellent write up Jessica. I think we both had the same feelings this evening.

  2. I agree on all accounts Jessica. Why is it so hard for some in the “game” to just walk away when it obviously isn't making them happy anymore?

  3. Well said, Jessica. I agree with you on all points – especially with quality control. I think some PR people have clients who heard about “mommy blogging” on the Today Show and they want as many blog posts about their product/service/brand as possible. It is PR's job too be the gatekeeper here and decide what blogs are relevant for the pitch, even if it means pushing back to the client and helping to educate them.

    I am going to share this with my PR team tomorrow, too. Even those who aren't making fusses can benefit from learning about these situations.

  4. As a new blogger (not necessarily of the Mommy variety although there is a lot of stuff about my kids and their constant antics on the blog) I really appreciate this sort of advice. I'm a consumer just like everyone else but you can bet your ass that I won't be flogging some crappy item just because someone sent it to me for free. I'm really glad I met you at the beginning of my pro blogging career Jessica, you have probably saved me from many months of frustration and irritation.

  5. Totally agree. It is easy for bloggers to get enthusiastic about a PR company approaching them with their products. It's really important to safeguard the “real estate” in your blog. Whenever making the decision to sponsor or review a product, think once, twice and three times before doing so.

    Angelica @ Modern Familia

  6. I wrote a post about the rules of blogging and how to make money because I think that this is kind of funny. My initial draft was nasty. I slammed quite a few bloggers and called them liars. But after thinking about it I decided to take a kinder approach.

    Instead of calling them liars I'll say that a huge number are exaggerating about their interaction with PR agencies. I don't believe that they are getting as many pitches as they claim they are. I question their business skills and ethics and I wonder how many of them neglect to mention that they are the source of engagement.

    They contacted the agencies and tried to develop a relationship. I suspect that many of these “I hate PR posts” are an attempt to create buzz about themselves, a form of link bait.

    Anyhow, I'll stop rolling my eyes now because I am far too busy responding to the 3,987 emails I received today from the kind people who wish to share their fortunes with me or send me pills that will help restore the 98 inches I lost at my bris.

  7. mamakatslosinit

    I've never been a fan of reading or writing reviews. I'll do it if it pays well or if it's a product I think my readers would really like, but typically I ignore those pitches. To be honest, I really don't receive that many…maybe I'm doing something wrong!!! ;)

  8. I think she made a mistake when she didnt just respond in kind with her rates. I think totally lost opportunity. I used to get annoyed with the pitches and then I realized I should be capitalizing on all this found money….a paid blogger is a happy blogger!

    Great write up jess

  9. And you may be interested to know that the PR rep responded in a post of her own….and while I dont care about that post, many bloggers on the MD forums left comments in defense of the blogger (or on behalf of bloggers) and the PR rep deleted them from the post she wrote.

    Dear PR reps…we *do* share information amongst each other.

    • Joe

      I love this. My girlfriend’s pregnant friend just pointed me to this whole debate. It is hysterical from a guy’s perspective.

      Women hating women. It is not bad enough that you judge each other at the mall, the soccer games, the grocery store, behind each other’s backs. Forget the impact social media has had on kids getting bullied at school. Look at yourselves!!! You are embarrassing yourselves!!

  10. mamakatslosinit

    I've never been a fan of reading or writing reviews. I'll do it if it pays well or if it's a product I think my readers would really like, but typically I ignore those pitches. To be honest, I really don't receive that many…maybe I'm doing something wrong!!! ;)

  11. Jean

    Oh honey, you fight dirty. Pinging K & P’s clients? Tsk tsk. Enough with the threats and “really” write the post you’re talking about. This is an open & shut case where both bloggers did the heat-of-the-moment thing. So, you want K & P’s clients to do what? Drop them because K & P was mean to a rude mommy blogger?

    You’re getting away with yourself and becoming an internet bully. Just so you know.

  12. just another blogger

    This whole thing makes me want to get out of going reviews and giveaways altogether.

    • just another blogger

      Guess I need to learn to proofread. I meant doing reviews and giveaways altogether.

  13. Thank you for writing this. In this instance, the blogger wasn’t expecting money, but merely for the PR rep to take the time to realize she was asking the blogger to write about a product for 5-12 year old little girls & the blogger has a 7 month old. I don’t think its too much to ask, even for us small-time bloggers, that the PR Reps read our blog for 30 seconds before they pitch us? And then, for the PR firm’s President to link and call names. Please. Get some class.

  14. I posted on this incident on my blog – but you did a MUCH better job. I hope some of the large companies that use this firm rethink if they want to continue doing business with such an unprofessional PR firm.

  15. I don’t do reviews on my blog for reasons like this….so glad you posted about it to help educate the ignorant people like myself. I do occasionally post about products or things I like just because I want to, but I just hit “delete” anytime something comes into my inbox about writing a review or doing a giveaway, etc…

  16. I think she made a mistake when she didnt just respond in kind with her rates. I think totally lost opportunity. I used to get annoyed with the pitches and then I realized I should be capitalizing on all this found money….a paid blogger is a happy blogger!

    Great write up jess

  17. And you may be interested to know that the PR rep responded in a post of her own….and while I dont care about that post, many bloggers on the MD forums left comments in defense of the blogger (or on behalf of bloggers) and the PR rep deleted them from the post she wrote.

    Dear PR reps…we *do* share information amongst each other.

  18. Awesome perspective. I have come to believe that some PR companies do not respect the bloggers. However, I have had some PR that have built such a great relationship I “could” call them a friend. I had a response to one of my ranting posts that told me to capitalize on the pitches I received. I had not thought about this before. But he had a great point. I now reply with what is said on my pitch me page on the types of pitches I will accept and try to build a different relationship for other opportunities.

  19. Anonymous

    Jessica,

    I could see both sides of this story, but when I read the PR agency owners response, I completely lost any sympathy. What the blogger did, whether right or wrong, did not warrant that petty, nasty and completely baseless attack, insinuating that she was mentally unstable. How childish, and it doesn’t do anything to elevate our industry.

    Rachel Kay

  20. I'm Diana from Hormonal Imbalances. Let me say, I didn't dream in a million years the kind of response my post would get from the blogging community – or the horrible reaction that it got from the unnamed PR firm that slandered me in response.

    However, your post is honest, fair, and very informative. I learned so much just reading it. I was frustrated when I wrote mine, and the response to the PR firm, and have since felt bad that I wrote to them. I don't feel bad I wrote the post. I should have written the company paying them to pitch me and asked them why they wanted moms to work for free. I also should have waited a few hours before hitting publish and thought it over. ;) Hindsight.

    Thank you for taking the time to review this with honesty – even though you didn't agree with me 100%. I appreciate it, because many, many other people didn't bother too. If you get a chance, you should search for the response from the PR president. You might have a whole other post on your hands with that one.

    Thanks again. I enjoyed reading this.

    • Is the response on your site or is it somewhere you'd like to email me?

      I'm at onlineauthor at gmail dot com and I'd love to see their response.

      • I'll email you. I didn't link to them in the original post or since, although they did me and then took it down several hours (and many comments that they deleted) later.

        • I found her post and edited this one. It was mean and uncalled for. I'm sorry they lashed out at you that way. I hope their clients see it, and find a firm who can deal with the public in a gentler manner.

    • Diana – I think that your response here is admirable and I have great respect for you for posting it. Too many people are not willing to admit that there is always something to learn. I've worked both sides of this issue so I often feel that bloggers give PR a hard time instead of being constructive and professional…
      I myself have written many posts that I have sat on and later thought better of… the flip-side is that emotion can be the instigator of great conversations (and drama!) and it seems to me that you have inserted yourself into a big one ;) Rather than attacking one another perhaps we can take a page from your example here and come back to the table to learn from one another!

  21. Oh heaven help me — I don't want to jump into this fray but just….can't….help…myself….. Warning, bloggers, here comes a PR person to defend the honor of her brethren! Two things. If Jen had worked for me, I would've found nothing inappropriate about the pitch to Diana. She offered something of value — the coupons for Diana's readers and the giveaways — and she clearly closed her letter by saying “if you are interested” to be in touch. Diana could have responded with a simple “Not interested.”

    Now, true confession: I don't read Diana's blog so if she doesn't do product reviews, coupon offers or giveaways — shame on Jen, she screwed up. If not — again — I see nothing wrong OTHER than the invitation for Diana to host a gift card giveway and not be compensated for her effort. That was a misstep on Jen's part. Giveaways are work that deserves compensation — whether by a blogger or a promotional company or a fulfillment house. They're a pain in the ass and a lot of work.

    I've said this before and I'll say it again — mom bloggers (for want of a more nuanced term) are manna to marketers. This is a GOOD THING. Your influence and clout have been acknowleged, okay? This is why we want to work with you. Sometimes PR people will misstep but for heaven's sake, don't freak out about it. Follow Jessica's advice and please — it's okay if you tell us no.

    But please. Could we stop the drama? The only thing it does is reinforce in the minds of the uninformed the stereotype of the mom blogosphere as an online high school cafeteria. Mean girls, bitchiness, and whining. And to be clear — I know it is not. So put the darts away. I walk among you, ladies, I work with you all the time and blog myself. But I have been in the meetings with the clients who said they were afraid to form viable partnerships with you because of precisely this kind of drama. That's a waste of your talent and potential, and a big missed opportunity for the marketers who want to work with you.

    Help me — and the other “good” PR people out there – help you. Keep your cool. Just say no.

    • To be perfectly fair, I've never EVER seen a publicist post quite like Kel Kelly's. It was so offensive, abrasive and unprofessional that I called her office.

      I hope she has the good sense to delete it.

      • Agree, Jessica — Kel’s post was really unfortunate. She attacked Diana’s character, which eclipsed all the good sense in the rest of the post. And there *was* good sense there. I like that she called for bridge-building and partnership to find better ways for PR and mom bloggers to collaborate. Unfortunately, she briefly came unglued and blew up the very bridge she was trying to build by calling Diana names. That kind of post would be a firable offense at the agency where I work, btw. Attacking bloggers — or traditional journalists — no matter how frustrated you are has no place in the PR playbook.

        Unfortunate episode all around.

  22. I agree with you. Yes, Diana acted on emotion with her response to the pitch, but Kel and Partners should never have called her emotional stability into question on a public forum. That is so unprofessional. I have heard that other bloggers have had problems with the same PR firm acting in a similar way regarding problems they {the blogger} had with them.

    I also agree that our time is valuable and we should not work for free. I have to pay for hosting for my site. I need money to do that. These “editorials” are available on the Internet for as long as I have my blog and therefore free advertising for these brands. Try get THAT kind of promotion from traditional media. It doesn’t happen.

    I do like to do reviews. I occasionally run contest as well. But free advertising I will not do. However I do have an exception for charities and non-profits. Women need to learn their worth and believe it. It’s the only way not to get taken advantage of by the opportunists.

  23. Jean

    How about recommending that mommy bloggers understand that common courtesy dictates that there's a time and place for going ballistic? But I understand however that shock & awe means more eyeballs, right?
    I can't believe that simply getting email from PR agencies is such a godawful thing. I get that you've got high standards. You're holding out for the 'big one' which is fine. Just stop with the judgment of those that are aware that they're doing this as a labor of love and still choose to accept pitches for pittances. Something you would never do, right?

    Mistakes by PR agencies happen and clearly with Diane, they were the last straw. Still, I'm proof that you catch more flies with honey than vitriol. Let this start a dialog of acceptable & unacceptable practices of PR agencies AND the mommy bloggers.

  24. mariancutler

    How I do love a good pot stirring. I, too, am jumping in to defend my PR brethren.

    Like my PR counterparts, I do a good amount of blogger pitching—sometimes I hit gold and sometimes I don’t. But, that's pretty much par for the course with pitching traditional media. Truth is, media pitching—regardless of channel—is hit or miss. It’s an art and not a science.

    Mommy bloggers have fought hard for the well-deserved respect afforded to traditional journalists. But, there’s a reason you don’t see public call outs with Parenting Magazine or the Today Show, this retaliatory tactic isn’t part of their arsenal and it shouldn’t be for bloggers either.

    Do PR folks need to do a better job keeping pace with who you are, how you like to be contacted and possible minefields, sure. But, by sheer volume bloggers outnumber PR folks by a thousand fold (if not more).

    And, as Stephanie Smirnov points out, a great number of companies shy from forming partnerships with bloggers “because of precisely this kind of drama.” At the same time, a good number of PR folks are watching and scratching great blogs off their pitch lists because they don’t want to be a future victim to a public lashing.

    If you need to vent, do it productively. Tag pitches that land with a flop and wrap them into a post about “To Pitch or Not to Pitch” just blind the identities—public apologies end up just as draining as the floggings.

    @mariancutler

  25. There is so much great conversation going on here. Blogging is such a new tool that there are not “industry standards.”

    Each blogger has to decide what works best for them and what doesn't. Maybe you don't want to work with brands at all maybe you do. I think taking a look at your individual websites and deciding what you want to gain from it can be extremely helpful. Decide if you want to work with brands. And if so, in what way? All you have to do is communicate what you are willing to do and what costs are associated with that work. Each campaign is different depending on the brand, size of the company, and budget. State what you are looking for and work with brands you care to work with.

    I think keeping an open mind and communicating is the best example we can set in this space. Although, that advice applies to life as well :)

  26. Lee

    I love this post. I am starting a travel site, and my section is writing about wine. I have been asked to review all kinds of things, with the press release attached, and when I tell them…kindly…that I don't review without product, that I can then turn around and give away to my readers, they usually disappear. Why would someone think their product is worthy of a press release without seeing the actual item? It is beyond ridiculous to me, and what I do, is just delete the email. Then when they send me ANOTHER pitch for the same thing later, I remind them that they already pitched me. That usually sends them on their way!

  27. Lee

    I love this post. I am starting a travel site, and my section is writing about wine. I have been asked to review all kinds of things, with the press release attached, and when I tell them…kindly…that I don't review without product, that I can then turn around and give away to my readers, they usually disappear. Why would someone think their product is worthy of a press release without seeing the actual item? It is beyond ridiculous to me, and what I do, is just delete the email. Then when they send me ANOTHER pitch for the same thing later, I remind them that they already pitched me. That usually sends them on their way!

  28. Great advice without sugar coating – as usual.

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