New Venture. Same Baffling Problem With Outreach.


My new project is going great. Thanks for asking. I’ve had to learn a whole new language. I like to call that language pictures. You see, I’ve been on Instagram with a friend trying to capture the light and bright parts of midlife. I am not fluent in pictures and it’s been both a joy and a challenge.

People like it. I think women in their 40’s and 50’s are exhausted by the rules that women of a certain age are meant to follow. Women of a certain age should be making up whatever rules please them. Full Stop.

In any event we’ve had a few sponsored posts on Instagram, a few sponsored blog posts, and quite a bit in the way of earned media. We love borrowing clothing, we are delighted to be gifted samples, and if it’s just a blog post sometime a hi-res image is all we need.

I’m cranky though. My kid is getting ready to leave for college. I loathe the theme I bought for the site. The cat puked… you get the picture. In the middle of my crankiness an email came through. I’m redacting all identifying information.

Hi Jessica and Stefanie!

My name is [redacted] from[redacted] and we are in love with your blog and Instagram! In case you are not familiar with us, we are an online retailer of luxury [redacted] at awesomely discounted prices.
Wondering if you would be interested in collaborating with us and featuring us and our products? We have over 17,000 name brand products to choose from, so feel free to poke around the website a bit and check us out! [redacted] .
I look forward to hearing from you!

That was nice. Flatter us and then ask us to collaborate.

I replied with:

What did you have in mind for a collaboration?

And this was the response:


We would love to have you guys do an Instagram photo and blog post for us.
So with influencers we like to focus on[redacted] since it is our largest category. Along with[redacted], we send every influencer a[redacted] nail file and super cute (exclusive to influencers) [redacted URL] compact mirror and ask that you incorporate one or both into the photo. We ask for timely posts, that you hashtag #[redacted], tag @[redacted] and mention that you got the product on [redacted URL] . You can also mention our great discounts!

For blogs it is basically the same as above, and we require you to include custom links to us and the product featured which I will provide.

If all of that sounds good please browse our site and send me the links to 2 products total that you would like to feature!


This sounded like a great idea so I gave the marketer a price for the work. I was certain that this was a marketer reaching out to us as there were clear requirements around the posts that indicated a working relationship.

I was wrong.

At this time we are only working with influencers in exchange for product. Is this something you are open to? If not I will keep your rate on file for if we ever explore paid social in the future.

I should not have responded. It’s a trap! But I did. Am I open to working for product? No… but I… ughhhh…. Here’s my reply.

It’s not how we work when the client dictates the content.

If things change we’d love to hear from you.

I told you. I shouldn’t have bothered. They replied:

Just want to understand – you are open to posting in exchange for product if you dictate the content? How would what you produce differ from the description I provided of how we usually work with influencers?

How would that be different???? Dimwit you don’t get to dictate the content!

I’m the dimwit because I’m still involved in this exchange that will clearly never go anywhere. I’m still nice. I don’t know why but I am:

It’s kind of hard to explain. I’ve been blogging since 2006 so I rather enjoy working with publicists in a traditional manner. ie you give me information or access to products (happy to return items) that other people don’t have and I have the benefit of publishing first.

If someone wants a blog post or an Instagram post and has requirements that’s marketing. Marketing requires budgets. It’s a lot of work to keep people happy with sponsored content; people being both our readers and the marketers.

With that being said, [redacted] really isn’t a thing we’ve covered and I can’t say we have a tremendous need for it in our current timeline. We’ll be working on gift guides starting next month and that might be a place where we need an image or a limited edition [redacted] or even just knowledge of upcoming sales, specials or launches.

I hope that helps you understand.


And then this came. This person cannot or will not read. If you are this person’s boss take their email away.

Hi Jessica,

I am still not sure if I understand. So you are willing to work for product if it is product that you have first access to?


You have got to be fucking kidding me.

Are you in PR or marketing?

If you are in PR and would like us to consider a feature or a placement please let us know what you have that is interesting and we will consider.

If you are in marketing and want to dictate links, placements & disclosures please send us a check.

We do not work for publicists.

We do not work for product, unless it’s a BMW, we will work for that.

Does that make sense?

Currently we are not in need of product, perhaps next month when we are looking to make our holiday shopping guides.

I hope this is helpful.


Okay. At this time we are only working with influencers in exchange for product. I will keep your rates on hand for if we ever explore paid social in the future.

Don’t take their email away. Take their job away. How does this even happen?

Homeboy Industries: Changing Los Angeles Lives


Some popular bloggers just came back from a trip sponsored by yet another brand that uses labor in emerging nations to make millennial fashion. This business is different in that it’s mission is to empower women in those countries. It’s a non profit that’s run by people who seem to be pretty devout Christians but the business itself doesn’t appear to be as missionary in nature as others have been.

The bloggers who took the international trip are very popular so there’s been much criticism of the trip and naturally that criticism has been almost exclusively done in private forums. The criticisms begin with their inappropriate clothes, the fact that the bloggers are too fat or too skinny, that their hair is just plain awful and that their diet needs are insulting to the local people. This first batch of criticisms are ridiculous. The bloggers are pretty and young and that makes them easy to hate. No one is too fat or too thin, they get expensive things and their hair is just fine. This is easily written off as envy.

I’ve thought about naming the bloggers and the project but I don’t think it’s entirely bad (I don’t think it’s entirely good) and I have no interest in undermining the work they’ve done. Also, it’s not a particularly unique trip or dilemma so perhaps the ubiquity of the junket will serve to spur more thoughtful discussion that ought to be had in any event.

Now for the valid criticisms. People are saying there’s more than a whiff of colonialism and white savior complex with these overseas non profit businesses. People are right to note this. It’s odd when folks go to Africa on safari and come back wanting to save the continent. Part of my teenage soundtrack was the song Do They Know It’s Christmas, it was an insanely popular and raised money for African Famine Relief, certainly a noble cause but at the same moment tone deaf. Who cares if people in Africa know that it’s Christmas time? Not all Africans are Christians, though to be fair a great number are. With that same sense of disconnect people are labeling  many of these trips, the whole business model as poverty tourism.

If you want to photograph poor people there are 1.6 million Americans who don’t have indoor plumbing.

People also note that workers in these emerging nations are not being paid what an American worker would make and ask if this is just gussied up outsourcing? That’s a fair question. Simply because something is a non profit doesn’t mean it’s not making money for someone.

I’m not ready to say that these blogger trips don’t have value. I’m not hopping into discussions about exploitation, missionary work, the fact that non-profits need large marketing budgets or cultural sensitivity. Instead I want to introduce you to a non profit that is local to Los Angeles and has transformed lives and the cityscape here since the 1980’s.

homeboy industries tee

Homeboy Industries started in Boyle Heights which is just east of downtown. Unless you have a friend who lives there, a gang affiliation or a sudden need to buy used tires it’s unlikely you’ve gotten out of your car in Boyle Heights. You’ve probably driven through as it’s bisected by the 5 freeway. Before my childhood Boyle Heights was actually a middle class Jewish neighborhood. My first college roommate was from Boyle Heights, she was Latina and the poorest person I’d ever met. Visiting her home the same year that Homeboy Industries began with some screen printing changed my lens.

By the 1980’s Boyle Heights was a dangerous place to live and there was a priest here in town, Father Greg Boyle, who rightly noted that by giving jobs to young men who were trying to leave gangs there was structure to their days and a support system that reduced recidivism was created. I remember their early tee shirts and the failed graffiti removal business.

Homeboy industries currently provides jobs, job training, education, therapy, legal aid, tattoo removal and more for the men and women they serve.

Homegirl Cafe is a spectacular place to grab lunch downtown, the service can be a little spotty but when your server is leaving gang life and just doing her best it’s easy to be patient and to cheer wildly when they get it right (which is usually the case). The food has been consistently delicious.

Currently you can buy Homeboy Industries chips and salsa in Ralph’s grocery stores (it’s our local Kroger). If you buy tortilla chips there’s no reason to buy anything else, they’re no more expensive than the mass produced chips, you know they’re local, they happen to be delicious and you’re spending money with a company that is taking men and women (and their children) out of gang life and helping settle them into a more typical existence with a career and a family a positive impact on our community. Nothing needs to be imported.

You can shop Homeboy Industries from anywhere. They have books and tee shirts, bags and a Bundt Cake that makes an amazing and reasonably priced gift.

bundt cakeI’m not sharing Homeboy Industries with you because they’ve reached out to me or because I think you need more cake (you probably do). I’m sharing this because I’ve been critical of cause marketing, because I’ve decided that the only charities I will personally support are the ones who have an impact on girls and women in America or on the population of Los Angeles.

I’m sharing Homeboy Industries with you because they’ve undeniably taken blight and turned it to business. They serve the community by providing jobs and also by providing great food and fun clothes. They provide soft and hard job skills, an exit from gang life and save the city and state tens of millions of dollars.

homegirl cafe
I’m sharing Homeboy Industries with you because it’s unlikely that you have to leave your hometown to find a business that deserves recognition. I’m sharing Homeboy Industries with you because shopping in your own back yard can be a lot of fun.

Is every non profit 100% good? Probably not. There are sometimes unintended consequences of altruistic actions (like the graffiti removal men being killed) and sometimes you’ll find a non profit that simply does not align with your own values. It’s important to think critically when you’re deciding who to support.

I want to ask something of you who are critical of the poverty tourism junkets. I challenge you to find and highlight someone or some organization who is making a positive impact in your own back yard. There are thousands of them right here in Los Angeles. I promise you that there’s someone doing something magnificent in your home town.

Getting Pitched by a Fake Employee


This morning I got an email about a stealth startup. It was fishy and I wondered aloud (by aloud I mean on Facebook) who would answer an email like this.

bad pitch email

It’s not horrible that Amanda is asking for me to work for them without knowing what the product is. It’s not horrible that Amanda sent me a form email and couldn’t even format things correctly. The deal breaker is that Amanda clearly doesn’t exist.

You see I clicked over on that LinkedIn profile because on the off chance that Amanda is from LA I’d want to see if we have friends in common. I like being helpful to LA area startups.

Amanda doesn’t know a single person on LinkedIn. Not one,  she allegedly graduated college in 2002 and has a link to her LI account on her footer.

Amanda Harris does not exist

Amanda’s Facebook page has two stock photos and her history dates all the way back to February 4th when she joined Facebook and decided she liked the Bloggess.

how to not pitch a blogger

The google plus in her footer? Also a ghost town.

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 8.27.37 AM

Of course I channeled my modern day Nancy Drew and opened up the header. Amanda is using a private server (or more likely the gmail web app which treats IP address as private information) so I couldn’t identify the region, or at times the business, Amanda was emailing me from.

I guess a web browser to protect your anonymity while you troll the web for free consulting services is a good idea. Hopefully whomever invented Amanda is equipped to build it. Though I suspect that’s just not the case.

Updated to add a little note to Amanda: You may think I’m being mean by posting this but if you’re starting a business that’s supposed to help people and preserve their privacy the best way to start is with a good reputation, a solid introduction and some honesty. I gave you what you wanted, feedback. My feedback is that today’s Mom Blogger is looking for transparency and when we feel like we’re being tricked we don’t support you. Thanks for asking for my opinion. I’m glad you respect it and hope you take it to heart.




Protected: KFC Uses Blogger’s Kids to Promote Healthy Kids Meals #KFCKidsMeals


This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

BlogHer 11, Women Create Media, Summer is Over


Next week is a big week. I’ll be speaking at Women Create Media and then scooting on over to BlogHer.

I attened a BlogHer conference two years ago in Chicago, skipped New York in August 2010 (if you’re from NY you have to admit there’s no good reason to go there in August) and now I’m ready to give it another try in 2011.

Here are five things I will not be doing for BlogHer.

1. I will not be out after 10pm. I am not happy after 9pm and nothing is happening at parties after 10pm. Well, something is happening. People are drinking and enjoying themselves, but I’m off to BlogHer to connect with bloggers who I’m dying to meet, and to connect with marketers who I’m sure won’t be wasted in a hotel suite in the middle of the night. I plan on moderation and a good night’s sleep.

2. I will not be doing my hair or nails for the occasion. Take me as I am.  I’m a blogger who has shared her life with you. If my lack of a recent mani-pedi turns you off then it’s your issue, not mine. It’s not a beauty contest or a fashion show. It’s just a lot of women in one place. I don’t plan on smelling bad, I’m just not looking for a date so I’m going to make myself comfortable.

3. I will not be giving my business card to bloggers. If you want to reach me I’m at, you can call me at 818.486.9363 or you can text that number, either is fine, on twitter I’m @JessicaGottlieb and I’m on Google + as well. You don’t need my business card, you’ll just throw it out.

4. I will not be judging you unkindly. It’s no secret, I’m a judgy lady. I’ve got to figure out who I like and who I don’t like.  So when you have the nerve to show up to something as admittedly intimidating as BlogHer and you’re kind enough to introduce yourself and smile the judging is over. I already know I like you. Case closed.

5. Private Parties? Yes, there are quite a few of them. I was invited to some, and I’ll never be invited to others (Nikon… you never invite me… but since you don’t give away free cameras I don’t feel that bad). I’m pretty sure the private parties will be pretty good, but I’d also probably NOT attend without my own car or cab fare. 45 minutes at any party is plenty for me. If it’s super loud and we can’t hear each other anyhow why am I there?

I love meeting folks who I’ve only followed online. BlogHer is going to have 3,000 attendees this year and each of those 3,000 people only cares about him/herself so the good news is that you can come as you are and most of them will be too busy with their own insecurities to worry about yours.

Although a conference by and for women can be affirming, it’s also not particularly realistic or helpful. As much as I love supporting women in business it’s a little foolish to think that you can keep the boys out and have great success, though I know folks would argue that the boys work pretty hard at keeping the girls out. BlogHer will be fun, if you decide it will.

Here’s a snapshot of the business card I won’t be handing you.

One reason I’ve come to dislike BlogHer so much is that it signals the end of summer. I don’t like this at all.