New Venture. Same Baffling Problem With Outreach.

08.8.17

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!
Best,

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:

Hi!

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!

Thanks

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.

Jessica

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?

Thanks,

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.

Aaaaaaaaannnnnnndddd…

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?

Bad Pitch PR Spam via Constant Contact and Mail Chimp

12.21.11

One of the most difficult tasks as it relates to time management is keeping the inbox functional. You’ll see that I don’t aspire to have a zero anywhere there, just manageable. I use my inbox as a place to store data. When I’m standing at Costco I can scroll through emails from Mr. G and be reminded that I need to buy shaving cream and gift cards. I love the ability to search keywords in my inbox and instantly come up with the email I knew I needed.

Unfortunately some marketers and publicists add bloggers like me to their email blast lists. They do it a bunch of different ways and not only do these pitches not work with me (and you can assume they won’t work with any solo blogger) but they can backfire in monumental ways that folks on the other end need to be aware of.

I am not interested in the same pitch everyone else gets. The only reason people read this site is because I am a “breath of fresh air” (which is apparently Australian for “obnoxious”). If a publicist emails me and 200 of my closest colleagues there is no good reason for me to respond. I don’t need the same information as everyone else. I need different information. I need to continue being a breath of fresh air. I’m willing to bet most other bloggers would agree.

When the salutation reads:

Hey there,
Hi,
Hi Mommy Blogger,

You’ve made it easy on me. I hit “spam” and your email disappears forever. Do I recognize that this method cuts me off from potentially great offers? Yes, but I also recognize that a good PR firm wouldn’t risk this. Your spam is my litmus test.

Advanced spammers use icontact, MailChimp, Constant Contact and other similar services. Last week I spent one morning unsubscribing to more than a dozen of these email subscriptions. I have ONE Constant Contact subscription that I’ve opted-in to, it’s for my children’s school.

It’s nice that all of these email subscription services have a one click unsubscribe available, but you still have to enter your email so I guess it’s not one click. What I’d like to do is be able to block Mail Chimp users from adding me to their lists. So I contacted Mail Chimp to ask them about this and they let me know in a form letter that it was not possible, I should use the unsubscribe button. I have a hard time believing that no one at Mail Chimp is capable of adding email addresses to a black list. If that is the truth then I’d be wary of using Mail Chimp’s service because they aren’t particularly advanced. What I suspect is the more likely scenario is that they just don’t care to spend resources on things like making people not hate them. 

This week, as a special thank you to Mail Chimp I forwarded each and every unsolicited bit of email they sent me to CustomerSupport@MailChimp.com. Some days it was five in a row, other days there were none. I received a form letter explaining that I could unsubscribe and I’d diligently respond to that form letter by explaining to them that I’d like them to block my email address from their servers. I have a feeling that I wasted someone’s time and that they felt annoyed and less productive when I sent them the same message over and over again.

The folks over at Constant Contact are terrific. Yes, their clients totally abuse my inbox but they are willing and able (as every email subscription service should be) to block my email from their servers. Alas I need Constant Contact because my children’s school sends their weekly updates this way. I’ve been forwarding all my Constant Contact emails to Abuse@ConstantContact.com and they’ve blocked my alternate emails from their servers.

I’ve also set up filters for my email accounts. Kardashian and Oprah have their own filters as well as a few other celebrity names. I mean if you’ve already got the endorsement of a retired talk show host and an amateur porn star what more can I do for a brand?

In 2012 my inbox won’t be an out of control beast. I’m not sure how I’ll make that happen. I might switch email addresses again next week as I find that buys me a few months of manageability.

What do you suggest?

BlogHer 2011 Observations

08.7.11

BlogHer 11 started with giggles and ended in uncontrollable laughter. I’d been promised a Nissan Murano for the drive to San Diego, unfortunately someone crashed the car a few days before the event and it just wouldn’t be out of the body shop in time.

The folks at Nissan were very apologetic, but hey, these things happen. They explained to me that there was one car left from the fleet, a Frontier. I said I’d take it, and then I googled Nissan Frontier.

OMG a pick’em up truck. A BIG ASS PICK UP TRUCK.

We drove this exact same nissan Frontier 2011 to BlogHer in San Diego

So I called my friend Carley who was driving down with me and I explained to her that we would be having a different experience. Since Carley has historically been open to my stupid ideas I felt fairly certain she’d be open to this. We had an absolute blast driving the Frontier down.

I will preemptively answer a few questions you might have about two women driving a Nissan Frontier:

  • Yes, it gets a lot of attention
  • No, I cannot park it very well
  • Yes, when we dropped it off with the valet we then made the valet take our suitcases and stuff them in the cab for safety
  • Yes, the kids think I’m the coolest mom in town
  • No, we didn’t go off-roading (but I’ve still got 24 hours)
  • Yes, the visibility is awesome
  • No, there were no problems getting in and out in a skirt and heels
  • 90 MPH is too fast to drive on a lightly curved highway interchange, though we broke no laws and absolutely were driving safely with the flow of traffic

Back to BlogHer. As I’d expected, no one cared what anyone wore. No one was judgy except me. I got one look at my friend Carly’s handbag and decided that I absolutely HAD to have one. (see not all judgement is bad). I grabbed Cassie and my pick up truck and the concierge gave us directions to Barney’s in Fashion Valley.

Except there was no Barneys, it was a Barney’s Co-Op which definitely wouldn’t have the amazing Proenza Schouler bag that I still must own. So Cassie and I hit up Neimans and I found a great dress and a pair of crisp white bermuda shorts that were on sale. Because of the sale prices Mr G now owes me $423, it’s called wife math.

Later that evening I had an amazing dinner in a sea of blones. Cassie, Kathy, Claire and I headed to Nobu and proceeded to eat and drink and chat for two hours. It was one of those dinners that you want to never end. I couldn’t get enough of their stories, the travel, the career building, the rapid ascents, the love stories. I wanted to drink in their successes and force them all to blog endlessly so that I can read about it more. I hunger for moments like these, smart women sharing knowledge. I don’t get enough of it.

I attended one session. It was good.

I met with brand representatives from a dozen or companies, some of whom I’ve worked with, some of whom I will never work with but I will play matchmaker with a friend. They were all anxious to work with bloggers, and they will have varying degrees of success if they don’t get in their own way.

I had a stumbly dinner with Cathy and Laurie and I’m hoping that someone can explain to me why shoes that fit me six months ago are now so big that I walk right out of them. My feet are not shrinking.

I changed hotel rooms. If you ever have to stay at the Marriott Marquis in Downtown San Diego do not under any circumstances accept a room with city views. Trains go by every half hour or so all night long, and just as you’re about to drift off to sleep a train whistle will wake you up. The first night was somewhere beyond miserable. The second night we faced the harbor, it was much better.

Bloggers are smart. Don’t let their cutesy icons fool you, these women are building meaningful businesses.

There are a few new startups that I fell in love with. Follow @PopSalad on twitter, it’s evolving into something fun. Parents, you’ll want to watch for Vikido. It’s good stuff. Tom was there from Cmp.ly, if you aren’t using cmp.ly you’re working too damn hard.

I hate to be negative, because 98% of BlogHer was fabulous. I have just one PR agency that I can’t work with. Over the years I’ve had nothing but terrible pitches from them followed by 2-3 follow up emails that were less like follow ups and more like nagging. They aren’t a small shop, they’re just a shop I’m not a match with. This shop recently hired a fellow blogger as part of their team. When I met up with the blogger we chatted and she told me all about the work she was up to with the agency and all the perks of blogging.

I was confused because the blogger/publicist had provided me with access to the client company yet she was telling me about how her blog got 1,000 hits a day from her interviews with executives and creatives from that same company. Then she went on to tell me that she loved working with _____ as a blogger because of the perks and she was already a fan. So I smiled and walked away.

I love when publicists blog. There are too many great PR blogs to mention. I love when bloggers find jobs within public relations firms. What I saw at BlogHer (and again, it’s just this one shop that I saw it with) is that the best access will go to the bloggers who work there. I am staying far far away.

I was sad to see so many women smoking. I won’t sermonize, but it made me sad.

The phrase I most often heard was, “I’m not just a blogger.” They would go on to talk about their other talents and social media influence. I felt badly for these ladies too, because there’s nothing wrong with being a blogger. I’m just a blogger.

 

 

 

 

Old Publicist… Meet New Media

08.1.11

I used to spend a good bit of time poking at publicists who didn’t understand bloggers. To be perfectly candid I didn’t understand publicists, and to a large degree I still don’t. I also don’t understand brain surgery, but like bad PR I can recognize malpractice when I see it.

I want y’all to take a moment and read the email exchange between a blogger with a massive audience and publicist steeped in tradition. I know what I think, what do you think?

This is the unsolicited introductory email. 

Hi [blogger],

I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to pass along information about our new client [redacted] along with a look book and information about their Fall 2011 collection.

[Redacted], known for their collection of [redacted], began their business by creating accessories for today’s sophisticated and chic parents. With this notion, [redacted] differentiated themselves from the other purely iconic [redacted] brands, transforming their company into a lifestyle collection with an ability to provide something for everyone.

Expanding their product offering this fall, [redacted] is introducing a collection, including messenger bags, handbags, and a variety of totes, in addition to their diaper and baby bags. The collection will fit the many needs of all parents, male or female.

Compared to their competitors [redacted] has always offered a more approachable price point featuring vibrant prints [redacted], endless versatility with reversible options, smart straps with memory foam, custom hardware, and a protective lining with a natural anti-microbial treatment.

One of the newest additions for Fall is [redacted], [redacted] selection of earth conscious[redacted]. With innovative engineering and extensive research, Earth Leather is completely animal-free, machine washable, and friendly to the environment without sacrificing style. This collection includes[redacted]’s most popular styles with their classic approach to wearability, extending to accessories such as a variety of wallets.

[redacted]’s growth can even be seen by the attention they have gotten through the media as [redacted] can be seen toting around a [redacted].

If there are any styles from the look book that are a fit for any stories that you are working on, please let me know! Happy to send them to you! I will follow up with a phone call tomorrow morning.

Best,

[Publicist]

Product Marketing and Placement, Television and Film

 

And the response: 

  [Publicist], I would be happy to share some of the current styles and links to [redacted] in exchange for a [redacted].

Sincerely,
[Blogger]

Which to me seems like a great response, right, the publicist had written, “If there are any styles from the look book that are a fit for any stories that you are working on, please let me know! Happy to send them to you!” Remember this is to a blogger not Elle Magazine.

The publicist follows up with:

     Hi [blogger],

Please send me a media kit.

Best,

[publicist]

Hmmmm????

[Publicist], I dont keep a media kit becuase, as you know, blogs change on a dime.

Currently I have a PR5, last month I received over 179K uniques, my forum houses 400+ active social media bloggers and does approx 400K page views a month. [Site name] has been seen in over 24 major magazines and newspapers, this month listed in a [redacted] story and am in the July issue of [redacted] magazine as a [redacted].

I am happy to provide screen shots of stats.

[Blogger]

The next email seems like things are smoothed over

 Hi [Blogger],

We would love for you to review one of our [redacted] on your site. Please send me your mailing address.

Best,

[Publicist]

And this is also benign. 

         [Publicist]

Its
[Blogger, address, city, state, zip]

However I dont want a mystery [redacted]. I would need to approve the pattern/style before its sent.

thankyou!

[Blogger]

And then the email is forwarded to someone senior. The senior publicist replies to all with: 

 Hello [Blogger],

We would be happy to send you a [redacted] to review for your site. We are happy to send you the style [redacted] you are interested in reviewing- pattern and print seemingly would be inconsequential given you are testing the [redacted] and its features.

Please do let me know which style you prefer and we would be more than happy to send it to you to review for your site.

All my best

[Redacted]
Senior VP Public Relations
Fashion Beauty Lifestyle

I’m going to chime in here with the fact that with anything lifestyle the print and color matter. Especially if you’re looking for web shoppers. Just my two cents.

The blogger kindly follow up with this (yes, I clearly have a bias):

  [Senior VP],

Since you most want to advertise the [redacted], lets go w/ the [redacted].

You can ship to
[shipping information]

The sooner the better since the [event is] in 2.5 weeks and I want to get your review up before then! OTherwise [sic] its gonna be a few weeks [sic] before I get back to my normal online posting schedule.

sincerely,
[Blogger]

And then the hammer comes down: 

 

  Hello [Blogger],

I am confused, are you looking for a [redacted] for yourself? Unfortunately we are not able to fill personal requests.

All my best,
[SVP}

[Redacted]
Senior Director of Public Relations

She replies

 [SVP], see our email trail…I thought you offered a review for the site? I dont send reviews back. You said to pick the pattern and colors? I would run the review article?

Now you have me confused.

[Blogger]

And then….

 [Blogger],

I said we do not send specific patterns and or colors.

With sites that have fewer than 50,000 uniques and or monthly viewers we only send images, and do not fill specific product requests. I have reviewed your site in depth and have to take a pass on your request. I see that you were previously in PR and I am sure you understand my position.

Apologies all around for the confusion below.
All my best,
[SVP]

And then the blogger replies with a list of her accolades, press, 200k+ traffic for the past year, national campaigns and more. She asked the SVP to review the email thread and mentions that she runs a prominent group forum. The SVP then sends this. 

[Blogger],

There is no need for threats.

Having been in this business for 21 years and running my own PR firm for 10 currently the senior director at [redacted] I am very well versed at process and procedure. Often times we need to make a judgment call. We received hundreds of requests for [redacted] product from the look book mail out. I then look at each request- check their alexa and compete ranking and decide if we can fill the request. I assume you are the same [Blogger] that is wearing a micro mini skirt in the photoon page one of your site? Or I am mistaken?

I want to be sure your site is [redacted]- correct?

[Redacted]
Senior Director of Public Relations

 

Unlike 21 years ago when the SVP was starting out carving her press releases into stone tablets, this email exchange has been shared with a community of bloggers who cumulatively have more than 10 million impressions a month. Why would they offer an item and then become so difficult? It wasn’t like the blogger emailed them asking for a product.

 

Pink Taco and it’s Shaved Pink Ass (Safe for Work)

05.10.11

Let me begin this with one simple statement. I have never been to Pink Taco.

Pink Taco is a local restaurant that presumably serves Mexican Food. As the proud owner of a vagina I haven’t darkened their doorstep but my husband sometimes lunches there. He says the food is good. I don’t often mistrust my husband, but I’m thinking the food’s gotta suck.

For Cinco de Mayo the brain trust at Pink Taco decided to take a donkey, spray paint it pink and leash it to the front of it’s restaurant. Presumably this would benefit the drunken revelers. Apparently it was an 80 degree day (in the shade) and the patrons of Pink Taco took offense that an ass was tied up in front of a restaurant that was named after the slang for women’s labia and serves meat that doesn’t pretend to be free range, organic, humanely treated or even grass fed.

Apparently the would be patrons of Pink Taco care more about a spray painted ass than anything else.

In keeping with the Pink Taco-ness of Pink Taco they have decided to honor PETA (a vile organization if ever there was one) with a night of vegan fare and donations to PETA.

 

There has been a lot of media speculation regarding Eeke, the donkey. We encourage you to “Like” our new facebook page:[redacted I’m not in the mood] and follow us on our new Twitter: twitter.com/PinkTacoCC for up-to-date information!

Team Eeke!
In support of the fight against animal cruelty from May 9th – May 15th, Pink Taco Century City will be featuring a special margarita. The “PETA-rita” is available to all guests who would like to come in and support #TeamEeke, as 100% of the proceeds from the PETA-rita will go to PETA in support of the ethical treatment of animals.

We are also encouraging ALL of our guests to join us this Friday, May 13th for our happy hour and a “bring your pet to the patio day” from 3-7pm. This is a great opportunity to come in, enjoy some great food and beverages with your pets – and drink for a great cause! We look forward to seeing you there!

The following is our official statement:

“We’d like to clear up some misperceptions regarding the donkey, who made an appearance at the Cinco de Mayo event at Pink Taco in Century City on May 5th. We obtained a permit from the city to have the animal on site and the pink coloring used on the donkey was a safe, water-based and commonly used on animals in the entertainment industry. Additionally, the donkey’s trainer escorted him the entire appearance, he was on a leash, not a chain as reported in the media, and we provided plenty of water and care to him throughout. The employees of Pink Taco love and respect animals and would never do anything to harm or cause discomfort to an animal.”

We have since been in contact with PETA and Pink Taco has agreed to not use animals at our events and promotions and we are looking forward to meeting with them and discussing how we can work together in the future. We are a socially aware brand and we appreciate our customers concerns regarding these matters.”

-Pink Taco Corporate

 

If there was ever a moment where I thought that Pink Taco cared about people (women specifically) or animals (a few hundred a day on plates) I’d ignore this, as it’s largely a non issue.

I think that motherhood has turned me into a feminist and although I love a dirty double entendre I love it even more when I can walk through the mall without trying to explain to my kids what a Pink Taco is, why men would want to eat one, and why women would have low enough self esteem to work at or patronize the store.

I’d be outraged, but the Yelpers have taken care of that with hundreds of one star reviews.

What’s your take? It’s clearly a business that takes risks. They’ve named the store in such a manner that many women don’t want to be there, most families won’t, they clearly don’t care about animals and then they engage with PETA. Is it just a big mess that’s going for young men or are they hungry for any old kind of publicity?