When PR + Bloggers + Free Press = Insult & Irony

 

This morning the New York Times ran an article on Heather Armstrong, the successful blogger known as Dooce. It’s not the first time she’s been featured in their publication, or the second, third, fourth, or even fifth. According to Armstrong’s own press page, today’s article marks her eighth appearance in the New York Times.  On one hand: Bully for her! On the other hand: Dear New York Times, Get a new story. Or at least a new spin (with new bloggers) on an old story.

I don’t have much to say about Dooce – I don’t read her, but I also don’t begrudge her the success she’s been savvy enough to achieve.

I also don’t have much to say about today’s article – for an earnest reflection on the piece, I suggest reading Jennifer James’ “[My Thoughts] The New York Times Examines Mom Bloggers’ Earnings and Kids” (wherein Jennifer and her watchful readers call the NYTimes out for changing the title of the article from “Mommy_Bloggest” to “Queen of the Mommy Bloggers”).

Here’s what I do have to say:

Sometime late this morning, while I was dutifully (and reluctantly) working out at the gym, I got an email from Goodman Media about today’s article on Dooce.  It included the “new” article title, full text, and a direct link to the New York Times site. No personal introduction to the email, no indication of exactly what I was supposed to do with this information, nothing.

But it’s no great leap to assume what Goodman Media was hoping for.

Bloggers get these kinds of impersonal, “spray and pray” emails every day from PR companies hoping to get a bite from one willing to spam their loyal readership with a reprinted press release or links to a client’s current campaign. For free. With no benefit to the blogger themselves.

It’s insulting.

Even more insulting? That I would be contacted about THIS article – an article that highlights the ability of one blogger to earn potentially more than $1million a year – and be expected to share it with my readers for free.

Does anyone else see the irony in this?

And does anyone else see why the likelihood of achieving success similar to Heather Armstrong’s (or the success of the very small handful of bloggers like her) is slim to none? How CAN we, as long as firms like Goodman Media keep treating bloggers as…well…free press?

Tell you what, I’m in fact NOT going to link to the New York Times article about the “Queen of Mom Bloggers.” Instead, why don’t I take an oldie but goodie from, say…YESTERDAY…in the Small Business section – an article called “The Problem with Public Relations.” Looks like bloggers aren’t the only ones frustrated here.

*Worth noting: I know a number of PR professionals who are doing it “right.” But they aren’t the ones chapping my hide today.

*Also worth noting: Yes, yes, I *know* I went ahead and gave free press to the NY Times article anyway. But I deemed it a necessary evil in order to make a bigger point.

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  • I know that it chaps your hide, but it made me laugh out loud. If I had gotten the same pitch I’m sure it would’ve ended up in my virtual trash can. Sometimes it’s so nice to click DELETE!

  • Jessica Barrus Morgan

    I love the way you are able to remain civil and straight-forward when something really bothers you. You’re kind of my hero.

    • Ha ha – you weren’t here when I opened the email. I spoke a few choice words to my monitor before taking a moment to think out this post.

  • Good for you. You handled the piece well. I get these emails on a daily basis and while I realize they are now treating me “like a journalist”, it doesn’t mean that subscriptions and ads are paying for my circulation. KWIM?

  • Gina Crosley-Corcoran

    Word!

    I have to say, the thing that makes me want to repeatedly stab my own beautiful monitor are the fifty daily emails I get from “PR” people telling me about some article or some product that has NOTHING to do with my interests or my readership, and suggesting that my readers would want to know all about it. WTF. WHY?

    The fact is, these are not even PR people. My email address got on some spammy junk mail list that they sell all over the interweb. It’s spam, plain and simple, and I’m so sick and tired of it. I have literally spent HOURS a day trying to unsubscribe either through a service, or by responding to the email and threatening their lives to take me off their stupid list, and guess what? It never works. The next day, I’m getting a dozen new emails from new sources. It makes me want to change my email address… but they’ll get that one too, I’m sure.

    • Yes, the irrelevant pitches. Why would I want to review a saddle when I don’t have a horse? And you may be on to something with the spammy junk mail – I put my email address out there for readers and others to contact me, but I inevitably get signed up (involuntarily) for newsletters, too. NOT. COOL.

  • Pray and spray- perfect! Those are almost as annoying as the ‘post this with these keywords for a chance to win!’ PR blasts.

  • Thanks for the shout-out, Stacey. I usually get those emails from Goodman, but didn’t this time. Hmmm.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer! You know what kills me about Goodman is that they rep a company (Scholastic Entertainment) that I would ordinarily LOVE to share with my readers, but I don’t. That’s because as many as three different Goodman reps email me on a nearly weekly basis with impersonal blasts on Scholastic Entertainment news and announcements, again with no clear outline of how we might work *together* on a focused, targeted campaign. It’s really a shame that these big names are missing the boat.

  • OMG GIRL YOU NAILED IT for me.. the WHOLE THING!!! LOVE this post to bits!!!

  • Excellent thoughts, Stacey!! Like others have said, you’ve nailed this topic!!!

  • Anonymous

    I have been forcing myself not to give this article any more attention. But, you did it really well. Sigh.

  • Nice. I love that you shared this.

  • Anonymous

    Hmm. Let me think. The NYT needs pageviews and links to round out the month for their advertisers. They write yet another article about Mommy Bloggers, making money, selling out, Heather (Dooce), Ree, a few passive aggressive jabs. Surely the Mommy Bloggers will all clamor to link to the piece, defend themselves, flock to the comment section, giving them tons of pageviews, right!? And then, the piece de la resistance… hire a PR company to pitch the other mommy bloggers, and get them “talking amongst themselves.” PERFECT!

    And Stacey, thank you so much for linking to Jennifer’s great post, instead of the original piece!

    • I know, Sarah, I walked right in to their evil plot. 🙂 In fact, I thought of you as I wrote this and, already knowing your feelings on the subject, sent up a little “forgive me, Sarah!” as I hit publish. 🙂

  • Well written and definitely needed to be said.

    “Spray and pray” emails? Bahahahaha.

    You’d better trademark that. I might have to steal it and then when I make a million dollars, ask you to post about it. For free, of course.

    • I *so* wish I could take credit for “spray and pray,” but believe it or not, it really IS a coined term in marketing! It means – of course – to “indiscriminately aim and deliver.” (big surprise, right?)

  • SO. Much. Bravo.

  • Bravo for you for this article – I have a {hidden agenda} Media Kit prepared that I send to PR pitches like that. It’s a blog post. I link to it and call it my “Media Kit.” I got so sick of hitting the Delete key, I want to make a statement. I’m a Baby Boomer. We like making statements to get our point across. My “Media Kit” is snarky when deserved. Like me.

    • Cindi, you crack me up! I know a lot of bloggers who do this, and I say “bravo.” That is so, so savvy! I have yet to create this kind of response, but maybe I need to.

  • nicole

    “Spray and pray” emails? LMAO, then I read “chaps my hide”.
    After cleaning up the coffee I splurtled while laughing so loud, I applaud how you approached the issue. And I agree, get another “it” blogger- I can recommend 3 that have books out, have huge audiences and are quite approachable and read by moms!

    • I haven’t said “chaps my hide” in ages, and then I realized – it’s one of those pearls you pull out JUST for occasions like this. 😉

  • Wendy H

    Since I was a PR major in college, I am not insulted by press releases; I view them as a source of possible content. In fact on my local blog I use them quite a bit – such as press releases for local events.

    • Thanks for the comment, Wendy! You know, I’m not always insulted by press releases – I definitely see them as beneficial and part of the conversation between PR and press/media. This situation was just particularly ironic, and brought to light some of my bigger complaints with other emails like it. I appreciate your perspective in reminding us that they really are useful for a lot of people!

  • I’ve been thinking lately about how much of my time is devoted to dealing with email. It’s a huge chunk. And it’s in no small part due to lots and lots of PR emails that are either irrelevant or uninteresting.

    I’ve gotten a few good ones. I’ve gotten a lot of bad ones. I know that traditional news outlets get far more than I do. I guess the bottom line difference for me is that the people working for the nightly news get paid to handle the avalanche of press releases. I do not. And I’m trying to handle it around the fact that I have two kids.

    Clearly, the paradigm that works for traditional media does not work for mom bloggers. Not even a little.

    • I had not even looked at it from this angle! So not only are some of these emails asking something for nothing, but they are ultimately *TAKING* as well (even if you think it’s only taking “time,” that “time” is precious). Thanks so much for this perspective, Amber. It brings another dimension to this conversation!

  • @KimMoldofsky

    I agree that the article makes for a strange spray and pray type release. A year or so ago, some company made customized lifelike action figure/dolls for top bloggers (think Alli Worthington and Jessica Gottlieb, if I recall). I did not get my own doll, but I did get a press release about the dolls the other bloggers received. It was an innovative campaign to be sure, but from where I stood, some PR company was not only reminding me I haven’t made it to the top of the heap, but expecting me to blog about it?

    • Kim, I could probably erase my entire post and put your comment up instead. It explains perfectly one of my main problems with receiving this email! In fact, I almost renamed the post to “Dooce Didn’t Get Rich Working for Free,” but the post isn’t ultimately about her, it’s about PR. Thanks so much for your comment!

    • Really? I was totally going to send you a press release about the three books I got in the mail today. I can’t begin to comprehend why you wouldn’t cover that. It’s a STORY!

  • I got the same pitch about the NYT article and like you, was irritated.

    Great piece – this is all so true!

    • Thank you, Jodi! I appreciate your visit and your comment! (and I also appreciate knowing I wasn’t the only one irritated by the pitch…helps to know I wasn’t out in left field) 🙂

  • Love this post. I get those stupid complimentary PR ‘press releases’ several times a day. 95% of the time, they get promptly deleted.

    • Your use of the word “complimentary” has me chuckling, because it does feel that way, doesn’t it? Like they’re doing you this big favor by providing content? DELETE is a heavily-used button on my keyboard as well.

  • I have a business, yet I blog for my business.  People pitch products and press releases “at” me all of the time.  Here I am trying to sell my own goods and getting pitched items that have nothing to do with my store?!?!  The lesson I have learned is how to approach and how to pitch. 

    Thanks for writing this.  It made me chuckle.