Dear mummy blogger: PR pitches, what works and what, erm, doesn’t

When it comes to blogger/brand relationships, Tara Cain from Sticky Fingers has had her fair share of pitches. Read this post to find out what works … and what ends up in the bin!

I have had some truly awful PR pitches in my time as a blogger.

I’m constantly asked if I would like to ‘use’ a company’s press release, invited to pre-schooler/baby events (I don’t have either) and – controversial one – asked if I wanted to review a product then send it back.

Of course, I’ve also had some great ones too.

It’s all too easy to roll your eyes and moan about the shoddy ones clogging up your inbox, and stress about the time it takes you to reply to them all. But actually I’ve just learned to bin them and move or. Or Tweet about how truly awful they are!

There is no two ways about it these days; parenting bloggers are a force to be reckoned with.

Whether you understand it or not, our voice is powerful and brands want a piece of it.

We are savvy internet users, we talk and influence both online and offline and as more and more people put down their newspapers and turn off their TVs to turn their gaze online, we are becoming the best word of mouth advertisers out there.

I have worked big brands such as Green & Blacks and Reckitt Benckiser in my role as social media adviser and professional blogger – they all recognise the power of a parenting blogger and they are are looking our way.

So what works and what doesn’t work?

I think the fundamental thing most PRs forget when they are pitching to a blogger, be it a parenting blogger or any other, is that we do this for the love of writing. It’s a hobby, our blog is our bit of turf and we love it.

They need to remember that we are thinking about our blog and our readers first and foremost. If your product or service doesn’t fit with what I’m writing about, well tough.

I confess, one of my biggest bugbears is PRs who don’t follow through. You email them back to say, yes that sounds fab I’m up for it and then you never hear off them again.

I’m sure there are all manner of things happening behind the scenes (lost budget, change of PR company, delays) but the people you’ve emailed don’t know anything about it so don’t leave them in the dark. If it’s being delayed, say so. If it’s no longer happening, say so. Honesty is always the best policy.

Also, don’t be rude and treat bloggers like a free advertising source. We’re not. We’re intelligent people who know exactly what you’re up to so don’t bother trying as it annoys the hell out of us.

As a PR you need to be asking yourself what are we giving the blogger? Are we of value? Why should they write about us/attend our event/review our product? You need to ask yourselves this because that is what we will be asking ourselves.

The ones that work
  • You’ve read my blog, seen something I wrote about and targeted a response. I love photography. I run a photographic feature on my blog. So anyone who asks me to review relevant products or offer interesting prizes to do with this is onto a winner.
  • A personalised video pitch. Ford motors sent me a video pitch in which one of their engineers talks directly to ME and also recognises that I’m a bit of a movie nerd.
  • A bunch of flowers from Interflora made using the colours of my blog ‘just because’. They then went on to target bloggers through Twitter asking who deserved to be sent one of their bouquets. It got them a lot of chatter on blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
  • Bold also offered bespoke towelling robes from The White Company for bloggers.
  • A group of parenting bloggers asked if their children would like to become toy reviewers for Toys R Us (Toyologist). Err, yes! They also created a community on Facebook just for the Toyologists so they could share ideas, ask questions and generally chat amongst themselves.
  • Those who foster an ongoing relationship. I have worked with Digital Outlook on both their Disney Blu-Ray ambassador programme and travelling to the SeaWorld parks in Florida. The PR I met through these initiatives has stood out for me. Kerry Jean Lister has her own blog, has genuinely integrated herself in the parenting community she deals with and is always courteous, friendly and helpful. Whenever something from her drops in to my inbox I sit up and take notice.
  •  I was approached by both Rachel’s organic and Morphy Richards to do reviews of their products. I said no because I didn’t think it would be something I could write about. They said we’ll send it to you anyway. As a gift. I wrote about them.
  •  Build a relationship. I was asked to review a Lego set quite a while back and the PR remembered me and pitched to me again. Lego is something I am happy to write about all the live long day because my kids adore it. So I asked them if they would like to take it one step further and sponsor me for next year’s Cybermummy. They said yes.
  •  I have been so very lucky to have been offered family holidays to Portaventura in Spain, Eurocamp in France and Disneyland Paris. They key here is ‘family holiday’. I also went to Lapland to see Santa but the offer was for one adult and one child. I have 2 children. Bad bad bad. I asked if I could pay for the other child and they said yes, but they really should have offered this from the get go.
  • Another thing bloggers want, parenting bloggers especially, is the opportunity to meet up with each other so any pitch which means they get to hang out together (especially if their travel is paid for) is going to be a winner. Innocent and Yeo Valley have both done this successfully recently. And when an email plops into your inbox saying ‘would you like to go to the Seaworld parks in Florida with 5 other bloggers’ you snap their hand right off!
The ones that get binned. Or laughed at.
  • Don’t invite me to to a children-themed event on a school day. Or even worse, don’t say ‘no children allowed this time’.
  •  “I wondered if your readers would be interested in reading our press release?” Pretty much always no. Unless you’ve really targeted it to me and I can see something I would like to write about in the context of my blog, but I’m not a newspaper or a magazine and no I don’t want your ‘free content’.
  • A pitch with the subject line “love your blog” which then goes on to say ‘Dear blogger/Elaine/Bob’ is not going to win me over. Blogging is personal and relationships matter so take the time to at least get to know our name. Then go a step further and actually invest some time in finding out a detail or two: Not only will it please us it will help immensely with your pitch too.
  • A pitch for maternity wear/nappies/baby products/pre-school TV show. I have 2 school age children and it’s very presumptuous of you to think I’m having another. Bin bin bin bin bin. And you’ve made me cross.
  • Don’t pitch the same thing to 20-odd other parenting bloggers. We talk, we know you’ve sent the exact same email to 25 people in the hope that 5 take it up. Doesn’t make us feel special at all. If you are pitching to a lot of people, tell us. We’ll respect you a lot more for it.
  • DO NOT start your pitch with ‘hey there mummy blogger’. Binned. Yes I’m a mother and yes I blog but I for one don’t like the label and writing mummy blogger in every paragraph of a pitch just makes my heart sink and certainly doesn’t make your product any more relevant to me.
  • Any PR asking for free advertising. “Can you tell your readers about this”. “Can you link to our site where we sell this”. If you want me to try it out and write about it send me the product and then I’ll think about doing those things, but I’m not about to recommend a product I’ve never tried.
  • No I can’t ‘pop’ to London for a 2 hour event. I live in the Midlands, I have school-aged children and I work (as clearly stated in my ‘about me’ page).

It’s not really rocket science: we respect our readers so you should too, we’re parenting bloggers so our time is precious and if you want to tap into our community and use our powerful voice, you need to work for it.

Many bloggers are flooded with pitches at the moment – you need to make yours stand out from the crowd.

And just to underline the point there is this hilarious post from Wife in the North: Don’t Hesitate To Get In Touch.

What works for you?

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0 Responses to Dear mummy blogger: PR pitches, what works and what, erm, doesn’t

  1. Blue Sky 25 January 2011 at 13:26 #

    If I get back to work this will be very useful: the PR consultancy that I worked for were just starting to approach bloggers in the years before my job finished and we didn’t really know what we were doing. This is great advice 🙂

  2. Lucy Thorpe 25 January 2011 at 13:40 #

    Gosh it must be fun to be part of a niche that is so heavily in demand – you don’t get blogs about stamp collecting being courted like that. What’s the next big thing – perhaps I should start a new blog!
    But seriously I would love to know if the people pitching you ever ask how many readers you have and how that makes you feel? I would be interested to know whether they are doing their home work and whether this is information you feel you want to reveal.

  3. Susanna 25 January 2011 at 13:54 #

    Hi Lucy, from my perspective, yes they do ask and yes I do tell!

  4. Tara 25 January 2011 at 14:37 #

    Hi Lucy. To be honest, it’s very rare that I’m asked. In fact the first time I was asked was when I was approached to go to Seaworld and then I had to go and install a stat counter on my blog so I could find out what my stats were!
    I confess I don’t like to think about my stats because I don’t want it to ever change the way I write (“oh god I’m writing for 5 people/oh god I’m writing for 500 people”) and there is a very real danger of that.
    I guess the beauty of it is, if you really don’t want to reveal how many readers you have you can always say no. The choice is always yours x

  5. Misssy M 25 January 2011 at 14:45 #

    I’ve never been approached by anyone in my five years of blogging. I have a good healthy readership but I’m irrelevant to companies. Why? Because I live in Scotland.
    The Londoncentricity of companies never fails to amaze me. Your customers are further North too.

  6. English Mum 25 January 2011 at 14:51 #

    I’ve had some utterly fabulous approaches and have been lucky enough to go with you to Florida and Paris, Tara. My favourite approaches are those that are ‘individual’, such as the gorgeous White Company robes from Bold. My least favourite approach recently commenced: ‘Dear Mummy Tips’. Haha!

  7. ChristeaAndCakes 25 January 2011 at 15:05 #

    Can you do too much PR? Like ads after posts, doesn’t it eventually alienate your readership, how does one get the balance right?

  8. Tara 25 January 2011 at 15:15 #

    I guess everyone is different, but I really do pick and choose the ones I say yes to. If it fits in with my blog or anything I write about then I’m OK with that.
    But that is a really good question: does too much PR alienate a readership?

  9. kat 25 January 2011 at 15:33 #

    Was getting Wife in the North’s blog name wrong a subtle piece of irony?

  10. Mrs Green 25 January 2011 at 16:01 #

    Probably a taboo question, but I’ll ask anyway.
    I write back to PR companies if it fits with the themes of my site and say it costs x amount to write about them.
    Often I get told there is ‘no budget’. What does this actually mean? Is it a polite way of saying they expected a freebie? Doesn’t a PR company charge the companies they are building a press campaign for? Why is there ‘no budget’?
    If someone could help me understand this I’d be very grateful.

  11. mrs lister 25 January 2011 at 16:41 #

    Hi Mrs Green
    I might be able to answer that one altho it’s a bit of a murky area.
    Here at DO we would never offer to pay a blogger or journalist for a review as it may appear unethical. If you are being paid for it, chances are you’re going to write a glowing piece and it won’t be taken as seriously by your readers (assuming you have stipulated that the post is ‘sponsored’). It’s rather like those ‘advertorials’ you get in womens mags that are cleverly disguised to fit in with the editorial tone of the mag. They read well and you might give them a glance, but more often than not you’ll skip over them.
    Paid for media space isn’t really the territory of a traditional PR – we try and get what coverage we can via the medium of freebies, not cold hard cash ;). This is what makes reviews written across parent blogs that much more valid – I don’t know one blogger who would lie to their readers and say they liked something if they didn’t – and no PR/brand worth their salt would want to work with one.
    Tara hit the nail on the head when she said that she only writes about things that are relevant to her and her family. This is why a positive review of a product on Tara’s blog is going to have far more validity than a generic rehashed press release on a national newspapers website.
    There are exceptions to the ‘no money’ rule of course. If we ask a blogger to write a piece for somewhere other than their blog – ie if we were asking them to contribute to the website of a brand we are working with – then we would always offer them payment for their time.
    Hope this helps =)
    Kerry x

  12. Tara 25 January 2011 at 16:54 #

    I’d like to say I was that clever, but no!
    Has been put right, thank you x

  13. mrs lister 25 January 2011 at 16:55 #

    Great piece Tara.
    PR’s should never understimate the power of research when it comes to approaching bloggers. Investing time to thoroughly read blogs in the early days can make all the difference to a campaign.
    That Digital Outlook sound like they really know what they’re doing
    *ahem*
    On a more serious note – re the ‘too much PR’ question I would say that yes, too much of it will definitely put your readers off.
    I think if you strike the right balance and literally just say yes to the things you think will be of interest to you, your family and your readers you’ll get it right.
    Kerry x

  14. Natasha 25 January 2011 at 17:17 #

    I have had some approaches from PR companies. Mostly they are asking to write an article for my blog which I would never do. I had a more interesting one from a company but deleted it as an automatic response and now wish I hadn’t! I think I would be open to firms giving me prizes as giveaways that are relevant to my blog. Then I feel as if my readers are really gaining something. Also I am open to any chocolate companies who would wish to give me free samples! (Or handbags)

  15. Emma 25 January 2011 at 18:30 #

    Oooo I’m so glad I saw the link to this on Facebook as I was just thinking about writing a very similar piece. 3 or 4 times just recently I have been asked if I may consider reviewing things that would fit with my blog. I said maybe but could you give me more details only to hear nothing back at all! It might not appear to matter now but believe me I will never be buying from any of those people that have ignored my responses! As you say a simple e-mail explaining that things are different now would have been fine! Also Companies that just send me a press release go straight to the trash file! Great post Tara x

  16. Nickie@Typecast 25 January 2011 at 19:24 #

    Hi Lucy, I’ve been asked for my stats twice. I don’t mind giving them out either. There are two buttons on my site which give you a direct link to two versions of my stats anyway. I like the brand or the PR to know what my reach is and how useful I will be to them. I feel very honoured when asked (in the right way) if I will consider talking about a product. My opinion matters and it’s good that I have built a platform to shout it from.

  17. Nickie@Typecast 25 January 2011 at 19:27 #

    Some companies are starting to realise that there is life outside of London. Myself and a few other bloggers were invited to Kellogg’s HQ in Manchester last Friday and they specifically targeted mum bloggers (mums for a specific reason aimed at their marketing strategy) in the North. I’ve also recently had a few pitches for other events which are specifically North based.
    I do see your point about being in Scotland, though.

  18. Mrs Green @littlegreenblog.com 25 January 2011 at 20:49 #

    Kerry, thank you so much for taking time to explain that; it’s very helpful and helps me make sense of things a little more 🙂 It’s something a PR company have never explained to me, so I appreciate the time you took with responding to my query…

  19. Michelle Twin Mum 25 January 2011 at 21:03 #

    Thanks for this super piece Tara. I think we have all been in the same situation and I just smile at many of the emails that drop into my in box!
    Mich x

  20. Domestic goddesque 25 January 2011 at 22:23 #

    A really great piece Tara. I have recentky had a couple of approaches, very exciting and flattering as it’s new to me, so it would be easy to overlook the fact that one addressed me as Domestic. I aspire to family trips though 😉 Or kitchen appliances…

  21. Kat 25 January 2011 at 22:56 #

    If there was a like button on this post I would click it a million times.

  22. Sian - Mummytips 25 January 2011 at 23:27 #

    Oh English Mum…..
    Why do you dislike being mistaken for moi?
    That was pretty funny considering neither of us are in the market for toddler food!

  23. A Modern Mother 26 January 2011 at 06:19 #

    there is!!!

  24. English Mum 26 January 2011 at 08:14 #

    I’d be delighted in RL, Sian!! The funniest bit about it was that you never got the approach at all 🙂

  25. Liz (LivingwithKids) 26 January 2011 at 08:17 #

    Like Tara, I’ve had some amazing PR approaches and some not so great; my least favourite are the ones where they ask you if you want to do a competition or something, you say yes, great, and then you never hear from them again, even if you chase. I honestly can’t understand what the point is of that, but as I’m also a journalist I simply ignore any more emails I receive from them. If they can’t treat bloggers with respect, why on earth would I want to work with them in my professional life?

  26. Erica 26 January 2011 at 09:32 #

    Nokia, Toys R Us and Kerry (Disney, Xbox, Seaworld) stand head and shoulders above the crowd.
    Speaking from my own experience I’m finding that really poor pitches are becoming less frequent so maybe we are seeing progress.

  27. mrs lister 26 January 2011 at 15:00 #

    You are most welcome! =)

  28. not a notting hill mum 26 January 2011 at 17:47 #

    It’s a very interesting piece and I agree with everything here.
    I certainly think too much PR will alienate readers but it also devalues the reviews themselves. If a site is plugging everything, then even the PRs will lose interest as it makes the views appear less credible – even though this may be totally unfair on the blogger who is writing their honest opinions.
    I have a different approach. I usually only promote/review things I have already bought myself or tried out and I just think the world should know. See my last piece on float suits if you want to know what I mean!
    http://notanottinghillmum.co.uk/Not_a_Notting_Hill_Mum/Not_a_Notting_Hill_Mum_Blog/Entries/2011/1/21_Swimming_for_free.html
    I do it because I want to give helpful advice and share tips with other parents. Sometimes I might ask the PR if I can try out something I am already interested in, maybe a different version of something i have already bought.
    And I really like promoting events which are free so readers can enjoy something for nothing!
    But if Disney approached me and offered me a trip to Disneyland for the kids I know it would be very hard to turn down!!
    So I would say to those lucky bloggers who have been given PR trips ( orin ” Domestic’s” case a Hoover!) – enjoy them – just pick and choose!

  29. Linda Jones 26 January 2011 at 18:02 #

    I’m getting regular approaches for family trips and doing my best to share them out. I ignore some requests and act immediately on others. They may be for our family travel blog in particular or as part of a press trip. I am very happy to share stats and reach and as my reviews/reports/impressions can also inform other work as a freelance journalist, with a mass readership. I am happy that PR companies are waking up to the relevance of blogs. But I still think there is a lot of hot air spouted about how important blogs are as if it’s one big group of people with the same outlook, ethics and approach. Just because a blog post gets 20 comments from someone’s mates doesn’t mean that much, does it? There could be 20 women stood in a queue at a supermarket or in a doctor’s surgery, would a PR put quite so much effort in getting them to chat about their services? No they wouldn’t. This is a conversation that has gone on and on and is sure to continue and I do hope PR companies listen to independent voices such as Tara’s and the expertise of someone like Susanna at @Amodernmother as they do know what they are talking about. I think the power of Twitter is also important.

  30. Kate Wilson 27 January 2011 at 17:44 #

    I think this is a really useful and honest piece. We’re interested in finding people to review our children’s books and apps (www.nosycrow.com), but we’re a start-up and we blog ourselves (the view from the crow’s nest on http://www.nosycrow.com) and I tweet as @nosycrow, so I suppose I almost see it from both sides of the fence.
    Thanks for these useful pointers.

  31. Miss Q 02 February 2011 at 18:43 #

    Thanks for posting this interesting topic Tara! As a PR it is really useful to get all of your thoughts. I think as Kerry says, it’s all about research and making sure as a PR you actually read the blogs and understand what the owners interests are. When approaching anyone about your brand, whether it be a journalist or blogger, it’s all about taking the time to understand what they are all about and what their readers what to hear about. LQ

  32. Helen 02 February 2011 at 21:17 #

    I do get very tired of being emailed by PRs who really make themselves look bad. No “Hi” or “Regards” followed by their name. Just “look at file attached” and nothing more to it. Am I meant to copy and paste what’s in the file? Do you expect me to figure this puzzle of an email out?
    And yes I am tired already of people who email me about something totally unrelated about what I was asking for. I will put in an enquiry for fashion for busy mums and end up with maternity wear. Yes this is fashion but “busy mums” tends to imply they already had their child, otherwise who are they a mum to? Unless I say “mums-to-be” I’m really not interested in maternity stuff. Also… stop giving me stretch mark products! I never suffered with stretch marks and have never asked for such a product! EVER!

  33. Tara 28 February 2011 at 23:54 #

    I once was offered Tena Lady pads. Seriously laughed for about a month after. In fact no that’s a lie, we still laugh about it now (with no leakage, obviously *ahem*)

  34. Maria 02 November 2011 at 14:24 #

    Yes, Yes, Yes to your article Tara! From my experience as a TV Producer for a well known breakfast TV channel I was on the receiving end of some terrible PR pitches where it was clear they had never even watched the programme which was pretty poor considering it was the highest rated at the time! When I suggested that they did so in order to pitch a relevant idea to me it was often greeted by “but I’m at work at the time” to which I’d say “how about recording it”… generally greeted by silence and no action taken.
    I’m about to start my own blog so your article has reinforced my own experience. looking forward to some interesting PR pitches! Hope a few companies have taken your comments on board. Interesting discussion. thank you for writing it

  35. Mum in Awe 03 November 2011 at 15:47 #

    I wrote about cooking Schwartz sauces in a slow cooker – cos i got a slow cooker out of it! Brilliant!
    I also love writing reviews of books, mainly parenting type books, but it allows me to read so much more than I would normally, so i love getting books to review.