[More Than Mommy Blogger] Blogger-PR Tango – It Takes Two
I had a vision for my first column. I wanted it to be something somewhat profound, but also something that would establish a tone to which others could relate. In fact, I had most of it written.
Then I read,“Why PR People Get Paid and You Don’t” by fellow columnist, “Sarah.” And I got really angry. First, I got the attempt at humor, and I understood the type of blogger who inspired her post. However, those kinds of posts, that poke fun at the least professional in the mom blogger world, usually end up negatively impacting the most professional ones .
I am one of the first to complain about greedy, high-maintenance mom bloggers who don’t understand the system or take the time to figure out how it works. It was something I planned to mention in my original column. I agree that there’s a sense of entitlement with absolutely no basis in reality and that some new bloggers expect to get all of the best relationships without putting in any of the work. Heck, I’ve been blogging longer than most people have had an email address and have never been offered an oven or a trip. It’s fine. I don’t have the same numbers as some of my peers.
What I don’t agree with is the idea that this strain between PR and bloggers comes solely from unrealistic expectations and a lack of professionalism on the blogger end.
Sarah suggests that bloggers are fly-by-night (“something transient”) and not willing to put in the effort to get the attention they feel that they deserve. That’s not always the case. In fact, I know many bloggers who have been doing it for years, pouring their hearts and precious time into their blogs.
I believe that PR representatives and brand relationships are far more transient than established bloggers. I also know that companies routinely reward the squeaky-wheel, churn-out-content and give-me-free-stuff bloggers by working with blogs that are poorly written, relatively new, and/or over-saturated with pre-existing brand relationships. I am shocked (and it’s rare for me to use that term) by the bloggers who nab high-profile campaigns. They have open catfights on their blogs, belittle others, and write like they couldn’t possibly have graduated from 8th grade. Some of them are busy touting so many products that they don’t have time to write about all of their brand trips and relationships. If PR budgets are so low, why are they wasting money on perks for bloggers who won’t even write about them?
Sarah goes on to imply that bloggers are almost childish in our expectations to be paid for our work. Guess what? I am pitched by dozens of these hard-working, salary-worthy, commuting (and non-commuting) PR people on a weekly basis. Just like the bloggers I know, some of them are incredibly talented and hardworking, and some … not even close.
I routinely receive pitches that are horribly written (What exactly is the product I can’t live without?), absurdly off-topic (Yes, I’m sure my Family Computing readers come to my site to find the perfect sun screen), and even insulting (The “technology is hard for women” approach? Try again.). Better still are the pitches from people who will generously allow me to post their widgets on my blog and write about the products that they are paid to promote, with absolutely no compensation for my time or the advertising space such widgets would usurp. I’m often not even offered a product to try out. What kind of professional would heavily promote a product without having experienced it in person? But sure, work with those bloggers because it will cost you less.
I write product reviews for free. This is a topic for a separate column, but you simply can’t write a properly balanced review if you’re being compensated (and product is NOT compensation–it’s a tool to allow you to write a useful review). I expect to be paid to otherwise promote any product or service you throw my way. I might not work out of a remote office, but that doesn’t make me any less intelligent or talented than someone who does. And it doesn’t make my writing any lower in quality. I want none of the “ lifestyle, paycheck, and perks of having an out-of-the-house PR job.” I want the lifestyle, paycheck and perks of being a freelance writer with a built-in audience, because that’s what quality bloggers are.
I’m a relatively practical person. I deal with PR for my blog, as well as for my more formal work with About.com. I don’t care if you use my name (although I really don’t appreciate “Dear Mommy Blogger”) or even read my blog. I know it’s hard to get a product in front of hundreds of journalists if you have to personally pitch each one. I also know that the impact you get from putting a product on just my blog isn’t worth doing in-depth research into my interests and family life. That said, it only makes sense to do your homework and create a list of quality bloggers you’d like to work with who aren’t going to be an embarrassment to the brands you represent.
And if you find a blogger who is genuinely passionate about a product or brand (and not just the freebies you may be willing to pass their way), develop that relationship. It’s extremely valuable, even if their numbers aren’t as big.
Honestly, this tension between bloggers and PR people needs to stop. I’m tired of crappy mom bloggers making the rest of us look bad, and I’m equally unimpressed by lazy PR people underestimating my worth. I’ll survive if you don’t give me your fantastic, new refrigerator to try out, but I’ll be pretty annoyed if you hand it off to someone who can’t be bothered to spell the brand name correctly.
I suspect that Sarah’s PR firm is one of those who are a delight for bloggers to work with. But before pointing the finger at us, I think she should look around a bit. Because there are many more PR companies who seem to believe that we should be doing their jobs for free.