Public Relations People And Bloggers Can Work Together

Blogger relations is not a win/lose tacticMarketing Vox featured a thought-provoking post yesterday entitled “PR Blackout Challenges Mom Bloggers to Return to Basics.” To boil the post down, it summarizes a call by mommy blogger community MomDot for a PR blackout this August. As they put it:

“…our site, and many others, are inundated with hundreds, if not thousands, of product requests each year resulting in massive obligations and deadline stress equivalent to what the General Motors CEO must feel every time he drives into work.”

I reacted fairly strongly to the post. Not because I disagree with the idea of a week without PR-pitched products, but because it appears the situation for some people has deteriorated to the point where this kind of statement is necessary. Blogger relations shouldn’t be a win/lose game.

While the post does make a point of highlighting the work done by those at the other end of the public relations scale – those who do their jobs properly – the impact of the others is worrying, and once again casts a shadow over all of us.

Two aspects to this make me uncomfortable:

Public relations people shouldn’t pressure bloggers

I’ve written plenty of times about my thoughts on how to – and how not to – go about approaching bloggers. While my thoughts have evolved over time, one thing remains consistent: public relations people need to look beyond their own objectives and consider the other side. As I wrote to Stefania Butler in a Twitter conversation about the post (which you can check out here), good PR people should marry both sides of the equation by matching the vested interest of the client with the needs and wants of the recipients of pitches.

How do you do that? You build relationships. You don’t do it by spamming people. You certainly don’t do it by creating obligations and pressure for people who may be doing this for a hobby.

A few pointers for PR people:

  • Build relationships with the key bloggers you’re looking to reach (I agree with Beth Blecherman on this one)
  • Don’t spam people. With the first point in mind, find a balance between volume and customization.
  • Aim to help bloggers, rather than use them. This doesn’t mean fogetting your client’s objectives; it means finding a balance between the two.

Bloggers have a choice

Unless you make an income from your blog’s traffic (which I have nothing against) or post on a group blog on a schedule with others, there’s little to force you to adhere to others’ timelines (there are likely other cases too). These are valid pressures, but I highly doubt they cover the majority of mom bloggers. In most cases, bloggers can choose whether to write about public relations pitches or not. What’s more, they have control of the deadlines they write under.

With the exception of the cases above, you should feel free to publish under your own deadlines. If something comes up, or you don’t have time, or you just feel like taking a day off writing, then don’t post that day. The idea that bloggers are under “massive obligations” indicates a situation that requires fixing, and while we can (and I will) advocate against bad PR practices, bloggers have to take some of the initiative themselves to avoid putting themselves under this kind of pressure.

So, to mommy bloggers, I offer the following advice (and pleas):

  • If a PR person who pitches you pressures you, or does anything other than work with you, let them know you’re not comfortable with it. If they don’t, hit “delete.” If they continue, hit “spam.”
  • If you are putting yourself under pressure, ask yourself if it is necessary. What can you do to reduce it?
  • Remember: We’re not all like the bad apples.
  • Without doing anything onerous (because the onus should be on communicators to do their research), consider creating pitching tips or, as Butler has done via her blog categories, collect posts you’ve written relating to outreach together.

I’m not just a PR guy – I’m also a blogger. I receive plenty of bad pitches too. The fault usually falls on the side of the person pitching, and they need to get their act together. Still, if you feel pressured by PR people, there are things you can do too, if you choose to. The alternative is resorting to negative pressure – the same approach that upset you in the first place.

What do you think? I’ve had some fascinating conversations on Twitter about this, but I’d love to hear from people on both sides of the fence on this one.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Update: CNET has a slightly different take on this issue here.