I get pitched all the time. Please link to me. Please read my book. Please read my client's book. Please use my service.
And you know what, most of 'em are bad... like, really bad. Usually, I try to give them advice on how to pitch.
Once I got a pitch that started with:
"I've just begun to get acquainted with your terrific website, thisisgoingtobebig.com, and thoroughly enjoy reading it."
To be honest, I don't even think my site is terrific. I think I'm a terrific guy, but this site is kind of crap. I mean, look at all these silly widgets on the side... and theme? What's the theme? It's a snarky Web 2.0 and kayaking blog... which goes together like peanut butter and eggs. So, don't tell me it's a good site, b/c I know you've never read it.
BUT... that's totally ok. You're just doing your job. So I responded by e-mail with a story on a book that I bought b/c a blogger recommended it:
"... the web and the tech community is such a small world that isn't hard to break into at all... and so when something comes in from completely outside of my circle, it just goes in a big pile of unfiltered stuff that I'll look at later. So, this will probably come off as snarky, but I really don't mean it that way at all... Just trying to be honest and give you my honest reaction."
And then, I invited the pitcher in question to a nextNY event. In other words, I engaged her like an actual person... you know, the way that we bloggers say we want to be treated.
"Let's talk more about it more Wednesday. Again... just trying to be honest and helpful... not meaning to bite your head off at all."
I got another one the other day... one that I responded to in a similar manner:
"This whole blast e-mail in a can thing wasn't very "Next Big Thing". A tag for me in del.icio.us or a blog comment on my blog or a Twitter or a Facebook or MySpace add or just about anything else would have been a lot more appropriate. "
The person pitching responded in a very polite way:
"Thanks so much for checking out the site, even if my email rubbed you the wrong way... ...thanks for the suggestions, feedback is ALWAYS appreciated."
Not all the bloggers she wrote to where so friendly.
Some people took to their little soapboxes and called her out:
The only person who seemed to recognize that Alison was just trying to do her job was this blogger, Ed Schipul:
""Ya, I took the email link bait. From a Fleishman-Hillard blogger outreach email from Allison Mooney...I still get my daily TrendCentral Intelligence Report, but I welcome new relevant content. Just please please please be sure it is relevant."
Pretty constructive, I'd say. He knew what he was getting.
Here's the thing that's easy to forget in the blog world... blogs, e-mails, tags, IM, are made out of PEOPLE. Real people who try to do a good job and have feelings and friends and all sorts of stuff. Do you know how I know that in this case?
Because, as it turns out, Allison is a real person. As it turns out, she was at nextMadisonAve, nextNY's discussion of the future of digital advertising and she just wrote about it in the blog she was pitching in her e-mail. So, she does participate in the community... and she wasn't doing someone else's PR dirtywork... she was actually pitching the blog that she writes for. Social media kudos for being a part of nextNY and pitching your own stuff. It also turns out we know more than a few local NYers in common and I found that out because I actually approached her like a real human.
Did her approach need a little work? Sure? Do most of our own approaches to social media need work? Absolutely. Does we need to tear someone a new one in public by name? I don't think so.
I mean, what if she got fired for her pitch gone awry? Is that what these bloggers wanted to see? Would they have felt bad if she did?
I can't say that I'm necessarily blameless in the snarky callouts department, but the next time you want to call someone out like this, you might consider the following:
- Respond directly to them by e-mail first, because that's the way they contacted you. No reason to elevate. When someone blogs something you don't like, it's more appropriate to blog about them, but keep the response to the medium it came in.
- What is the big picture of how I should judge this person? Do they participate in the community in other ways? In Allison's case, she does... she's a blogger, a nextNYer, Flickr user, etc, etc...not someone from the "outside" who needs to be taught a lesson.
- Is there added value to calling them out by name? Can you pull out useful pitch lessons from an e-mail without needing to embarrass someone?
- What position is this person in? Are they a VP of such and such... a prominent thought leader that makes their living by headlining conferences, etc. or just a worker bee trying to make their way up the chain who could do without you kicking them in the head because you happen to be three rungs higher up the ladder?
- Who the hell do I think I am? This is something I probably don't ask myself enough and frankly, few bloggers do. Saying stuff like, "I've been working in the social media space since 2004" is a good indicator of the need to ask this question more often. Wow, 2004, huh? That was like, even before YouTube existed. Jeez, what was it like back then? Did you have electricity?