If I paid any attention to my e-mail, I would think there was a world full of people who love and follow my blog, viewing it as a valuable commercial opportunity as well as a fount of top-rate content. Alas, much of my blog-related e-mail is nothing but the brave new world of online advertising. The internet is awash with forums of bewildered bloggers who have gotten these messages for the first time (secretly hoping, even if just for a moment, that somebody has noticed them and there is money in blogging).
That’s not to say that these messages don’t have their value. How can I not appreciate nakedly exploitative e-mail subject lines like “I Love Alainamabaso.wordpress.com!”?
The following e-mail is practically a blogger’s rite of passage:
My name is Leslie and I recently stumbled across your blog alainamabaso.wordpress.com. I work for a company, Blog Services Inc., that connects bloggers with advertising partners. I currently have clients that are interested in developing a sponsorship with you. This helps them with brand awareness and is a great opportunity for you to make some money from your blog.
Check out BlogServicesInc.org for more information and testimonials. Please feel free to contact me directly if you are interested in a partnership or have any questions. There is no need to submit the form on our site, as contacting me directly will lead to a quicker response.
According to what I can find out, this company claims to pay bloggers a whopping $10 or so to publish a post written by the company (with “sponsor” links embedded, of course). The catch (if you’re still looking for another one) is the company requires that you pretend to have written the post yourself: to get your money, you can’t label the thing as a “guest” or “sponsored” post, and you must keep it live indefinitely.
But other e-mails are more interesting – particularly the ones that pretend to know me and my blog (and you, dear reader). Those who are trying to exploit bloggers’ painstakingly crafted little audiences for free marketing seem to believe that a few friendly words will convince a blogger that an advertising ploy as grimy as the underside of my bureau is an irresistible piece of public relations.
Now, my hat goes off to good PR people. I’ve worked on both sides of the press table, and there’s a lot of emphasis on crafting the right pitch – tell the writer something wildly interesting, and he or she will call you back. But there’s a reason public relations is called “public relations” (“relations” being the operative word) and not “the scintillating pitch business.”
As an arts writer adrift in press releases, invitations and pitches every week, I find that good PR folks keep an eye on your work, know your interests, have impeccable follow-up, and maintain an upbeat, collegial attitude with you, apart from any individual pitch. Of course I won’t do a story that I don’t think has objective merit, and no, you don’t have to know me to get me interested in a story, but you’ve got a huge leg up pitching to me if you’re actually familiar with my work, know what I like to write about, and know what regions I usually cover.
The fun thing about the cutting edge in subterfuge marketing via blogs is that these advertising agents believe that because you publish words on your blog, you will publish ANY words on your blog. It’s like the Scottsdale, Arizona Polo Championship that keeps sending me press releases. Why the hell am I on their list? I’m just a writer whose e-mail they picked up – never mind that I cover the Philadelphia arts scene. A large press list does not equal PR.
Those who would use your blog for their own advertising ends see you not as an author and curator of content, but as someone who spews words to a small but devoted audience.
“Hi Alaina,” a recent e-mail from what seems to be an au pair-locating company says. “I spend a lot of time researching articles before I sit down to write them and as I am researching I take note of sites that I would like to share the article with when I am done.”
Who knew getting your links and copy up on someone else’s site for free was as easy as declaring that you would like to share it? In this case, the so-called article was called “How to Navigate an Airport with a Toddler in Tow.”
Perfect fit for this blog, huh?
“The reason I have reached out to you is because of your blog!” begins another message, this one apparently from a woman who survived Mesothelioma and wants to offer her “guidance, inspiration and hope” to others. “I contacted you because I feel that your blog would be an excellent place for me to share my story.”
What do you guys think?
Here’s one of my favorites, for its sheer devotion to the ridiculous premise that the e-mailer and I have some kind of relationship.
“Dear Alaina,” it begins. “It’s me, Steve Spill, the resident magician at Magicopolis in Santa Monica.”
“More than once I’ve heard someone say, ‘Hey, Steve, you ought to invite some bloggers to your long-running hit magic show Escape Reality!’ The most recent someone was Woody, from the Tikkun Holistic Spa, located a few doors down from us here on Fourth Street.’”
What the fuck.
“We spent a pleasant few minutes when we bumped into each other at lunch time. At one o’clock that morning, just as I lay me down to sleep, Woody’s suggestion flitted through my mind, but I couldn’t remember which particular bloggers he suggested.”
The rest of the story goes that Steve guessed Woody was talking about me in the Tikkun Holistic Spa, but since it was too late at night to call Woody to check, Steve sprang to the computer to write to me, just in case.
If you guys would’ve wanted to hear about Steve’s magic show, or if you know this Woody character, I sincerely apologize for not taking Steve up on his invitation.
Here’s another gem.
“Hi Alaina, Just writing to say how much I enjoy reading your site. We at Lifeinsurancequotes.org recently published an article, “How to Help When Your Spouse Loses a Parent”, that we think is tailor-made for your readers. If you agree, it’s our hope that you’d be willing to pass it to your readers. Whatever you do, keep up the great work! We’re big fans.”
What do you guys think? Tailor-made for you? If so, I’ll follow up with Lifeinsurancequotes.org right away.
Because of the all the sharp PR people I know, I am especially tickled by the belief that adding our names and a few friendly words to a mass e-mail turns a blind stab at free marketing (whether for au pairs, life insurance or God knows what else) into – hey presto! – online PR. The generators of these e-mails pretend not to realize that they can’t fake a relationship with me.
Is there a blogger somewhere getting taken in? I guess there must be – otherwise these messages wouldn’t exist. But by all means, keep them coming. In a world where bloggers are often derided as the pallbearers of worthwhile media, I like the reminder that I have standards.