How to waste your time (and mine) on digital marketing: Four things to know about pitching to bloggers

“Hey you. You got a blog. Give my client a free piece of that action.”

Leave me alone, marketers, unless you can do the job right.
Leave me alone, marketers, unless you can do the job right. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

I’ve enjoyed watching my blog subscription base grow steadily (thanks, reader pals!), but as your reach expands, so too does the volume of bad marketing e-mails you get.

Since I do know firsthand how much of a grind promotions can be, I wish I could do something to improve the situation. I’ve written about the plague of bad, blog-focused marketing ploys before, and as a freelance journalist, I’ve written about the apparent death of public relations. But I don’t want to just disseminate my complaints. Maybe examples and professional dialogue about these mistakes will save us all a butt-load of time and irritation.

So for every marketer who has written to this blogger, here are the four things you don’t understand about marketing via blogs.

1)      Successful bloggers aren’t in the business of selling YOUR product

From the e-mail I received last week:

“I am writing to you on behalf of [website]. As every mom wants to record her child’s milestones; yet keeping a traditional, hand-written baby book current takes a lot of work. Fortunately for busy moms, chronicling her child’s life has never been easier. With [website], one of the first online baby journals, parents can effortlessly update their child’s baby book anytime, anywhere they can connect online.”

For our purposes, ignore the grammatical morass going on here. The problem is that this marketer assumes right out of the gate that I have some kind of investment in the product she’s promoting. I never heard of this product before, so why would I be inclined to use my own hard-built platform to promote that product for free?

You’re writing to me on behalf of some website trying to sell something? Oh, please, do tell me more.

2)      Successful blogs have a brand

I’m not sure why this one is so hard for marketers to grasp. If I were a newspaper or a magazine, would you assume that I would just run whatever you wanted me to because, well, you wanted me to? No. Successful publications have a specific brand, theme, and their own content needs.

That is not to say that every blog is on par with an established publication. A lot of blogs are tripe (just like a lot of publications, to be fair). But if you’re approaching a blog with a good-sized reader base, you should assume that the author(s) or administrator(s) have built that audience by hewing to their chosen mission, not by flinging around whatever random content came their way.

So take two seconds to see if your pitch has anything to do with that blogger’s chosen brand and focus.

3)      Successful blogs have a target audience – and it may not be yours

If you’re going to spend your time and money on marketing, make sure your message is getting in front of the right eyeballs. Unfortunately, many marketers do a weird and outdated math that goes like this: (eyeballs on a website + blogger with public e-mail address) x (almost zero effort) = sales for my client. It’s an obnoxious, scatter-shot technique.

The recent baby-book site pitch didn’t care at all that you, dear reader, didn’t assemble here for digital baby-book tips. And no, writing “we think this topic would be perfect for your readers” without saying anything about WHY doesn’t count – like the lady who wrote to me suggesting that my blog would be an ideal place for her to tell the story of her mesothelioma treatment. I’m sorry you have mesothelioma and I appreciate the attempt to get some mileage out of that as far as building your platform or charitable mission, but my readers did not subscribe to a feed of random amateur writers’ medical sagas. This market probably exists. But it’s not on my site and you would’ve known that with a little research.

4)      If successful blogs want guest content, they’ll ask

One of the eye-rollin’-est things about these promoters’ e-mails is the charade that they are doing me a favor by giving me content (some even go so far as to emphasize that they’ll offer it “free of charge!”). In the case of the baby-book site, the marketer invited me to “reserve an interview slot,” or accept a “customized article for your blog featuring some of [the site owner’s] best tips.”

Remember the sections above about how any blogger with a reasonable amount of exposure and credibility takes care of her brand and caters to her audience. What makes you think the blogger will turn a post over to someone she’s never met, selling a product she’s never heard of?

And what do you mean by “customized” for my blog?  You’ll produce a 500-1,500-word professional-grade essay about “Reasons to move your baby book online” written in my voice with an occasionally profane Mom-irking humor that satirizes bigotry or makes some larger literary, journalistic or cultural comment? Why don’t you get right on that?

I’m on to you, marketers. Let’s stop pretending that your unsolicited “guest post” is a lovely chance for me to “request an article” or “form a content relationship” (full of outside links). You want free airtime on MY site. What, exactly, do I receive out of this little arrangement, besides a sales-y blog post that will confuse and alienate my readers?

A missed opportunity

But if this latest marketer to approach me had done a moment of research and actually read a bit of my blog, she might have been able to make a pitch that I’d consider.

For example, if she’d done a simple search of my blog (available on the homepage) for topics relating to parenting or motherhood, she might have seen that earlier this year, I ran an interview with a friend and colleague who wrote a great book about balancing motherhood with a career.

Instead of opening the pitch with “Hello Alaina, I am writing to you on behalf of [website],” she could have written, “Hello Alaina, I enjoyed your recent blog interview with Erin Jay about working mothers. If you are looking for other entrepreneurial interview subjects on the topic of modern parenting, I could connect you with [website owner] for a new take on how busy parents can chart their kids’ growth.”

I’m picky about my blog content, so I can’t guarantee I would have agreed to interview an author I’d never heard of. But I would have respected the pitch and given some thought to whether it was worth pursuing —and either way, the marketer could have sparked a positive relationship.

I fully expect to get another abominable pitch as early as tomorrow. These methods must be working for someone, otherwise people wouldn’t still be trying them. Right? But at least I’ve said my piece.

Have you encountered these marketers on your blog? How did you respond? If you’re a marketing professional, what advice do you have?

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One Comment

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  1. To be successful you should make your brand popular. That’s the purpose of marketing. If your site is popular, you can have it all – you can demand.

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