Sheila Guides You to the Good Stuff

June 15, 2009

How to reach out to bloggers, and what makes us crazy

Reaching out; we all do it (courtesy exquisitur at Flickr CC)I recently received an email from a senior executive at a mainstream public relations (PR) firm.  She said that she has clients in the travel industry and they’d like to know how to reach out to bloggers, and specifically how to get a mention on my BootsnAll Family Travel Logue.

You know what’s next (bloggers are a different breed because we’re public, rapid and sharing) so to save myself from drafting an entirely new blog post when I’ve already written what I want to say, this is what I told her, shared here with you….

“In response to your question, the answer is yes, I do get a ton of PR/marketing emails and end up deleting most of them, and blocking those that are totally unrelated to family travel, sent to me 4 times or with giant attachments that clog up my life.

It is too hard (and not worth it for my [travel blog] readers) to keep up with the rising, ever-more-desperate stream of notices (desperate because of the economy) about hotel packages, good deals on ritzy, live-in-a-bubble resorts in Cancun (I’m not a resort kind of traveler, as any reader of my blog knows,) how CVS Pharmacy products can help my family road trip, blah blah.

The flood is really starting to impede my ability to see/respond to important emails that involve actual writing or consulting work for pay.

I want to blog about places I visit and things I do with my kids, not regurgitate, for free, press releases about resorts that I’ve never been to and will never visit.  I write for two travel blogs, two blogs about social media and another about drag racing – I don’t have time to plow through all that junk.

The few emails that resonate indicate that:

  1. The sender actually reads my blog, and not just to get my name to “personalize” their email blast. I particularly like the copy/paste of my name such that the greeting is one font and the press release pasted below is another.
  2. The topic ties into a place that I’ve been to and written about. I’ll admit that the current template on my Family Travel blog is NOT search-friendly and I’m addressing that with BootsnAll, but my topic categories can be found through Archives at the bottom of the front page.  You can’t read my mind to see where I’m going that I haven’t visited before, obviously, so PR might get lucky and hit me with something about someplace I happen to be planning to go (but I doubt it, so why waste your time?)
  3. The email topic ties to my focus of budget, independent, family-friendly travel. I’ve lived in the Middle East as a preteen and with my own kids in Asia and Europe, and have traveled all over the US.  I am so NOT the kind of person to stay in some all-inclusive package place in Cancun or Jamaica, so don’t inundate me with off-topic pitches.
  4. I would much rather support state/county/city tourism organizations than more commercial travel businesses.
  5. I’d rather deal with someone who has already “hung out” on my blog, by leaving a comment or two on some of my posts. Problem is, hardly any PR rep who’s blasted an email at me has ever stopped by and left a helpful comment and participated in the blog’s conversation BEFORE filling my IN box.

When I DO say “y’all come” to tourism organizations, they are often clueless. They’re so used to broadcasting, they don’t know how to interact in a two-way fashion.

For example, I’ve been running the 50 State Series on my family travel blog for weeks now, taking family-friendly suggestions from Twitter and Facebook for each state. I’m giving state tourism organizations a chance to toot their own horn, but I can’t believe how hard it is to get them to respond. Hel-LO!  Here’s the Vermont family travel 50 states post; that is the kind of stuff I want to blog about. Thank goodness for my Twitter followers; at least they know how to respond to calls for tips or I’d never get a post done each week.

Other insights:

  1. I talked about this outreach topic in a podcast with travel writer and blogger Pam Mandel for Canadian tourism tech expert Todd Lucier: A conversation with bloggers about their craft.  Some of your clients might find it helpful.
  2. They should also read this guest post by my Perceptive Travel editor Tim Leffel:  6 ways to improve your destination marketing (and why you’re toast if you don’t)

Sorry if any of this came across as excessively crabby, but there’s no magic bullet for blogger outreach. Good PR has always been about knowing your target journalist or writer, establishing a relationship BEFORE you pitch and not pitching blindly.

PR folks Geoff Livingston, Kami Huyse and Jason Falls have met and interacted with me on Twitter, on my blogs and in person at events like the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) tech conference. I respect their knowledge, count them as friends and would now listen to most anything they have to say to me. They’re the gold standard.”

That’s all you gotta do, really….

Did I miss anything? Am I, in fact, just too crabby?  🙂

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15 Comments

  1. I totally missed this one.

    I agree that knowing what a blogger likes to write about and keeping up with that is the key to garnering interest. And even then there are no guarantees.

    Relationships are even more important. Knowing people personally gives a more intimate view into what might interest them, and even passing on tips that have nothing to do with your product, event, etc.

    In the end it is about being a good citizen of the community not a bad case of “write about my stuff.”

    Comment by Kami Huyse — July 6, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

    • Hi Kami,

      I wish more people were as much of a professional as you are; thanks very much for your comment.

      Comment by Sheila Scarborough — July 6, 2009 @ 10:17 pm

  2. I don’t think you sounded crabby, I’d say you were passionate. And I’m (im)patiently waiting for Iowa’s turn on your travel series. =)

    Comment by Jessica O'Riley — July 2, 2009 @ 11:31 am

    • Thanks, Jessica. I have no problems being crabby, as long as it is justified. 🙂

      And yes, when we get to Iowa in my family travel blog’s 50 state series, I know just who to ping….

      Comment by Sheila Scarborough — July 2, 2009 @ 8:56 pm

  3. At least she asked what you were looking for……

    Perhaps you could have a standardized, “Thanks for stopping in. Here are my guidelines….” link to post readily to ALL inquiries. I guarantee if they stopped inquiring you’d be wondering where everyone is.

    You have a real opportunity to shape this.

    Comment by kelley burrus — June 16, 2009 @ 9:39 am

    • Hi Kelley,

      She got an answer straight from the gut. It’s great that she asked, but it is also her job to ask. I’m glad she’s doing her job, because she gets a good salary to do so at her large PR firm.

      I’m sorry to sound rather abrasive, and frankly, you’re one of the PR folk who understand social media so this is preaching to the choir stuff for you. I must tell you, however, that the vast majority of pitches that pour into my IN box every day are a waste of time, not only for me but for whoever is paying the people who are blindly sending them. Waste pisses me off.

      I am perfectly capable of continuing to write good content for multiple blogs even if a single PR pitch never hits my IN box again. I’m serious. I’ll find out about awesome deals or awesome events or awesome contests or awesome whatever through another channel, if it is that terrific. I’m pretty plugged in to travel news.

      But, they won’t stop coming. I’m now in multiple databases whether I asked to be or not….another thing that pisses me off – no “Unsubscribe me” option at the bottom of every email, so my only option to make some email crap go away is to block it.

      I will indeed draft a nice, tidy, more bulletized standard response email on blogger outreach, to go with the ones I already have to respond to “How can I get started as a travel writer?” and “How can I get people to read my blog?” I doubt I’ll send it out much; most of the ones who need to hear what I have to say will never actually ask, and the ones who already know how to do quality social media-related PR work already understand my point.

      Thanks very much for stopping by (and I’m only on my first cup of coffee, too!) 🙂

      Comment by Sheila Scarborough — June 16, 2009 @ 11:32 am

  4. This statement you made really resonates with me: “They’re so used to broadcasting, they don’t know how to interact in a two-way fashion.” I recently saw a tweet from a visitors bureau with a link to a press release about a PR campaign they were running. It tied in perfectly with a video I had done for a major tourism promotion company in the same state. I sent them an email with a link to the video and a short explanation of how it complemented their campaign. I got the standard one-line “come and visit us” response with no acknowledgement that they even looked at the video.

    Comment by David McRee — June 16, 2009 @ 8:11 am

    • Yep, but they’ll say to the boss, “See, we’re all hip with the social media” because they think it is simply another broadcast channel. They don’t know what to do when anyone actually talks back.

      Comment by Sheila Scarborough — June 16, 2009 @ 11:39 am

  5. You mention a racing blog. Link please.

    Comment by Phil — June 16, 2009 @ 1:56 am

    • Oh, sorry, it’s the motorsports blog Fast Machines at http://www.fastmachines.com – I normally cover NHRA drag racing for them but have been unable to keep up with it much this racing season (although every race weekend I say to myself, “Gotta post!”)

      I’ll get back in there eventually….

      Comment by Sheila Scarborough — June 16, 2009 @ 11:40 am

  6. I totally agree with everything you have said.

    I have tried to outreach with bloggers for a blog aggregator but I also had an established relationship with the people I was trying to reach! I always try and establish this first.

    People do business with people they know, like and trust. This is not an old idea just sometimes confused in the tech world we live in. I am new to blogging, Social Media but have been studying it 24/7 almost for awhile now, and am out of college for about a year.

    I have learned relationships are important and never underestimate your network. But you need to listen before you pitch anything!

    Comment by jamiefavreau — June 16, 2009 @ 12:58 am

    • Hi Jamie, Thanks, sounds like you’re on the right track. Networking and human relationships are still the same, these are simply relatively new tools for those activities. Old school annoying is still, well, annoying! 🙂 I appreciate your stopping by….

      Comment by Sheila Scarborough — June 16, 2009 @ 11:42 am

  7. opsss wrong sign in on my first comment. That was me – Liza 🙂

    Comment by A Maui Blog — June 16, 2009 @ 12:08 am

  8. Doesn’t sound to crabby to me 🙂
    I am also now receiving many PR request e-mails (and link requests) and your list of what e-mail resonates that makes you mention them are similar to what my resonates with me. Still a newbie but learning…

    Comment by ohanakai — June 16, 2009 @ 12:04 am

    • Hi Liza, Start setting up folders and automatic routing in your email system now – the deluge has just begun.

      Comment by Sheila Scarborough — June 16, 2009 @ 11:43 am


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