Close
Close

PR People Getting Pushier with Bloggers Since the Recession

A guest post by Krizia from Eat Smart Age Smart

I’ve been blogging since June 2007 when I launched my beauty site . In April 2009, I launched a healthy eating site with the encouragement of my Internet coach Yaro Starak and in the last few months I’ve noticed a shift in the way I deal with publicists.

When I first started blogging, I actually went out and bought beauty products to review them on the site.

During a conference, an exhibitor told me that in my position (promoting skincare and make-up brands on the Internet at no cost to the manufacturer), I should never have to pay for products and I should be getting them for free by contacting the companies.

I didn’t need to hear that twice. On the following Monday morning, I started calling and emailing skincare and make-up companies to get review samples.

I crafted an introduction letter with the most important points about my blog and the reason why I was asking for samples.

In very little time, I started received samples and before I knew it, I became inundated with products from the U.S., Canada and as far away as the U.K.

It got so bad, that the guys at my pick-up area (I rent a UPS address) started complaining about the number of parcels (I’ve received several thousand dollars worth of samples) I was receiving and they were threatening to seriously increase my yearly fee. Luckily I received a few samples I could share with them and they quickly forgot about the idea of increasing my fees.

The samples were taking over my home and I couldn’t give them to friends and reviewers fast enough. In order to keep up with the flood of samples, I started running contests on the blog in order to give away products to 1) clear my home 2) put my readers to work so they could write reviews that I could post on the blog 3) secure some sponsorship dollars from beauty companies to keep up with these contests.

In 2007 and 2008, publicists (who I dealt with to get these samples) would email me to let me know they would gladly send me the samples I requested and asked that I email them once the post was up on the blog.

In many cases, publicists liked the concept of the product review so much that they would recommend my site to their marketing departments for paid reviews or other paid advertisement opportunities that were incredibly lucrative to me.

I still remember that in 2008, I got a really incredible contract via my ad service company (I have a company that takes care of selling ads on my blog) with a large pharmaceutical company to write six posts for them to try educating readers on the benefits of their product. The deal was to net me $8,000 for those six articles and the only thing I had to do was to get the copy reviewed by the pharmaceutical company to ensure that I wasn’t using any medical words in the wrong way.

This was an exciting point in my blogging career since that type of contract is far more lucrative than running site ads or Google AdSense ads.

Everything came to a stop in October 2008. As the stock markets were tumbling, panic was setting in, real estate prices were falling, companies were laying off workers and hard copy magazines were folding, I received an email from my media company informing me that the pharmaceutical company was ceasing the campaign I had started and that they had to cut back on the fees I was supposed to get (I only got $1,600 in the end for three features).

It was a devastating moment for me, but I thought things would get back to normal soon. I don’t think at that time that I understood how things were going to change.

Life as a blogger since the recession and my relationship with publicists

It took me some time to realize that things where changing; but because I was so busy working, I had not noticed the signs of change.

It’s only spending 90 minutes in one day answering emails from publicists that it hit me.

>>> Here’s what I was observing:

1) I was getting at least two to three times the number of pitches to review products. I was spending a lot of time emailing back publicists asking them to send basic essentials like photos, a press releases and price information. Some of these emails from publicists contained only a few short lines “we love your blog, will you feature our product, here’s a link.”… that’s not much to work with.

2) I was getting more requests from non-bloggers looking for link exchanges. These requests were coming from companies that had sites which sold beauty and hair care products on the Internet. They wanted me to add them to the front page of my blog, while they would give me a link on their blog on a page that was almost impossible to find and not visible from the homepage. This happened a lot and it floored me that these companies didn’t get that I didn’t want to give them free publicity while my site was buried somewhere on their site.

3) I was no longer receiving ANY offers for sponsorship opportunities on my site.

4) The few requests for free samples that I had sent were returned to me with a long string of questions:

  • “How long have you been blogging?”
  • “What’s your PR rank?”
  • “Are you on Twitter?”
  • “Are you on Facebook?”
  • “How many unique users?”
  • “How many page views?”
  • “How fast can you get our review on your site?”
  • “Have you won any awards in the past?”
  • “Send us links to past reviews you’ve written.”
  • “What angle will you take with this feature?”
  • “I need all your company details before we release any samples to you.”
  • “Will you promote this on social media networks?”
  • “Are you going to shot a YouTube video like you did for other brands?”
  • “You said the review would be up last week, WHERE IS IT?” … etc.

As you can see, I’ve started dealing with really demanding publicists and in some cases rude and impatient publicists. I was never asked so many questions in the past when I requested samples.

>>> Samples are being denied or scaled back:

I’ve contacted companies that in the past had sent me boxes and boxes of samples (and I do mean full-size products) and when I contacted them recently, they would say “sorry, we’re not sending any samples right now, but if you want we can provide you with information for you to write a review on your site”. Well, it’s hard to be excited about a product you’ve not tried.

In some cases, companies were sending those ridiculously small samples you get at your department store and it’s still unclear to me how they expect me to write a review when I can only test the product for two days (we usually test products for two-to-three weeks before writing a review.

Here’s a photo of products I received the same week for review:

Samples

As you can see one company sent me the smallest possible size while the other company sent me full size products.

Maybe it had to do with the niche?

The interesting thing is that I launched a new blog on healthy eating and healthy lifestyles in April 2009 (www.EatSmartAgeSmart.com) and my relationship with publicists is vastly different from one niche to another. The blog tackles healthy eating, but I also focus on fitness. The fitness publicists have not been really easy to deal with during this recession.

One company (which manufactures supplements) that contacted me to send products for review also wanted to know how much it would cost to sponsor spots on my site. They actually wanted to pay to have banners on my site and not only receive a free review!

I remember that when I sent them the finished post I wrote for them, the publicist sent an email thanking me for getting their company circulating in the social media networks. They were thrilled and I was thrilled.

In contrast, I’ve contacted a number of fitness companies who have said “NO, we don’t send samples to bloggers. We only deal with major media. If you want to test the product, you’ll have to buy it”.

In the cases where a fitness company was willing to send me samples, I’d be subject to daily or weekly emails asking: “When will our review be up?” to “The client is getting nervous and impatient, WHERE IS THE REVIEW?” to “I saw the review and there are things that you wrote that are wrong.” to “We don’t like ‘this word’ you need to change it in the review NOW”.

Most fitness reviews have been received with a string of negativity, while my healthy eating reviews are usually quite well received and the publicists or owners of companies jump for joy at the idea that I’m helping get the word out.

So how am I dealing with publicists since the recession?

  • In the case of negative backlash, I’ve decided to ignore those publicists and not let them affect me or affect my work. I usually won’t work with that publicist anymore.
  • When I get praised for a review, I quickly email the publicist and company back and thank them and I’ll usually get my traffic assistant to take that link to more social media networks.
  • I’ve created an auto-reply that delivers an email with a link that takes publicist straight away to a PDF they can download that gives them all the requirements we need to write a post. If we don’t get all those elements, I will pass on the review and will not chase after publicists. This also has helped cut back on the number of follow-up emails I send publicists.
  • I’ve set clear expectations in that PDF and do make it clear that a review will take eight weeks before it’s featured on the site. And that once the review is up, I will send them a link.
  • I’ve said ‘no’ many times to publicists who had a burning deadline to meet if I couldn’t make it fit in my publishing calendar and if that would be adding to my stress level.
  • When I contact a company for samples, if I feel that getting samples is hard work and I’m being asked loads of questions and am given tons of excuses why they don’t release samples to smaller media outlets, I’ll usually walk away and find another product to review or another topic for my blog post.

I’m not the only one finding it hard dealing with publicists these days

I’ve spoken to other beauty bloggers and editors of magazines (who were not bloggers) and they’ve also found that more and more publicists are being quite pushy, demanding and sometimes rude.

They also feel things are quite different since the recession and they’ve found themselves having to put their foot down and ask the publicist to no longer contact them on a daily or weekly basis and tell them that once the review is ready, they will be contacted.

My theory is simple: Publicists and companies now know that bloggers have a lot of weight on the Web and with the recession hitting advertising budgets really hard, publicists are turning to bloggers to get the word out about their products and also as quick way to getting into social media networks without having to spend any money.

Manufacturers realize that buying a full page ad in a magazine that would costs several hundreds of thousands of dollars will affect their profits if they aren’t able to calculate the rate of return on investment, while hiring a PR firm to get a few samples (that costs very little to the company) out to thousands of bloggers and demanding quick turn around on the features is much cheaper.

They get their new launches to circulate all over the Internet and thousands of bloggers telling their readers to go out and buy the product, and they don’t even have to write a cheque to the bloggers.

This situation could be quite specific to lifestyle bloggers, but I’d love to know if other bloggers also feel more pressured when dealing with publicists since the beginning of the recession.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Check out the incredible features and the selection of designs. It's that simple - start using Genesis now!

Comments

  1. I agree with Jennifer Mattern in that publicist does not equal PR pro. They are very different, though sometimes one person might wear both hats. But that’s not really what I want to respond to here.

    When companies first began enlisting publicists to place product on blogs, it was a free-for-all (as you recognize). Publicists were sending anything and everything to bloggers without much research. There weren’t THAT many bloggers (in comparison to today). Blogging, in the last couple of years, has come of age, and now, it is critical that “PR people” find out who they’re dealing with and what kind of readership they have to try to determine ROI of giving away thousands of dollars worth of product. Organizations are still buying those full-page ads, endorsements, tv spots, etc, but they’re also including reaching out to bloggers as part of their strategies.

    If anything, take it as a compliment that “PR people” are taking the impact of blogs more seriously, recognizing that it’s a legitimate way to gain exposure.

    Furthermore, I don’t like this them-against-us mentality that seems to have developed between bloggers and PR pros. I’ve never had a bad experience with a blogger. In fact, I’ve developed some great relationships through working with them.

  2. Huh.

    So…does this mean I’m lucky that nobody reads my “little” blog? Less stress, right? ;)

  3. Arie Rich says:

    GREAT post! I enjoyed every bit of information listed here! Thank u!

    I recently got contacted by a PR company asking that I do a blog post on one of their clients, that I have reviewed before on my own. I didn’t mind, I love doing small reviews. After that review they contacted me again about another review they wanted me to do, and that they’ll provide me with free tickets to the show I was reviewing. That was super cool! They enjoyed the post! I enjoy working with them. I can see how it can get overwhelming when u have a lot of PR companies asking ur for reviews and u trying to meet deadlines.

    I enjoyed this post, because it teaches of what to look fwd in worst case scenarios, what to expect from certain PR companies.

    Thanks again!

    Arie Rich
    http://www.kmpblog.com

  4. @Jessica Nunemaker

    Yeah, less stress but less earning. ;)

  5. Carleenp says:

    This is a bit of an aside, but for the commentators who are concerned that PR people are hounding them or dislike their practices in how they pitch a product (again, I personally haven’t had many serious problems with PR people and I just ignore the irrelevant stuff), I suggest that you become more selective in accepting free products.

    I will go even further and suggest that, if you are selective in what you receive, that you will not only enjoy writing your reviews more, but you will also have better relationships with those PR people who you choose to work with, because you won’t be overwhelmed by trying to respond to many different people and will get to know the others quite well. Ignore the irrelevant product pitches and respond only to those that really interest you and who seem genuinely interested in your site.

    And I further suggest that if you spend more time on products that you purchase, or test in the store, or test through a friend,or whatever, that you will gain readership because your content will be more unique: You can cover the item that nobody else is covering and get good search traffic, or you can cover that widget that 100 other bloggers are also writing about because of a PR pitch and get lost in the shuffle. More original content will lead to better success and monetization of your site in the long run.

    Overall, it would also be nice to see less concern and greed about free products. Products samples definitely have their place and do assist bloggers in having material to write about, but they are not, and should not be, the primary focus or purpose of any blog.

  6. As someone who built a tiny brand almost completely with grassroots blogger outreach campaigns, I am completely sensitive to approaching review bloggers with respect. I always try to make my pitches short, sweet, clear and on target with a press release, a couple of good pictures and a link. Now I am out on my own offering consulting services and connecting to the hundreds of bloggers with whom I was lucky enough to build real relationships.The formula is simple to companies and PR people – pitch on target (don’t bother the wrong people with the wrong product), do some research – know a little about who you are pitching and actually take a couple of minutes to read their blog, be respectful – rememer YOU are asking THEM to do your brand a service, be willing to offer a free product for a free review, communicate clearly, give bloggers a press release, photos, marketing collateral and any other information they need, don’t be a nag and for God’s sake say THANK YOU!

  7. Tonita Perry says:

    Thank you for such an informative post.

    As a member of the flack profession, it saddens me that we are not treating bloggers as we would traditional media outlets. Perhaps, we should plan our campaigns better as to not be so pushy, which goes back to poor planning on our part does not constitute an emergency post on your blog.

    Thanks again and this is a must share with colleagues.

  8. BLOGERCISE says:

    It’s an age old problem – who has the power here? Who pays the affiliate’s wages? At the end of the day, if your blog doesn’t actually produce anything then your earning potential is always at the mercy of advertisers and merchants.

    This highlights one of the weaknesses of being a full-time blogger, and the importance of perhaps creating your own book etc that you can sell.

    It is important for the “market” that we aren’t afraid to drop merchants that don’t meet our expectations. This ensures that those that exploit amateur bloggers are forced to look at what they are doing. However unfortunately many big stores will simply not notice the loss of small time affiliates.

    I work for a large site where 95% of our partner traffic comes from 5 sites. And then another 200 or so make up the rest. The reality is that if all the small sites dropped away we wouldn’t really notice! That said, we treat all our partners equally – but I bet not all companies think like us.

  9. @Carleenp – that is a very good point and as I’ve explained at the end of the article … that’s what I’fe started doing.

    The aggravation is just not worth it.

    Krizia

  10. @Jessica Nunemaker – I’m learning to deal with the stress because getting good keywords on my site helps with traffic and income.

    It’s not a question of no longer working with publicist, but working better with them and letting them know how I work and getting them to respect that.

    Krizia

  11. Ed Martin says:

    Krizia,
    Do you ever write a negative review? Especially for products you’ve received for free?
    In your reviews, do you disclose when products were sent to you to review for free? I know this is the Internet but what are the standard?
    Just curious

  12. Paul Hassing says:

    Dear Krizia, thank you for a fascinating post. It was educative and entertaining on every level. I learned a heap of stuff and you’ve triggered some ideas in my mind that I’m keen to try. Darren did well to get you in as a guest! Best regards, P. :)

  13. I think all these companies are holding their breath right now during the recession just like everyone else. Everyone is scared to pinch a penny. The unfortunate thing is that NOW is the time to spend money on marketing when sales are down, and using Bloggers and social media is likely the most efficient way to get the word out. Unfortunately, investing in Blogging appears an unforeseen risk for most companies in tumultuous financial times.

    I have never had a problem with a company hounding me for a review, and the company that asked me to change the content of my review I discontinued contact with them. If I didn’t like the product I will be frank that there will be no product review for x,y,z reasons. Feedback.

    My reviews are not paid, therefore the research in to the products costs me a great deal of time, and thus I see as a loss that I take for my readers….albeit I get paid to translate research articles for food and herbal medicine companies….that is different. I also get a ton of products sent to me….so many I don’t have time to do all the reviews so I just pick through the stuff that is my absolute favorite, that meets high quality control standards, is independently laboratory tested, certified organic, between a 0-2 at http://www.EWG.org and that I absolutely can’t live without! This is the best solution since it makes for the best review.

    I think what this article is really about is the transition of PR from the paper world to the Web world….many companies just don’t get the power of a blog, or the power of social media….but in time everyone will be on board and there will be little explaining and “selling” to do in regards to your blog. Your blog will instantly be seen as a value. The less magazines and newspapers the better for the environment. Many companies are clueless about social media.

    I’m hoping that in time after we have pioneered this web path there will be a more consistent working standard between PRs and Bloggers.

  14. Danny Brown says:

    Coming from both sides of the coin here (I have a PR background and I blog extensively – just not for review money), I feel you miss a lot of important points here.

    Bloggers are just like any other media outlet that PR agencies use – you need to prove your credentials, you need to be relevant to their client’s requirements, you need to be a respectable media outlet, and you need to be prepared to answer some questions.

    We’ve all seen how easy it is for bloggers to take their grievances online (whether they were fully warranted onot) and not have the same kickback that traditional media has. Thankfully the FTC is stepping in to monitor this, which can only be good for everyone.

    You mention that publicists “know bloggers can get their products into social media without spending money”. I’m taking it you’re bypassing the man hours that go into research time to locate niche bloggers? Or the time spent contacting these bloggers and setting up the relationship? Or the cost of mailing all these products out? Or monitoring the after-effects once a post goes live? Trust me, nothing could be farther from the truth if you feel it doesn’t cost money to run a blogger outreach campaign.

    I agree there are some crappy PR folk. Just the same as there are some crappy bloggers who’ll take advantage wherever they can.

    Review blogging is a business, just like any other. Sometimes you have good years, sometimes you don’t. Blaming the other guy isn’t the way to make sure you have more good years than bad ones.

  15. I really enjoyed this article. I’m wondering if you would provide a template of the PDF that you mention (at a fee of course!) for bloggers like me. I would use it to send to restaurants or businesses I would consider reviewing.

    I also struggle with the ethics of getting free samples, or a free meal in exchange for a review. Is it ethical? Should I feel okay about it?

    cheers,

    @vernongirl

  16. Tracy says:

    Great post. I’ve been thinking about adding giveaways and requesting product samples regarding my blog. This is a post I want to be able to refer back to.

    Thanks!

  17. Erika says:

    Thank you for a thoughtful post. I am a little confused though. In the beginning of your post you are disgruntled at receiving so many samples that they clogged your mailbox. Then you are complaining that you aren’t receiving enough or large enough products. Every job has its ups and downs, pros and cons and you can’t have it both ways. We are all forced to make concessions in whatever career path we may choose. In addition, the entire mentality of “I should receive full-sized samples at my request and not have to justify myself to PR people or product companies with traffic and ranking information” is mystifying.

    @Kimberly Regarding your comment “It’s a shame that the horrible economy has trickled down to effect everyone like this”. When I contemplate the devastating effects of the current economic climate including numerous friends and family members being out of work, bloggers’ inability to receive a full-sized $100 eye cream is not at the top of my prayer list. I for one am grateful to be employed right now and to have a steady cash flow and have learned take the challenges with a grain of salt instead of bemoaning the injustice of giving up my substantial bonus, a week’s vacation and numerous other benefits far outweighing smaller sample sized beauty items.

    This post definitely highlights the differences between traditional journalists and the new generation of bloggers. I think bloggers need to decide who they would like to be…unbiased critics, trusted authorities, journalists or simply advertising sales people. If you are taking compensation for reviews, you are not a journalist. Let’s hope the consumer can tell the difference.

  18. Caitlin says:

    I agree with Bionic Beauty here. I’m not sure if it was unintentional, but the article comes across as whiny more than informative.

    Though perhaps it’s my own bias showing; I ran an online business for 5 years, and I was *always* getting requests from random bloggers for free products to “review”. They would often ask for the most expensive item to review. 9 times out of 10, I’d visit their blog and learn that they had about 12 subscribers (who were usually other hobby-bloggers-who-”reviewed”-free-items). I’m sorry, you want a $50 product for free so you can tell a dozen people about it? No thanks. You can bet I learned to ask lots of questions when someone requested free product!

    I think the lesson for both sides is: don’t be demanding.

  19. Paul,

    Thank you so much for such kind words.

    I’m quite happy that I was able to inspire you!

    I wanted to share my experience because I find that as bloggers we can feel quite isolated.

    Also, I come to Darren’s site to learn each day … to be able to teach something to other readers is such an honour for me.

    Thanks again for your comment!

  20. Mal Keenan says:

    Thanks krizia, I enjoyed your post. My wife would have been in heaven with all those samples. :-)

    The downside of running an internet marketing blog is that all my samples are in digital format.

    Mal Keenan

  21. sbunting108 says:

    I personaly haven’t really had the same experience as you. I run a photo blog and I review some photography books I receive from publicists. And I personaly havent found them being any pushier infact quite the opposite as I am constantly building a better relatonship with them.
    http://photofingers.blogspot.com

  22. Daisy says:

    I ran into trouble with a book review group that didn’t like my honest review of a book. They asked that I change my review; I declined to do so. Since then, I’m still on their email list, but I’ve been blocked from doing reviews; I can’t click into their signup page.
    Well, it’s their loss. I’m a teacher, an educated writer, and an avid reader of all kinds of literature. Too bad they don’t value integrity in their reviewers.

  23. I haven’t found the PR people to be pushy. I do find that some of them don’t take the time to read my about page before they send a PR release. Many times I am sent “ungreen” products as a green blogger.

    What I have struggled with is being paid to do reviews. I have not accepted them because I was afraid that this was a conflict of interest. Does anyone else feel this way too?

  24. Anna says:

    No offence, but you’re sort of the reason why bloggers have a bad name. You write for samples, but then you can’t even review them yourself so you’re just give them to friends?

    And then, you’re accepting paid reviews for some products, which I am assuming that you don’t make any distinction about on your site.

    I’m in marketing and I’ve been a journalist in the pass. This kind of blurry line is just the reason why bloggers incite wariness on both the part of PR folks and also general readers.

    Yes, we have a budget for review products. But the products cost money. I’m not giving you samples so that you neighbor can have a free $50 skin creme. That they are being more diligent is simply that they are being more careful that the inventory that they are using is getting results. When you give something to your neighbor or friends, that’s not useful. A giveaway sounds good to a blogger, but unless you’re generating enormous buzz around your giveaways, that’s a wasted product, too. (A user review will not have the weight of the blog author.)

    I think it’s interesting that you’re complalining that you’re just not getting as many freebies, when earlier, you’re complaining that you were getting too many.

  25. Darren Rowse says:

    Thanks all for the comments and debate. Happy to have some robust discussion around this as I hear both sides of this argument most days from bloggers and PR people.

    Hopefully somewhere between the points of view something constructive can come out of the discussion.

  26. @Erika – I do not take money for reviews.

    The example I talk about above for the 6 articles at $8,000 were not for products.

    Products are sent to us and we do an unbias review after testing the products for 3-4 weeks.

  27. @ Mal – that’s is sad that all of your samples are digital :-)

  28. Condo Blues says:

    I suppose this is a matter of perspective. I worked in TV promotions. When considering a print or radio ad buy getting the reach (# of readers, subscribers etc in blog world) was necessary to determine what media we wanted to buy to send our ad message in order to reach a specific audience. When a PR agency or company asks me for those things, I understand that’s why they need to know. I also realize they have to report those things back to the companies that hire them. Chances are through Technoarti authority etc. they probably have a good idea anyway.

    I blog about green living and DIY. Most of my posts are how to or about projects. However I do some product reviews. Not a lot. Some items I buy myself. Some companies have offered me things for review. I only review things that I think will benefit my readers. Which means that I’ve politely turned down some items that I personally would like to try but since it doesn’t fit my niche or in one situation a a store that was in my city (even though I had shopped there in the past and liked it.)

    I haven’t had any issues with the PR people, publicists (yes they are different jobs) or small companies that I’ve worked with being rude or pushy. I’m always clear and professional in my communication with the PR companies I work with. My PR contact information is on an area on my blog that tells companies how I like to work and that I disclose everything about how I got the product I’m reviewing. I also make it clear that I will write a balance review.

    So far, I’ve had a good relationship with all of the companies I’ve worked with because both of us have stated our professional expectations before agreeing to send a product/review the product.

  29. liz says:

    as long as there is discussion there is always something to. pressure will always be when there is recession, its when you have to prove something other than your task.

  30. very well written post. You are so very right about pr people right now.

    I am definitely going to implement the pdf thing.

    Network Marketing

  31. Jeebus. Canadian folk singers are being eaten by wild coyotes and we are supposed to worry whether or not the recession is impacting relationships between bloggers and PR reps?

    Let’s put things into their proper perspective!

    ~ Chelle B.

  32. John Samuel says:

    An interesting post. Never thought about this aspect or impact of recession on bloggers. Thanks for sharing tips from a real life scenario

  33. Minute Muse says:

    First of all, thanks to Krizia for posting such a passionate piece that opens to the door to a much-needed, timely discussion. There are entire classes at universities now dedicated to trying to define the fine line between smart PR and annoying the bloggers.

    Like some of the other commentators, I am both a Marketing/PR professional by day, and a blogger by night (not a publicist). As Seinfeld would say – Not that there is anything wrong with that…. =)

    It all comes down to the fact that there are many different types of bloggers. Some blog for business, some for pleasure, and some who are a combination of the two.

    I’d like to stem from Danny Brown’s point about the research time involved with locating and communicating with niche bloggers. Since social media and bloggers’ opinions make or break certain industries (like popular films, etc.), it is impossible to ignore the prominent bloggers in the niche industries. I used to intensely research and build relationships with bloggers who I TRULY felt would want to know about what I was discussing in the near future, so it was less a pitch then a “heads up” / it’s finally time to talk about the aforementioned product/event. The bloggers in this case are happy I sent them the information, because they want to be on the cutting-edge and inform their readers (like any other media outlet).

    It is unfortunate that there isn’t a popular standard in existence that defines certain bloggers as “open to media / press release submissions that are relevant to their blog.” Unless the ones listed on paid services like Cision are completely opt-in and only using blogs who happily encourage PR submissions?

  34. Fania says:

    whoa. I have read your articles very seriously. Wow. nice written posts. And thanks very much for sharing your experience with us. You must be a very excellent bloggers.

  35. @ The Offended Blogger – Darren’s site about bloggers sharing their experience and NOT about Canadian folk singers being eaten by wild coyottes so in that respect this post is quite in perspective.

    There are loads of bad things happening in the world but this post is about sharing an experience and learning from all the other bloggers who were willing to take time to share that experience or comment.

  36. @ Donny Gamble Pro Network Marketer – I wish I had thought of the PDF earlier, but now it’s an auto-responder and PR people know and now they send most of all the things I need to run a story.

    It’s much better now.

    Krizia

  37. Extremely helpful post, and I’m not in the health and fitness genre. I have a small , but growing visual arts partnership blog. I found your information helpful to my blog on many levels. I’ve also dealth with snotty publicists who wrote ME to ask us to be a stop on their writer’s blog tour. They asked my similar questions that I’ve never been asked before, and then turned me down, as if I had asked them for the tour stop! Yes, it’s a different age now. Thankx again for your post.

  38. Matt Robold says:

    While I’ve never received pay for reviews from any producer, I have noticed that A) There is a lot more attention being focused on blogs and B) That some of the PR people are getting rather pushy.

    I’ve found that, at least as far as spirits goes, a lot of the pushy reps are also reps that aren’t used to dealing with bloggers. They’re more comfortable dealing with traditional media and I think approach things as “We’re doing this nobody blogger a favor.” I think that some of the brands are also causing this by making demands from the marketing firms that they in turn have to make of the bloggers – only to have bloggers tell them no.

    I’ve found a few brands and marketing groups that seem to understand what is and isn’t kosher when dealing with blogs if you aren’t paying them, and I tend to work with them more frequently and always think of them first when looking for sponsors for contests or other special content on my blog.

  39. Hi Krizia, thanks for the interesting post – and the great discussion in comments!

    I’m also the publisher of a site that also features products we love, and we’ve been doing it since 2006 back before anyone was offering to send us anything.

    I have not found that publicists are more demanding now. What I do see is that we are now approached by far more publicists, and more of them are completely off base, sending mass, poorly targeted pitches to a list they bought. I also notice that there are more junior people pitching us, who might not be as savvy about how to ask for information or how to develop a relationship. Perhaps this accounts for some of the rudeness you describe.

    I think the expectation that we can offer a return on their investment is a reasonable one, which is why bloggers should be prepared to demonstrate traffic or influence within their niche.

    However I wouldn’t say this is entirely a matter of the economy (as is with your sponsored post example) but a matter of the world of review blogs exploding. There are now thousands of bloggers who call themselves reviewers to varying degrees, and, as some commenters have already described, they are not shy about asking for freebies. Beauty publicists are not only dealing with beauty bloggers, but with mom bloggers, wellness bloggers, trend forecasters, green bloggers…you get the point.

    Can you blame the publicists for trying to separate the wheat from the chaff?

  40. Maggie says:

    I’m confused: the disclaimer section on your site contains this Q/A:

    “Do you get paid to talk about the products that are featured on the site? That would be great, but we don’t. We do our research and find the latest and the greatest products dealing with aging well and we share them with you.”

    Am I reading it incorrectly or is that actually not a true statement if you’re saying that you do, in fact, get paid to talk about certain products?

  41. I would first like to compliment you on the PDF idea. I am a PR account executive and I frequently work with bloggers to set up reviews, giveaways, etc. A PDF of some sort would be helpful, and it would help cut back on e-mail time :)

    I do have to say, I think it is sad to make a generalization of PR people, just based on a few interactions. No matter what industry you look at, there are always going to be those who just don’t get it, those who don’t understand the benefits of building a mutually beneficial relationship, and those who don’t have the patience to realize good things come to those who wait.

    Like myself, many PR professionals work hard to secure client coverage, whether it be on blogs, newspapers, magazines, etc. We work on deadline, but also understand bloggers are under a lot of pressure as well. As a PR professional, I personally take the time to research blogs before deciding to pitching them, getting to know the blogger via posts and ‘about me’ pages, and making sure I am offering up something that will benefit the blogger and their readers.

    My advice; build relationships with PR people who are respectful, easy to work with and genuine. Stay away from those who are “pushy and rude.” Ultimately, you have a choice of who you work with, and I would just assume you would only want work with those who make your life easier :)

    Thanks for sharing!

  42. Steve Mullen says:

    I’m still trying to figure out why it’s a bad thing for a PR pro to ask questions to determine whether it’s worth the time and money it takes to send out samples. The price of shipping plus the price of the product (particularly if it’s something that can’t be “sample sized”) amounts to an investment on the part of the company that makes the product. A few questions doesn’t sound unreasonable to me.

  43. Vivek says:

    Really the word recession had shown its impact. this word changes the life of many people.I am an engineering student and it affects me badly in getting placed. So i started blogging and want to be a professional blogger

  44. Karrie says:

    I’m sorry you’ve encountered some rude publicists. It’s never okay for people to treat each other badly.

    But I agree with others that there is a difference between publicists and PR professionals, so it’s not a good idea to use those terms interchangeably.

    Also, once you begin accepting money for posts or soliciting free stuff, you put yourself in a somewhat contractual position. If you compare blogging to journalism, you no longer have the objectivity of the reporters/editors. You’ve moved yourself closer to the newspaper’s ad sales department. If a company places an ad with a newspaper, they absolutely expect to know the paper’s circulation and demographics of the readers. So, I don’t think many of those questions you’re receiving are rude questions at all. (Not accounting for tone, attitude, etc. of the person when asking the question.)

  45. Megan says:

    Your complaints have fallen on deaf ears here. Bloggers have been given way too much power in the past couple years anyway. What are your credentials to be seen as an authority of beauty or health and fitness?? And the fact that you would take money and generous “samples” shows that you don’t deserve that amount of respect – get a real job!!

  46. Louise says:

    Interesting post. As a PR person myself, I’m sorry you’re finding it challenging to deal with some people in our industry. The majority of us operate ethically and professionally and it’s disheartening when we see these kinds of complaints.

    By way of context, I wanted to share some information on how the recession has affected us. It does not excuse the behaviour of my pushy colleagues but might help you understand that we’re all in this together.

    First of all, although it is our hope when we send samples to anyone (mainstream magazine or newbie blogger) that they will a) try the product, b) like it and c) write about it. There is no expectation that sending it automatically guarantees a review. Anyone who thinks that, on either side, is mistaken. What we would prefer in most cases, is to build a lasting trusted relationship with you as we have done with mainstream media. That’s difficult if you’re too busy to answer our emails or return our phone calls.

    Second, as our clients have seen their revenues decline, many of them have placed unreasonable expectations on the PR firms in terms of coverage. In many cases, we are expected to generate the same amount of coverage for budgets that have been significantly reduced since last year. Often, we are given a timeline for success (e.g. two months) and unless we achieve the desired coverage in that window, we are not given credit.

    Lastly, some clients have asked us to provide proof that we are being “agressive” with media. We of course tell them that we are trying to build relationships and annoying people is not going to achieve those ends but, sadly (and probably due to pressure from their own internal organizations) they put a lot of pressure on us to do it.

    The tactics you have put in place to manage your work flow sound good and everyone has a right to do what they need to bring some sanity into their lives. I just wanted to enlighten you as to the tough position we’re sometimes in. It’s always a delicate balancing act between pleasing our clients (who pay our bills) and pleasing media/bloggers (our target audience).

    Hope this helps

  47. @Karrie Good point about publicists/pr. But along the same lines, it’s important to distinguish that bloggers are not journalists, even though some journalistic standards apply.

    Also, there is a difference between accepting money for posts and receiving products as a tool for review. The writers at [fill in name of favorite fashion magazine here] are not walking down to Duane Reed and purchasing eye shadows out of their own pocket. They make a phone call to Cover Girl and they’re sent over.

  48. Rahul says:

    Few companies want free product reviews and exposure. Even they don’t have basic marketing sense. They start asking ridiculous questions what is your pr and unique.

  49. Lori says:

    As a beauty publicist, I have a lot of thoughts on this. For one thing, we’ve always included magazine circulations on client reports, to let them know how many people are seeing their placement. We’ve just never had to ask the editors we work with for that number, because circ rates are publicly available. Unless your blog is big enough to be listed in a professional media database, unique visitors stats are not public knowledge, and we have no one to ask except the writer we work with to place the story. Of course, PR people should be polite when asking, but I think it is a perfectly valid question to determine whether the exposure is worth the cost of the product and shipping. These days, clients’ budgets are tighter, and they don’t have as many samples to send out. And unfortunately, there are so many “pop-up bloggers” requesting free samples, we have to do some research on the outlet. What else would you recommend?

    I also think that a few years ago, no one really understand how to measure the value of these online placements, so never asked about unique visitors, etc. Budgets were big enough that samples were abundant, and clients never asked about the stats because they also weren’t blog/internet savvy. But I also think clients never really valued online placements either, until recently – my clients rarely did. So in a way, I view this as a sign that companies are taking these online reviews seriously – as seriously as print coverage, and that’s a good thing. It may be annoying to answer all the time, but I think its a sign of legitimacy that people are asking.

  50. I don’t know anything about beauty products, but I can say that the number of book publishers contacting me to request reviews is increasing. I’ll never have enough time in the day to read everything they want to send me, though, so I won’t likely review anything sent unless the publisher has contacted me first about that specific title and received an OK from me. I have never had to contact a book publisher; they’re apparently actively seeking out bloggers.

    I’ve also had to deal with a few of those “pushy” PR people who seem to want me to repost their every press release. I can’t do that, of course. Maybe one of ten, though, will be interesting enough (to my readers) for me to do a story, though, so I don’t really discourage it either.