PR’s own goal: Or why blogger pitching has been worse than the French national team this World Cup

Ding! Another day, another poorly worded and conceived pitch arrives in my personal inbox, and my heart sinks a little further towards despair. If it weren’t for the Germans, and Portugal’s goal fest against the North Koreans, I’d have received more useless pitches than goals this World Cup.

Quite simply, judging by the majority of pitches than have landed in my inbox, general PR from companies looking to take advantage of the World Cup has ranged from poor to truly shocking. Most have made no attempt to remotely engage.

At least one email has been so laughably bad, I’ve sent it on to friends and colleagues so they can marvel that, yes, some agencies are still much worse than had previously been imagined.

I’m not in the habit of naming and shaming, but at least one agency has come close to me breaking this general self-imposed rule. Not that they’d know – judging from their emails I’d be shocked if they’ve even ever bothered to read anything I write.

Here’s a few selected highlights:

  • An email starting with the words: “Hi, we’ve created some virals for your blog.” No, no you haven’t.
  • An fairly obvious copy and paste email email urging me to cheer on England three days after they were knocked out.
  • A general assumption that I was a fanatical England fan. I support Wales. This is fairly obvious.
  • An email asking me to send a copy of my publication to agency x if I ran a piece on the product they were hawking.
  • The PR who sent a pitch during the opening game. We had better things to do at that stage.
  • Several emails that had nothing to do with the World Cup, other than a hastily added sentence to include a reference. You’re fooling no-one here.
  • All bar two emails started with ‘Hi’. Not ‘Hi Gary,’ or any attempt to make it personal. Just ‘Hi’.
  • One insinuating I would be so desperate for content during a two day break of football that their pitch was the only way I could keep my readers hooked.
  • Hardly any emails made any reference to the fact I write for half a dozen places at the best of times. It was always ‘for your blog’. Do they mean this place and its five readers?

There have been two exceptions to this general trend – two well-crafted, engaging pitches where the PR had clearly read the type of things I write about, read my profile and made a general effort.

They were the only two I replied to – and if they’re reading, you know who you are, and I’m sorry I’ve not been able to write about the information in your pitch. It was simply a case of lack of time. But I really did appreciate your emails and the personal touches. If I was using good examples of how to pitch to bloggers, these would be among them.

Speaking to other bloggers, the trend seemed to be depressingly similar. They too had received endless pitches from PRs labouring under the illusion that we were so excited about the World Cup, we’d write about any old tat that mentioned it.

They were half right. We’ve all been very excited about the World Cup.

I’d even go as far as to say that once the World Cup kicked off, unless the pitch was something very pertinent to the general narrative of the tournament, then football bloggers should have been the last people to pitch to.

The reason: we’ve all got more than enough to write about. With three games a day for the first two weeks, and then a couple more a day for a week after that, it’s really not as if any football blog is struggling for content during the World Cup. And as most bloggers generally have day jobs, unless it’s a pretty spectacular, the pitch is likely to be deleted, assuming it even gets read.

The really smart PRs – and there have been a few – would have got their campaigns and pitches in at least a couple of weeks in advance of the tournament. That stage is a bit of a deadzone, with a lack of any content or decent talking points.

And – on a small tangent – twofootedtackle’s Chris expressed amazement that I’d received so many general PR pitches. I’m such an infrequent writer, and aren’t fixed to any specific publication that I’m not an overly easy writer to target. Quite often the editors of the places I write for receive the same release, which is a bit of a waste of an email. There’s really not a great deal of point sending me a general release at the moment.

I’d like to stress that I’m definitely not PR-unfriendly – quite the contrary, if it’s a well-written, personalised and targeted pitch then I’ll make an effort to write about it, although this isn’t always possible. I’ve written some very interesting and enjoyable pieces off the back of good pitches.

But as somebody who has done plenty of blogger outreach, and still does the occasional bit in this area, I’m far less tolerant of badly done pitches, especially because I know that this stuff really isn’t rocket science and really isn’t hard to do well.

And at the end of the day, I can just hit the delete button. The guys at the brand who’ve paid for blogger outreach – and have no doubt been told that x number of blogs have been hit – are throwing thousands of pounds down the drain for incredibly bad PR and probably don’t even realise it.

UPDATE:

And the day this is published, the PR company I’ve already requested remove me from their mailing list, sends me another email inviting me to something I don’t want to go to. In Manchester. Next weekend. It’s fairly obvious, that I don’t live in Manchester. Or Birmingham, where the same thing I don’t want to go to is happening, but the weekend later. I have plans both those weekends. Exactly how many bloggers do they expect to get to this event? Or are they just box ticking?

My bad. I misread the email. They’re not inviting me to go to the events. Just write an enthusiastic blog post about them. Which is even less appealing.

Also, Chris O, as a final post on the excellent – and soon to be departed – Some People Are On The Pitch blog has done a list of every company that’s pitched them to write about brands that, if you ever read SPAOTP, you’d know they’d have little or no interest in writing about.

14 thoughts on “PR’s own goal: Or why blogger pitching has been worse than the French national team this World Cup

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  2. The release linking to an article (clearly copied and pasted) on a website that appeared to sell theatre seats was quite a low.

    Lost count of the number of releases I got asking me to celebrate this or that about England’s World Cup campaign. I thought calling my blog The Scottish Football Blog would have been a big enough clue as to my willingness to use that content.

    Unrelated to the World Cup I also received a press release last week asking if I wanted to review a book about the Cumbria shootings for my blog. Well no, not really.

  3. Geordie, no. I was tempted, but it was late when I wrote this and punning wasn’t forthcoming.

    Tom, I didn’t get the theatre seats one but have since been forwarded it. That probably reaches as new low as far as I can see.

    It does make you wonder who they employ for these campaigns, where they can’t even work out that a Scottish blog isn’t the best place to seed content about England.

  4. Things have gotten so bad we need some sort of moratorium during which every PR makes sure they learn this stuff, every rubbish list of bloggers is deleted, and every blogger has a chance to reset and perhaps be happy to engage with PR once again in the future.

  5. Perhaps all bloggers should revert to only being pitched via a form. In order to fill in the form the PR in question has to answer a set of random questions, both related to the etiquette of pitching and the blog/blogger in question.

    I know that this sort of captcha would only succeed in deterring the bad ones for about 2 weeks until someone offers a mechanical turk work around, but it would be great for those two weeks.

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  7. Erm Tom, if you’re so clever you would’ve looked up Gary and seen his 3 years at ITV working in the Press Office (with a Web/Social Media focus) and then Communities Assistant where they had numerous successes and won legions of blogger fans with their well pitched outreach.

  8. Like most jobs where you’re dealing with other people, good manners are key. Something Tom doesn’t seem to possess.

    I like this post, because it’s not about ‘Gary the Press Office Guy’, it’s about Gary the Blogger. Not once does he state to know PR better than anyone else (and i don’t think he ever would). Instead, he talks about his experience as a blogger – who clearly wants to have a conversation with PRs, to a) make his life easier and b) make his content better. Both of which = c) making readers more interested and more involved. Everyone wins in that scenario.

    Shame Tom can’t see that and resorts to snarky comments with bad grammar. He might have learned something if he’d read this post properly.

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