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Monday, July 02, 2007

Good pitches that work...to do good work

600pxglobe_svg_3As I just posted on some rather poor blogger-outreach practices, I thought I'd take this post to describe a rather nice convo I just had with an outfit that might well result in lots of value. I'm not going to name the company, but indeed it was a great convo because it was just that: a true convo.

Basically, the company aids in marketing research by matching companies who need feedback on particular subjects with bloggers who write on those very subjects. So it matches survey needs with subject writers.

Now research is a toughie as the research is only as good as the data is unbiased. And focus groups? Oy. Putting ten people in a room that's usually full of cold air and carbohydrates can create a lot of bias. So Web 2.0 surveys and the like can be great for garnering real-time, real feedback. In this case the bloggers gets paid for every survey respondent--and yes it's all disclosed (but I don't think disclosing is where the buck stops...I'll talk that more later and on my podcast with Jaffe later this week).

And while I'm not a fan of programs that monetize the medium, I am a fan of doing good. (disclosure: It's completely selfish being it makes me feel good.)

So I asked recommended, how's about the money that the blogger makes go to charity instead? Since the blogger is going to post on this subject anyhow, then the blogger could include an extra feedback feature in his/her post and raise money for charity...and then no one questions the credibility of the blogger? Oh, and, how's about the company sponsoring the research matches the contributions dollar-for-dollar? Then the company looks and does good, too (as doing good is VERY good for brand equity).

A win-win, no?

The point is, the outfit is open to it. And because they were respectful to me in their pitch, I was open to having the conversation with them. Most important, because they were respectful and because they're open to feedback some charities might just benefit.

Yup, by virtue of doing the things we naturally do--in this case asking and answering some subject-specific quick surveys--maybe some kids can have a home, or get medical supplies, or vaccinations. Sound outlandish? You'd be amazed at how little money feeds a kid everyday (under a buck)...or vaccinates them from malaria (under 2 bucks saves a life). Moreover, what if we aligned such principles with profits as a rule, not the exception...in ways BIG and small? All we need is this mindset in everything we naturally do every single day.

And that thinking was generated in about ten minutes. Imagine the good that could come from twenty.

So maybe we marketers can save the world...or maybe I should say that the blogosphere might just make it a MUCH better one. I'm sure gonna keep trying with my very little, very bossy voice.

PS: If this company does implement this feature then I will most definitely name them ;-).

Comments

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Sounds great. I'm curious on how we all can incorporate cause-related marketing moreso in various ways. Of importance (from the perspective of raising money), is that we:
- Communicate the cause well (sticky variables)
- Design a simple/reliable transaction process

@Mario: All it takes is a few outfits that will work this type of model--most charities accept online donations, or it's presented quarterly. Actually, with all the payroll services you just list "charities" as vendors and voila.

My focus is to just align this thinking as a regular part of our methodology and eventually to the place where it's just commonplace (I'd love for it to just be the norm ;-). And I'll easily answer a quick survey question if I know the money goes to fight cancer, feed kids, etc. And a nice feature for blog posts being it fits in with the post's subject matter. I can't say that I would answer the question if I knew it was monetizing the readership (that's just me).

This sounds interesting.

I don't know what the big deal is about pitching bloggers. I still believe it's like pitching other media, but understanding and adapting to needs and sensitivities particular to bloggers. Like knowing not to call a print reporter on deadline, or a TV news producer 15 minutes before air. It's mainly common sense and consideration, that's all.

Unfortunately, too many p.r. "pros" don't use common sense and courtesy, so why should they teat bloggers any differently?

@David: Could be a really interesting model (meaning with the charity incentive). I also am finding that those pitching us who do treat us well and listen can benefit by getting all sorts of free advice and coverage, too. And yes, it is commonsense and consideration.

CK,

I'm with David and don't understand the problem and also have not experienced it. I am pitched about once a week. Almost everyone is professional; a few not so much. But that was the case when I was an editor and when I was in the corporate world, as well. Doesn't seem to be that big a deal.

And I'm not sure that pitching for charity solves the problem of credibility. Many of us have our favorite charities, are aligned with them, and have an agenda to get others to support them. How does doing so enhance our credibility?

I prefer that our credibility be earned by writing about things we are passionate about and believe in. If I am pitched about a product, research it, purchase it because it is a great product, and then write about it, that seems more credible to me than does the business who pitched me donating the income of whatever business I send their way to a charity.

I would rather they donate time and money to a charity out of the goodness of their heart and because it is the right thing to do than because they pitched me and I sent some business their way.

Love you CK. Have a great 4th!

@Lew: I'm glad you're spared of the problem of being pummeled with pitches. I'm averaging between 3-5 a day and I've had as many as 10 on several days. It's actually a lot of bloggers that are experiencing this, so luckily you've so far been spared!

In order to teach many of these co's of the better way to hold conversations with bloggers I created that URL so they could learn--and was delighted to have a handful of marketers email me recently that the feedback has been very helpful as they work to better their organization's or client's practices.

As for the credibility: the blogger posts on what is of interest to them (say, Sci-Fi movies for example) and if an advertiser wants to run market research on Sci-Fi (to see how the audience is liking a certain series or storyline/whatnot) then the blogger can take that subject-specific info and input a poll into their posts. With what I'm suggesting, the blogger can decide whether the money earned through data collection can go to charity or in their pocket. So the blogger makes money off of every survey response (so if you were to weigh-in on a poll here then I'd get $). Many times when a blogger can monetize users as such their credibility can be in question (as the more users that weigh in, the more money is made). If the money goes to a third-party charity, then the credibility question is negated being it's not monetizing users...make sense? And the blogger's post gets to add an extra feature and do good. I don't see it so much of a question of building cred (and agree that our cred should be gained in writing on subjects we're passionate about--just like here, aligning principles with profits is something I'm passionate about)...it's more of a question of maintaining that credibility as we work with companies coming into this space.

And Happy 4th to you and yours! Love back at ya.

Got it! Thanks! By the way, we have about the same number of readers so I'm not sure why you are receiving so many pitches. I was the editor of a very popular magazine with over a million readers, and we didn't receive nearly that many pitches.

Do you suppose you receive that many pitches because you write so much about it? Something other than readership is driving folks to pitch you and the others. It is not a random process. I suppose it could also be your exposure with the book club.

As for others, have they taken a freebies. When one takes a freebie, that says to PR folks around the world that you are interested in being pitched.

I guess I am not only not experiencing the problem but other than what I have read here, I am unaware of anyone complaining about pitches. Apparently, the 50 or 60 blogs a week I visit aren't writing about it or are not facing the problem.

"When one takes a freebie, that says to PR folks around the world that you are interested in being pitched." -- Lewis.

Well, it may send that signal to p.r. folks at first, but if someone (blogger or editor) keeps taking freebies and never writes about your product, the p.r. person will eventually drop them from the list.

I like CK's idea of having clicks count toward a donation to charity. But if someone prefers to monetize their blog for their own personal gain, that's their business. It will arouse a certain level of suspicion in my mind, though, re credibility. Not so at all, if it's going to a charity.

@Lewis: There are posts on this at Greg's place (see my previous post for that link) and at Jackie and Ben's (link is below). Matt explained to me yesterday he's had between 5-6 pitches just in the last week, and in the previous post to this one Mike commented of being hit a lot with intern pitches. Last week Sean Howard wrote on poor pitch practices (link to that is in my previous post, too).

I do not think the reason I'm getting more than you has to do with my writing on it so much. Especially since I'm imploring more care with pitches. I think it's the "intern approach" (see previous post for that explanation). Since more co's hire more interns in the summer that seems to make the most sense on why I'm getting so many more since April when I first wrote on it. We've also seen many more co's start focusing on this space in the last 6 months, too.

As for major media, I am sure they receive many more pitches where one reporter can get between several dozen to 100 daily (I asked David what a current number was for a columnist since I don't work that side).

btw, here's a link to jackie and ben's posts on good pitch practices: http://www.churchofthecustomer.com/blog/2007/04/8_bad_pr_pitche.html

CK,

I was a reporter, and yes I got pitched. But not product pitches. I received tons of story ideas, mostly from writers. I also was a columnist, but I didn't write about products and never got a single pitch to write about one.

As one who does PR and was a free-lance writer for six years after leaving the newspaper biz, I pitched about 10 times a week. But my pitches were directed at those who wrote about the topics that I wanted to pitch.

That is why I think those who write about receiving pitches and create a post about how to pitch, receive more pitches. I have never written on the topic, and I don't get a bunch of inappropriate pitches.

I could be off base here, but my experience tells me that when we write about a topic we attract those who are interested in that topic. Guess who is searching for articles on the subject of pitches? PR folks, if they are smart.

@Lew: Gotcha. My hope--and has been the purpose of the guidelines I wrote in April and these two posts--is to work for better practices (a core focus of this blog). So if they are pitching me because of that--I sure hope they're reading the posts first! Just like the delightful pitch I received yesterday that inspired this very post (this is a post about a positive pitch)...and as a result a true convo ensued and some ideas to advance the space that I'm super excited about. Now isn't that cool?

I loved that post! But based on your reporting, I think they are ignoring your best efforts to educate. That doesn't surprise me.

If this is intern busy work, they don't care much about best practices or even results, since I suspect their manager measures (their) results by the number of pitches sent, not the number of articles written.

What I mean by that is thus: If the manager can get one article written, (s)he has something to show the client. So why worry about doing the hard work of researching and then sending the pitch to those who might care? Might as well do mass distribution and hope something sticks.

Oh, well. If nothing else, I've bumped up your comments today. Good conversation. I don't have any answers, just opinions. What troubles me about your reporting is how badly it can affect people like David and me, who specialize in or include public relations as part of their Marketing solutions mix.

Slamming editors and writers/bloggers with crap, means folks like David and I have difficulty getting our pitches noticed or respected. And that sucks!

Have a great 4th. Are you doing anything special?

Lewis, CK --

Here's the deal. Agencies use interns and new hires not only to go after bloggers, but to go after all types of media. I've seen it firsthand at medium and larger agencies -- the inexperienced young people are given no direction or, worse yet, bad direction such as go for quantity over quality, don't bother doing proper reearch to be sure you're targeting the right reporters (or bloggers). Supervisors at many (not all) agencies push these kids so hard for results that they'll do whatever they can to get them, often leading to poor pitching practices.

I don't represent a lot of products in my current practice, but I pitch media on behalf of service or B2B clients. It's not just product p.r. that generates pitches. And I've pitched columnists (sometimes successfully) with ideas about clients that don't involve product publicity. It's gotten my clients coverage in columnns in The NY Times, for instance, ranging from Stuart Elliott's ad column to Peter Applebome's beautifuilly-written Our Towns column. And I'm sure they get many other pitches every day besides mine.

Enough for now. I have some work to do. Actually (for real) some pitches to media in New Orleans and here in NY. The subject isn't a product, but an expert representing a non-profit, to talk about drowsy driving.

The windup.... and The Pitch.
Home run, I hope.

Opps, another point...

"What troubles me about your reporting is how badly it can affect people like David and me, who specialize in or include public relations as part of their Marketing solutions mix."

Lewis, I don't have any problem with what CK's been saying. It doesn't impact my success or failure when I pitch. If I'm on target and the person (reporter or blogger) is receptive, then I have a shot at succeeding. I think CK is just asking the pitchers to be more careful or more professional, which is a good thing. If there are fewer hacks throwing all sorts of junk at reporters and/or blogggers, it makes it easier for me to succeed because, hopefully, fewer people will ignore my pitches just because I'm a p.r. person.

@Lew: Yep, I hear you on the intern/mass numbers.

You know what though...and this post illuminates it: when on-target, value-rich pitches are sent we sure do notice them (so I don't think David nor you have anything to worry about). In fact, I would show clients and prospects just how valuable it is to retain you guys since you understand this space--to them (clients) it represents a far higher "hit" rate and to you both you know how to create a good experience. That understanding and caring truly does make all the difference. And I think that difference is only going to get more pronounced as more co's come into this space...and I see that working in your favor, not against it.

PS: Sorry you think they're ignoring the efforts to educate. Maybe they are--but I have received emails that it has helped a handful get their bosses/clients to think differently (and to care for communities more).

David,

It's not what CK is saying, it is what she is reporting regarding bad practices. It isn't the reporting that hurts us, it is the idea that the pitches she and others are receiving suck. I'm not about killing the messenger, I am about loving the messenger. I just want to do bodily harm to all those people sending out bad pitches.

And CK. If you help even one agency to create messages that stick by doing their research first and then writing a pitch to me not to the massses, you are doing a great service. I was basing my earlier comment on the thing you said about you, Sean and others receiving so much trash.

Yeah, this email came this morning (and I've omitted the name of the company/agency/firm and from whom it came on purpose). Can't tell you how good it made me feel:

"Btw, my boss just called to thank me for sending her your blog post on creating value. She's fighting with a client over the importance of them not just letting their interns do this stuff, so there's a potential major downside for the client if they go that route. Thanks for making me look smart, as usual."

I'll just keep trying to change one mind at a time--or at least try. (lord knows I'm not always right...but the intention is there).

CK -- I feel your pain on this. I, unlike you, have not posted on how to pitch a blogger and I still get inundated with bad pitches. I say they're bad because the individuals obviously don't read my blog or know what I talk about. I am even getting "pitched" in comments. *sigh*

I do think a lot of this comes with the topic areas. I think Lewis and David are more focused on marketing/pr in general where CK and myself are positioned more towards the technology/social media companies. It's my experience that they're the ones pitching 99% of what I receive. I don't want to put words in CK's mouth, so she can comment if she feels the same.

Some of the pitches are from PR, some are from CEOs and other entrepreneurs. I listen to them and I reply honestly to them. I've pointed a few over to CK's post. To me I think it comes with the territory. I would like to see fewer companies waste their time and mine by doing just a little leg work.

I think that successful PR in any medium comes from people who know the audience and reach out to select, highly researched individuals or organizations who have an interest or commitment to cover them.

@Matt: "I would like to see fewer companies waste their time and mine by doing just a little leg work.

I think that successful PR in any medium comes from people who know the audience and reach out to select, highly researched individuals or organizations who have an interest or commitment to cover them."

I (fully) agree. Thanks for chiming-in...hope you had a terrific 4th.

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