As a journalist, when press releases came in, you would skim the first couple of pars, roll them in a ball and shoot them into the nearest bin. Alternatively, someone called something like "Izzie" would ring when you were on deadline and say "Hi-this-is-Izzie-from-Bright-Light-And-Sunny-Days-I-just-wanted-to-check-you-got-our-fax-about-our-fantastic-all-inclusive-merino-goat-herding-vacations-in-Snowdonia-which-train-you-to-knit-as-you-ramble." About this point Izzie would break for breath and you'd say "Got the fax. Got your number. Have to go" or "Let me give you the number of a goat-loving colleague who might be able to help you" depending on your mood. I never resented such approaches. They were an occupational hazard but then I was being paid to deal with them.
In blogging - more particularly in the world of the mommy blogger, I'm not paid to deal with them but still they buzz round anxious to get something for nothing. A whole social media industry is being built on the back of bloggers apparently fuelled by the conviction that mommy bloggers are laptop patsies with floral aprons tied round our midriffs and too much time on our floury hands. They think we care about whatever it is they are trying to get the word out about. They expect us to care. I for one don't. I have an advertising column and am more than happy to take an advert (see Sony and Northumberland Tourism for instance), but the PRs don't want to take an advert they want it for free. They want me to embed a YouTube video about pushchairs or a banner about soap because they think I'm a mummy and this is what I want to do with my blog.
Occasionally a quid pro quo, or what is otherwise known as a "freebie", is offered. Now this is fair enough although I have so far taken only two things from PRs - Kipper books and a phone. Both of which I would probably have written about. I am a big fan of Kipper (unlike Spot the world's most boring dog) but I never got round to it.(Sorry, Kipper.) The O2 phone I felt bad about because it looked great but I used it a couple of times and then completely forgot the code to open up all the high tech functions so it hangs around my office reproaching me, a technological dodo. In all conscience, I didn't feel I could write up "Am mommy blogger moron and forgot code so cannot use phone though it looks very pretty " on the special high-tech geek blog they set up for it.
The latest such approach is from a nice man who works for Sainsbury's who starts off telling me that Sainsbsury's wants to "reach out to you". This he tells me is because I'm an "influential blogger" (I suspect he wants to make me feel good.) He wants me to attend a meeting at Sainsbury's Head Office "a completely closed meeting" to offer 8-10 bloggers a preview of something or other. (A "completely closed meeting"? I'm a blogger - why would I go to a closed meeting?) This invitation was later withdrawn "Unfortunately we didn't give everyone enough advance warning to be able to make it on the day."
However, the nice man assures me they really do want to work with "important bloggers like you" and "yes, we have been reading your blogs for a while now. We see:
*Depth of thought in your posts
*How much conversation is generated both in commenting and others externally from your blog".
Impressed as they are he tells me he will be giving me a £75 voucher to use when sainsburys.co.uk goes live with an extended range of products. All I have to do is let them know what I think of the site.
Five days later, my price has dropped. The nice man tells me the new site is now "LIVE" and that he has £50 for me to spend. £50? What I wonder did I do in the intervening period to make my price drop? I contemplate emailing him but it seems pushy doesn't it. "I'm wondering what happened to my other £25 - is it the stock market? Did I become £25 less "influential" when I wasn't looking?"
Still, at least it is a better offer than Haliborange with their "exclusive" trial of new Kids Multivitamin Fruit Softies. "Strawberry shaped with a delicious strawberry fruit flavour". I don't know how I held myself back from that one. Particularly when it came alongside the offer of a video for my site on how to paint icecubes. Or then again, there was the Carex offer of testing and reviewing a selection of products along with a lightbox to help my kids learn to wash their hands and a parent information pack with a "number of fun activities" for me and my daughter to try. Presumably the conversation would go something like this - "I know kids - don't just lie there and watch television, let's all go wash our hands again." Even better was the offer of a hoover. Not a whole hoover to keep, just one I could push around for a few days and then write about. (Tsk. If only I hadn't got that pesky RSI. A visiting hoover - what's not to blog?)
Message to social media PRs: Don't patronise. Don't flatter. Don't send me a press release about something that's been in the papers the week before - I read the papers. Don't invite me to a meeting to pick my brain and pay me with a cup of coffee. Don't waste my time.