Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Don't hesitate to get in touch"

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 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.


Sarah said...

Can I just say, for the record, I like chocolate, good wine and use only the best quality oil paints?
Glad you vented your spleen, WITN, saves some poor soul from a flea in their ear, I imagine?
The good thing about really seriously selfish people is, they can't see that they are utterly transparent in their objectives.
I reckon you've lost your £50, now though.

scaryazeri said...

They are not doing their research properly, that's the problem. I am sure there are enough mummy bloggers who would love to be approached. Thousands perhaps. :)

Mimi said...

Mmm..part of me is thinking I'd love to be approached (that's the vain part of me),also I was unaware that marketing approaches to bloggers existed,and finally, it must be a pain to be beating them off.
Amazing what you can learn and experience in just a few minutes of blogging!

Potty Mummy said...

God, yes, yes YES!!!!! (And I was wondering about the Sainsburys thing myself - if you get to the bottom of that missing £25 would love to hear what happened to it...).
My pet hate though is those PR's who, not having heard back from you about their fantastic opportunity, then bombard you with yet more e-mails to remind you about it. Come on; I haven't replied. Can't you take a hint?

Pam said...

I feel a bit sorry for people that base the success of their career on trying capitalise on someone's else's. Can you imagine spending your day sucking up to people and trying to sign them up? Must be awful.
At least my successes and failures are all mine!

Natasha Reddy said...

Wifey, ohh success. I'd love to be approached by someone with stuff to sell, in lieu of me mentally approaching others with imaginary stuff to sell to them (c.f., credit crunch victim as I am, I'd lap up the Tesco, Sainsbury's, book, toaster, and rubber duck gifts and/or vouchers being thrust my way!! [any offers? - do refer to above blog].
However how about free physiotherapy sessions for RSI sufferers - what'd you do then? Maybe it's just a case of you being admirably efficient: time, space and money efficient - 'don't need it, don't want it' type of thing. Rather than having to fill your kitchen drawers with free light boxes (?! doesn't sound very environmentally friendly) and unused vouchers. Hmmm.

Swearing Mother said...

I guess the only product placement I'd get offered would be an endless supply of mouthwash, given the title of my blog.

Ah well, sod 'em I say.

Iota said...

So your blog generates conversation "both in commenting and others externally". I'm commenting, but I'd love to do the "others externally" thing, if someone could let me know how. Sounds fun.

wife in the north said...

re Sarah: do you think? shall i try? an alarm might go off.
re scaryazeri: it really does depend on the approach. If it is a decent offer fair enough why not take up that Disney holiday or a week in Butlins? But more often than not, they send out screeds of complete pap to the women out there and expect us all to suck it up.
re Helen Romeo: I think absolutely turn the tables and if you want something and can offer a placement or review on your blog then see how much value they put on your blog and whether they will go for it. Hmm, maybe I will conduct an experiment. What shall I try for?

Amanda Bradley said...

now i feel bad, because i was hunting on your blog for some way to contact you, to ask for permission to use with full accredition, or link to, your account of your stillbirth. I am creating a website for Jewish men & women who have lost a pregnancy/baby, and i found your account very moving and would like to include it. but i can;t offer you any sainsburys or any other voucher.

Unknown said...

I found your blog through Wife of Bold...
I have to admit to being lured by free stuff because I felt bad saying no (and the credit crunch!).
I now feel swamped and I'm not always getting much out of it so I am learning to back off from reviewing a bit.
I think the problem is that some bloggers aren't clued up to the world of journalism and PR peeps and see no harm in posting the odd review. I have to admit to being a bit naive...
Great post x

wife in the north said...

re Amanda: Usually for that piece, I like a car but OK.
I hope the article helps, and I hope if you are setting it up because you have some experience yourself that you're alright and that the healing comes. Do email me through the blog if you want to (where it says contact the author.)

wife in the north said...

re clareybabble: Listen if it's working for you that's great particularly if you are getting good stuff you want to keep. But unless you are doing the PR a personal favour, I wouldn't bother wasting time with rubbish (your time is worth money or an equivalent) and you can bet your bottom dollar that the PRs compile a nice big dossier for their clients highlighting your fab reviews and saying how clever they are creating such a buzz on the net (then whack in a big bill.) Don't be taken advantage of basically.

wife in the north said...

re clareybabble again: I've just gone back to your reviews and I see they aren't letting you keep the personal trainer. If I'm reading it right, this is something selling for only £35 on Amazon so they really ought to value your review enough to let you keep it. (And I'm really hoping since the baby was sick all over the high chair they let you keep that. Maybe just let her be sick over a few other things as well?)

Anonymous said...

Just wondering why anyone would want to trial a hoover?

I keep being approached by some record company somewhere wanting me to review their latest release. Nice to be approached I suppose, but when they offer me the winning lottery numbers I might consider obliging.

CJ xx
p.s. good to see you back in blogland!

Unknown said...

Yes I agree I think I've been a bit gullible and taken advantage of. I got to keep the highchair but I am wondering who on earth is going to want to have the sweaty Personal Trainer I've been trying!

wife in the north said...

Well, it doesn't sound very hygienic. Ask to keep it. If they say no, you can always take down the review.

ADDY said...

Write about alcoholism. Nobody offers you anything then. said...

Yeh! Rosiero, I never get offered anything either and I'm sure that I'm an influencial blogger too. Pity. The world is missing a great opportunity! Enjoy your success wifey and nice to have you back again.

Penny Pincher said...

Oh - I thought I was the only one who'd had a wonderful offer of trying out the new vacuum cleaner and then blagging about it.

I also keep getting emails from soemone called Angel or Angela who one week wants me to allow them to embed an ad for life insurance in one of my old posts for a 'fee' - and then another week an ad for further education.

I'm not quite sure why I would have to pay them a fee to allow them to embed an ad in my posts!

I do love the bit though where they make very flattering comments about my blog - I'd pay them a fee to keep sending me such messages!

M mummy said...

Ouch! Sounds like you've had a lot of inappropriate approaches.

Are there any companies you feel have dealt with you in the correct way?

Isobel said...

I am sorry if my last post seemed cynical or offensive in any way -it is good to have you back. I am also very aware that this is your shout and no-one has the right to have expectations of you. Sorry.

maddie said...

I'm seriously thinking of inventing a brood of Walton-style children just to get a load of free stuff as a mommy blogger.
If Laetitia calls you about that free trip to whatsitsname, goat or no goat, give me a call.
Have to go, Jim-Bob's just woken up.

Soaring Girl said...

We can tell you've been away for a while - back with a vengeance, with a pent up fury.

billatbingley said...

Just seen your kind invitation to pop in to join you for a coffee whilst we are at Waren Mill. We arrive there on Saturday 26th September early evening and leave the following Saturday. We being myself, my wife Dot and our much loved chocolate labrador Ruby! See her (Ruby!)on my blog titled My Best Friend Miffy (13.06.09) How do we contact you when we are at Waren Mill?

Best wishes

Billatbingley (aka Malcolm)

Anonymous said...

I've not been offered anything...maybe the demographic of a demented ex-pat early 40's single parent irish woman with a serious merlot habit doesn't quite fit anywhere...?

Muffy said...

Just stumbled on your blog. Loving it!

Tracey said...

hi there.
I felt i had to write on here as quick as possible as something strange happened on Friday.
I'm a ovarian cancer survivor and was on my way down to Devon on the train from Newcastle on Friday. Sitting next to me a lovely lady from Bath who had been staying in Northumberland.
We got chatting and asked where i was going blah de blah.. i told her to stay with ladies off the internet i'd never met who all had OC too. the lady then said her friend who was sat further down the train, had cancer and was having chemo... ( there's coincidence one)

Next she had a 3 legged dog, my 3 legged dog died 3 weeks ago in the arms of my ex partner( 3 legs, coincidence 2)
Then we got onto books, she mentioned you had given both her and her friend signed copies of your book, i told her i follow your blog ( coincidence 3)

I had to share as it was so strange and freaky... you should write a book about that too i think hahaha

Tracey in Newcastle xx

Unknown said...

Nice to see you are back. I missed you!

Tara@Sticky Fingers said...

I too am an 'influential blogger' who they all 'love' and have been offered everything from nappies (I don't have babies), to teenage fiction (I don't have teens) to said get togethers 'for a chat'.

I began by sending emails back to say thanks but no thanks but now it's so ridiculous I'd have to pay someone to do it for me to keep up.

Then there are the ones I have responded to saying maybe I would be interested and never hear from them again.

I feel a bit used and abused. A bit like they're looking in on us all and saying 'how can we use this lot to our advantage and to make us look really reall good?' (while rubbing their hands together and cackling over a bubbling pot - I'm losing it aren't I?!)

It's only by us all sticking to our principles that they will a. learn how to do it properly or b. go away

A Modern Mother said...

Hear, hear!

Mark McClure said...

W, have your virtual assistant field all online consultancy gigs at 5K per day plus expenses... and the corpo tire kicker/lickers will soon absent themselves.

Anonymous said...

Stop pontificating around like the journo you once were. PRs are earning a crust, like you wish to with your ramblings. Many actually have a brain - contrary to your outdated and lazy assertions. People like you make me so mad - they use their public forums to 'bully' PRs / specific organisations in this way just because they have an audience. Everyone knows that most journalists rely heavily on PRs for their content. Journalists are normally only too happy to work with PRs to save them having to hunt for information themselves. It's called a 'working relationship', and it works both ways. What's actually wrong with Sainsbury's asking your opinion on something - you're exactly the type of person likely to slag them off in a public forum if they did something you didn't like so they're asking you first.

This Mid 30s Life said...

A great read - love a good vent.

I've never been approached. I can just imagine if anyone says something nice about my blog I'd go "I love you! I'll do anything...!"

It's tragic really.

Nicolette said...

So glad you wrote this - I edit a magazine that is freely available to mums and relies on advertising to pay print and distribution costs. Press releases drive me nuts - who pays for the pages of their free editorial/blurb? I do. Most of the time it's of marginal interest to the reader and is merely advertising sans any clever headlines, great photography or an invoice to pay. (PS So dozy I didn't even think 'down the line' that PRs are getting a pay check for their efforts to get me to pay for their coverage.) Blinkers are now off!