The Politics of Mommybloggers and PR- A Rant

If you are active in the mommy blogging community a good amount of time, chances are one day you will get an email like this-

Hi (your name)!

I love your blog, especially (detail about some post you did recently so it looks like they read you) and wanted to let you know about this exciting new product by (whatever company) that we think your readers will love! Here is a bunch of useless info, and we would be happy to send you a sample as well so you can tell your readers all about it. Please reply back.

(Name of PR rep and usually a bunch of contact info)

It is all very exciting as a new blogger, it seems like people are noticing you and want to work with you. It takes you awhile to realize that this is a game, and what the PR people are doing is getting you to spread the word for their client, usually for no more than the cost of a free product and overnight shipping. Truly, mommybloggers are the cheapest form of advertising out there. It’s kind of sad, because not only are we cheap, we are effective! When Heather, Jen and I started Suburban Reviews, we noticed right away that people were responding. When we showed what a certain cleaning product could do, we had no less than 4 readers go out and buy some within 5 days. The Diva Cup review has been continuously receiving comments, and I know quite a few people bought one based on Heather’s recommendation. I had two people buy a rather expensive conditioner after I raved about how good it was. Two purchases here, four there..It doesn’t seem like a lot, but initial sales are the start of customer loyalty, and loyal customers continue to spread the word about their favorite products, particularly those with blogs. One post by a target customer to other target customers can create a snowball effect that will keep rolling as long as the word continues to spread, making for a truly effective campaign with virtually no money out of pocket by the company or PR people.

So why then I wonder do PR people have such a hard time figuring out how to talk to us? This has been a question brought up previously by other bloggers and even a brave PR person who admits that the industry seems to fall short when dealing with us. Women are almost always the ones making the day to day decisions when it comes to household buying. My husband may be the one bringing in the paycheck, but I am the one who is going to be deciding which laundry detergent to use, what brand of turkey for Thanksgiving, what kind of shoes to wear to the gym, or which toys the kids will be getting for Christmas. And lucky for you, as a blogger, I like to talk about the things I like. I like giving an opinion, and letting people know about new products. Not only do I spend the money and buy them myself, but I like influencing other moms’ decisions. Best of all, I don’t charge you a dime to do it. A free product and a little bit of respect, and as long what you have interests me, you have my ear.

You would think with that in mind, it would be hard to screw up. But they do. Form letters, using my blog name instead of my name(Dear Suburban Oblivion) , and as I see today, ignoring my emails. I have a PR person by the name of Dan Williams with Special Ops Media who has e-mailed me probably 4 or 5 times in the last 4 months offering me DVD’s, usually Disney. I said yes to the first two, only they never showed up. When he offered me a third, I emailed him back letting him know I’d be hesitant to say yes given I never got the first two. That one never showed up, and he never returned my email. I emailed again, and still did not get a reply. Guess what I got this morning? Yet another email about yet another DVD with yet more information about the movie he is obviously hoping I will push before I even get it. If I were to ever get it. Is this really the way to treat the person you are trying to convince to promote for you?

I realize people are busy, and let me say up front I have worked with some fabulous people who truly know how to treat their bloggers. But when I get treatment like this, I realize the industry has a long way to go with the very people they should be handling with kid gloves. We have the money, we have the voices, and with you or against you, we are not afraid to use them.

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23 thoughts on “The Politics of Mommybloggers and PR- A Rant

  1. Great post Sara! I am in 100% agreement. The ones I receive where my name is spelled wrong, or my name is spelled right but the name of my blog is wrong, I just automatically DELETE nowadays. I certainly can’t be bothered if they can’t be bothered.


  2. I get TONS of those emails. Blech. You know what? I’ve started charging for my reviews and promotions. A lot of them will stop sending emails once they read my terms, but the really serious people will pay. In fact, I am branching off my personal blog to start a site devoted to reviews/promotions/writing/publishing – all the stuff I do on a regular basis, both with my contract work and freelance.

    Some people balk and say, “But you’re getting a free product. Why charge?” I’m charging for my time. I work from home, and I charge because posting a review is not normally something I do as part of my daily work. But who knows what will happen with my new site??


  3. I love that you called the offender out!!

    We really are too willing to let ourselves go for too little. In my work life, I bill a certain amount per hour. That fact makes me less willing to accept opportunities that don’t benefit me as much as they will the advertisers.


  4. I used to respond to every one of these e-mails, but I’ve wised up since then. Now I respond to well-written requests that offer products that interest me, and even then, I don’t guarantee a review unless I really like it, I’m paid for the review (which I will disclose and I still give my honest thoughts) or a giveaway is included for my readers.

    Seems fair to me, and the PR people I do work with on a regular basis are great at what they do. I feel bad that these people who do their job well get lumped in with the not-so-good. I can’t imagine how much harder that makes their jobs.


  5. Isn’t that the truth? Do they really think we are stupid enough to blog about a product we haven’t used yet? Hello, they better kiss my butt plenty before I start raving about their product on MY blog!


  6. This is a great post. I have always deleted these emails, from day one. It never occurred to me that they might be legitimate. The fact that they might be is actually more disturbing.

    I recently decided to add some affiliate marketing to my blog for the holiday shopping season so that I could recommend companies from whom I actually shop and adore. The control is all mine and I like it. So far, I have received some lovely emails from the companies based on my placing their ads, all of which have been personal and specific.

    Hopefully it will remain that way. They appreciate what I am doing and I appreciate their being solid companies, so I’m willing to extend my recommendation. We shall see….


  7. I don’t like being a marketer’s bitch. I don’t mind writing a review of a product I’ve found and love without being asked by a PR firm. However, I don’t like PR firms assumptions that since I’m a silly, dumb, SAHM that I want to take MY time to write a review simply for a free product. I also don’t appreciate that PR firms seem to think that we silly, dumb SAHM only care about cleaning products and baby care items.


  8. Wow,
    How can I follow up Playgroupie? Can I just second everything my peeps said?
    Don’t send us cleaning products, send us a free Merry Maids service. Now, THAT, I’ll pimp!
    Love, Fussy

    P.S. Dyson (vacuums), L.L. Bean, Apple (iphone, anyone?), and Chico’s- Y’all can send us some free stuff. I think we will accept.


  9. Great post. I have yet to be offered something that I haven’t recieved. Thankfully.
    I don’t mind blogging about something that I have tried without monetary compensation, but I want to tell the truth about it. I also love to promote for free if I love the product. (I think I am the biggest advertiser for the board game Quelf!)
    However, most of my advertisments do pay me, some of my book reviews are just for the book, and include giveaways, but several also pay me and include giveaways.
    I am not looking forward to my first crappy offer.


  10. It isn’t only mommy bloggers.

    My nom de internet is gunfighter… I work with guns… guess which industry tries to get me to promote their stuff?

    They even clock my traffic… realizing that most of my readers are women. I have had offers of firearms to demonstrate. Firearms for women… so they can protect their children.

    In a word… NO.


  11. I’m ashamed to admit this.. . . .but I sort of want one of those emails. Just so I can feel cool.

    I do payperpost on my review blog and I really don’t understand why more marketers don’t go that way. I guess it’s too honest.


  12. Fabulous post.

    I was wondering if you could read my blog and then tell your readers about it. I’m sure that they will love it.


    I’ve never even been tempted to take up the offers in the emails. But not once has anyone offered to send me 30lb of world chocolates to sample.

    And I do like the idea about asking for money for reveiew writing time. Hmmmmm.


  13. oh man…i’ve been getting tons of those lately! the way i see it, if they don’t think i’m important enough to write a personal email to, rather than a form email, then they aren’t worth my time.


  14. Hi Sara,

    Thanks for pointing me to this blog post. I am on both sides of this … I work for a PR agency, and I also write a marketing blog and get these pitches all the time as a blogger. We all know the situation you are talking about and the reason it is such a plague is because of one word: volume. For many PR folks, it has stopped being about relevance or relationships, and more about volume. They try to hit as many “media outlets” as possible, and are judged by their clients on volume. Sounds a lot like spam, right?

    The better PR pros are the ones that only send relevant messages to people that would care about them. That’s the kind of pro that I hope to be, and the kind our whole team wants to be as well. We’re definitely not perfect, but we took a first stab at coming up with guidelines for our own teams to follow. We called them our Blogger Outreach Code of Ethics, and you can see them here:

    What do you think? Could this work, or is it better to just separate the blog from the review site and just start charging companies to review their stuff? As a blogger, many of these ideas (such as not pretending like you are reading my blog when you aren’t) are great and obvious things. Now if I could just get people to stop sending me press releases about someone changing jobs from one agency to another – I’d be set. I’ve never cared about anyone’s new job unless I knew them or hired them myself.


  15. I get quite a bit of emails like this and several more from pr companies who want me to review or talk about their product or an event without even sending me a sample. Geez!

    I do product reviews for free. However, I pick and choose now that I get more offers than I can handle alone.

    Another thing that bothers me is when HUGE companies want you to post their link or ad for free on your site as if they cannot afford ad space. I was recently contacted by a very well known multi-billion dollar company and they wanted me to promote something for them for free. NO WAY!


  16. Great post. I hate those form letters and especially if they want me to promote their product without me ever touching the product or not paying me. I simply delete those. I’m a product whore so I don’t mind reviewing a product without payment. In fact i prefer it. I get a free product to try and I don’t feel obligated to only write nice things. I’m honest about the products I review. If I don’t like it I write it unless the company only wants positive reviews then I just don’t write a review at all.


  17. Great post on an interesting topic.

    I’m a self-confessed product whore (like Slackermommy says.) I enjoy receiving free items and I don’t receive payment for them (although I did one book review recently for Mothertalk and will receive a $20 Amazon gift card as payment; but that is a rare instance.) I try to be very selective about what I review, though, and I give my honest opinion. I do not have a separate review blog, so I am trying to keep reviews down to one or two a month.

    Dan actually contacted me in the past few months about two separate DVDs and they came in the mail without a problem. I know he did a recent “pitch” about a new kids’ video and apparently he had a crash on his computer or e-mail server and lost the e-mails he sent, so he wasn’t sure who he had already contacted. Not defending Dan, but I did work with him on two DVD reviews and had no problems.

    I have worked in PR for a university and I have to tell you I hated/loathed/despised pitching things. Honestly some of the PR people who do a poor job of pitching to bloggers may just hate their job. And suck at it. They may not understand their audience. They may not realize that bloggers are intelligent, savvy people who can see right through a staged pitch that is being sent to a hundred other “great” bloggers.


  18. Hi! Found you via link from Julie at MotherGooseMouse. I hear what you’re saying. As a PR person (who doesn’t pitch bloggers) I see both sides. Part of the problem is what Rohit said – about volume. PR people in agencies bill clients in time increments. With the multitude of blogs out there, it’s hard to justify spending hours, weeks, maybe months building a relationship with ONE blogger that may or may not write about a product you might be pitching later. We also have deadlines like journalists, but not much lead time. “X product is launching next week. Get the word out with bloggers.” That’s our charge. And because blogger outreach is really in its infancy, PR folks are bound to make mistakes. It’s trial and error, until we find what works. So I’m glad bloggers like you, Stefanie at CityMama and others are writing about this and giving your opinions, no matter how harsh, because it helps us. It’s constructive criticism at its best.


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