It’s been a while since I’ve bothered with inside baseball; I’ve been busy working. But this landed in my inbox, followed by a pitch about “blogger outreach” advice, so it feels timely. I’ve excluded the initial pitch letter which essentially said, “We’re X brand and launching our blogger ambassador program.” I responded with “Tell me more.” The brand agent’s response and mine are in the thread that’s posted below.
If you’re totally uninterested in insider stuff — and who could blame you — skip this and go read Clay Shivers’ piece on World Hum, Crawling Towards Bangalore. It’s an enjoyable nostalgia piece about the craziness that was once traveling by rail in India. I enjoyed it tremendously.
From: Pam Mandel <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Thu, Feb 14, 2013 at 7:50 AM
Subject: [Brand] Invitation to Blogger Ambassador Program
To: [PR Contact]
My response and questions inline. I think you’ll find I’m a bit unconventional and don’t align with what you may be thinking a typical blogger is or does. This doesn’t mean I’m not interested, but we may need to work harder to find the middle ground. I’m genuinely keen to see if we have a way to work together — please know that — and I’m being candid in the interest of saving us both time.
On Thu, Feb 14, 2013 at 5:30 AM, [PR Contact] wrote:
Thanks so much for your response and interest! The program is pretty straightforward, in that we’re looking to engage with bloggers on news, trends, and other features from [brand] that make sense for your respective audience, and we’re also looking to our blogger community for occasional guest posts on our [brand] blog.
Could you be more specific about what you mean by “engage with bloggers…?” I don’t run third party content on my site, save for the occasional guest post and my guidelines for those are extremely tight — I run narrative only, no service pieces, no tips, tricks, trends, travel hacking… My site is primarily a travel story site. Sometimes, I include recommendation posts — “Stuff I liked in [destination]” but I don’t do traditional reviews — “My Review of Property X”. Any features you want to place are going to have to fit with the style of my site, which is deeply personal, trusted, candid, and not sales motivated. We might talk about the idea of a sponsored post in which [brand] and I agree on the topic and the terms, and I write it myself. I certainly don’t object to linkbacks in sponsored posts, if that’s the goal, but meeting my editorial guidelines is key.
On guest posts… I write for a living, I’m not “just” an independent blogger. I’ve written for Afar, the San Francisco Chronicle, I’m a repeat contributor to Conde Nast Traveler Online, Gadling, Lonely Planet… I have an extremely limited amount of time to do unpaid guest posts. The typical inbound links and “exposure” aren’t sufficient incentive to write a guest post. If you’d like to have a conversation about hiring me to write for your client’s site(s), that would be great — and I do produce accurate, timely, well written service pieces — I just don’t do them on my own blog.
Besides the occasional feature coverage and social engagement asks, the only other ask of the program that is actually required — so that we can incentivize our bloggers — is that you sign up for our [non-cash compensation] program, if you’re not signed up already and send us the account number associated with that registration. As a thank you for coming onboard with our program, we’re happy to offer you [non cash compensation], which is the equivalent of [non-cash compensation]. Throughout the course of the partnership, there will be plenty of other opportunities to earn [non-cash compensation], as well as other great incentives and swag.
On my social media channels, I am reluctant to commit to talking to my readers about your brand until it’s been established that it’s something I genuinely recommend. My readers trust me implicitly — I’ve been online in travel since 1997 and some of my readers have been with me since the very beginning. And they will unfollow me if I start filling my feeds with brand promotions or links to posts that seem inconsistent with what I usually post — great stories about travel.
As for incentives — do I understand that you’re paying in [non-cash compensation]? You say “other opportunities to earn…” but I’d really like to see an explicit plan that says what, exactly, you’re expecting your bloggers to do and what you’re giving in return for that. [non-cash products] are great, and I actually need [this particular non-cash compensation] so you’ve got me at at time when they’re genuinely useful for me, but on the whole, I’d prefer stuff I can use to pay my bills with.
Let me know if the above sounds good by you, and if so, we’re excited to get started! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. Once we confirm your interest in participating, we’ll move forward and connect with you on some initial ideas for a first feature.
Okay, let’s go all in here: This sounds like a pretty typical blogger brand relationship pitch: I give you some content and talk about your brand on social media, you give me some product — points, swag, whatever. Candidly, you’ve got the wrong blogger for that. I like projects that allow me to do really interesting things — breeding grounds for great stories — or projects that allow me to earn money — and preferably, projects that do both. If you’re interested in busting the paradigm on what it means to work with bloggers to create brand backed content that’s got some teeth, let’s have a whole new conversation.
I realize this all makes me sound slightly crazy, ego driven, perhaps. I can assure you that I’m really easy to work with — my editors will tell you this — and that I deliver top notch work while rarely missing a deadline. But my blog is my baby, my reputation, my identity, and I want to be 100% sure that anything I do on it is not just a good fit, but a perfect fit.
Postscript: I’ve not yet received a reply, though probably, I don’t deserve one with this attitude. Also… I watched a prime-time ad campaign for this company just last night on the Comedy Channel. I’m very aware it’s not a 1:1 analogy, but it’s interesting to consider the proposal I received while pondering the company’s possible television ad expenses. Also, if you haven’t read the bad pitch page on The Bloggess, well, it’s one of my favorites.