Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Communication Breakdown

The Lost Art of Communication by mbowman64

If you've had a blog or a website for even a brief while, you are bound to get emails and solicitations from various companies wanting you to write about their product or exchange links with their site. I've known several bloggers who have written about the high-handed tone that many of these companies take with them and I've even experienced it myself.

Many of these companies are used to working with huge media outlets, which receive hundreds of press releases a day, and I also think that because we are outside of the traditional publishing realm that we bloggers will be ecstatic to post up any thing they send us.

I actually have found the complete opposite to be true. Yes, there are those sites/blogs that will put up any scrap of information. Tracking down new content and taking the time to research, write, edit and publish it is hard. Most bloggers are writing because they are passionate about a topic. It's something they love. Something they'd read or write about anyway, no matter if they had one reader or thousands. So this tone can be very offensive.

For my day job, I advise clients on finding the right mix of communication tactics, offline and online. I try to educate them about what will work and how to approach bloggers using the perspective and experience I've gained having my own site. And when emails from companies come to me I try to educate them a bit as well. Here's an example reply letter to a company I had to send recently:

Hello "Company X"

Thank you for contacting me about your Product X. I appreciate that you feel I would be a good outlet for your message.

One thing you may not know about me is that I am also an Advertising/Marketing supervisor specializing in new media. One thing you may want to consider, is approaching bloggers in a new way. While there are many blogging networks, most bloggers are individuals who are writing for the sheer love of their topic. When approaching these writers, you may want to consider speaking to them in a more personal way. I feel a responsibility to my readers to not endorse or cover products and services that I have not personally interacted with. Many of my readers have become friends through my site and I like to be very upfront and honest about what I review. I always disclose if I have been given something to review or are being paid to advertise.

So, while your product does have some relevance to my readers, I cannot review it unless I was able to use it. If you would like to send me one to review I will give my honest assessment. I can return the product, if needed.

If you are still interested, please let me know.

Thank you

So far I have received a mix of responses (or lack of responses, I should say). I don't think most companies mean to be offensive but they should learn a bit about a site, it's topics and audience before they pitch it. Not so different from how we choose traditional media... just more personal.

How have you dealt with this issue?


Kristen said...

I'm a new blogger so I haven't dealt with this at all, but I think you raise a very good point. While blogging is becoming more popular with the main stream media, it is still dominated by individuals writing about their lives, experiences, likes and dislikes and most (though not all) aren't getting paid for their posts. It requires a more personal level of communication that I don't think most corporations really understand yet.

jane m. said...

While I'm not a blogger who has any experience in this matter, I find this exceptionally interesting as a media student who is looking to venture into the marketing world. I wasn't aware that you're in the realm, but knowing that expands my already grown interest in your blog! I think it's ironic that the personal interaction between bloggers and their readers is what the companies are striving for. It's definitely something they cannot achieve without celebrity endorsement, to have someone speak directly about their product and market it for them to a receptive public at an international level. I'm glad bloggers today have the integrity to say no. And it's wonderful that you are willing to take the time to educate the companies instead of just brushing them aside!


I've received this kind of requests from people who obviously haven't read my blog. So my answers were quite the same as yours. And I totally agree with you on that matter.

capitolagirl said...

I've received these kinds of requests too, often from people who don't seem to get that I write about indie jewelry. The letter you use is really helpful, thanks for writing about your perspective on handling those kinds of requests.