Don't Be a Bad Pitcher!

Helllllo, PR Peoples.
Like a lot of bloggers, I get pitched from time to time by people who want me to talk about their products. It’s been a few years since I’ve covered this topic, so clearly it’s time for a review. It’s especially helpful that I almost never link to stuff I’m pitched, so I’m safe to criticize bad PR tactics without cutting off the freebies. I don’t get no freebies no how.
First, these points aren’t aimed at clueful PR people. I’ve seen smart PR people in action, and even had the good fortune to work alongside some of the best in the tech business. They don’t need any tips from me.
But, if you’re new to pitching bloggers, or if you’re just dumb, you’ll want some pointers.

  • Get my goddamn name right. My name is Anil Dash. And hey, that’s the name of my blog! Whadaya know, two chances to get it right. I’m more than willing to grant that you might not be able to guess my gender offhand without clicking through to my about page, but that doesn’t seem like too much effort to put forth, since you want my endorsement. Getting the greeting to be gender-appropriate is a nice show of respect, but the name thing isn’t optional. Don’t you like people to get your product’s name right?
  • Make sure it’s at least in the realm of possibility that I’d want the product. Sure, you might not know I use Windows, so Mac software isn’t an appropriate pitch, but then shoot me an email first and find out! Or if you want people to try things out, send ’em a freebie: Most bloggers are cheap whores very open-minded about accepting samples or demonstrations of products.
  • Don’t be web-stupid. I got a software pitch from someone that sent me to a third-party download site instead of the product page from the company that publishes the application. Like every other person who gets the web, I base part of my judgement of your company on its web presence. If you can’t even be bothered to send me there, it’s unlikely you’re clued in to what motivates me to link.
  • Don’t talk like a database. This one happens all the time. PR people are used to consulting their database of press contacts and skimming the profiles to see which ones should be targetted for a pitch. But the copy in those profiles is way wrong for bloggers, and results in emails that say stupid things like, “Dear Anil Dash, I know you write for Anil Dash blog covering the random horseshit beat, so this might be of interest to you…” Rewrite it in English before you send it, or just don’t bother. It’s only politeness that keeps me from publicly ridiculing the folks who send these.
  • Lead with the link. I’m a blogger. I read links. It’s what we do. I might skip the rest of your poorly-written email if there’s a URL at the top with full info about your product or service, and then if it’s interesting, I might even link to that page. If there’s no URL, or worse, if it’s buried in some attachment, I guarantee my readers won’t hear about your client, because there’s no way I can send them there.
  • Don’t deliberately antagonize me. This means: Word documents, PDFs, or pretty much any attachment at all. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any blogger who’ll read these things, let alone one who actually wants them. Don’t flame me for not linking to or mentioning your product. (This has happened.) Don’t throw in an offensive joke in your pitch email so that you’ll seem “cool”. (This has also happened.) And don’t implicitly insult my readers or audience by suggesting that I write something that would mislead them. (Sadly, this has happened, too.)
    So, there’s a lot of advice there. I’m hoping it does some good. If you’re in the industry, feel free to market yourself to your clients or potential clients by saying you’re “blogger-friendly” if you follow all of these tips. If you’re not doing all of these things now, but you want to represent your clients better in the blogosphere, try measuring your impact on something like PubSub or BlogPulse before and after you put these techniques into practice.
    And, seriously. Stop attaching PDFs to the emails.
    Update: Dave’s gotten the pitch exactly right. He even emailed it to me with a PDF.