A good pitch that counters the bad pitches

Reading through The Bad Pitch Blog by Kevin Dugan and Richard Laerner really does bring home to you how appallingly bad some of our colleagues in the PR profession are in how they reach out to people to pitch their clients’ wares.

Like many of you, I get pitches almost daily, nearly all of which aren’t worth any time at all.

Most illustrate only that the sender has not actually read my blog, neither directly nor via the RSS feed, and so has no sense at all about the type of thing that interests me and which I write about. The sender hasn’t looked at Technorati or other online resource to get any sense of where I fit in the blogosphere pecking order and so am I worth spending any time on, ie, do I actually have any influence anywhere, perceived or otherwise.

Plus they have no clue as to my geographic location which is not in the United States (yes, over 95% of the pathetic pitches I receive come from PRs in the US promoting things that are relevant mostly in US markets).

Other than thinking that those pitching are just completely stupid, how else can I explain the ongoing stream of irrelevant PR pitches I get?

Unlike some of my fellow PR bloggers, I don’t write about these bad pitches. Occasionally I’ll email some info to Kevin purely from the humour/novelty point of view (if a pitch really was excruciatingly bad). I have even written back to a sender with some gentle comments on how they might improve their pitching, but I’ve never had any replies to such feedback.

Nearly always, I just delete those received emails and add the sender’s domain to my email blacklist.

So when I do get one that is actually quite good, that’s the one I want to let you know about.

In the coming weeks, I plan to be writing some opinions here about the Cocoon, a new 3G quadband mobile phone from O2 in the UK that was launched in June. I’m going to do this because of a good pitch (plus I think it’s quite a cool product).

Here’s what Peter Kwong of O2’s PR ad agency VCCP in London did:

  1. He read my blog.
  2. He left comments on a couple of posts.
  3. I replied to one, to which he replied further. That’s the start of a conversation.
  4. Then he emailed me about his client’s product.

I read Peter’s email because I remembered his name from our blog conversation.

Primarily, though, I read the email with a favoured eye because it contained information that is relevant to my interests.

So after an exchange of emails, I said yes, do send me a Cocoon and I’ll happily play with it. And so I received a brand new Cocoon on Saturday.

One thing that’s quite clear is that Peter’s approach to me is part of a clear outreach programme from his agency involving other bloggers (and there’s a blog).

That’s very different indeed to many of the bad pitches I receive where it’s clear (or at least apparent) that the contact is one-off or simply a distribution list approach. It’s usually impossible to know where outreach to me fits into any other PR activity.

I’m under no obligation to write anything publicly about the Cocoon. Equally, there’s no obligation to return the phone – I can keep it or give it away. I haven’t decided what I’ll do with it yet (it’s early days).

But I will write about it. A good pitch deserves at least that.

And finally, a note to all the bad pitchers out there in the US – take a look at Ogilvy PR’s Blogger Outreach Code of Ethics. Then reads MC Milker’s Blogger’s Guide to Publicity.

Read and digest. Then act accordingly.

I live in hope.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Amelia

    Hi there – I work with Peter on this project and really glad that you decided to take part in the blogger out-reach program.
    We’re really excited about the way that O2 is launching this phone which is essentially to the key influential voices in the blogosphere first.
    I had a quick question for you though – VCCP is not actually a PR agency, we are an ad agency and Peter and I specialize in Digital. I am wondering if the fact that we have not “grown up” in PR led to a different, more dialogue-driven, or conversational approach. Would love to get your thoughts.

  2. neville

    Thanks for your comments, Amelia.

    I spent some time on your site when I was first in contact with Peter. Clearly not paying enough attention; I guess I’m numbed by all the bad PR pitches :) Post corrected to describe VCCP correctly.

    It’s an interesting question you raise. I think the difference in Peter’s approach isn’t so much ad agency vs PR agency, but simply one where some good research and planning took place. I have had good pitches before, even though I’ve not taken up those offers, which were from PRs.

    That said, I think it’s also mindset, so perhaps what you say re conversational approach does also apply.

    I notice you have a blog, you’re on Facebook and you Twitter. All of those things are among the essential ingredients to make good connections, which I think add a lot of icing when you approach some bloggers. I always notice such things.

    So, good to meet you!

  3. Kevin Dugan

    Neville – It does get bad and frustrating. But it is great to see folks like you and Shel pointing the way with posts like this.

    Ultimately the Bad Pitch Blog is trying to educate as it entertains. We’ll be pointing to this post and Shel’s recent “pitch happens” post as examples of what to look for and how to pitch effectively.

    Long term, I think folks need to focus less on pitching and more on participating to truly be effective. That would seem to be what helped with the Cocoon pitch.

  4. Will

    Hello Neville,

    While you are not based in the US, you do have a certain level on influence over the US PR market thanks you the FIR podcast (and I notice that I get the updates on FaceBook from you and not Shel)

    Then, there is the global aspect of Mr Jangles…

    To put this another way, how many non UK or US pitches do you get? And of course, how few of the US based pitches were the least bit suitable for the ‘cast?

  5. Peter Kwong

    Hi Neville

    Thanks for the comments. Both Ogilvy’s Code of Ethics and MC Milker’s bloggers guide are both useful references and good for us to build on. Look forward to seeing more examples of good and bad practice in this area.

    It’s also interesting how this new world of social engagement has shifted the emphasis back to reputation and that companies can use this opportunity to say, think and act better rather than just pumping out a traditional marketing message and expecting it to stick.

  6. Adam Denison

    That’s the start of a conversation.

    This is what I love about Web 2.0. Social media helps us get back to our roots as being two-way communicators (conversations) and building relationships.

    Your post definitely helped clarify how we can best “pitch” bloggers, although I’d venture to say that we never need to pitch them if we have a good relationship. It’s just like telling a friend about a product or service you like. Thanks!

  7. neville

    I think you hit the nail on the head, Kevin – it’s much more about participating than pitching.

    Will, good points, but I really do question the thinking behind why someone in the US would approach me about a product or service that clearly is relevant within the US but which is wholly irrelevant to me and my areas of interest, not to mention that I’m not in the US.

    A good example: today I received an email from a Washington PR about a Pennsylvania congressman introducing legislation to make the federal “Do Not Call” list permanent.

    You could argue that this isn’t a pitch exactly – I’m not being asked for anything specific – yet it is a pitch as I’ve received a load of information about aforesaid congressman, his plans and what it all means.

    This is of no relevance to me whatsoever, a fact that you’d likely and quickly conclude if you just glanced through the content in this blog.

    So this pitch falls under the distribution list approach: I’m just a name in a database that gets blasted with useless emails. And I get at least one such distribution list email every day.

    This does not represent communication planning, just bad planning. Actually, no planning. If the congressman (or even the Pennsylvania taxpayers) knew how his PR agency were spending his budget, I wonder what he’d say.

    Peter, I hope to spend a bit of time with the Cocoon soon. Not done much yet other than sit it in its nest and think how cool the clock looks :)

  8. Kaitlyn

    Two of the big things I think you all hit on are relationships and participation.

    One of the main drivers behind the Ogilvy Code of Ethics I put together was to create some standards (externally and internally!) that lay the foundation for ongoing respectful relationships with bloggers. Bloggers need to be treated like the opinion leaders that they are, not free word of mouth ad space that can be acquired through spammy press releases.

    Obviously there is a big issue here that needs to be addressed, and I think the great blogger response to the Code of Ethics shows that those of us who participate, and straddle the PR/Ad/Communications – Blogger divide are in a unique position to lead the conversation. Two way communication can be used to help our clients and their brands/issues, but we can also harness that to help our industry as a whole advance its thinking and behavior on this subject.

    Thanks for the link Neville, I hope you all follow the evolution of the Code – there is some great discussion occurring!

  9. Strategic Public Relations

    Ready to Pitch a Blog? Take This Quiz First…

    Everyone wants to know the secret formula to pitching blogs. The secret is it takes more than pitching. You need to get immersed in the topic you’re pitching and be able to expand the conversation. This requires a deeper level of subject matter exper…

  10. MC Milker

    I’m late to the game here but want to thank you for the link to my comments. The influence of selected blogs is really quite hard to gauge, particularly in the smaller segments and so it can be tough to justify the time needed to address the issues we bloggers gripe about most know me and know my blog. You’€™re providing a nice forum to address some of these issues.

Comments are closed.