This past weekend I attended the BlogHer ’11 Conference in San Diego for the first time. Since this was my first time I wasn’t sure what to expect, though I have been to plenty of other conferences before. I brought Mr. VV with me and am SO glad I did. More on that in a bit.
The first day of the conference I took a session called Bad Blogger Pitches (The Other Side of the PR-Blogger Relationship) which was hosted by Stephanie Agresta (EVP and Managing Director of Social Media at Weber Shandwick. Clients include Unilever, Pepsico and Samsung), Stephanie Azzarone (President and Founder of Child’s Play Communications. Clients include Disney Channel, Warner Bros and Hewlett-Packard) and Stephanie Smirnoff (President and Chief Creative Officer at Devries PR. Clients include Pepperidge Farms, Proctor & Gamble and Gallo) and moderated by Liz Gumbinner (Mom101.com). Right away I realized just how mommy blogger centric this conference was because it’s pretty much the only reference they used when discussing anything. It kind of threw me for a loop because while I knew there were a lot of mommy bloggers in attendance I didn’t think all the sessions would be focused on them specifically.
I’m not sure I actually learned much new in this session considering I have been blogging three years already, but it was good to hear PR people reiterate some of the things I had suspected when you are pitching to them.
What to include when pitching:
- Explain to them why you are different, why your blog stands out from others in your niche
- Tell them about yourself, who are you?
- Mention all your social media channels including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube so they can get a sense of your community
- Tell them where you see your blog headed, what you are interested in in the future
- Show them other examples of your work with other clients
- They like to see high quality photos and/or video. From Stephanie Agresta “Production value matters. Not that you’re going to have huge production budgets to work with, but the HD cameras are very inexpensive now. So the higher quality, the more likelihood that content is going to be engaging.”
- Make sure you are posting regularly and frequently
- Tell them your metrics and DO NOT lie about them! Show them screen shots (that’s what I do) so they can see your numbers. Also they like to see demographics including the age, location and gender of your readers
- If you can find out your engagement metrics (such as how many people re-tweet a tweet you sent and how many people that then reaches) include that
What not to do when pitching:
- Write either a super short pitch telling them nothing, or a super long one telling them way too much
- Exaggerate or lie about your reader numbers
- Act too familiar with them. Remember this is a professional working relationship so don’t write as though you are their best friend if you’ve never met them
- Re-posting press releases. This was a huge no-no and surprisingly I know a ton of blogs that do this. They do not want to see what they already wrote posted on 50 different blogs. UPDATE: I misheard this and realized it after I read the transcript. They were referring to product reviews and press releases. When you are reviewing something don’t just re-post their press release, write your own review.
- Do not promise you will review something by a certain date or confirm you are attending a date and then not follow through. Follow through is very important!
My second day in the morning I took the How to Pitch Freelance Editorial Work from Some Busy Editorial People which was moderated by Julie Godar (Editor of BlogHer) and hosted by Barb Dybwad (Tecca.com), Nicola Bridges (Copley News Services) and Stephanie Wood (Parenting.com).
Again this was more mommy blogger centric, but I did pick up a couple things.
- Know the magazine you are pitching to very well. Don’t pitch them a story idea that has nothing to do with what they focus on or something that goes against what they normally publish
- Check out the topics that generate the most interest or controversy in their magazine and maybe try a pitch with a similar idea
- Include a working title of an article that is catchy and explains what the article would be about
- Again, don’t write WAY too much or too little. Keep the pitch to one page and use bullet points to outline your ideas
- Don’t email them on a weekend or Monday. Mondays are usually spent catching up for them and they are inundated. Try emailing them on Tues-Friday at lunch time. Most preferred email to phone calls
- If you don’t hear back it might mean “no”. Nicola Bridges said that’s the harsh truth; if you don’t hear back from her it means she’s not interested. However Barb Dybwad said that doesn’t necessarily mean no to her, it might just mean no for now and she will keep the idea on the back-burner
- Try pitching to a trade magazine. There are trade magazines for almost every industry and that could be a way to get experience and a foot in the door
- Offer to write a couple articles for free for the experience
The last class I took crossed over a lot of the information in previous sessions but I really liked the speakers and got a lot out of it. It was called Putting the “Professional” in Professional Blogging. It was moderated by Amy Lupold (ResourcefulMommy.com) and hosted by Janine Nickel (BuzzCooperative.com), Jessica Rosenberg (ItsJessicasLife.com and Tiny Print) and Linda Sellers (One2OneNetwork).
What I really took home from this session was:
- Watch what you say online especially on Twitter, Facebook, etc. If you do want to be taken seriously and work with certain companies which might have a very wholesome image to protect, they will not want to work with people who are dropping the F-bomb constantly (or that type of thing). They DO notice these things and you need to act professionally if you want to be taken seriously
- Make it EASY for people to find your contact email address. Don’t just have a contact form, include your email address somewhere obvious on your site
- Website design is important! If your site is in a hard to read font, color or has a silly or childish background they will be immediately turned off. Do not write in italics or bold. Also don’t center your text, “it’s not poetry” said Jessica
- Remember that nothing online is private. That includes emails, private messages, chat, etc. Anyone can take a screen shot of anything you say and post it somewhere, which can damage your reputation
- If you happen to have two blogs and one is totally non-risky but the other maybe is, just keep those two “personas” totally separate and most companies won’t have an issue with that
- Jessica mentioned she cannot stand seeing emoticons and “LOL’s” in posts so try to remember online-speak doesn’t belong in a post (and definitely not a pitch)
Something interesting that two of the panelists mentioned in the PR Pitch session and the Professional Blogging session was that they didn’t think bloggers should be sponsored (in other words paid) for review posts. They felt as though the second someone is paid for a review, the review can’t be taken as the true person’s voice. I totally disagree with this stance but I understand what they are saying. I think if you are a brand-new blog and people don’t know you then all the sudden you are doing sponsored posts, it can be sketchy. However, if you have been doing honest product reviews for years and have a following of people who trust you and you have built a rapport with, it can be done honestly. I don’t believe that someone I have been reading for 3 or 4 years would all the sudden turn into the type of person who only gives positive reviews for money if they weren’t already like that to begin with. If you have a positive history with your readers there is no reason to expect that all the sudden they changed and will start lying just because they have been paid. That’s just my two cents!
I did take another session which I was a bit disappointed in called Food Photography. I thought it would be more practical tips on photography, but really it was more of a photographer’s personal career-journey and I didn’t get much out of it. You might if you were very new to photography, but I didn’t find it very useful.
Would I go back next year? Most likely no. I am glad I went and got to experience it, and have no regrets but I think this conference might be aimed more at a different kind of person than myself. It’s definitely geared toards mommy bloggers so keep that in mind. Also I think a lot of the sessions would be very beneficial to someone with just a few months or maybe a year under their blogging belt, but not so much for seasoned bloggers. Also if you are very into socializing then this would probably be fun for you because there are a lot of parties and social events going on.
For me, I am a pretty mellow and quiet person and prefer small groups of people. I didn’t really find any opportunities to meet other bloggers, so I was on my own for the conference part. I suppose could have met more people if I was a more aggressive and outgoing person, but I’m just not. It’s not easy going it alone sometimes.
I hope you were able to get something out of this post!