Why personalisation is still key

Pitching to bloggers, it’s a necessary evil and probably loathed more than it’s loved. I find it fascinating being in the lucky (?) position to be able to experience both sides of the coin. I enjoy the therapeutic hobby of writing down my thoughts, yet at the same time, in my day job I also pitch to bloggers. I really quite enjoy receiving pitches myself because I’m always keen to see how others do it. At the same time, I always try to highlight the pitches that really took the time to research my blog, finding that little bit of information about me to show that it’s not just a blind email sent out to many others.

I thought starting off the email with Hello and their name was pretty much standard, common practice. It shows from the off that the email before them was specifically meant for them. If there was a mental tick box when I receive a pitch, that gets the first tick.

What riled me to write this post was receiving what I think is an awful attempt at ‘engagement’. That’s really what you’re looking for when pitching right? A reply gives you validation, maybe a celebratory fist punch in the air.

This isn’t however going to be a naming and shaming exercise. That’s not the point. We’re all still learning right? I’ve made mistakes along the way and will still continue to do so but seeing as we’re all in this together I’d like to address a few parts of the pitch that particularly bothered me. I also don’t wish to draw attention to the agency, client who they are contacting on behalf of or the individual making contact so I’ll use excerpts from the pitch but not explicit detail.

Here’s the first paragraph..

“I’m getting in touch with you on behalf of (removed) as I thought you would appreciate an advance look at its new UK advertising campaign. As Lit Man Live is influential within the Media sector, we’d like to take this opportunity to provide some insight into why (removed) is pursuing a new brand strategy, beginning with this (removed) (but it was a YouTube video)”

First thing: Address the recipient. Say hello and if their first name is on site somewhere, use that. Then there’s a chance that you’ll have me at hello.. It’s such a simple first step that really needs to be there, always. In this instance being addressed as Lit Man Live shows that categorically no research has been carried out, not a jot and I was actually a bit embarassed myself to receive it. I’ve been called a lot of things but that was the first time I’ve been called Lit Man Live. Personalisation is indeed key but when you get the basic fundamentals wrong, it’s shocking, not a great place to start.

Mack Collier writes:

Any pitch that doesn’t refer to me by my correct name is deleted immediately without being read.”

The whole debate about influence comes to fruition here also. Being perceived to be influential in the Media sector is complimentary but verging on laughable. Keep that in your internal notes but to me it’s signalling in the first paragraph what you want to get out of this before you’ve even asked.

Three overly long paragraphs about the history of the campaign, how it came about, who created it, who directed it and what they’ve directed before is not opt in. I didn’t read them, they’d lost me by that point. Instead of writing endless paragraphs of background info, make the email a bit more punchy and succinct and summarise the key messages in one short paragraph with an opt in at the end, something like would you like to find out more? It provides the recipient with the option and instead of metaphorically meeting them in the street and shouting your sales pitch at them, you’re going to talk with them on their level and see if they talk back.

Read the blog before you pitch to it. Show that extra level of research and mention a post that I’ve written and give me your opinion on it. Do you agree or disagree? What did you like about it and why do you think it’s relevant to what you’re pitching me with? Hint: It should be relevant.

You’ll probably be familiar with this, you can apply it to pitching too..

hugh

Final paragraph:

“The link enclosed is to an advance version of the video which we are specially making available to you. (If it was made available just to me, why does the video have 300 views?) We will be ‘killing’ this link at midnight GMT and making the video publicly available on (removed). If you would like to write about the ad and embed any video on your blog I would be grateful if you could link to the video on (removed’s) YouTube channel”.

I received the email at 4pm. They were giving me 8 hours to view the video before it was being ‘killed’. This pitch should have finished with the opt in, which requires more forward planning but may result in a more positive response. Asking me to write about it, embed the video on my blog and which link I should link to was too much. I wasn’t going to jump through hoops to write about a YouTube video.

Remember the cocktail party analogy here.

The next time you decide to solicit a blogger with the pitch of a client, imagine we are both meeting at a cocktail party. Imagine I don’t know you and we are meeting for the first time. What is the first thing you would say to me? I don’t think it would be the same words that you would have otherwise used when doing your “pray and spray” email solicitations about your client’s shiny new product or service. No, I think you would first introduce yourself and look for something in common between us. And then only if you were feeling comfortable would you try to pitch me on behalf of your client.

Finally, again, do your research. Tell me why you think what you’re pitching me is relevant. Customise each pitch. Why should I be interested? Seriously, all of the above, coupled together is the difference between talking favourably about it and highlighting it in more of a how not to pitch light.

Here’s a few useful resources to refer back to:

This is how you pitch a blogger

How to pitch a blogger

How to pitch bloggers

How to pitch a blogger

So how DO you pitch a blogger?

How not to:

How NOT to pitch a blog

How not to pitch a blogger

How NOT to pitch a blogger

How Not To Pitch A Blogger

How (Not) to pitch a blogger

#Amazonfail and a coincidental job advert

This post was originally going to be entitled ‘A picture speaks a thousand words’ and simply put up the image below but felt like it deserved a bit more than that..

Reading this is probably the best place to start.. then come right back..

I’ve been keeping half an eye over the weekend on the steadily building #Amazonfail which is incidentally the top trending topic on Twitter and there are this minute more mentions than even Easter. (For an example of it’s talkability factor, in the past hour there’s been a further 700+ mentions since I carried out the original search.)

Amazon PR Week Job Posting

It’s starting to also garner mainstream coverage now as the traditional press catches up but it is something as far as I know started on Twitter and then made it’s way through the blogosphere shortly after.

What’s happened since then? #Amazonfail was being mentioned 4 times a second barely an hour after the first tweet. A petition was started (which over 15,000 people have signed) a Google Bomb took place, and no I formerly had no idea what one of them was either but it sounds pretty damaging. A Facebook group ‘Boycott Amazon’ has been started. A poll was created with the question being ‘Can Amazon redeem/repair their reputation after #amazonfail?’ A list has popped up featuring all the affected titles – here. Some internet hackers are claiming it’s all their doing whilst the names and numbers of the Board of Directors at Amazon HQ have been published. The CTO has been also been ‘unmasked’ (and remains quiet on the whole debacle). Clearly, this is an issue that’s not going to just disappear overnight.

I’ve rounded up a few posts below. One question that everyone at one stage appeared to be asking was do Amazon have a PR manager in the UK or otherwise to deal with freak happenings like this? The advertisement to my right that I coincidentally spotted in the back of the most recent issue of PR Week would suggest otherwise. I put up the picture on Twitpic and soon after @girlonetrack (an affected publisher) retweeted it to her followers.

A few questions for you..

Do you think this is going to affect Amazon’s reputation at all? Has their silence thus far helped or hindered the situation? What do you think their response should be?

Roundup –

Blogs and Twitter coin Amazonfail by Wall Street Journal

Amazon feel the web’s wrath by Zoe Margolis

Amazon sees censorship decisions magnified through the social web magnifying glass by Becky McMichael

Amazonfail – Easter PR Disaster by Matt Churchill

Amazon = FAIL by Alas, a Blog

#Amazonfail – Timeline of WTF by Anastacia

Amazon Follies by Mark Probst

AmazonFAIL discussion thread at Metafilter

Amazonfail: A call to boycott Amazon by Edward Champion

Amazonfail – Malice or Bumble by Jessica Gottlieb

Amazon has removed it’s customer based reporting of books by Brutal Honesty

Amazon blames a glitch by Los Angeles Times

UK Preeple on Twitter – League Table Updated

So I’ve got round to updating the league table, you can find it here

Check it out to find out whether Hotwire have held on to the top spot, whether there are any new challengers making it in to the Top 3 and whether any new entrants have made an impact.

Let me know what you think and whether it adds anything to the grand scheme of things. Do you find it of value to see by number order an agency ranking? I know the numbers aren’t completely true in so far that there are all kinds of permutations that can affect the numbers.. for example, a small agency of 5/6 are never going to top any tables even if they have 100% of their staff actively using Twitter. Perhaps moving forward some changes could be made, for example % of workforce using Twitter? How viable would this be?

As I’ve said before, all feedback is good feedback, am interested in hearing what you think.

M.

A case of Style over Substance? Can an agency website do both?

The inspiration for this post comes from Steve Earl at Rainier PR (who looks like he could do some damage with a bottle of champagne) where he asks an interesting question..

Why are most PR agency websites a pile of turd?

Definitely recommend a read at the link above, brings up some great ideas for further debate.. eg whether the PR industry has when it comes to web design, learnt anything in recent years.. or whether an industry at the sharp edge of comms should be doing better.

What’s my favourite agency site? It’s a toss up between Mischief and Frank. Check them out for yourself, it’s definitely a wow moment when you visit for the first time, and every subsequent visit for that matter. Other notable agency sites I admire include Bray Leino, Cow, Diffusion, Freud, Hotwire, Kazoo and Nelson Bostock.

I believe an agency’s website should be attention grabbing and captivating from the off (see above for a few agencies who I think do that) along with pushing the envelope and getting a whole lot of positive press (like this perhaps) on the back of trying something different and separating themselves out from the rest. Their website is their promotional tool. In recent times the agency that most comes to mind is Lisa P Maxwell (whether it’s seen an uplift in client interest as much as it’s seen an uplift in hits from curious types like me is a question that remains unanswered though) More noise about them here and here.

From a tech point of view I think it’s a fantastic site which allows them to be more transparent in their business practices whilst also successfully breaking down the barriers of communication in such a way which positively encourages you to engage with everyone on the homepage, from top to bottom. I don’t know whether I should admit it but I’ve been checking back at ungodly hours just to see whether there’s anyone still in the office, not for any other reason than because I could! As Lisa P Maxwell’s site goes, some critics could argue that it is perhaps a bit of a win for style over breadth of content but this begs the question..

Should an agencies homepage be a championing of quality over quantity? Stripping down to the very bare basics, LPM still answers the same questions (About, Contact and Jobs) but in a unique and more personal way (WTF, Connect and Jobs) Have LPM shown the way in which all agencies will be heading in the near future or is it merely a short term ‘gimmick’ before resuming with something more ‘conventional’ ?

It’s been introduced most similarly yet not on such a scale by 10 Yeti’s and their YetiCam (which is pretty cool and I did also just have a look on a Sunday afternoon whether there was anything going on!) It’s quite well hidden though in comparison, almost as if they think it’s a great idea but are not sure where it should go. Something like that should be a showcase piece to be proud about on the homepage, it’s a USP when asking the question, Why 10 Yeti’s? (We have nothing to hide, you can see us doing our work, that’s why!)

However, and there’s always a however isn’t there?

Let’s contrast LMP above with an agency like Weber Shandwick (left) of which I’m a great fan of due to the monstrous breadth of content on site that is all readily accessible from the homepage. Interestingly, a recent article under their ‘What We Think’ section of the site is entitled ‘Less Flash, More Substance’ Maybe I’m on to something here!

Which agency websites do you admire the most and who do you think is achieving the best balance of Style Vs Substance?