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On Press Releases

In case this hasn’t been clear, I am not a media outlet.

Barrage balloon, Parris Island, S.C.  (LOC)
Barrage balloon, Parris Island, S.C. (LOC) - Palmer, Alfred T., photographer. Public domain photo shared by the Library of Congress.

A lot of bloggers have written about how they’d like to be approached by publicists and a lot of discussion has ensued about how the publicity landscape online is different from the one in traditional media. Enough discussion’s been had on this topic, and enough of it is so painfully obvious, that it should be fairly common knowledge that bloggers should be approached by publicists differently than how they might approach media outlets. Because bloggers are not media outlets. We’re people. Individuals. We care most about our readers, our own ideas, and what people we respect are writing about.

Now. I’m not opposed to being approached by publicists. I’m actually very interested in sharing cool things with my readers. I’m flattered when a publicist thinks I have enough reach to be valuable to them.

But 95% of the emails I receive from publicists are wholly unhelpful to me, and in some cases they’re downright offensive. There’s the one publicist who, after several requests last month to remove me from his list and my consequent note that I’d seek out his superior, told me he’s his own superior and there’s no one superior to him but god. (I still get emails from him; the last one came a couple of days ago. They go directly into a filtered folder in case I decide one day to file a formal spam complaint.)

To be fair, most press releases I receive are benign. Which is good. Except what kind of publicist wants their press-release recipient to think their message is benign?

My blog is sort of amorphous. I get that. I don’t write about one, very specific topic. My blog is not a formal publication. I have no set number of pages to fill, which means I don’t stockpile benign content that I can pull out when I suddenly find myself with a quarter page that needs to be filled a day before press time. I don’t sell things or have a mandate to promote things other than my own work.

So why do I receive press releases touting the grandeur of lifelike baby dolls (for all that is good and pure in this world, please make a permanent note that I find ALL human-looking dolls to be thoroughly terrifying). Why do I receive press releases because Martha Stewart featured alpacas on her show? What, exactly, do publicists want me to do with this information?

No, wait. Presumably, publicists would like me to pass on this information. But I don’t. Because I find it creepy and I need a sedative after seeing it. Because I’m, personally, bored by it. Because I don’t actually think my beloved readers care if I tell them about a particularly durable car mat. Because I don’t care.

Enough ranting. Want to know about the 5% of publicists who never get ranted about? Let me tell you. These are rare publicists that reach out only to a few bloggers at a time. They only reach out to a few because they’ve spent quite a bit of time getting to know those bloggers and their blogs. They email me personally. They use my name and they cut to the chase. They’re clear about what they want from me, and they’re clear about what’s in it for me. And almost all the time, they’re right. I’m interested. I want to share what they want me to share. Hell, I want to buy them a drink just so they’ll continue to be in touch. Because I, like most humans, enjoy playing with others. I enjoy learning about new things. And I enjoy feeling special. And more than that, those 5% of publicists help me provide content to my readers that make them feel special. And then they make me feel special all over again. That all may sound petty, but I don’t care. When you embark upon a labour of love, feeling special is about the best fuel there is.

So.

Publicists, I’d like to hear from you if and only if you believe your information will make my readers feel special. My readers are creative people, and many of them are creators. Most of them are women, but I find most general-topic press releases that are geared toward women to be sexist. Please don’t be sexist. Please address your email to Kim. Please do not include unsolicited attachments. Please be friendly. If I ask to be removed from your list, please remove me and don’t take it personally. Please note that I no longer work for a television show (*ahem* dude with a god complex). Please note that I enjoy humour, I love to collaborate, and I don’t shy away from absurd projects that might make people smile or win stuff.

Thank you.

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Monica (aka monnibo)

Thank you! I’m in charge of the social media at work, and my coworker is in charge of publicity. Sometimes we have overlap with the bloggers. Some of them she sends a general press release to, while others we decide that I should contact them individually. You’re right, bloggers are not like traditional media. Thanks also for the tips about getting straight to the point. ;)

Anonymous

In a word, WORD.

I’m still getting paper press releases in the mail, for pete’s sake. And every week, I delete emails unread because the publicist hasn’t even done me the courtesy of addressing me by name. I’m always happy to hear from people who have a good project or product, but I do wish more traditional-media publicists would get a clue, already. Bloggers have been around long enough, and like you said, so many of us have written explicitly about how we’d like to be approached. Seems like there’s more than enough information out there to go on.

Brigette Mayer

In keeping with our Twitter conversation, here’s my two cents.

Please keep in mind that small business owners are not professional publicists! :-) We aren’t aware of any long standing discussions and what you may think is “common knowledge” certainly isn’t (at least, it wasn’t to me). Anything I’ve been taught or read about PR is old school; hence, that’s what I know to do. However, that being said, I’ve now been enlightened. :-)

Brigette Mayer

Everyone in social media and Web 2.0 is always talking about how bloggers are the new media – certainly influential, widespread, and prolific. :-) So, as a small business owner, how do I differentiate between “popular” or “professional” bloggers and those that are blogging more as a means of expression? Or do I? I would think that two different types of press releases would apply in this situation, due to the audience; however, maybe I’m wrong?

Also, if this personalization of press releases for bloggers and other new media types is “common knowledge” then it should certainly be taught in the education system…and I’m not sure it is.

To all the bloggers out there, please be gentle (but educational, as this post certainly was for me) – unless you know for sure that your press release came from a publicist, please know that any slights from small business owners were not intentional. ;-)

Brigette Mayer

No worries – I’m excited to hear your thoughts and learn some new things. :-)

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