Monday, April 16, 2012

Blogging: Understanding PR emails


I have really enjoyed working with many different Public Relations (PR) companies as a blogger over the years with my Seven Cherubs blog and have been thankful for the opportunities that have come my way because of them. I have had some really cool experiences, been invited to meet some wonderful people and have had my eyes opened to a whole new range of topics and styles of writing that I never thought were possible.

I know when I first started my blog I had no idea that you could even work with PR reps as a blogger and was shocked when I received my first email asking me to help promote a product. I was very surprised that they were interested in working with me and quickly replied saying that I was willing to give it a try. I decided to try it to see if I liked it and if my readers would respond to it. Thankfully they did and I have had a wonderful time promoting and challenging myself with writing different blog posts for a variety of products.

Since that time I have received hundreds of emails from PR companies asking me to work with them. From my experience I have discovered that PR reps tend to send out 3 different types of emails. Knowing the difference of what these emails are and how to reply to them has saved me a lot of time as a blogger and allowed me to spend more time with my family. 

Being a blogger is not a full time work for me so I quickly taught myself how to effectively assess if an email was worth replying to or if hitting the delete button was the best option. I often get emails from other women starting out in blogging asking me how to respond to a PR email when they receive one for the first time. So here are my tips and advice on how to understand the 3 types of PR emails you may receive as a blogger:

1. A press release - Normally these emails are a straight copy and paste type of email that contains information about the product they are trying to promote. Often they will even state at the beginning of the email: Press Release for Immediate Distribution. These emails will not include a hello or be personally addressed to you as a blogger. 

A tip if you are thinking about replying to them is that they are normally bulk emails sent out to bloggers and are a clue that if you want to be involved in promoting this product that a whole bunch of other bloggers are also deciding if they want to be involved in it as well. 

These type of emails I do not even read. I delete them immediately. I only accept emails from PR reps if they personalise them simply because I now get a lot more emails and I don't have the time to read through them. It seems that some PR companies feel that bloggers are like magazines or even newspapers and think that sending out a press release is the best way to work with us. From the variety of experienced bloggers that I have spoken to over the years, none of us generally like to get a press release email.

If you are new to blogging and do receive a press release email and want to be involved because you feel it fits your blog or it is a product you are interested in promoting and reviewing feel free to reply and you will surely get back a very happy email from the PR rep. 

Press release emails can also be helpful if you are looking for blog content and are having a writers block. You can also use the information to keep your blog running if you are taking a break. Another tip is to use the content to do a shout out on your facebook page or twitter if you are also looking for something different to share.

2. Dear Blogger: The second type of email they send out is a personalised email but only as far as calling you a blogger. Often these emails are also bulk emails sent out to a group of bloggers to quickly get the message or product out to see who will be interested in working with them. 

One thing to keep in mind with PR reps is that they can't sit down and read every single blog that is out there so they send out bulk emails and go from there. They can then look through who replies and work out who they think would best fit the campaign they are working on.

As these emails are generally addressed to any blogger, you may find that as you read through them that you will spend a lot of time thinking to yourself, why in the world are you emailing me as it is so obvious if you read my blog that this is not a product or company that I want to work with. You can tell immediately that they have not even read your blog!

They will be emails that cover a wide variety of products, events and promotions so be prepared to make your own careful assessment on whether they fit your blog or not. If you are interested in it go for it, make it happen and give it a try.

I have received a lot of dear blogger emails in my time. Most of them I delete but some of them I have replied to and ended up with a wonderful experience promoting a great product and even been able to include a giveaway for my readers. 

My favourite type of dear blogger email I have ever received though actually started with, Dear Sir....

3. Personalised and Specific: I so love to receive a great PR email. I almost want to cry with delight when I get them as they are so rare! Let me share with you what they include; they address me as Naomi, they introduce themselves and the product or event in detail, they are positive and fun and they clearly spell out exactly what they are wanting me to do as a blogger. 

They understand that for me to work with them there needs to be something in it for me and for my readers. They know that is important to me and will influence me in saying Yes to deciding if I want to work with them. They clearly spell out what they are offering and have already planned out what to offer me and my subscribers before sending me the email, saving me time with back and forth emails and negotiations. 

In this email it will also contain links for me to click on to learn more about the product and company involved, saving me time from having to research it on my own and there is no pressure to be involved in the campaign. There is also the understanding that I will be sending a media kit with prices and different options on how I work with companies and the expectation and request that they will receive one from me. 

Although I often do send my media kit in reply to these type of emails, I have to share that when I receive a well set out PR email I often love it so much that I am happy to promote the product for free as they have saved me so much time negotiating and researching. As they make working with them sound fun I normally reply immediately as I get excited to be able to promote it and to share it with my readers.

Here in Australia more and more PR companies are understanding that we want to be compensated for our work and our time we put into on our blog posts but that is a topic for another day :)

Some advice to remember when dealing with PR emails:
There is a person at the end of a PR email so be polite.
If you are starting out and want to work with PR companies start small and take any option you feel comfortable with.
PR emails can be frustrating to deal with and there is nothing wrong with hitting the delete button.
PR companies here in Australia are slowly understanding more and more how to work with bloggers so be patient.
It is a new learning experience working with bloggers for PR as it is for us working with them.
The more we help them understand what we want as bloggers the easier it is to work with them.
Building a relationship with the PR people involved will help you have a happier and more personal experience.
Often PR reps will tell you they have no budget to pay you and you need to work out what you can receive in return.
Spell out clearly what you want and what you need.
Remember you can change your mind at anytime with a campaign.
Do not be afraid to ask how many people are going to be involved in promoting a product.
Have fun and be grateful for opportunities that come your way.

I hope that this has been helpful and it is just my opinion of what I have found over the years. You may feel that I have it completely wrong or have had a different experience. I am not out to put down PR companies and I totally understand that for many of them it is hard to work with us as bloggers simply because they do not have the budget to pay us when they really want to. 

I can't imagine how difficult it must be to promote a product with no budget to pay anyone or product to even use to give to people to review or as payment for writing a blog post. I don't understand how that works but that is the reply I get some times in answer to my return emails. No budget and no product - why bother emailing I say!