a peek inside the fishbowl

09 Feb, 2009

Blogger outreach gone bad

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

Subtitle #1: Can someone PLEASE use me as a case study.
Subtitle #2: How NOT to market to bloggers, a long ranty post.

I have been stewing over this post for almost a week, and I still don’t know how to go about writing it without sounding like a b!tch. But I’m annoyed. There. I’ve said it. Annoyed.

Where to begin?

I receive lots of email pitches for various products and services. I don’t mind, I really don’t. I like finding out about cool new stuff, not just for the blog, but for my work with SavvyMom too. I like it when marketers make life easy for me. And I like passing good info along to you too.

Sadly, many pitches are poorly written, misdirected, or totally out of whack with the kinds of things I write about.

I think what annoys me the most is ye old form letter.

Dear Blogger,

We love [a peek inside the fishbowl]! And we know you would love our new Dog and Cat Hypnosis CD…!

Hello! How many extra minutes would it take to write a personal email? (Hint: not many.) And by the way, I am not a dog or cat owner.

A dam has broken and I am on the receiving end of a great flood. Marketing people are dying to get involved in this THING called BLOGS and didn’t know where to begin. Many are stuck in old skool marketing mode in which they think that step number one is to INFORM i.e. spam all of the bloggers who may or may not be interested in their product/service/Pet Hypnosis CD.

I have received pitches which mispelled my name, tried to sell me goods that were only available in the U.S., etc. boring etc. 

I have received good pitches, nay, excellent, friendly, funny pitches from human beings which have resulted in good stuff for me and for the marketing people. Remember the cool car seat I received? The printer giveaway? The theatre tickets? Remember when Loblaws bought my groceries for a month? Remember my trip to Disney ? (Ok, so that wasn’t really a pitch, but IT COULD HAVE BEEN, and it was a very exciting email to receive nonetheless.)

Dealing with the bum pitches was becoming a huge waste of time. Thankfully I found my solution over at Kate Trgovac’s site, a blogger pitch policy. Ha! I used it to create my own. I’ve been tweaking it here and there, and for the most part it’s worked quite well. (By “worked well” I mean “stemmed the tide.”)

A few marketing people have mentioned they find the pitch policy really helpful, which is great. The intent was ultimately to save everyone scads of time.

Like any business, there are people who want to do a good job (and will read the pitch policy) and those who don’t care and won’t bother to go the extra mile.

Phew. I’m finally getting to the point of my post.

So imagine this scene:

I am working at the computer. The doorbell rings. I look out the window to see a FedEx guy (!) staggering under the weight of a huge (!) cardboard box. (!) Ok, maybe STAGGERING is an exaggeration. The box is not heavy, but it’s big. I open the door and sign on the dotted line, wondering all the while WHAT IS IN THE BOX. I feel like I’m nine years old… exactly like a kid at Christmas. A Box. For me! HOW EXCITING. Did I order something and forget? (Ha. That is so very typical.) Did Mark order something for me? WHAT IS THIS?!?

I carry the box awkwardly into the office. I am bubbling with excitement. And then I see the packing label. It’s addressed to me c/o the Fishbowl. Uh oh. My excitement wavers a tiny bit. I prepare for disappointment.  I slice open the packing tape and see a gift basket of goods which have been dislodged from the actual gift basket.

I know you want to know what it was I received, and I’ve thought long and hard and asked around and I am not going to reveal what it was. Sorry if this leaves you wanting, but I don’t want to promote these products in any way. I was (and still am) SORELY tempted to reveal the name of the marketing firm which sent it to me, but I won’t.  (Why not? Well. If it was me who screwed up I wouldn’t want my name and company revealed on someone’s blog… that’s why.)

I will say that the big box was a collection of items I would never buy and would never consider using or recommending to anyone. In fact, if you, Marketer, had bothered to read any of my posts you would know that I am actually against the use of these products. I believe the products you are marketing might have a connection to fertility problems, a rise in asthma, and maybe even cancer. I don’t think your products are good for the environment. I believe that your industry has created its own senseless niche and perpetuates myths in order to make sales. I don’t like how you tap into collective insecurities in order to make financial gain.

If there was a petition to have your products banned from store shelves I would be the first to sign it.

Here’s the stupid part, I’m stuck with a bunch of products I hate and don’t know what to do with them. I’ve debated having it all shipped back to you but I don’t agree in shipping overpackaged goods by FedEx like you do.

To summarize: please don’t send me unsolicited products. Contact me first. And read my pitch policy. Thank you.


p.s. As for the rest of you, don’t forget about the Valentine’s Day bloggy blood drive!

20 Responses to "Blogger outreach gone bad"

1 | J.

February 9th, 2009 at 10:10 am



I’m really curious to see what the products are that you got to put you in a tizzy like that!

2 | andrea

February 9th, 2009 at 10:22 am


J is a curious girl! I’m emailing you. :)

3 | Nicol

February 9th, 2009 at 10:40 am


I have actually had really good luck with the products that I have reviewed on my blog. I guess it helps that the majority of them are books. I am super excited about reviewing a LiteBook. CEO/Inventor called me last Thursday and had a nice chat about light.

Hopefully you will get better things in the future!

4 | Chantal

February 9th, 2009 at 11:21 am


This must be really annoying. Not that I have ever had this experience. It is too bad they don’t get the point. I actually sent you a comment with a URL in it last week and I couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t post but now I am guessing it got caught by your spam filter… Check out junk comment column for something from me :)

5 | Loukia

February 9th, 2009 at 11:51 am


Oh… I am so curious as to what you received!

6 | andrea

February 9th, 2009 at 11:52 am


Nicol – I have had some great luck with some of the products I’ve been sent for review too, but all of those came about because someone at a PR agency emailed me to discuss it and THEN sent me the product. This company chose not to do it that way.

(I was happy to read about you and the LiteBook. Mine has been a lifesaver. I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say about it. )

Chantal – I caught your comment in my spam filter and managed to resuscitate it. :)

7 | Lala

February 9th, 2009 at 12:04 pm


I AM curious about what you got only because I can’t figure out what it is that you abhor and I think that if you do then maybe I should too but I can’t think of anything that takes up a whole category……all I can come up with are plastic baby bottles and toys…….

8 | The Veg Next Door

February 9th, 2009 at 12:25 pm


I can understand your frustration even though I worked in Public & Media Relations before becoming a mom. I have my theories as to why you get info on stuff you would never use. Some of it is due to laziness but some of it is how the PR biz works and their database. However, someone should have called you before sending you a huge box of items.

I would LOVE to know what it is. I’m guessing cleaning products. I’m far too curious for my own good.

9 | The Veg Next Door

February 9th, 2009 at 12:31 pm


Did they send you cigarettes?

10 | andrea

February 9th, 2009 at 12:40 pm


Goodness no. (Is that even legal??)

11 | Brian Coller

February 9th, 2009 at 12:56 pm


Do you have Freecycle? Or try selling them on E Bay!

12 | Lee

February 9th, 2009 at 1:23 pm


My guess would be air fresheners and / or room deoderizer sprays.

13 | DaniGirl

February 9th, 2009 at 3:13 pm


Ohhh, my curiousity is ITCHING!!!

I have been toying with the idea of a pitch policy, but wondered if it was even worth the effort. Good to see that at least some marketing/PR folks are reading it, at least.

The first product I thought of when I read this was something that ends with Breeze and is made by a company that rhymes with Krocter and Ramble. The reason I think this is because myself, I recently received an e-mail from a very nice marketing type asking me if I’d like a gift basket filled with items of this nature. I very politely declined, suggesting the marketer might want to not only read this post, but forward it to his clients as well. To his credit, he replied with good grace and an “oh well, maybe next time” sort of shrug.

But, how did they get your address? (Remember the e-mails a while back from the woman who wouldn’t relent on her desire to send us all free soup, if only we’d send her our address?)

14 | Loukia

February 9th, 2009 at 3:36 pm


Completely unrelated comment here – but just had to say (because I noticed their pretty logo on your blog) the Candy Store in Westboro ROCKS… it’s so heavenly in there! My sister even got t hem to make her a candy bar at her wedding this past summer, and it was so pretty and a huge and yummy hit!

15 | Kate Trgovac

February 9th, 2009 at 6:52 pm


I ADORE your pitch policy! Well done! And I like the bit about how giveaways should match what you blog about. Also your thoughts about small advertisers vs big co. Nice – I may need to update mine.

And for the record, I too am extremely curious :)

Cheers .. Kate

16 | LO

February 10th, 2009 at 3:25 pm


Since you left all hanging at to what it is, you created more hype about it :) But without knowing what it is I think I can guess and I would donate-even if you don’t use ‘those’ products, there may be agencies that could/would ie shepherds etc:) BEWARE of the FED EX man:)

17 | andrea

February 11th, 2009 at 9:46 am


I feel bad donating these products since I won’t use them myself. Would you donate something you’ve tossed because they’re a potential health hazard: Nalgene bottles, flaking Teflon frying pans etc?

18 | The Veg Next Door

February 12th, 2009 at 1:51 pm


My theory on donations is this…I won’t donate something I won’t use myself. Regarding the household products, I think I would just store them in the basement rather than give them to someone. However, there are people that don’t care and would happily use them. Would love to know what you do with this dilemma.

19 | Amy

February 14th, 2009 at 12:21 pm


I have the feeling it’s the same thing that Ms. Porter got. http://portersponderings.blogspot.com/2009/01/sooooo-i-was-asked-to-review-some-p.html

I was mildly surprised that she gave them a somewhat favourable review. And I know that you would not have.

20 | Yes, that was me >> a peek inside the fishbowl

September 30th, 2009 at 12:32 pm


[…] pitch vs. Good pitch vs. Unsolicated Mail (remember THE BOX fiasco?) and the pitch policy that […]

comment form:


Have a great summer at Saunders Farm!

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

Click me!


Stay in touch

Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark. We have two daughters: Emma (19) and Sarah (17). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


E-book alert!

Shopping Embargo e-book promo

My right hand is actually a camera

Connect with me at these places too!

Piper is on Instagram

On the nightstand

All hail the mighty Twitter