a peek inside the fishbowl

15 Sep, 2010

Blogger outreach done right

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life|Publishing/writing/career stuff|Yaktivism

I get lots of email from PR and marketing folks. It seems that I get more of them with every passing month. They’re all essentially the same: would you be interested in writing about our product/service/amazing new thing?

I posted a pitch policy in response to the onslaught… a small thing to stem the tide of email that was flooding my Inbox. I got the idea from Kate Trgovacand I’ve been happy that other bloggers have written up their own.

The pitch policy has worked – more or less. I think I’m getting fewer bad pitches. When I do get one, sometimes I send a quick note back to the sender with a link to my pitch policy, other times I slap my forehead and hit delete.

The top reasons why pitches get deleted:

  • They’re for events in TORONTO. Dear sender, I’m in Ottawa. And it’s written all over this website. Marketing people: do your research.
  • They’re for products which aren’t a good fit for me (or you) and I couldn’t give a fig about: like presliced frozen pizza, on a new easy serve tray! Marketing people: do your research.
  • The senders are angling for placement for their client, and not giving me anything in return. I get tons of emails about snazzy clothing, food, electronic gadgets, stuff for kids etc. I won’t write about it if I haven’t tried it myself. And you know what? I really don’t feel like giving big companies free advertising. Because if I wrote about it here, that’s exactly what it would be … hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars of advertising. Why would I do that for a corporate giant?

All these bad and misdirected pitches have made me jaded and cynical. It’s so rare that I receive a smart, fun and well-planned pitch that when I DO get one it makes me feel happy that someone is LISTENING TO ME and FINALLY GETTING IT.

Enter exhibit 1. This arrived in my Inbox a couple of weeks ago:

Hi Andrea,

My name’s R*** and I work on Mark’s at High Road Communications. I think you know E*** S***, who I work with, through the powers that be the Internet ; ) We’re holding an event I wanted to see if you would like to come out. We’re throwing a ReMark’s so some folks can check out the Fall/Winter 2010 clothing line and Mark’s innovations for staying warm and dry as it’s about to get chilly – even though it’s mega hot right now, you know it’s coming soon! : )

It would be great if you took a look at the invite I’m about to send you and let me know what you think and whether or not you can come. We’re setting up personalized, one-on-one appointments where you can try on pieces from Mark’s Fall/Winter 2010 collection and meet with representatives from Mark’s who can tell you about their innovations. Perhaps even more exciting, we’ll have a hair stylist, makeup artist and photographer in store to capture your complete Mark’s Over!

The invite also includes a questionnaire about your personal style so we can determine how Mark’s collection best fits with your wardrobe and lifestyle. We want to make sure the event is as perfectly tailored for you as possible. So, if you are interested in coming out, please take a moment to fill this survey out.

Please let me know if any you’re available to join us Wednesday, September 15 at the Mark’s store in South Keys (see the invite for exact address and directions). Would love to have you out!

Also, let me know you don’t want to hear about this kind of information or events from me. I don’t want to be a bother!

Thanks and hope to hear from you soon!


Here’s why it’s good:

1) It’s a good letter. I really hate form letters. Especially ones that start with DEAR MOMMY BLOGGER. Form letters are the email version of a cold call delivered by a script-reading telemarketing person who interrupts your dinner. This is personal. The sender has taken a bit of extra time with this, which I appreciate and I feel warm and fuzzy within the first 30 seconds of reading it. The sender – a young lady – is personable and nice. I like nice. Extra points for good humour.

You know what’s really interesting? It probably doesn’t take too much extra time to write a personal note, and if it has good results, why aren’t all marketers doing it?

2) It’s an intriguing idea, with major social media cred. I have been dimly aware that Mark’s Work Wearhouse has been trying to change its image from one of lumber jackets and steel-toed boots to something a little more urban and stylish for men and women. They’ve been undergoing a rebranding of sorts, but I haven’t been inside a MWW (now known as MARK’S) for some time. I’m a curious cat who likes good clothes. So they’ve got me there.

3) They are offering me something fun: a personalized, one-on-one appointment where I can try on pieces from their Fall/Winter 2010 collection … along with a hair stylist, makeup artist and photographer in store. Hook. Line. Sinker. Good bloggy outreach almost always appeals to a blogger’s vanity. It’s true. We like getting special treatment: behind-the scenes, previews, snacks, screenings … these kinds of promises are like carrots in front of our noses.

Geez, the bunch of us who’re going to this event have ALREADY started talking/tweeting about it. This is marketing gold.

All in all, an excellent example of great blogger outreach. Don’t you think?

Anyway, I have to cut this particular rant short for now. My “Marksover” makeover is HAPPENING TODAY. I’ll be tweeting the experience as it unfolds and writing it up afterwards. So stay tuned for part two!

14 Responses to "Blogger outreach done right"

1 | Christine LaRocque

September 15th, 2010 at 9:03 am


Andrea, well said. It is a rare treat to get a message like this that not only appeals to my interests but also actively engages me. It makes all the difference! I’ll be reading your tweets as I get excited for my own Marksover in a few hours. Have fun!

2 | Stefania (Ingredients for Life)

September 15th, 2010 at 9:16 am


I can tell you from experience having worked in PR and at High Road that those kinds of letters are not typical simply because contacts are inputted in a software program. Sometimes they’re divided in categories such as cities, interests, etc. Then a pitch gets written and sent out using the program.

The letter you got was great. Very personal but it came from so-and-so who knows somone-you-know. Most clients are charged in 15-minute increments so even if the PR person took 5 minutes to personalize every pitch that would add up. So 5 minutes is really 15 minutes when the client has to pay up.

There should be a better system. From a PR standpoint, it’s easier and cheaper to send out 100 pitches even though you get a few that are not exactly your target audience because you never know. A good PR person will go through the list and weed out the inappropriate contacts before the pitch is e-mailed but some programs don’t allow for that.

I no longer work in PR because at the end of the day who really cares about XYZ widget? A long-winded comment to defend a profession I no longer work in but I don’t want bloggers to think that PR people are lazy.

3 | coffee with julie

September 15th, 2010 at 9:40 am


I agree whole-heartedly! This Mark’s promotion has really impressed me. I can’t wait to get my Mark’s Over too! :)

4 | Dave

September 15th, 2010 at 9:41 am


I’ve only recently started receiving pitch e-mails (since guest posting somehwere…..), and every single one has been a form letter from someone who has obviously not taken the time to understand what I write about.

Good for you for your pitch policy. I remember some of the incidents that led up to that…

5 | vicky

September 15th, 2010 at 3:39 pm


Another awesome blog entry about a very relevant subject.
Hope you post it on twitter so I can retweet for you.
Your Fan in Toronto.

6 | Tosca

September 15th, 2010 at 4:24 pm


With all due respect, I would argue that you *do* get something in return- you get the product, be it a $1.99 widget or a trip to Disney. I know the bad pitches can be a tad annoying, but I think your stance is a bit disingenuous for a blog that has gone commercial- and there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s the path you’ve chosen- just don’t pretend otherwise.

7 | andrea

September 15th, 2010 at 4:59 pm


My time is valuable and I don’t want to waste it on bad or misdirected PR efforts.

But Tosca, you’ve misunderstood. The VAST majority of pitches I receive consist only of mass emailed press releases and nothing else.

To take a real example… I received an emailed press release from a company that makes garage organizing “systems,” shelving and bins, things like that.

They asked me to post about their product. i.e. “Your readers would really love to know more about… ”

I’ve never seen the product, don’t know much about it, don’t own it myself… why should I bother posting about it and giving them GREAT targeted (and free) advertising? Would you be interested to read a post like that? (I wouldn’t.)

I’m not sure how to interpret your comment about ‘going commercial.’ I have some wonderful patrons that are helping with the growing costs of running this website. They are amazing people who have really stepped up to the plate and are – in essence – giving me the freedom to write about all kinds of great stuff that readers like you benefit from. If THEY weren’t here, I’m not sure I could be.

I’m not pretending to be anything. Just someone making her way along and trying to figure out what works best!

8 | Rayanne Langdon

September 15th, 2010 at 10:25 pm


This is an awesome post, Andrea — thank you! : )

I definitely understand what Stefania is saying in her comment, but — speaking from my experience — I have been able to share incredible conversations (and amazing results!) with clients by taking the time to get to know fewer people (who I’ve learned would probably be interested in what I have to say!) really well.

Plus, it’s fun! I can never have too many Internet friends : )

Rayanne Langdon, High Road Communications

9 | Stefania (Ingredients for Life)

September 16th, 2010 at 7:07 am


Raynne, a follow-up call after a pitch is sent out is always good and appreciated. That’s a good way to find out if so-and-so is your target audience.

10 | Blogger outreach done right - part II >> a peek inside the fishbowl

September 16th, 2010 at 8:18 am


[…] Yesterday’s post was about a great pitch I received from High Road Communications on behalf of their client, Mark’s, formerly known as Mark’s Work Wearhouse. […]

11 | Vicky

September 16th, 2010 at 9:38 am


Having also been to the event, I think it was brilliant, and extremely well executed. It’s nice to see marketers actually targeting their campaigns to the people they want as customers! Someone definitely did their homework.

BTW if you want to read my post about the event, here’s the link:


12 | Marla

September 16th, 2010 at 1:11 pm


Mark’s is a great company in my book for a couple of reasons – they donate to our school’s fundraiser cheerily, generously and on a store-by-store basis (two different locations at one fundraiser!), not just by making us jump through corporate hoops. But more, in the past three years that I’ve been asking for our school, I meet the same people over and over again – it seems their managers and employees stay for a long time and are happy there. And even the people they pay to leave their coupons and flyers in the neighbourhood stores wait and ask if they can, rather than dumping a pile in the window and assuming it’s okay because others are there. And I realized, since I started making a point to shop there more, that their clothes really fit me, and it’s nice to know that I can go in and buy any pair of pants or skirt (or, okay, skort) in “my” size, and it will fit the same – not like other stores where a (say) 8 can be a six or a 10.

13 | Tosca

September 16th, 2010 at 4:36 pm


Hi again,

I never misunderstood anything- I’m sure you get tons of pitches thrown at you and that you have to spend the time to vet them. Everyone’s time is valuable.

As for what I meant by going commercial, I simply meant that your advertising generates revenue. Yes, there are costs to running a website- I’m very aware of that. And I meant no judgment with regards to whether it’s cool to accept remuneration (be it money or products). Again, everyone’s time is valuable, bandwidth costs money, etc. You don’t need to defend that- through your blog you have branded yourself and turned it into a commodity- and there’s nothing wrong with having that kind of blog.

Maybe it’s just me, but I do believe that once a blogger starts accepting these pitches and doing reviews, the timbre of the blog changes. Personally I look at these reviews as having an inherent bias and view them with a healthy degree of skepticism. Again, maybe that’s just me. I give a lot more credence to reviews that are self-initiated (I’m sure there’s some marketing jargon that would apply better, but hopefully you get what I mean) because the writer happened upon the product (rather than was provided the product for free and asked to review it) and decided they loved it, hated it, or were somewhere in the middle.

As an aside, I find it interesting that you wrote about your experience more as an examination of the use of social media in marketing and the ethics of it rather than about the products themselves (personally I would love to hear more about the clothes, because let’s face it, that’s what they’re selling- it’s not like I’m going to walk in off the street and get the full makeover experence, lol).

Btw, I do enjoy your blog (especially the arty/crafty stuff) and think that your makeover pic looks great!

14 | andrea

September 17th, 2010 at 11:05 am


Tosca: what can I say? I write what I’m interested in. :)
Different people probably took away different ideas from the Mark’s experience. The business and social media side of things is what made the biggest impression on me and I thought it would spur an interesting discussion.

As for blog posts which are product recommendations – whether I’ve bought that product or not – I make an effort to be as genuine and honest as I can. There is nothing to be gained if I do otherwise.

Like any category of content, whether it’s recipes or portraiture or Ottawa-centric stuff, I have to leave it up to the reader to decide whether they want to read or not. And if people aren’t happy with the array of content they find here, well, they have the choice not to return. I can’t be everything to everyone. Mostly, I write for myself, about things that make me happy, or things that I am currently worrying/thinking/raving about.

As for the clothes, I am very happy with what I brought home. I haven’t washed anything yet but everything is super comfortable and stylish: the jeggings, the washable black silk top, the long cardi. The bag is awesome too… very roomy with lots of pockets inside. The boots are gorgeous but they’re a little wide around the top of the calf. I was told (a) it’s the style and (b) I should build muscle. :)

Take it how you will, but I do recommend giving Mark’s a closer look.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. 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.

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