Being a terrible listener makes you a terrible communicator.
When the nature of our business is to effectively communicate with one another, this paradigm is as ironic as it is detrimental.
I recently received a typically regular outreach from an independent PR “professional” for my humor site, SHUGGILIPPO, and the below exchange followed, with [commentary bolded]:
October 29, 2014 6:00am
Ms. Jessi Sanfilippo Blogger
Can we interest you in taking a look and possibly doing a feature story or a review of this delightful new award winning children’s holiday book by [AUTHOR REDACTED]?
Here is a rock and rolling story about [SUMMARY REDACTED]. This exquisitely illustrated book will have you and your kids totally enthralled and when you get to the last page, you will explode with laughter and delight.
If you would like to receive a review copy, please provide us with your best mailing address. We have very limited review hard copies left, but PDF file will still available or if you wish fast action and would like to save a few trees request that as your preference.
[For those unfamiliar, this is a standard issue format for outreach from a PR representative to a blogger/influencer. Awkward opening salutation and all.]
October 29, 2014 8:56pm
Hello [REP REDACTED]!
This title looks wonderful! Depending on how quickly I could get a hardcover copy to include in my “Children’s Books” holiday gift guide video, I’d love to add it to the mix. [How long will it take?] The excerpts below are right up the alley of the tone of my site and audience.
Let me know the turnaround time on that and we can go from there. [How long will it take?]
Hope this finds you well and, as always, thank you for the outreach on sharing this great title with my audience! [Pleasant enough, right?]
[STANDARD SIGNATURE COPY]
October 29, 2014 9:22 pm
As stated below:
If you would like to receive a review copy, please provide us with your best mailing address. We have very limited review hard copies left, but PDF file will still available or if you wish fast action and would like to save a few trees request that as your preference. [Now let’s remember how I mentioned I was thinking of putting this book in a video. That proves less screen-friendly when the copy I’m using is a PDF file.]
October 29, 2014 9:45pm
I did read the part about the PDF copy available for more immediate review, however, since the nature of the title’s potential inclusion would be on camera in a holiday gift guide series I’ll be filming & publishing in the next 2-3 weeks, I wanted to see if you could offer any insight on the turnaround for physical copies. [So, how long will it take? In other words, I’m being considerate in not laying claim to one of the expressed limited physical copies if it won’t arrive in time to be including on-camera.]
If not, that’s okay. Was just thinking from what I could see in your release that this might be a fun one to include in the collection I already have for the episode. [Pay attention. I’m only asking to include this book in something that I am already doing.]
Thanks for your time on this, [REDACTED]!
[STANDARD SIGNATURE COPY]
October 29, 2014 10:11pm
Jessim, [Same day, different name.]
You are making this way harder than it needs to be. [Uh oh.]
If you wish to receive a hard copy, please just provide us with your street mail address.
[Sent at 10:11pm. Everyone knows, nothing good comes from messaging after 10pm.]
October 29, 2014 10:14pm
I just downloaded your media kit. [Wait, what?] You charge for sponsored posts and advertising. [Yeah…and…]
If you are seeking to be paid, we can’t work with you at all. We don’t pay for media coverage. [Good to know.]
Let me know if you can do an objective review with no fee. [Yeah, I kind of thought that’s what we’ve been talking about.] If you can’t then please let me know. I’ll place you on our block list. [Well that escalated quickly.]
[Wait, wait. I didn’t get a chance to respond to the fir…]
October 29, 2014 10:19pm
Jesse, [Ah, a new misspelling.]
I studied your media kit. [Um…]
Sorry, we see the trend for people to run articles for a fee, [People occasionally being paid for what they do? Yeah. It’s an epidemic.] but we can’t even pass these offers back to the PR clients due to the financial conflict of interest issues that arise. The fee requires disclosure under the FTC “Truth in Advertising” requirements. [Ya don’t say?] Our clients come to us for objective editorial coverage, freely given due to the value offered, and not advertising.
I have written several commentaries about the recent trend for sponsored posts, particularly on blogs. If you want to read more about why this business model has serious drawbacks, click here: [URL REDACTED] [Very eye-opening since all industry trends indicate a significant shift toward sponsored digital content.]
Google is also now penalizing all web sites including blog sites that accept payment for links and sponsored posts even with disclosure. [NO! Not the Google Police!] Here’s an excellent article for you from a sponsored post blogger who has written and explained this issue very well: [URL REDACTED]
And here is a link to one of my blog posts about the Google changes [URL REDACTED]
Although my post was written concerning news releases, the Google changes are just applicable and as pertinent to sponsored posts. [Looks like I hit the jackpot with all this insider Google information.]
If you are willing to do a review based on your objective consideration of the product, then please provide us with your best mailing address. [I already said yes. Twice. How long will it take?]
Hope this helps.
Free eBook download [URL REDACTED] [Well this is new…]
[I wanted so badly to respond to this 8-minute, late night barrage of messages with my knee-jerk impression, but decided to collect myself in order to offer a more constructive reply.]
October 30, 2014 1:05am
It saddens me to hear that you have had such an unpleasant experience with bloggers and/or online influencers in the past, [Those money-hungry monsters who are sometimes paid.] that it has led to the assumptive, baseless succession of emails in reply to how timely a hard copy of a title for inclusion in an editorial based video would be.
I have been publishing online in the editorial, advertorial, and advertising means for upwards of seven years. By and before FTC guidelines were as rigidly outlined and strictly enforced. [This is not my first rodeo.] However the guidelines in this particular scenario, and your attempt to condescendingly “educate” me on the adverse effects of publishing paid content on my site, are as bewildering as they are moot since there was never a financial expectation expressed on my part. [You only assumed this because you clicked on a link that I have in all of my emails.] I am no stranger to the editorial nature of generating exposure, for books in particular, as I have been doing so on my site for years now. At no point in my correspondence, again, simply asking you how many days/weeks it would be to receive a physical copy [How long will it take…] to feature in a video (a delivery medium, as you well know from your explicitly shared knowledge of the industry, is typically a premium paid distribution avenue), did I request or require a form of payment to do so. […to do it for free?]
While I appreciate the thorough attention you managed to apply to my default email signatures, as well as the content of my media kit, I’d have loved to see you apply that same level of attention to my repeated inquiry. I implore you to take a moment of your heightened attention to detail and cycle back to the two previous messages I sent your way. You’ll see that I was offering to provide exceptionally effective coverage on behalf of your client and their title in a medium that would have exceeded what is typically a dry and formulaic activation of your promotional efforts. At no requested fee. At all. Ever.
As a result of this bizarre and unsettling string of correspondence, I am fortunately, or unfortunately for your client, no longer interested in providing coverage for this title. [Which is really a shame.] I would request that you proceed with adding my contact information to your “block list” as I, in an effort to avoid “making this harder than it needs to be”, will be adding yours to a block list of my own. [::presses play on the song “Shit List” by Garbage::]
P.S. I would highly recommend closing down your email when enjoying a few night caps. [I didn’t say I wouldn’t throw a knee-jerk comment in there at all.]
[STANDARD SIGNATURE COPY]
October 30, 2014 12:34 PM
Jessi, [Nailed it! Finally.]
It saddens me as well that we won’t be working together as well. [Welcome to the Department of Redundancy Department]
You contacted [AUTHOR REDACTED]. That’s fine. [I sent a friendly head’s up to the author to loop her in on the exchange so it’s nice to hear that he approves of my doing so.]
I then reviewed all the email with you and decided that I might clarify my response to you a little better. [Obviously your client contacted you. That sounds like a good idea. Especially since we both know they’ve been BCC’d on this message.]
You indicated that you felt my assumptions were baseless, so I want you to know why I responded to your communications with me the way I did. Perhaps I am more than a little sensitive to bloggers but the sposored post phenomenon is driving people in the PR business a little crazy. [A little?] But I do want to relate to you specifically what you sent to me and why I responded the way I did. [Here we go again…] Perhaps you might conclude some changes in what you send to people are in fact justified. [I wouldn’t bet on it.]
The email was in fact a bit confusing to me. [“How long will it take?” is very confusing.] I will explain why. [Phew. I thought you may have changed your mind.]
Your email below states that there was no words that implied there was to be a fee. [BINGO! How long will it take?]
I wish to point out that this was not as clear as you might believe it to be. Here is what you sent in response to the news release: [This shouldn’t be very surprising since I wrote it.]
This title looks wonderful! Depending on how quickly I could get a hardcover copy to include in my “Children’s Books” holiday gift guide video, I’d love to add it to the mix. The excerpts below are right up the alley of the tone of my site and audience.
Let me know the turnaround time on that and we can go from there.
Hope this finds you well and, as always, thank you for the outreach on sharing this great title with my audience!
Founder & Humorist at SHUGGILIPPO.com | Los Angeles
firstname.lastname@example.org | [PHONE REDACTED]
View & download the full media kit for SHUGGILIPPO here: [URL REDACTED]
First I went to your site, and your home page has no publishing content. It is all about you. [Since, in my also years-long experience with PR, a majority of the outreach is based on little to no due diligence in comprehensive list-building, all the site links in my emails directed you to my “about” page so you’d have the chance to learn more about my site and myself. So yeah. What you saw on my “home page” makes sense.] I looked all through your site and it is not clear where you publish Where features or information about my client could be featured is not readily apparent. [At the time of this email, on the actual home page of my site, there were three posts in the series I’d been referencing in my messages that I wanted to feature your client’s product in. For free.]
Then your email simply states in pertinent part …. “Let me know the turnaround time on that and we can go from there.” [Right. How long will it take?]
This is followed by your signature with:
View & download the full media kit for SHUGGILIPPO here: [URL REDACTED]
You notice this copy is enlarged and bolded with all caps caps on your SHUGGILIPPO name.[Why yes. I did indeed notice you manipulated my signature to look like that.]
So of course, I then clicked on it and looked over all your options. Your media kit very clearly states that you charge for video production and you also charge for content production. [Yes. My media kit does outline pricing, however our one-on-one dialogue never did.]
Your media kit made no statements whatsoever that indicated you would review or feature books or products in any other manner. Everything had a price. [That is the intended purpose of a media kit though, and again, this was never part of the conversation.]
I hope you can see that having followed your links it is very easy to conclude that you charge for coverage. [You’re reaching across the globe on this one, buddy.]
Finally, I concluded that given the clients I have the and coverage we seek, you really don’t publish the type of content that will best serve my clients interests. [I love when it gets to the blind, yet very bold, insults.]
This is why I sent you the email. [Glad we cleared that up.]
I am a former attorney [Nowwwwwwwww this is all making more sense…] and have researched the topic very carefully for many years now. My email to you regarding sponsored post and pay for play has evolved over many years of experience and has been sent to hundreds of bloggers this past year. [Hopefully also unsolicited.] I apologize if that upset you. [Well, I kept Kleenex in business for Q3 so that’s good.] This is an issue that plagues hundreds of bloggers. I am working closely with Cision to clarify the type of media they include in their database and they have agreed to designate media who provide real objective media coverage, vs. those who charge for their time and effort. This will improve the working relationships in a very practical way in the industry. [Blah, blah, blah]
My bottom line is that it does not look like we are a match. [Sounds like a familiar conclusion.] I seek bona fide objective media coverage for my clients. [Exactly what I provide mine.]
You do what you are best at. I wish you well and hope you achieve everything you want to in this life. [Are you also a former life coach?]
Everyone inherently knows that it’s a smart idea to develop good relationships in business. Especially when you are in the business of public relations. One of the most accessible tools we have to achieve that, is our skill with communication.
The simplest part of that skill is listening.
He just wasn’t listening.
All I was asking was “How long will it take?”