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  • How I Deal with PR E-Mails

    As I am still neck deep in book writing at the moment, and can’t be arsed to transfer/re-package interesting information from the manuscript to the digital world, here’s a little behind the scenes look at food blogging.

    PR E-mail bombs are a way of life for a blogger, and nearly every blogger I know has a complaint or two about them. As I’ve been food blogging at one site for seven years now, my e-mail address has found its way to hundreds, if not thousands of mailing lists throughout the world.

    My own personal philosophy around these e-mails has evolved over the course of the years, from slight annoyance to outright derision. I have asked many PR agents to lose my address, and it had barely made a dent to the spam recieved in my inbox.

    My current approach is one of recognizing that they are an evil that comes with a territory. Yes, there are some blogs that use these PR e-mails, which sadly only encourages the PR companies to spam more. Rather than fight and bitch, I’ve resorted to a simple canned response that I arbitrarily respond with to those PR companies who seem deserving. The canned response (that anyone can set up in various e-mail clients, including GMail) is thus:

    Thank you for your inquiry into advertising on my website.

    Typically, I let third parties handle my advertising for me, so that I do not have to deal with the administration of this task. But as you asked, here are the going rates.

    Graphic Ads are $XX per week, and are no larger than 150 pixels wide by 500 pixels lengthwise. Text may be added below the graphic, and may contain an appropriate link.

    Text links are $XX per month, and should be no more than 4-5 words in length, and an appropriate link. An appropriate link is defined as a link directly to a home domain only. No Pornographic sites will be accepted, nor any sites that seek to install malware upon a visitors hard drive.

    Payment must be made up front, via check or paypal, with the ad to run five days after the funds have cleared.

    Thank you,

    -Kate Hopkins

    My thinking was this – if they can send me e-mails that I will never use, then I can return the favor. My goal wasn’t to make money, my goal was to, in a passive-aggressive manner, fill their inbox with what is, to them, meaningless drivel. My entertainment came from watching them avoid addressing this fact. What I didn’t expect was that this little endeavor would turn into a bit of a social experiment, with PR companies as the guinea pigs.

    Most don’t respond. Let me say that up front. Neither has anyone actually taken my response seriously enough that a paid ad has ended up on Accidental Hedonist via this route.

    But I have had some interesting conversations with a PR representatives. Here are a few examples:

    Hi Kate,

    Thank you for your response, however the e-mail was regarding editorial coverage I thought your readers would enjoy.

    If you are interested in editorial including (our client), please feel free to contact me as I would love to work with you.

    Our budget doesn’t allow for advertising campaigns. Could you find it in your heart to provide advertising for free?

    Ms. Hopkins,

    We don’t believe that your site is popular enough to warrant us advertising with you.

    And my personal favorite -

    Dear Kate,

    There seems to be a misunderstanding. We weren’t inquiring into advertising on your site. We were looking for you to provide a post about (our client).

    Many of these e-mails evolved into a back and forth regarding what is advertising and what is not. All of them resulted with them saying that they would take me off of their mailing list. The result? Well, not to brag, but yesterday alone I received over fifty e-mails from differing PR companies alerting me to restaurant openings in London and New York, new cookies for sale, and the latest Apple app that has been made available.

    But I’ve had enough conversations with PR reps to know that many of them do not see, or at least will not admit, that they are asking for free advertising.

    I’m under no illusions here. I know that PR e-mails won’t stop. I understand that they’re looking for free coverage. What I’d like for them to comprehend is that there are food writers out there who don’t use unsolicited PR e-mails as a basis for their content.

    Or perhaps they do know. Perhaps they just don’t care and are willing to alienate a percentage of their spam list in order to get to the 10 or 20 people who will write about them. Regardless, I still plan on making them aware that they are asking for free advertising.

    Maybe, just maybe, one of them will realize it and adjust their behavior accordingly.

    …but I doubt it.