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Public Relations Vs. Advertising: What You Need to Know!

By Jan 22, 2014 July 8th, 2014 66 Comments

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There comes a time in every blogger’s life when they start to receive pitches from public relations firms. It can feel exciting (omg – I’m on a List!), it can feel confusing (how did this person get my email address and what do they want from me?), and sometimes it can even feel downright insulting (i.e.: the time I got pitched the latest and greatest girdle for the fashion-forward mom).

Many bloggers come into the space with dollar signs in their eyes, looking for opportunities to make money. And when PR agencies come knocking on their doors, but without cash in hand, it can lead to a lot of misunderstanding.

If you haven’t figured it out already, let me break it to you: PR agencies don’t pay bloggers to cover their news.

And why don’t they pay bloggers? Because paying for coverage isn’t public relations, it’s advertising. This leads to a lot of disappointment and sometimes anger among the blogging community.

PR Vs. Advertising

The statement I hear most often sounds something like, “Can you believe this person wants me to work for free?” or “Here we go again, another PR person wanting something for nothing.” I’ve even had well-known bloggers tell me how they just respond with their ad rates and nothing else, and then they laugh when they don’t get a response back. A lot of this is understandable, but I can tell you right now that the latter is totally unacceptable because, professionalism.

This topic comes up so frequently and there is so much misinformation out there that it seems like a good time to do a little “PR 101” refresher course for those of you who slept through it your first year of Junior College. Or was that just me? The 90s were such a long time ago…

Luckily, I was able to snag a few minutes to interview a true expert on the subject. Julie Miller has worked in public relations for over 25 years and she is the Director of Public Relations for Intuit’s consumer products: TurboTax, Quicken, and Mint. If anyone can help clear up the confusion between public relations and bloggers, it’s Julie.

Why Don’t PR Agencies Pay Bloggers: The Interview

Let’s get started!

Hi Julie! First, I want to thank you for taking the time to chat with me. There is so much misinformation floating around the Internet about the role of PR, and the relationship between bloggers and PR, and the difference between PR and advertising, and when a PR agency might or might not pay a blogger, and well, you get the picture.

Soooo…What exactly does PR do?

You know what? I’ve never been asked this question! On the most basic level, public relations is fundamentally about working with journalists, bloggers, and other influencers to help get your message out. It’s what we would call “earned media.” It’s not paid.

What is the difference between earned and paid media?

Well, earned media comes in two forms:

  1. News coverage online or in broadcast media.
  2. What your customers say about you.

Either way, earned media is an amplification of your brand and the experience people have with your brand.

In earned media, PR tries to influence the message but they ultimately have zero control over the end result. The key word here is influence – the agency can only try to influence the message.

Paid media, or advertisements, are similar, but you are paying a media outlet or website to run an advertisement for your brand, company or product. In this circumstance, the blogger would have no control over the copy, creative, or positioning of the advertisement. The key word here is control – the agency has control over the message.

Inherently, advertising is really a marketing vehicle. Not only do you get to control the message, but the message also consists mostly of marketing language. Jingles and catchphrases are good examples of marketing and advertising language. Ads persuade you to buy. People know when they are being sold to in the form of advertising, and often, they are skeptical.

Earned media is more about having an actual conversation – it’s not about driving a marketing message. A message that works well in a paid advertisement often needs to be tweaked for public relations use. The PR message that gets communicated via a 3rd party (i.e.: a journalist or blogger) should be informative and valuable to the reader. It should also establish credibility with the audience.

Blogging Business Model

Just to get it straight, a PR person gets a list of media contacts together and sends out their pitch. What is the intention behind that?

One of the tools a PR person keeps in their toolkit is a media pitch. Think of it as a short sales pitch to invite a conversation and/or an interview between the company and the journalist or blogger.

When a PR person puts together a targeted media list, it usually includes what the customers are reading. So, if you are trying to reach young girls, then maybe Seventeen Magazine is a good media outlet to pitch, but it’s probably not great if you are trying to reach working mothers.

The key is to communicate a compelling angle that is relevant to the audience and delivers a benefit to the audience you are trying to reach.

So, I’m a blogger and I’ve just received a PR pitch. If I’m interested, what should I do next?

The pitch really serves as a door opener to have a future conversation, whether on the phone or by email. What you hope is that it creates an opportunity for the blogger to speak with a PR person, expert, internal product manager, or marketing manager to do an interview that hopefully results in a blog post about whatever the topic is.

A lot of bloggers think they should get paid to cover company news. Can you tell me under what circumstances would a PR agency pay or not pay a blogger?

Generally speaking, my opinion is that you don’t pay bloggers to cover news or products. If you want guaranteed placement, then that’s what ads deliver.

Still, there are lots of ways to find shared value with bloggers.

It’s important for the PR person to figure out what the blogger would find valuable. Maybe they would be interested in a link back from the company, or maybe there is an opportunity to provide product for a giveaway that drives traffic and engagement. But an outright exchange of money for coverage isn’t appropriate.

I think that’s definitely a valid point of view. Still, a lot of bloggers argue that if the PR agency is getting paid, they should get paid too. A lot of bloggers feel they shouldn’t be “working for free.” How would you respond to that kind of statement?

The assumption a PR person works under is that the pitch has a message your readers might find value in. Smart PR people figure out how to find the benefit, craft the pitch accordingly, and build a relationship with the blogger.

Unfortunately, not all PR people are as thoughtful and are broadly spamming bloggers, journalists, and media. I’ve been doing PR for 25 years and there are regularly stories about PR people who do dumb things, including offering trips and money to bloggers for coverage.

Ultimately the PR person’s job is to drive awareness and consideration about whatever company, product, or brand they represent and they need to do it in a highly ethical and strategic way.

Some bloggers have found success working with PR agencies as a “brand ambassador.” What is then the difference between PR coverage and brand ambassadorship?

Typically, my interpretation of a brand ambassador, or spokesperson, is that the ambassador speaks to the media. Your job as a spokesperson is to get the person you are talking to excited about the brand you represent. And then that person, they can be a blogger, journalist or even a consumer, gets interested and spreads the message. Spokespeople are often experts in a field or influential in a specific space. The spokesperson carries the company’s message and keeps people talking to them.

PR for Bloggers

This is where media training comes in, right?

Being a good spokesperson is an art, just like being a great public speaker or storyteller. There are a lot of media dos and don’ts and the art is in honing your message and finding those high impact sound bytes that will get picked up and get the company’s name included in an article or story. Media training is rigorous and ongoing. It’s a critical part of preparing a spokesperson to go out and represent a brand.

If a blogger gets pitched and they are more interesting in a paying opportunity, what do you recommend?

There is certainly an opportunity for bloggers to contribute and get paid. Perhaps they can get paid to write a story for the company blog. Often, the relationships between PR and bloggers can also lead to advertising opportunities as another potential source of revenue.

Before we go, I have to ask you about the so-called “blacklists” PR agencies are rumored to keep. This is something we love to speculate over. Is there such a thing? And if so, what would get a blogger blacklisted?

I think there is an unwritten expectation of trust between PR people, journalists, and bloggers. Many times a PR person will release information under an embargo, as in – “I’m giving you this information in advance but you cannot post your story until the specific date I give you.” More and more media outlets simply won’t take any information under embargo. I totally get that. But if a blogger took the information and didn’t maintain the embargo and just ran the story, that would make me, as a PR person, less likely to work with them in the future. The blacklisted thing seems pretty severe, in my opinion.  I also think a lot of the “blacklisting” is situational. This is a symbiotic relationship. Ideally, the blogger needs the PR person and the PR person needs the blogger. So we are constantly finding ways to work together that’s mutually beneficial.

What would benefit the blogger, besides money? The information, the relevance? I think there are a lot of bloggers who feel they don’t need the constant stream of pitches. I hear a lot of bloggers complain about it, actually.

What I’m hoping the blogger I’m pitching to needs is a constant source of relevant news, topics, and story ideas. It’s hard to write and run a blog and keep abreast of everything at the same time. If the relationship is kept up over time, then maybe the blogger gets the opportunity to break news, which drives up their equity in the space.

Hopefully your PR relationships as a blogger are keeping a constant flow of ideas coming in. I’d like to think the relationship goes both ways.

This article has been edited for length and clarity.

About Morgan Quinn

Morgan Quinn is the Managing Editor and Social Media Manager at Mint.com. You can read her poorly-neglected blog at The Little Hen House.

66 Comments

  • Wow.. this article is very informative as it covers one of the most trendy subject i.e. Public relations and Advertising in contrast of blogging. Love to read it. Keep updating as usual. Thank you.

  • […] point I want to make is people mistake PR vs. advertising all the time. I’ve been known to do so as well. If your story is NOT newsworthy then you […]

  • Emma T says:

    Interesting article. Things might be a bit different in the UK, but generally PR send through requests for review, competitions or occasionally sponsored posts – ie a topic to include a link. The latter also come from SEO agencies.

    I do get sent a lot of general PR which is general hope that I and presumably lots of other bloggers will mention the news, however I have never once written about these. I’m more likely to pick up on these on relevant websites and share them off my own accord. Directly from the pr, unlikely. Because I decide what I want to write and when I want to write it, and there’s little time for additional ‘news’ in my schedule (I blog outside of my day job). I would also rather work with pr who make the effort to come to me directly rather than send out general releases. I would also prefer to occasionally be paid for producing something bespoke than just reiterating a new release or event, so if I have time I’d do that rather than sharing pr.

    I may (I can’t recall) have shared information I’ve been sent on facebook or twitter, but it would be maybe one line or link to a ‘this is interesting’. That’s about my limit as I don’t have to fill my blog with other people’s information, only what I choose.

    It would be interesting to see the success rate of ‘straight’ pr with bloggers, because I can’t say I’ve seen much of it around, and seems that other brand awareness techniques are much more popular with bloggers.

  • This is very interesting as I’ve only ever worked with advertisers and not PR people, mainly for the reasons you list above. Now I’ve read the interview, maybe I’ll be a bit more responsive to PR people in the future!

  • Monica says:

    This was very informative, thank you for sharing. I run a relatively new blog and almost immediately I started getting slammed with PR requests and I was unsure how to distinguish the different between PR, advertising, sponsorship, etc. This helped me understand some of the differences and how to interact with such pitches.

  • Morgan,

    Cool! I only received a few PR pitches over the past few months. This post clarified some things.

    Thanks for sharing Morgan!

  • Thanks for the post. It did clear some things up as far as what PR companies are looking for. However, if you are posting on your blog about something you have not tried via info you receive in a PR pitch, how is that any more relevant or believable than a paid post?
    And the part about the blogger not having control over content in a paid post didn’t make sense to me. Or maybe I misunderstood. Most paid posts I’ve done involved me familiarizing myself with their website, or product based on a provided description, then explain why I would find this product useful and possible drawbacks if any stand out to me. I’ve never had any complaints from the companies.
    As a reader, if I go to a blog and see a post that is mainly a introduction/description of a new product I’m not familiar with, I’m either interested or I’m not and it makes no difference to me if the blogger was paid to post it or not.
    I guess product reviews are the most relevant form of information to the audience. In this case, the blogger can speak from experience on how the product works, unlike either the paid or unpaid informational post. If PR companies are willing to offer products for bloggers to post about, they are likely to get a positive response from more bloggers, even if no further compensation is offered.

    • Morgan says:

      Hi Rena! I think you will find most companies are willing to provide free product to review. I think it gets a little gray when bloggers start taking money in exchange for product reviews because it removes the 3rd party neutrality, but there are a lot of bloggers who would disagree with that. Still, I would definitely not recommend suggesting products or services to your audience that you have not had first-hand experience with. That said, not all PR pitches are about products. Many are about events going in in your community, media tours, and even special offers on tickets for local attractions. You may be getting inundated with a lot of product pitches because you fall into the so-called “mommy blogger” space.

  • I liked the article, and found her input interesting. However, I think her approach is a bit old school. I know the difference between earned/ paid media, yet this delineation is out-dated. Bloggers are NOT paid journalists, nor are we necessarily ad outlets. PR reps have a budget. They have a message they want to share. They want access to our audience. That access is worth payment. This is the 3rd way, or middle ground. Sometimes I write for free about a product/ service because I want to share relevant information. In these instances I am driving the decision and editorial calendar. Sometimes I am approached by a brand and decide that their message is relevant to my audience, yet the editorial calendar and (in some respects; i.e., links) message are driven by the brand’s needs. Then the brand should pay. We bloggers are not arrogant (in the main); we are professionals. Professionals get paid.

    • Morgan says:

      Hi Alexandra!

      I try to always think about the audience first. A blogger works hard to establish a following and maintain that relationship. You want your readers to trust you. So, when you start sharing messages, how do you think your audience will feel about the message knowing you were paid to say those things? Can you expect your audience to still trust the message? And what about the brand? Does the brand want to pay people to say nice things about them? How would their customers feel about that? Does that build trust with the customer? Every time a blogger takes payment in exchange for PR coverage and every time a brand pays for coverage they lose trust value with their audience and customer. In my opinion, this is not a best practice for either party.

      • Gail Gardner says:

        Hi Morgan,

        You’re missing that we DO NOT take payment to say things. We choose what we publish and we write our truth. Brands that work with influential bloggers need to understand that. My audience knows I tell them the truth ALWAYS.

        Time is limited. While I may want to write about their client, I also must cover expenses and eat. So I may write about them someday in the distant future or never get around to it. If they want to be moved up my priority list they can free up some of my time spend doing paid work to give me the time to write about them now instead of maybe never. That does NOT mean they get to control what I write.

        • Morgan says:

          I think we might have to agree to disagree on this one. If a company is going to pay you to write about them, then they have the right to control the message. It’s impossible to be a neutral 3rd party if you are taking payment from the company you are writing about. You’ve taken payment – you are on their payroll. I hear a lot of bloggers say exactly what you are saying – they want to write whatever they want but they want the company to pay for the coverage. You just can’t have it both ways. I think the attitude that PR companies better pay for consideration is giving the blogging community its own bad PR. Again, we probably just have to agree to disagree.

          • Gail Gardner says:

            Hi Morgan,

            Yes we will agree to disagree. NO they do NOT have a right to control what I write and NO I am NOT on their payroll. I am not their wage slave and never will be. Actually, yes we can have it like that. Bloggers are paid well for precisely this every day. If you would like to see proof I can provide it.

  • Temmy says:

    This is awesome! I’ve been looking into PR and guest posting opportunities for my blog and you just shed the light I needed. Tanks for sharing!

  • […] you thought about advertising on your blog, but maybe don’t know where to start? Advertising on your site really isn’t that hard if you know how to do it and the type of advertisers you […]

  • Morgan, I agree that most bloggers don’t know the difference between PR and advertising, but it’s a moot point. Bloggers are not there to spread the message for PR companies. There is no company paying their salary. When PR person asks a blogger to do something for free, I guess the blogger should ask the PR person if he is pitching them on his own time or whether he is getting paid to do it.

    • Morgan says:

      Hi David!

      I understand the argument, but in most cases a PR pitch is not asking a blogger to do something for free. There is no expectation of coverage. It’s news that a blogger might care to share with their audience to stay relevant and demonstrate thought leadership. In general, bloggers are seen as journalists or news outlets. Obviously there are differences between all of those outlets. Money in exchange for coverage isn’t good PR and it isn’t good blogging practice. That is, unless a blogger cares more about a paycheck and less about their trust value with the audience. If a blogger accepts payment in exchange for coverage, then the message is no longer authentic or relevant. It’s an ad. It’s not an objective point of view and there is no real value there for the audience. It would be like watching a newscast that was all paid segments — Would the viewer trust it? Would the news channel be considered credible? I don’t think so. If a blogger’s business model is to make money by covering pitches from PR, they need to rethink their strategy.

      • Gail Gardner says:

        Hi Morgan,

        Bloggers may be journalists (not all are) and they may provide news, but there is one key difference. Unless you have a sugar daddy paying your bills and supporting your blog, the reality is you have to do paid work.

        That you pay us to move you up on our priority list of what we want to write about does NOT mean the “message is no longer authentic or relevant”. We write our truth. Period. Our opinions are NOT for sale. Bloggers are more free to write the truth than paid journalists who are constrained by not being able to write what advertisers will not like. (If you don’t believe that, look up ‘Fox News Kills Monsanto Milk Story’ on YouTube.

        • Morgan says:

          If a company is paying you to write an opinion piece on them, good or bad, then your opinion is for sale. I love that many bloggers want to write freely but I think it’s perfectly reasonable for a company to not want to pay a blogger who may or may not write favorable things about them. Companies don’t want to pay for PR – good or bad. It’s about authentic coverage, which is something it sounds like you care a lot about as well. Paying to move up on a priority list isn’t authentic for the blogger or for the brand. There is more paid work for bloggers than just covering PR news. Again, if a blogger’s business model includes revenue from PR coverage, then they need to rethink it. It’s not profitable.

          • Gail Gardner says:

            Hi Morgan,

            They are paying me to take the time to look at what they’re doing and share the benefits of that with my readers. They are NOT paying me for a specific opinion or result.

            The key thing to understand here is that PR, while applicable to getting coverage on television, radio, or in newspapers who have paid staff, is NOT applicable to the world of influential bloggers. If it were, brands would not already be paying bloggers to get in front of their audiences.

            Just because the PR agencies WANT that to work does not mean it does work. And it will work less and less as bloggers invest more and more into their sites.

            That companies do not want to pay is their problem, not ours. If they want us to take the time to understand what they have to offer and share that with our audiences they will either cover our overhead long enough for us to make that happen or they will wait indefinitely until maybe some year we get around to them.

            What we do is not PR coverage. We do not create blogs to give PR agencies a free platform. They need to understand this. We give our audiences what they need. If what a company does is relevant to that audience, and they want me to spend what can be 8-14+ hours learning their platform and creating images, finding or even creating videos, and then promoting that content the money for me to continue doing what i do must come from somewhere.

            Maybe they’ll get lucky and what they do is so beneficial that they are already at the top of my priority list. But the more complex what they offer is and the more saturated their market is the less likely that is to happen.

      • Alex says:

        Hi Morgan. That’s an articulate response, and I get you completely. However, the outdated methods PR agencies are using (even if semi-targeted) will be even less effective than they are now. For the sake of example, let’s call it “a conversion” whenever a PR pitch excites a blogger AND as a consequence, he/she blogs for nothing (not even a freebie sample) and on top of that he/she doesn’t complain either. Okay, so that’s a ‘conversion’, if you will. Honestly, do PR firms really believe old middleman methods will result in more of these ‘conversions’? Blogging tribes will be the wave of the future, and if tribes can hook up with 1 or 2 sharp PR defectors, then the tribes will be better helpers to brands. Agencies who hold onto old ways and continually underwhelm clients with laughable ROI will become extinct. What do I mean by old ways? Expecting conversions via ‘spray and pray’ and calling that ‘earned media’ and other SMH (shaking my head) methods that SHOULD make brands livid if they ever found out. I gotta also blame brands for being obtuse. 30 years ago, it was normal for a brand to trust a PR firm as the pinnacle of sharp know-how. In 2014, let’s be real, it’s not the norm. Bloggers are in the trenches and are actually more qualified than many of these underwhelming PR firms in certain situations (not every). What’s going on is this: PR agencies are taking advantage of brands. There. I said it. Don’t like it? Then you probably don’t like hearing the truth. The gravy train for agencies eventually will stop, as Gini Dietrich (who ironically is part of the PR world!!) wrote (not in those exact words) back in early December 2013. Look up her article “Agencies Must Evolve Or Die” .. The term ‘earned media’ is a euphemism. What’s being earned? It’s more like luck when you consider all the tools agencies COULD BE using, but don’t.

      • Honestly, I have yet to see a newscast run by volunteers. last I knew, newscasters were all paid. And paid much more than bloggers. And paid by big business, companies that spend fortunes buying ads, and in some cases owning the media outlets themselves.

        There is no free lunch. Viewers and readers have to decide for themselves if they trust the writer. Some are trustworthy; some are not.

        I spent several years working the media (doing 500+ media interviews a year at one point). Some are trustworthy; some are not. But all are paid.

        • Morgan says:

          That’s exactly why there are very few news stations you can trust! Just like how some bloggers are trustworthy and some are not. Personally, when I go to a blog and read paid review after paid review, I no longer trust what the blogger is saying. And I question the credibility of the company as well. It’s just not good for anyone.

      • Alex says:

        Happy Monday all. Especially you Morgan 🙂 Let me ask you this: If there’s no expectation of coverage, to me, that sounds like “hope.” So PR agencies are making brands pay for hope???? OMG. Another issue is that brands & PR firms are always saying how valuable comments/feeback are…. Well, a good blogger has his/her finger on the pulse of many comments and POVs, a good blogger knows the general consensus and even counterpoints… so condensing all this in an articulate way has no value?!??!!? I’m sorry but that’s what PR firms seem to be tacitly saying. It’s just one fact out of dozens in terms of what PR firms aren’t grasping. Good bloggers can provide more than just our solo opinion. If comments/feedback are so valuable (as brands and PR says they are), then it should stand to reason that good bloggers who follow story arcs , go beyond the surface etc should be paid.

        • Morgan says:

          Hi Alex! PR agencies do a lot more than make brands pay for hope. I think that’s a oversimplifying a very complex industry. And you are right – comments are incredibly valuable. If you haven’t experienced it, measuring sentiment is a huge component of PR. So is measuring social share of voice. And if a PR agency is going work with a blogger on the level you are describing – keeping the pulse, providing customer feedback, etc then yes, the blogger should get paid. That goes outside the typical blogger/PR agency relationship. I would say it closely resembles brand ambassadorship. That’s a great way bloggers can make money, btw. 🙂

          • Alex says:

            I appreciate this discourse and your responses, Morgan. I need to put that out there first. Thank you.

            Now, re: ambassadors, if there’s a list of “Things That Raise Eyebrows”, ambassadors would be near the top of that list, I would think, IDK. In very few cases would a blogger be able to repeatedly talk about one brand without losing face with his/her audience. Blog readers aren’t stupid. Plus, I imagine official ambassadorship locks a blogger into one brand, to the exclusion of other brands. I bring this up this because I noticed the word payroll mentioned, so naturally my mind jumped to contracts being signed, etc.

          • Alex says:

            Thanks for acknowledging that “all bloggers are not created equal.” Here’s something that PR firms allow – it’s very irritating. A pitch is sent out, I respond, and who responds back? An intern. And often times, not a very bright one. Sorry, I know it sounds mean but this practice is a telltale sign that XYZ Agency thinks all bloggers are created equal. If PR firms would stop this one nonsensical practice, I think I’d be one step closer to viewing PR people in a better light. Anyway, I wanted to know what you thought of Gini Dietrich’s article about evolving or becoming irrelevant in today’s attention economy. She indicts ad agencies as well as PR agencies. I appreciate you taking the time to read it Morgan (It’s a 3-minute read, BUT it’s one of the most poignant short articles I’ve seen in a long time, and it’ll be hard to top, I think)

  • Gail Gardner says:

    While I agree that this article represents the view of PR agencies, it is not how the real world of blogging works. Bloggers are not paid employees of the media. They are independent contractors – freelancers – and we are inundated with PR requests to spend our time writing about the PR agencies clients for free. It may or may not surprise PR agencies to know that we ignore all of them.

    Blogs are high maintenance. They take a lot of time and money to maintain and even longer to build an audience. There is zero reason for us to cover what you pitch. We may choose to cover an interesting start-up or a small business that comes to our attention, but if you represent a big brand you need to know that we are not inclined to give you our time. Why should we?

    That is why big brands now pay for sponsored posts. The going rate for mom blogs is $250-$500 per post. Those posts are nofollowed and marked “sponsored”, but surprise – the bloggers DO NOT write what YOU want them to write. They write their honest opinions. (Although obviously if they want to continue to receive paid sponsored posts they will write professionally and focus on finding both the positive and some negative. Typically, if we can’t find something good to say we won’t accept that sponsored post – provided we know in advance.)

    Sponsored posts are NOT advertisements. Ethical bloggers’ opinions are NOT for sale. PR agencies need to understand they are in our world now and they don’t get it their way except from bloggers who haven’t figured it all out yet. I have a post on my blog that explains why what you are calling “earned” media simply is NOT earned. That they can afford to pay a PR agency to try to talk us into working for them for free doesn’t mean they “earned” anything.

    More and more bloggers with influential sites are going to ignore or refuse to do free PR work. That is as it should be. They are not journalists on salary. They are small businesses with a finite amount of time and resources.

    • Morgan says:

      Hi Gail!

      I believe what you are describing as a “sponsored post” in which you receive monetary payment for a balanced post highlighting the positives and some negatives is actually a review (product, event, etc). That is not the same as PR coverage.

      A PR request is not a request for freelance writing services. A blogger is seen as a person who shares news and information with their audience. How are you going to learn about the latest news and product innovation so you can remain relevant to your audience and establish credibility? Hopefully, it’s not by reading someone else’s blog — because by then you are already late to the party. That is why you should care about a pitch. A good blogger should rely on PR pitches (not all – some really are terrible and off-base) to get the latest news. PR reps don’t care if you ignore their pitches. It just means it wasn’t a good fit.

      I’ve mentioned it before in my other responses, but if a blogger’s business model is to make money/break even by making money from PR coverage, then they should rethink their strategy.

      • Gail Gardner says:

        Hi Morgan,

        My definition of “news” is tighter than the nonsense that gets put in the news today. The way we know about new solutions and improvements in existing solutions is through having personal relationships with the CEOs, developers, and founders of these companies. They are our sources and then what one in our collaboration learns of they share with everyone else.

        Anyone who believes they can get a response by sending out blanket PR requests will see a response rate that is disappointingly low. That is why the use of platforms like PostJoint, Inkybee, GuestCrew, BlogDash, GroupHigh and Cision is growing.

        PR the way you’re describing it is old school and an uphill battle. It has been largely replaced by Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing as I explained in an interview I did for Search Engine Journal at http://www.searchenginejournal.com/content-marketing-solutions-and-best-practices-interview-with-gail-gardner/65304/

        • Morgan says:

          Hi Gail (again!),

          Content marketing isn’t PR. I do a lot of content marketing that doesn’t involve our PR team. I definitely agree that content marketing has proved to be very successful in expanding reach, but in my opinion it’s not going to replace PR because they have totally different goals and objectives.

  • Jorshaq says:

    Thanks for the informative post, as a new blogger this is good to know.

  • Lauren says:

    What a wonderful article! I hear this ‘complaint’ too often in blogging groups, that I wonder how any of the complaining bloggers ever a.) work with PR firms/companies, and b.) foster a relationship with a company or brand. I suppose it comes down to what your aim in blogging is. While I don’t ever want to work for “free,” I do want to be able to post fresh content (breaking news) that will bring people in from search engines AND cultivate relationships with PR firms/companies that have the potential to lead to a job opportunity outside of my blog. Thank you for writing this!

    • Morgan says:

      Hi Lauren!

      As a personal blogger, that is also my take on receiving pitches. Some of them are awful and just totally off-base, and some are really interesting and great to share with my audience. I’ve had a chance to work with some wonderful brands and build relationships that started with a pitch. I think you are right in that covering relevant news brings in new readers in from search engines and builds relationships with brands. If a blogger is just looking as a pitch as an offer to “work for free” they are totally missing the point. 🙂

      • If taking money in exchange for coverage makes a blogger untrustworthy, how much more so does building a relationship with a brand. What kind of “relationship” can someone have with a brand. When you get paid to cover something, that is a one-shot deal. A “relationship” implies repeated coverage. Of the same brand. Not the competitors. Not an ability to be objective the next time around.

        I am not saying that a blogger has to be objective, but the whole point of your article here is that bloggers should work for free in order to remain objective and trustworthy.

        • Morgan says:

          That wasn’t really the point of the article. The point of the article to was to distinguish the role of PR, how it differs from advertising, and why agencies don’t typically pay for coverage. I also wanted to explore where the opportunities for bloggers to earn money via PR are.

          I think Julie expressed it perfectly when she said, “Ultimately the PR person’s job is to drive awareness and consideration about whatever company, product, or brand they represent and they need to do it in a highly ethical and strategic way.”

          It does not benefit the blogger or the brand to trade money in exchange for PR coverage. It’s not ethical and the strategy is highly flawed.

          I know this isn’t a popular opinion among bloggers and I certainly understand the counterpoints – I ran a personal blog for many years and worked hard to find paying opportunities. I’ve worked both sides of it now and I still think pay to play taints the integrity of both parties.

          • “Ultimately the PR person’s job is to drive awareness and consideration about whatever company, product, or brand they represent and they need to do it in a highly ethical and strategic way.”

            The only way to drive awareness would be to consume that blogger’s time, apparently without compensation, on behalf of some big company. Unless the blogger is focused on a brand (like “The Unofficial Disney Blog”), he would have no interest in the brand other than to the extent he is paid to.

            Surely there is something more productive the PR sector can do than steal from the poor to give to the rich.

  • Ubon says:

    Hi,

    I have never thought of PR firms in that way, but now I’m glad you posted this blog, it means you have insight into what it’s all about, thank you very much for this informative blog, very interesting reading.

  • Sean says:

    THANK YOU! As a PR professional by day, blogger by night, I get it, but I know so many other bloggers who have the expectation of getting paid by PR firms. More often than not, it boils down to not understanding the what drives the concepts of earned vs. paid media, advertising, marketing, etc. On the flip side, professionals in these fields who are used to working with traditional media often don’t take the time to get educated on what bloggers do, either. I think this topic should be on every blogging conference agenda. Forever. And ever.

    • Morgan says:

      Hi Sean!

      It’s a topic that has so many different sides and there are plenty of valid arguments on both. I totally agree that it boils down to not understanding the goals and objectives of media, advertising, and marketing. I also agree that more professionals should understand what exactly bloggers do. Hopefully bloggers and PR agencies can work together better in the future!

  • Jen says:

    I didn’t even know what PR was….at least outside of Samantha from SitC. Hugely informational and appreciated.

  • I like the idea of the pitch being a source of inspiration for posts. I hadn’t thought of it like that before.

    • Morgan says:

      Hi Angela!

      Some pitches are just plain bad and those go straight to the trash. But some are really well-crafted and personal and can provide great blog fodder! Even if you don’t cover the pitch directly, they can lead to other ideas for blog posts. You never know! 🙂

  • Great info! I really enjoyed reading this, and I think we can all benefit from this! I work for an advertising agency during my day job, so it was nice to have a refresher course on what our PR girls do 🙂

    • Morgan says:

      Lol. I always thought it was just their job to dress cute and go out to lunch, but it turns out they do way more than that! 😉

  • Clare says:

    Really useful article – I’d never thought about the differences before. In my days before my twins when I used to have spare time I used to be a book blogger and I got sent free books to review. I never even thought about whether they should be paying me because I didn’t have to spend any money on books to feed my habit!

    • Morgan says:

      Hi Claire! Oh, I’ve taken plenty of things for free because I couldn’t afford them in real life. I still get books from one children’s publisher to review and I try to squeeze one in every once in a while because I love the joy they bring my kids. That’s a great example of a PR person figuring out what a blogger might want in exchange – that isn’t money. 🙂

  • Sierra says:

    Incredibly informative, going to re-read it again. A lot of information to take in.

  • Interesting. I never would have know the differences:)

  • Dee says:

    Great article! This is something that’s been a learning curve for me. I’ve been in SM/content management/community management forever now (17+ years..wow, I’m old) and I get the PR perspective but I also know I have to pay the bills for the blog/site, so it’s hard to find the balance between serving up good resources for free and paid resources I want my readers to know about as well. Regardless though, PR people are doing their jobs and giving us opportunities, so kindness and professionalism is mandatory. I cringe every time I hear someone talk about how they responded to a PR person with snark because they said there is no compensation; that said, I know I’ve had a couple of PR reps talk down to me as though I’m ‘just a blogger,’ and it’s disheartening. I love what I do, I’ve made some great relationships with PR reps and companies and I consider myself lucky, so even if I can’t take on another piece at the time, I am still polite and don’t ever want to burn a bridge. We all need to work together! Thanks for this! I’ll be sharing with others.

    • Morgan says:

      Hi Dee! I think every blogger struggles with how to profit from blogging. I do think there is value in building your relationships with PR agencies because there are often paying opportunities and then you are top-of-mind when they come up. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

  • Excellent insight! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Jessica says:

    Great article, very interesting points brought up.

  • Erica says:

    This was very informative. This is an area of blogging that I don’t know much about, so it made things clear for me.

  • Great info. I do think it’s important to respond to each pitch in a professional way. Even if the current project isn’t something that fits your blog, it’s important to keep the door open – for your own blog as well as fellow bloggers. The image of the blogging world is something we all need to be aware of and impact in a positive way.

    • Morgan says:

      Hi Valerie!

      I think it’s a great idea to decline a pitch but leave the door open. You just never know! And I think the blogging world could definitely use a little good PR of its own, so good for you for being so professional. 🙂

  • Tyra says:

    Awesome informative article. Thank you for sharing

  • Great article! Thank you for clarifying what to expect and not to expect from a PR firm.

  • Laina Turner says:

    Great information. I needed this!

  • Katherine G says:

    This is a a very informative article. I learned a lot from reading it.

  • I don’t use my blog as a money maker but the article is interesting. It took a while before I understood the difference but I get it now.Thanks for the info.

  • Interesting – I have not gotten to this point yet (4 months into blogging), but I wil remember this resource!

  • Lisa says:

    Interesting and informative interview…thank you. I am a relatively new blogger and I am in the process of “pitching” some content writing for sponsorship of my family’s cross country trip this summer. I will of course be blogging about the trip but thought it might be an opportunity to work with a company that is willing to sponsor us… If you have a minute to read my blog post below, I would love your suggestions. I have some local media coverage coming up soon and Amtrak tweeted my first post!

    • Morgan says:

      I think there are definitely opportunities to seek sponsors. If you don’t have one already, it would be good to put together a media kit to send to potential sponsors. A well-crafted and personal letter would also be a good addition. You might want to highlight examples of how you might feature them in a blog post and why their product/service is relevant to you and your audience. You might even try the reverse pitch, where you offer to write for their blog! Also, make sure you disclose any sponsored posts to your readers – it’s required by the FTC and it’s just good practice. Your audience should know off the bat if you are being sponsored. Be careful of running too much sponsored content because you don’t want to burn your readers out or lose any trust value. That’s the best advice I can offer for now. Have a wonderful trip!

  • Lauren @ says:

    This is a fantastic article! I’ve had this same conversation with PR professionals who say it is not industry standard to pay bloggers for articles. What you say is true that the good PR reps are the ones that find what you are interested in. I work and write for a few companies for free because I truly love their products and my readers find it valuable. Would I like to get paid, yes, but ultimately I am not going to say no to something that i love and my readers find valuable.

    • Morgan says:

      I have received some really great pitches that were so personal that I couldn’t help but want to write on the company’s behalf! To me, that’s a PR agency doing it right. Plus, a good blogger can find a way to spin anything into a great story for their blog. Keep writing about what you love and you never know what can happen! PS: You might want to think about pitching your freelance services to the companies you work with – offer to host a sweepstakes or Twitter party for them, or offer to write for their blog. There are tons of opportunities. Good luck!