In addition to all of the presentations and workshops, one of the many wonderful aspects of the recent LeWeb conference in Paris is the opportunity to connect with others who are working on innovative projects and developing new applications which make our lives easier or more productive.
As I was listed as one of the LeWeb Official Bloggers, I received a few requests to meet from those interested in obtaining coverage for their product or for one of their clients. Anyone who reads my blog will easily see that this really isn’t the way I work. My posts about new tools and applications represent a small proportion of my content.
Still, there was one guy who sent me several messages hoping to set up a time to meet with me while at LeWeb. Since I’ll be using our exchange to highlight how not to approach and pitch a blogger for coverage, I won’t share his name or the name of his application. To keep things simple, I’ll just call him “ThisGuy.”
Mistake #1: Misrepresent Your Reasons for Wanting to Connect
I sent and received many messages in advance of the conference, all in an effort to meet interesting people. The chance to take online connections offline is one to be savored and I was determined to make the most of the opportunity. I was delighted to receive messages from other attendees, but had a gut feeling about ThisGuy’s email. I even replied and asked if the reason for his request was to pitch me his application. His reply was vague, something about how it would be beneficial for the two of us to meet. There was so much great content at LeWeb that I tried my best to manage my time effectively. In the end, I didn’t agree to his meeting request.
On the second day of LeWeb, unbeknownst to me, I happened to wander by where ThisGuy had set himself up and he recognized me. His computer was open and he launched into discussing why I’d want to use his application. Now, let’s be clear. It didn’t hurt my feelings that some guy I don’t know didn’t genuinely want to meet me just for the thrill of knowing me. My problem was not that he wanted to pitch anything; it’s that he wasn’t up front about it. If the reason you want to get in touch with a blogger is to tell them about your totally life-changing product, let them know that up front. Don’t try to pretend that the request is anything else.
Mistake #2: Do Absolutely No Homework Up Front
Once ambushed, ThisGuy’s first question was “What tool are you currently using to get more Twitter followers?” Not, “Do you use such a tool?” Bad move.
Does it seem inconceivable that the number of Twitter followers I have could have possibly grown organically? Yes, I do realize that many, many people use such tools, but I never have. Again, if he had taken the time to read my blog or communicate with me up front, he likely would have known this and we would have avoided the awkward conversation which followed. It hadn’t even occurred to him that I might not be using such a tool and was therefore stunned that I also had no interest in using his tool, which was created for this purpose. Doing some very basic research up front saves time for both parties and increases the likelihood that you’ve reached someone who might be interested in what you’re pitching.
Mistake #3: Do Not Assess the Market for Your Product
In addition to growing one’s Twitter numbers, ThisGuy’s application is designed to managed auto-DMs (automated direct messages) on Twitter. He explained that this is the one true way to engage with others and have meaningful conversations. Bullcrap. Either he’s living in a bubble and only talking with others who automate their online presence and/or he has failed to see that many people consider sending auto-DMs as being extremely poor etiquette. Even I’ve written about the reasons I will automatically unfollow someone on Twitter, with auto-DMs being one of my big pet peeves. The fact that this all seemed to take him by surprise told me that he didn’t do him homework because it was much easier to assume that everyone thinks the way he does.
Mistake #4: Argue and Get Personal
All this leads to the biggest problem with our little encounter. If we were in a boxing ring and there was an announcer, I imagine the commentary would have gone something like this…
“In this corner, with a laptop, an application and a belief that there is only one way to succeed online…….ThisGuy!”
“And this corner, a blogger who has shunned automation, preferring to have more public and genuine conversations online……Irene!”
“ThisGuy comes out swinging. He sizes up the competition and concludes that Irene is not truly interested in getting to know her followers because, if she was, she’d be using auto-DMs to do so. Irene begins to respond by explaining that not everyone has the same point of view and that she feels that having real-time, open conversations (which allow others to listen, learn and join) are, in fact, more genuine. ThisGuy scoffs and is determined to prevail. Irene quickly excuses herself from the ring and leaves.”
Seriously? If I’m not a fan of what you’re pitching, you’re going to insult me and suggest I don’t know what I’m doing? Forget pitching, this is just plain rude and uninformed. Stellar move. Yes, you’ve got twice as many Twitter followers as I do. I know how you got them and I don’t care. Next time, a little homework (and etiquette) might prove helpful.
So true, so true. I’m starting to get PR pitches by email about topics completely unrelated to our coverage areas. But at least they don’t insult me to my face!
I imagine that email is worse in terms of sending out pitches to the wrong target audience. It takes much less time than face-to-face meetings and is so easy to send the pitch out to a list without taking any time to qualify people up front.
As we say in Français : Cassé !
Well, Shellie, you know I don’t speak French, so I had to google it. I got two definitions – it’s either ‘broken’ or ‘case’.
A huge part of my job right now is blogger outreach. I try to be as good as I can, and I still feel sometimes like I’m doing it wrong.
Also, I think there’s some responsibility on the part of bloggers to be human as well. One of the most interesting parts of my current job is that I’m on both sides of the fence – I blog for my company about social enterprises and other businesses but then I’m also looking to get coverage from companies about the company. If I get a personal pitch, even if it doesn’t fit, I do try to respond and let people know we’re not interested. It’s a step most bloggers today don’t take.
Wow, as a new blogger it is unreal to me that you would turn away somebody who wanted your professional attention, but it is exciting to know that you are successful while maintaining high standards about your online career. Thanks for the tips, and hopefully I will soon be important enough to apply them!
Thanks for the comment, Abeer. I’m not sure I understand your comment completely. My reaction in this situation had absolutely nothing to do with being important, but did have to do with staying true to my own style and hoping for some common courtesy. You and I are equally important, as are our own standards and decisions we make about how we engage online.
haha sounds like this guy has a long and prosperous career ahead of him!
I’m surprised that someone like that was able to afford a tradeshow booth.
It’s terrible experiences like this that ruin the real opportunities for businesses and bloggers to work together…
David, so true about the opportunity lost with approaches like this. One note – he didn’t have a booth; he had brought his laptop and set himself up in the open networking area. This is why I had no idea where he was and I happened to walk by.