I have been thinking about this topic for some time and was not quite sure how to approach it. Why? Because the inspiration for this post comes from the frequent requests I get by email to interview an author, do a guest post, do a link exchange, advertise on the blog, etc.. I get many every week, usually a few a day.
Inevitably, the email begins with praise about a post. Lisa, I really loved your posts about XYZ and think that your idea is right on. Some call me brilliant! Insightful! Enjoyable! It makes a girl’s head swell.
And then it deflates. Everything would be peachy and wonderful if the email stopped there, but it never does. The next paragraph pitches someone or something. Often, the topic of the book or speaker or site is not even a good match this blog’s focus (I got one that was about financial planning and I can assure you that in the eight years I have been doing this blog I have never written about financial planning).
Why am I bringing this up? Am I not grateful for the attention? Do I not think their praise is legit?
I think that some of the people who write are somewhat sincere. They do like the blog or post and are sharing that they are a reader to establish some relationship. I think some are using the latest PR technique to write to bloggers personally and refer to a post (note to PR people, you have a lot of competition and we get these same emails, nearly word for word, every week, you are not being unique). Some are new to the blogosphere and don’t yet understand why a real blogger would not jump at the chance to share obvious link sites with their carefully cultivated but ever fickle readers (dear readers, I hope you do not mind that I called you fickle, but alas you are, and I know that if I went to the dark side and started being more commercial/slick that you would drop my blog in a microsecond, which is not why I would not do it, BTW, what’s wrong is wrong, I am just saying..) .
And many don’t understand that our blog is our brand and that we believe that everything we do is a reflection upon us (a major distinction between individual and corporate blogs, for sure). I have had a few guest posts on Management Craft but they were provided by people I know and love. Most are other bloggers I admire. None come from people I have never heard of nor have no interest in getting to know. None.
I am grateful that my little blog has a wee bit of popularity and I understand that part of being a blogger these days is fielding PR requests. I am not complaining about the emails. I assume they will continue. So why the public mini-rant? In the words of the White House, I see this as a “teachable moment” related to leadership (pretty cool how I have tied my mini-rant to the blog topic, eh?).
I think that most of the people sending me these praise-request email sandwiches are smart, hardworking, and well-intended. But I wonder why they can’t see the problem with their approach? Why do they think that this should work?
Managers and leaders do this all the time in our workplaces, too, don’t they? I bet some of you have done it already this week and it is only Monday. In an attempt to soften the request or ease into the conversation, we start with praise and transition into the request. The problem is that this approach totally negates the honesty of the praise and makes us look like manipulative fools. We are not – for the most part – manipulative fools but using the praise-request sandwich makes us look this way. In an effort to try to relate we alienate.
If the work someone is doing means something to you, share that and make the person’s day. And if you need something from them, leave that for another conversation and get directly into it when the time comes. You might even start with being really open. For example, I have yet to get an email from a PR person that said:
“Lisa, I know you get many of these emails every week, so I am going to cut to the chase. I would love your help getting the word out about XYZ book, which is about managing drama in the workplace. I know this is a burden and that you need to consider these requests carefully so as not to dilute your brand. I would like to make this as easy as possible, so I have attached a link to a post that I think you would enjoy and that aligns with the Management Craft focus. Link to it if you are so inclined and I appreciate your consideration. I would be happy to send you the book if you want, although I know you will not likely ever have the time to read it. I will not bug you a second time. PR Guy.”
To be clear, I would likely not link to the post, but at least it is real and sincere. I would be more inclined to consider it. The odds would be higher and I would not feel manipulated.
The bottom line: We humans are pretty quick to sniff out ulterior motives even if they are born from sincere intentions. If you want to have more impact and influence, improve your ability to filter out potential sources of these feelings and reactions. Be more cognizant of how your message is being interpreted. Think through what the unintended consequences might be. See the praise-request email sandwich (or conversation or meeting or whatever) for what it is – a tool that does not work.
And in an effort to save my time and yours, all you PR guys and gals out there, here is my stance on requests related to this blog:
- I do not entertain requests to advertise on this blog. It is not my thing. The only exception is the ad to the right you see from Forbes, which I agreed to years ago as part of being one of their bloggers. Also, I am an Amazon affiliate and when you click to buy one of my books on the right side, I get a wee commission. Both of these income sources add up to about enough to buy a cheap purse or fake pair of earrings each year.
- I do not do link exchanges. Ever. I link to sites and posts I find and I like and I think you might like too.
- I do nothing with blanket press releases. I realize that you will not take me off your list because you want to be able to tell your client that you sent the release to a million bloggers and media outlets, but I won’t do anything with it. Please don’t follow up.
- A rarely entertain the book review requests or guest post requests – really, your energy will be better used asking someone else. It is so rare that I will say yes. I share resources I hear about from pals or find on my own.
This is my stance. It might hurt me in the long run because I know that bloggers can make some money or find more readers by being more amenable to these requests. I don’t care, this blog is eight years old and it will attract the right people. You, my dear readers, are the right people. I want you to always feel special to me. If I ever slap you with a praise-request sandwich, slap me right back and put me in my place.