Continuing the Wine Blogger and Industry Interaction Debate

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This morning I sat down at the computer with ideas for 3 different stories competing in my head to be the first written. However, an email that I received put all three articles on hold. Here, with any embarrassing and identifying elements redacted, is what awaited me in my inbox this morning:

Hello!

My name is XXXX  and I’m the Social Media Contact for http://www.******.com

We are a Luxury Villa Rental company specializing in epicurean travel and villa rentals in Northern California, France, Mexico and Italy. We provide exclusive access to local experts and high level food and wine experiences. I see that you were a member at The Wine Bloggers Conference 08, and I wanted to reach out and offer this story idea for your blog. We would love to be included in the overall message of your site. We feel that our overall tone is extremely synergistic with yours, and that we share the same demographic.

XXXXXXXXX specializes in planning unique travel experiences for food and wine enthusiasts and represents the height of epicurean travel.

Whether you are looking it’s a sprawling vineyard estate in the Napa Valley; a historic chateaux in Southern France; a secluded cottage a in Sonoma; a breathtaking villa on the Amalfi coast; or a resort home on the beach in Punta Mita, XXXXXX offers a pre-screened select portfolio of homes for the discriminating travel.  (American Express has selected XXXX for their exclusive private escapes desk used by Centurion and Platinum members).

The company also has a concierge service that creates exclusive and customized ‘over the top’ wine and food experiences in every destination or simply give guests local insider tips on where to go, what to see and what to do for those more adventurous types.  They also can arrange staff, personal chefs, spa treatments and other personal services.   Our services are totally personalized and available 24/7 unlike some of the big villa companies that send you the key and a contract and then disappear.

If you are interested in doing a story or a brief writeup, please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. I can provide any information you’d need and photo’s, etc. to make the write up really informative for your readers. Your website is the quintessence of the wine industry as are we, and we’d love to have a place on your site.

I look very forward to hearing from you.

Considering the recent discussions on this site, as well as among Wine Bloggers at the conference, and on a variety of social media regarding this issue, this poor bastard chose a very inopportune time to send out this blanket e-mail. And, depending on his point of view, and how he takes my response (posted below), he picked either the perfect person or the absolute worst one to send it to.

My response:

Hi XXXXX,

Unless I am mistaken, you have just asked me to take the time to write an article that, in essence, would be free advertising and an endorsement of your product/service to my readers. Why would you presume that any self-respecting blogger would give you free advertising while risking all credibility with their peers and readers? In fact, by sending this to all of us that attended the Wine Bloggers Conference, you have guaranteed that anyone who does, for whatever reason, write positively about your company will be ridiculed by other blogs.

In addition, it is glaringly apparent that you have not even taken the time to read my blog before sending this. If you had, you would have read the following two articles:

http://www.anotherwineblog.com/archives/799
http://www.anotherwineblog.com/archives/818

Reading both of those articles (written by my wife, an attorney with a journalism degree and an extensive background in PR and marketing) will give you a better insight into how to deal with the New Media, as well as the old.

I’m sure this is not the response that you were looking for, but keep in mind that I could very easily have just hit delete. Instead, I just provided you with something of value. Your next attempt to reach out to bloggers should do the same for both the bloggers and their readers.

Best of luck,

Joe Power

The reason for posting all of this is not to embarrass anyone, despite the fact that someone who bills themselves as a social media liaison probably should be a little embarrassed to have sent out such an email, but to foster discussion that might possibly lead to some understanding of how the industry can work with the new media outlets to the benefit of everyone, but especially, from my point of view, the consumers of wine blogs. The wine industry needs to understand that is where the focus needs to be. I care about my blog and my readers.

That may sound cheesy, but I do not write just because it makes me happy to type them out and know that my words are published on the Web. While that creative exercise is part of it, what I find gratifying, and what keeps me motivated, is that I know that hundreds of people read this site every day. The response I get from these readers makes it all worth the time and effort. This site exists to entertain, educate, amuse and on good days, cause folks to stop and think or generate discussion.

None of those things can happen without my readers. So, if a marketer has something that they want me to promote, they damn well better be able to tell me how it benefits my blog and my readers, or they better convince me that my readers might benefit from their services and then write me a check to purchase some space that is clearly delineated as advertising. Anything else is an insult to me and my readers.

This isn’t about a belief that blogs are pure and can be tainted by industry interaction. It isn’t that I believe in some strict, high-minded ethical code that I have to follow. In fact, I personally find both of those laughable when applied to me, although I do respect my colleagues who do hold those beliefs. I have no problem with the concept that this site, my readers, the food and wine industry, related industries, and other bloggers all have a symbiotic relationship. We all give and take from one another for the benefit of all of us. Where this breaks down is when one member of this group tries to take without providing anything. If you have something to market, please keep that in mind, because if you want to reach my readers you have to understand that they do their part just by showing up, and I intend to keep doing mine. We both expect you to do yours.

  • http://www.thepinkpeppercorn.blogspot.com thepinkpeppercorn

    I couldn't agree more! Well said, and great response to the liaison.

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com jpower

      Thanks! I hope that he takes my advice in the spirit it was offered.

  • http://tech-stock-investor.blogspot.com Ray The Money Man

    I could not disagree with Joe Power more. It is just an “open discussion” so to speak, and that is never bad in the blogging world.

    Great post!

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com jpower

      No, it was not an open discussion. It was someone asking me to endorse and promote a service that I have never used. Why would I do that? The guy asked for a lot and offered nothing in return for me or my readers. That was presumptuous and did not show much forethought, especially considering the very recent series of articles on this site.

    • Amy

      There are always going to be lazy or time-pressed journalists who are simply going to dump a press release into their publication and add a by-line. I've had the “pleasure” of having my work appear with nothing added but “by Jane Journalist” This comes from the PR persons research of the publication, as well as an established relationship with the reporter.
      But the irony of a blanket press release (which appears to be the result of a mail merge document) following a post about the drawbacks of the blanket press release, is pretty darned funny.

  • http://savory.tv Heidi / Savory Tv

    I knew I liked you ! Good work. If they had offered you a free trip, and you had accepted the offer, genuinely liked the experience, that would be another story. Although I imagine situations like that can become sticky as well.

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com jpower

      LOL! Thanks, Heidi. I would not turn down a free trip, but would settle for people thinking things through a little bit. Bloggers can't endorse services they haven't tried or review wines they haven't tasted. A press release or an e-mail asking us to is kind of insulting, even though the sender doesn't intend it to be, It is exactly like you said. We can only write about our experiences.

  • http://cavemanwines.com Michael Wangbickler

    Amen Brother! Great posting. Thanks for sharing this with us. It is a great example of what NOT to do (them) and how to respond (you). I will be forwarding a link to this posting and to a couple of Amy's to everyone at my agency this week.

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com jpower

      Hey Michael, thanks for stopping by! Glad you liked the post. Let us all know how it is received by the folks at your agency. Some people seem resistant to the idea that new media requires new techniques if you want to get noticed. Those people will be looking for jobs in the not so distant future, imo. ;)

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  • http://socialmediaanswers.com kevin

    One thing I have seen people to is add a page to their site explaining how they would like to be pitched. I write a couple of different blogs on different topics and I get hit all the time. A lot of the pitches are like the crap you have received above.

    When you get a pitch that is like the one above you just refer them to your page and say in the future that if they can't comply what you are asking that you would like to be removed from their list.

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com jpower

      Good idea, Kevin. Normally I would just hit delete, but when the previous articles on the site he was pitching were about not doing exactly what he did, it kind of annoyed me.

      • http://socialmediaanswers.com kevin

        Well showing that they didn't read your blog and it was a mass mail is the cardinal sin of blogger outreach…

        I really did enjoy both your posts about PR and getting pitched… It seems like a popular target by tech bloggers so it was good to see it from another niche.

        • http://www.anotherwineblog.com jpower

          Glad that you enjoyed the posts. I think that bloggers and marketers are going to have to find a way to work together while still allowing the new media to not become the whores that the old media have become.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com jpower

    Glad that you enjoyed the posts. I think that bloggers and marketers are going to have to find a way to work together while still allowing the new media to not become the whores that the old media have become.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

    Glad that you enjoyed the posts. I think that bloggers and marketers are going to have to find a way to work together while still allowing the new media to not become the whores that the old media have become.