God Help Us, I Thought These Days Were Over

So, lets revisit this shall we. This morning I wrote a post on my unhappiness with a pitch I got. I was a little bit harsh. I know, you are all shocked that sometimes I don’t think before I talk. It happens. Occassionally. And truth be told I was reacting to more than one PR Rep that in my opinion just didn’t get it. I can’t even begin to tell you about yesterdays PR ordeal.

But, getting back to the post at hand. It was a campaign I worked on last year that has changed this year and is now compensating with virtual flair and a chance to guest post on their site. My response was:

Hi XXXXX,

I really enjoyed kicking this campaign off for you here in Denver last year. It was a fun campaign and I was looking forward to it this year. I enjoy working on campaigns with a good cause that are mutually beneficial to both the blogger (and her community) and the agency.

Unfortunately after reading this through several times I am not seeing where a there is a value component for me. I am not necessarily talking about compensation to the blogger (I never received the promised gift card last year) but there is just nothing that provides value to me personally here. I would have been happy to pick my own XXXXX. Instead it is a contest for my readers (which I refuse to run due to the legalities and liabilities) The reality in this pitch is that you are asking me to write a sponsored post (which my base rate is $250), run a contest (which is technically illegal), spend more of my time going to a school which is not likely near my neighborhood and providing XXXXX with even more free publicity all for what is termed “virtual flair”. Frankly, it is pretty insulting when you look at it.

I was hesitant to write the email but after it was discussed among several of the other bloggers pitched I felt I needed to show you the blogger side of what you are asking. It was initially a great campaign and if it is reworked to provide a value proposition to the blogger please feel free to re-pitch me.

Thanks,

And then something wonderful happened—the rep  called me. We had a conversation. Which is what it is all about, right? She said she actually had a positive response to it (so this is where I yell at those of you who I know were just as unhappy as me). That shocked me. But we were able to re-work so that there is now a value to me. She understood my points and I was happy to hear hers. Am I get paid? No. That is not really what it was ever about. Am I happy that I am going to be able to directly affect my community? Yes. Not the greater good of the community or the nameless people that will benefit nationwide but I will be able to give directly to someone I choose, know, and have a vested interest in. That is why I blog. Well, that and cause I like to hear myself talk…

or I listen to Jenny, cause she told me not to work for cereal and because I swear to God I have no idea how she comes up with this but I want to write a letter back like this one day. But I am just not that funny. Or creative. So go read Jenny now.

Why I Will No Longer Run Giveaways

Once upon a time I wrote an article on how to host a blog giveaway. But with all the blog changes I have going on I began doing some research on blog giveaways and realized it is just not something I am comfortable with anymore. Lots of blogs are writing about the subject and I have had a few very smart conversations with friends regarding this topic. Let’s begin with why I personally choose not to run blog giveaways going forward.

  • A month ago a ran a giveaway here on the blog to win a field trip with my family. I got ONE entry! Big ego slap! But I puzzled and I puzzled til my puzzler hurt and then I finally asked some friends why they didn’t enter. The biggest two reasons were that my friends see me all the time anyway and they are totally over blog contests. Fair enough. I realized my readers (friends and family) don’t come here for a chance to win something. That made me happy.
  • I started having conversations with smart friends in social media who brought up the fact that blog contests may not be exactly legal. I did some research (easy to read discussions here, here, here, here, here and here) and found there is a lot of gray in this area. I don’t monetize this blog and don’t really care (other than my ego) how many readers I have so why would I risk the thin ice here?
  • Whispered conversations of how some blog contests are faked. It’s scary to announce a friend won your contest because you are afraid everyone is going to say “its obviously rigged” but then how can you ask your friends to enter? Weird double edged sword there. While 98% (randomly made up number) of all bloggers are completely honest and forthcoming, I don’t want to be lumped in with the few that aren’t because mostly all of my readers are personal friends. I can see the disclosure now: “Entries open to US Residents 18 and older and who don’t know my real hair color“….which is gray, so now you are all not eligible. Sorry!
  • I started getting statements from PR firms to the effect: Please clearly state that this is not our contest. We are just providing you with a prize for your giveaway. Bells went off here.

So after my above reasons some of you may be wondering what laws I am worried about.  Let me try to break it down as best I can and try to help you avoid some of the pitfalls if you run giveaways.  It’s important to understand the terminology used in a lottery (all definitions below from this link. I bolded what is common in blog giveaways.

  • Prize: Anything of value the sponsor awards in a promotion. For example goods/services with a monetary value or items of intrinsic value.
  • Chance: A process beyond the participant’s direct control determines the outcome. A few examples of chance are a random sweepstakes drawing or an instant win/collect and win game; ultimately luck is the deciding factor.
  • Consideration: Anything that requires a participant to expend a monetary amount or significant effort to participate. For example the purchase of a product, multiple store or internet visits, correctly answering trivia questions, downloading a file, or attendance at sales presentations.

So the first thing here is to avoid running an illegal lottery you have to remove one of the above. The easiest is consideration. Don’t ask people to visit another website and return to yours to comment. Make it as easy as someone leaving you a comment with only the contact info necessary to award prize. Eliminate “extra entries”.

“Sweepstakes are regulated by both state and federal law. Sweepstakes (typically random drawings for prizes) possess two of the three characteristics of a lottery: chance and a prize. Therefore, to avoid classification as a lottery, a sweepstakes promotion must not involve consideration.”-Contests and Sweepstakes

Use the third party draw service from random.org This goes beyond the little screenshot image that some bloggers post and keeps a record for winners and losers for 5 years. It documents that every entry was actually given a fair shot and documents date/time.

You could, also, run a contest. Contests remove the element of chance.

“Contests take a number of different forms. Anything where you can display a skill or a special attribute, from cooking and essay contests to cutest kid and bikini contests, is fair game”-Contests & Sweepstakes

My advice here would be to use another judging agent (the contest sponsor or impartial third party) to pick the winner. That way your best friend can enter and if her kid really is deemed to be the cutest by the third party, great. Always include rules! and remember that while the rules in the US are confuzzling enough, I have heard adding Canada into the mix can be really rough.

I have run giveaways doing pretty much everything above. I am not an attorney (not even close) nor should any of this be taken as legal advice. It is just a compilation of reasons why I am no longer comfortable running giveaways. It’s confusing stuff and just not worth it to me considering all the work involved. Before you run your next giveway please follow the advice here from the FTC.

…each state has laws that may require promoters to make disclosures, seek licensing, or post a bond. Since state laws vary, check with the Attorney General’s Office in the state(s) in which you plan to advertise.

Thoughts???

To a large extent, state regulation of gambling
and promotions is highly individual. Thus, in preparing
rules, attention to the rules in all jurisdictions
where the promotion will be available is essential.
Given prevailing legislation and rules in a majority
of states, however, sweepstakes rules should generally
contain at least the following elements:
A statement that no purchase is necessary to
enter or win;
Details of entry procedures;
Any limits on the number of times a person
can enter (for example, one entry per person
or household);
The closing date of the sweepstakes and any
other relevant deadlines;



How To Create A Media Kit For Your Blog

I recently redid most of my media kits after attending the EVO Conference Before and After: Sales & Monetization. I learned a lot from listening to Stephanie Schwab discuss the elements that make a media kit successful so I would like to pass some of that advice on to you.

Here is a media kit that I created for the Spina Bifida Support Forum. I am showing it here as a slide show but you can see how it looks neatly packed into a .pdf as well. Also, the conversion online screwed up the font running the url at the bottom. That is not how it looks when it goes to potential sponsors. There are some other weird formatting things the slide show did so do look at the pdf to compare.

This is a small forum with the sole purpose of supporting those that live with the same conditions my son does. I used Microsoft Powerpoint 2010 to create the design of the slides then converted it into a .pdf using Adobe Acrobat Professional. If you don’t have similar programs available to you you can always use google docs for free.

Identification: Name and Logo. Include a clear description of what the doc is.

Contents: What will people find in this document? I choose to add many photos throughout this kit as a way to further brand the site. I wanted to make the kit compelling and interesting. Since the site is a community, pictures of our members make sense here. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Communicate what your site is about through well places photos.

About Your Site: Trick here is to clearly communicate who you are and what your site is about clearly and conscisely. This is not the place to post your whole bio.

Site Statistics: There are many places that you can garner your stats from and all will be very different. Some tools to use to check your stats are Google Analytics, Lijit, Compete, or Quantcast. These all require that you either register an account and insert some code on your site or submit the url for tracking. Take the time to make sure you are understanding your blog statistics. I use a program called Jing to grab screenshots. There is a free and paid version. I use the paid but the free should be just fine for grabbing quick stat screenshots. Make sure you clearly identify where your stats are coming from and when.

Demographics: Since this is an international community and I am not just necessarily looking for US sponsors, I choose to include the top ten countries the readers are from. If you drill down farther in this area in your google analytics you can information on states or areas that may be important in going after local sponsors.

Site Reach: Where are you in social media? This site doesn’t use twitter but I included facebook. I pulled my inbound links (which are really high) from webmaster central. You use Search Status firefox add-on for the google page rank and alexa ranking.

Site Usage: I choose to highlight my US demographics here because Quantcast does an awesome job of making me a nice, neat little picture of who our US readers are.

Advertising Opportunities: Banner Ads: To grab the screenshot of the entire page I used SnagIt. There is a free 30 day trial. I added the arrows and text in powerpoint. Some things to think about here are if you are comfortable using a banner rotation program or if you want just one static ad. $5 per 1,000 impressions or page views (cpm) seems to be fairly standard in ad pricing. So using that as a guide I may want to aim for making $450/month off my top banner. With this being the first time venturing into private ad sales on this site I went for 5 $75 slots. That will most certainly change over time.

Advertising Opportunities: Sponsored Posts: If you are going to run sponsored posts you need to clearly define your boundaries. How many links can it have? Are you writing it or the sponsor? How will you clearly make sure to disclose it? In my example this is a forum post so the rules are a little different but you get the idea.

Advertising Opportunities: Sponsored Travel: This is where you can describe any upcoming conferences you want to attend or  travel opportunities you might be interested in. Explain what you would be willing to do in exchange for travel and why a company should invest in you

Contact Information: I use a UPS mail box for anything related to my blog. UPS boxes are great because many companies won’t ship to PO Boxes so using UPS gives you a physical address. They have permission to sign for all my packages avoiding me having to wait around and they send me a text when something is delivered. The phone listed is my cell. I would not be comfortable listing my house.

Some additional things not included in this kit that you might want to add:

Reviews/Giveaways: Do you do them? What are your guidelines? Will you return products? Mail to winners? What is your average turn around time? What types of items work best for your readers? Do you charge a fee? Show an example of a successful giveaway you have done.

Press/Media: Where has your site been featured? Give excerpts if you can. Have a campaign that performed really well? Include a testimonial from the brand. Pictures are great here.

Editorial Calendar: What are you writing about this year? Stephanie has a great roundup of posts about editorial calendars on her site.

That ought to give you enoughPR advice for mom bloggers to work on for the next two weeks. In the next PR Monday post I will be talking about now that you have this awesome media kit, what the heck do you do with it.

One more thing: I have opened up my Blog Frog community to share pr opportunities and advice so make sure you join me over there!


Have any advice that I didn’t think of? Programs you use? Something you just want to tell me? I love comments and questions so leave ‘em!