PR pitches disguised as blog comments make me feel so dirty

by Shannon Paul on April 1, 2009

Yesterday I received a pitch in the comments section of one of my recent posts. I’ve received pitches like this in the past and I’ve generally ignored them. However, this one in particular was upsetting for a few reasons:

1. It was for a product that I already like, but now I would be much more reticent to actually buy the product.

2. The person’s lack of understanding of my post made me feel diminished somehow — unimportant, unheard, trivial.

3. The public nature of posting a trivialization of what I wrote embarrassed me on some level.

4. The public nature of the pitch also made it seem like the person didn’t care whether they piqued the interest of me or my readers. I don’t spend my free time writing here to provide a free billboard for other companies. There are very few places on the Internet where I feel I have a bit of control over what goes down; this is one of them.

5. Just because I use a keyword doesn’t mean what you’re pitching has anything to do with what I typically write about. I still consider myself a PR professional first and this kind of pitching makes us all look bad.

The original post was about using the metaphor of a cake recipe (specifically, a carrot cake recipe) to help people explain the importance of sharing what they know in a corporate blog.

Apparently, the metaphor fell flat for the person posting the following comment/pitch:

Sounds like you really appreciate Carrots. Anyone who loves Carrots is a friend of ours ;-)

How’d you like some products to sample?

They may not be as good as your Granny’s cake, but we hope you like them.

Drop me a line with your address and we’ll get them out the door.

The company is a skin/haircare company called Yes To Carrots. As I noted above, I actually already like the products and I think there was a missed opportunity to reach out to me in a way that doesn’t trivialize what I wrote.

I’m sure my reaction would have been completely different if the person tried to start a conversation with me via email about what I actually wrote, fessed up that my use of the word “carrot” triggered their alert and that they were just trying to gauge whether I would be interested in sampling some of their products.

A real conversation would have been nice.

I really don’t like posts that abuse PR pros for bad pitches. So many blog posts outing a particular PR pitch have made me totally uneasy and I understand the grave nature of messing with someone’s livelihood. I’m really just hoping that we can all learn from this.

I outlined my feelings above in the hopes of helping both sides understand why this behavior upsets so many bloggers. I understand a lot of pitches can simply be ignored and that’s exactly what I typically do when something doesn’t interest me.

Am I just being a cranky blogger? Is it silly for me to feel so diminished by this person’s treatment?

How can both sides work to improve the situation and work better together? Would things have been different if I had a PR pitch policy posted on my blog?


I received a phone call this morning, on Thursday, April 2,  from the Yes to Carrots representative who left the comment on my previous post apologizing for his mistake. Read the details here.

Photo by //endless∞

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

April 1, 2009 Brandon 1

I don’t think you’re being a crank at all. I’m relatively new to the world of Twitter, and I’m amazed at some of the organizations/ companies that try to get me to “add” them based on a key word they obviously picked up. It feels like inviting advertisers into your room and its, well, uncomfortable.


April 1, 2009 Shannon Paul 2

I hear you. It seems like people like to try to “game” the system no matter what. They don’t recognize the Internet as a social place- don’t understand the faux pas. That’s exactly why I chose to write this post. How else will people learn?


April 1, 2009 Aaron Mentzer 3

I think you’re right in feeling annoyed by a comment pitch, especially one that’s so weakly connected to the topic of the post. I’ve seen some PR people advocate pitching in blog comments, but I think that has to be done very carefully. There should be a relationship in place (i.e. your pitch should come after you’re completely familiar with the blog/blogger and have posted several relevant, value-add comments) and the pitch has to be 100% on topic with the post.


April 1, 2009 Shannon Paul 4

Aaron, I may be being a little short-sighted, but I can’t think of an example of when it would be a good idea to pitch someone in the comments. Maybe it’s just me, but the comments section just doesn’t seem like an appropriate place to put a pitch.


April 1, 2009 Jeremiah Staes 5

I think we’re running into the “unlearn” problem as social media becomes more mainstream.

You can’t expect a group of people who’ve been doing things the same way for 10, 20, or 30 years to change, or change quickly, except for a few outliers. I’m sure you know this, but wanted to point out that I think that is a big part of what we’re running into.

The other side is the tone-deafness; if you’ve been insulated from the public going up and down a chain of command trying to get a press release out the idea of typing a few words and hitting “submit” and it’s live has to be disconcerting if not frightening.


April 1, 2009 Shannon Paul 6


I’m with you. I just wish people could understand that they’re dealing with people here. I’m not some unknowable “blogger”, I’m a person. Treat me like a person, not a target.

Thanks for the comment!


April 1, 2009 MightyCasey 7

Not at all off-base for you to feel slimed – the cluelessness is right there in your face, isn’t it?

I think the disconnect comes from the failure to understand that the “public” in PR used to translate to “what we say to the punters”, with media relations taking a slightly more personal approach. That was back inna day, when there were media monoliths, and they controlled what information – commercial or not – got disseminated to the public. The punters.

Media and public aren’t discrete channels anymore. Mistaking a blogger as “public” instead of “media” is an error that the clueless will continue to make. Until they’re taught better by having their knuckles rapped, as you did quite well here.


April 1, 2009 Shannon Paul 8

I know things are different now, and there’s really no way to learn the “right” way to do this. Thanks for weighing in and let’s hope we can all do better.


April 1, 2009 Matt 9

Oh god no. Don’t diminish your feelings (by wondering “is it me?”) for someone with such little creative business acumen as that.

Additional slime points for using the phrase “anyone who loves ‘x’ is a friend of ours! *wink*”


April 1, 2009 Shannon Paul 10


Thanks for validating my feelings. I appreciate the fact that you stopped by — it was really great meeting you at #tweetea


April 1, 2009 David Jones 11

It’s really pretty simple: PR people should never pitch in the comments. You have an e-mail address in the sidebar that would’ve been far more appropriate.


April 1, 2009 Shannon Paul 12


I am in absolute agreement. Why do people think this is a good idea?


April 1, 2009 Heather 13


I think this goes back to PR101: Don’t pitch off topic. If you’re a PR person, it shouldn’t matter if you’re pitching “new” media or “old” media — do your homework. Understand who you’re pitching, how they like to be pitched, etc. What took place here is clearly an example of someone who didn’t take the time to research you, your views on blogging and community, or your relationship with your readers. It’s just as bad as pitching the business beat writer at the local newspaper on a non-profit story. Situations like this are exactly why the PR profession has developed a bad reputation — despite the fact that there are lots of PR people who do good work and take their role as communicators seriously!


April 1, 2009 Shannon Paul 14


Thanks so much for weighing in on this. I hope by having professionals like all of you come forward to discuss this, others will learn better.


April 1, 2009 Tonja 15

Pitching in the comments: bad. Pitching in the comments off-topic: worse. Just a lazy way to get a link and mention in the comments.
Your email address and phone number are in plain site. So are links to find you at other social networks.


April 1, 2009 Shannon Paul 16


We’re definitely in agreement. This is exactly why I wonder whether having a pitch policy would do any good. It seems like those that do this type of thing don’t really pay attention to begin with. Although, I could be wrong. Thanks for adding to the conversation.


April 1, 2009 Cliff Forster 17

Shannon, I actualy think your being a tad kind, your not cranky at all.

What you got, its not a pitch, its spam, and spam, to be frank, sucks…..

Its fine for people that have a self motivating intrest to work with others to cross promote. That as you point out involves real genuine conversation, which takes a bit of work. Spam is a brute force tactic, a short cut to real customer relations, and you know something, we all see through it.

They are only harming their own message.


April 1, 2009 Shannon Paul 18


Thank you. I’m glad kindness showed through. I really was hoping to learn from this and help others learn from it as well. That’s exactly why I framed this post within the context of my own feelings without attacking the person or even the tactics.


April 1, 2009 Anya 19

Not unreasonable at all for you to feel slighted here. And I think an important point to make is that it would take very little time for this PR person to read the actual post and tailor communication, whether over e-mail or in comments, to something at least relevant to what you were writing about. To post something that doesn’t even make sense in the context of your blog is really inexcusable. I don’t necessarily think all communication via comments is inappropriate, but it definitely has to be done with respect to the blogger and a deeper understanding of what the blog and its posts are all about.


April 1, 2009 Shannon Paul 20


You’re certainly right. Taking a little time could have greatly improved the situation, but I still don’t think it would have been appropriate to pitch in the comments. Maybe I’m wrong on this, but I just can’t think of a reason to pitch someone in the comments section.


April 1, 2009 mouthflowers 21

Shannon–It’s completely clear why you feel slimed; the pitch was in an inappropriate forum and it was way way off topic. Even if had been a spot-on pitch, the place to broach it first would be thru a direct email to you (or maybe even a direct Tweet), but not as a blog comment. I understand why the YTC PR person got the idea to pitch you–sometimes our brains make these leaps–but I don’t understand why his/her next thought wasn’t that for all the reasons everyone’s listed, it really wasn’t a smart idea to follow thru.


April 1, 2009 Shannon Paul 22


I am in complete agreement that it would have been better to nudge me in an email or direct message on Twitter than to try to post the pitch with a website address in the comments. Maybe there’s an exception to this, but I can’t think of one. Thanks so much or stopping by!


April 1, 2009 Keith Burtis 23

Shannon, crappy pitch indeed. However, it seems that as many of us become more and more high profile we need to take the good with the bad. I mentioned on twitter yesterday that I was trying to help my sister find a job in the sales industry either online or off.

I got two really crappy pitches; both from MLM companies that were offering me the opportunity to get involved. It was only one tweet, 140 characters. Yet, they pitched me as if I was the one who needed work or some crappy opportunity, not my sister.

Both emails found their way quickly into my trash bin. Your right, it’s too bad that their are folks that are tarnishing the industry as a hole, but I wonder how much of this is the poor state of the economy. Are people just pitching to pitch? Throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks? I feel bad for these folks because it will only hurt their reputations in the long run.



April 1, 2009 Mike Maney 24


I think you are confusing this “pitch” with the outright comment spam that it really is. A pitch would have at least been somewhat close to on-topic. If the company was really engaged (and if this was a pitch instead of blatant spam), they’d have a follow-up comment apologizing or explaining themselves.

Comments — even when dropped in by PR folks — must contribute to and advance the discussion. Anything less is spam and should be treated as such.



April 1, 2009 Dirk Singer 25

It’s all been said already, but it was amazingly crass….and obviously delivered by someone who doesn’t read your site.


April 1, 2009 Sharna Fulton 26

Shannon. I think this just goes to teach a lesson in an industry where subtlety rules. Had the blogger took just one extra step…and dangled the PR carrot to you via email instead of as an ad space in your blog, it may have helped their cause. Instead, they come off looking a little bit doofusish. (By the way, did I tell you what I do?) Just kidding! April Fools!


April 1, 2009 Shannon Paul 27


Thanks for the laugh… I also like the use of the word, “carrot”. :-)


April 1, 2009 Scott Hepburn 28

Shannon, I am so glad you wrote this post. I have been stewing for the past few weeks about people using comments on my blog as a free opportunity to shamelessly promote themselves, their products or their posts.

I’m a generous guy, and if you’re kind enough to contribute a meaningful comment on one of my posts, I’m happy to let you get your name out there. But the appropriate place to link to your website is in the URL field you must fill out to submit a comment. Listing one URL in that space and then shamelessly pimping ANOTHER one in the comment body is shallow, selfish and inconsiderate.

Pitching a blogger via the comments section is just as tactless. Like you, I welcome personal outreach from those who have something to pitch. Some pitches will interest me enough to write something, others will not. But the way to do make the pitch is discreetly, not by spraypainting your company name on my lawn, so to speak.


April 1, 2009 Shannon Paul 29


Maybe that’s the thing– pitching someone in the comments is like forcing you to cover them with or without your consent. It feels manipulative…. icky… aggressive. Hopefully if more of us keep talking about this in the open, the problem will diminish if not go away… I’m optimistic!


April 1, 2009 Arik Hanson 30


I think you nailed it when you said if this person would have reached out to you via email, it may have been a completely different story/feel. My initial reaction was–why didn’ t this person just DM or email you?

As PR pros, we could all benefit by being better listeners. The folks who pitch bloggers the right way are great listeners. They understand the space. And they probably read the blogs they’re pitching regularly. Sounds similiar to the way you’d pitch a print journalist to me :) In any event, I think you were justified in your frustration and I appreciate you giving this issue the public platform it deserves for discussion.



April 1, 2009 Mack Collier 31

The only comment I’ve ever deleted on my blog was when someone left a comment that was simply ‘Great post’, and then had about 5 lines of explanation about who their company was, a link to their site, and blog.

Sorry but that’s not a comment, that’s an advertisement. I think the comment you got was as well.


April 2, 2009 Rufus 32

Control your personal blog space! Absolutely. You owe nothing to anyone.

I got followed by people who just searched on keyword “dog” so much so that I put up a twitter follow policy. If someone follows me because they have some dog crap to sell, I do not feel the slightest obligation to follow them as they have obviously NOT read the blog. It is far from a “dog blog.”

You have a long enough reach that you should probably have a pitch policy. Short and including an email address for stuff like that. But, with a disclaimer that if you are not interested, no reply will be forthcoming. People think because they sent an email, you owe a reply. You don’t, regardless of what the “Internet elites” think. Unless they pay you, of course. :-)


April 2, 2009 Scott Hepburn 33

I agree that a pitch policy is a good idea, even if plenty of people will ignore it.

Mack introduced me last year to the idea of a Twitter landing page (originally adopted by @Pistachio Laura Fitton, I believe). A Twitter landing page may be the best Twitter/blog idea I’ve ever seen — it just makes sense. And what better place to put a little blurb that explains how to pitch to me?


April 2, 2009 Leah 34

No, you’re not being cranky. If the comment had been made in person, in response to something you’d just said, it would have been just as crass.

But will pitch guidelines help? I don’t know. Etiquette is learned via trial and error. Can we legislate politeness? No, no matter what, there will always be people who are unaware of how they sound. Better to call it out, just as you did, in response to poor judgment.


April 8, 2009 JP 35

Anyone that thinks bad pitch…. must love some baseball. Come by our site and get the finest in memorabilia!


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