As a professional blogger, I'm constantly contacted by people who want something from me — for free. Here's what triggers my BS detector.
In the last six weeks, I've had 10 — 10! — conversations with people who want me to do something for them. These are people who haven't built relationships with me, and they are people who haven't bothered to build relationships in the personal finance community. Several of them represent startups that have just landed VC funding (and one of them was quite vocal about how legit the company is because of the millions secured). Three of them represent companies that turned me down for Plutus partnership opportunities earlier.
All of these company representatives wasted between 20 and 45 minutes of my time. They wanted my insights, and they wanted me to “spread the word” about their products/services/whatever for free. The phone calls were attempts to build some sort of relationship with me, I guess, but it backfired.
By the time I spoke to the 10th caller, I'm afraid I was probably a little more aggressive than I should have been. Because this was someone who called me without Googling me first to see what I do, and who didn't realize that not three days before his colleague had said that they couldn't swing even the cheapest participation with Plutus ($300 trophy sponsorship). I didn't swear at this unfortunate, but a constant stream of profanity ran through my mind, and my tone clearly indicated that I had reached the end of my patience (because I had).
This type of experience with PR people and other company representatives has become increasingly frequent for me over the last two years as my profile as a professional blogger in my niche has grown. As a result, I'm considering throwing up higher barriers to entry. And I've learned a little bit about what sets off my professional blogger BS detector.
“I'd Love to Have a Phone Call About How We Can Help Each Other”
Eight years ago, someone who contacted me about “helping each other” was probably another blogger and s/he was probably looking to exchange guest posts or link to each other. This exchange almost never included a phone call; instead, it was a friendly email.
Today, PR people and startups want to have a chat regarding some sort of arrangement. However, this is almost always code for “I want you to write about this thing, and I'm not going to pay you, and by the way, I also want you to try to convince all your other professional blogger friends to write about this as well. But we're having a phone conversation, so maybe it will be harder for you to say no.”
In return, they'll be happy to share the thing I wrote on social media. Gee, thanks. Your social media shares will totally ensure that my son can eat this month.
This tactic is also often used by people who want me to provide between one and four “guest posts” per month on their blog. I'll get awesome exposure! That's right. I've had people call to talk to me about how I can provide them with free content on a regular basis. If I have the time, I'm ok providing a guest post for someone, but to be a regular poster without regular pay? I think not.
Call Me an “Influencer”
Want to put me on my guard? Call me an “influencer.” The first two or three times someone called me an influencer, I was flattered. Now I realize that it's just a way to make me feel special in an effort to encourage me to use my influence as a professional blogger to do something for free. They want me to work hard to promote something on social media or they want me to get my colleagues and friends to get on board (also for free).
The worst thing about this term? I use it myself. Usually when I'm talking to marketing people while I'm setting up a blogging campaign. However, while I use it as marketing jargon in certain circles, I don't approach my fellow bloggers as “influencers.”
Also, don't tell me I'm a “thought leader.” I know I'm not. And all that means is that, once again, you want me to write something for you for free in exchange for social media shares, exposure or prestige.
“We'd Like to Share Something That Will Benefit Your Readers”
When I see this in my email, I know that responding in the affirmative means I can kiss at least 30 minutes of perfectly productive time goodbye. It usually involves a demo and a long-winded explanation of how awesome something is.
Of course, the “benefit your readers” line is meant to convince me that the company is just trying to help me and the consumers. While I do share things that I think are useful, and I have been known to review products and services on occasion, I'm not going to hop on a phone call to get this information. If you haven't piqued my interest in the email, talking to me on the phone (in an attempt to make a connection that results in me feeling bad if I don't go through with writing about it) isn't going to help.
“You'd Be Perfect for Our Affiliate Program!”
Translation: “We want you to do the hard work of marketing our product or service, and we'll pay you a small commission!”
I'm part of a few affiliate programs. For the most part, they are programs I believe in, and think could actually help people. However, I don't promote them very heavily. Mainly because affiliate sales don't come easy to me, and the time and effort I'd have to put in just isn't worth it. I have several professional blogger friends who do well with revenue from affiliate sales. However, I'm not set up for that.
Anyone who contacts me and wants to talk to me about how I can be an affiliate is going to leave disappointed. I don't convert well, I don't focus on those programs, and it's not worth the trouble. The problem is that I can share and market your product or service on your behalf til the cows come home, but if someone doesn't use my link to sign up, or remember to use a special promo code, or if someone erases their cookies, I don't get credit — even if I am responsible for the sale.
When I'm contacted by someone who wants me to join their affiliate program, my BS detector goes off. It means they want a review and they want me to market their product or service. But they don't want to pay me if they can get around it.
I'm tired of wasting my time on these phone calls. The time I've wasted recently could have amounted to quite a bit of money if I had been working, or quality time doing something I enjoy.
What triggers your professional blogger BS detector?
Image source: Gawker Media