Not only am I a Clever Girls Collective co-founder, but I’m also a long-time personal blogger. Every morning when I go through my email, the first thing I do is delete (or, rather filter and automatically send to trash) the 50 or so pitches that have arrived in my in-box overnight. Scary isn’t it?

Despite having a statement on my blog saying I don’t accept unsolicited pitches and that I rarely do giveaways, I have to do this every. single. morning. And, still, the pitches show no sign of slowing down.

The pitches usually begin the same way—”Dear Blogger”— or, worse, some variant of my name that’s a letter or two away from being correct.

Then they presume that the pitch is something vitally important that I need to be made aware of  and that my “readers,” “community,” or “sphere of influence” need to be made of aware of this pitch as well. Usually this vitally important product or service has zero to do with the content of my blog.

Case in point: I recently received a Mother’s Day pitch for a vaginal dryness product like every other blogger with a vagina on the interwebs. Never mind the fact that I write about family and food and that the product wasn’t a good match for my blog—what PR agency convinced their client that moms are dying to openly address the state of their vaginal affairs as part of a “pampering” Mother’s Day experience? In the end there was so much chatter on Twitter and on blogs skewering the pitch that the client probably saw a nice lift in their metrics. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when the agency presents the post-campaign report.

The most egregious pitches are press releases copied and pasted into an email. Impersonal, irrelevant, and irritating. What a waste of time, effort, energy and, most importantly—money—all this pitching is.

Money that PR agencies are spending on behalf of their clients.

“Spray and Pray” Doesn’t Work

Maybe once, years ago, PR firms existed to blast the media world with non-news-news, in hopes of getting a product or service noticed by someone in the “press.” But bloggers aren’t “press” in the traditional sense. Our blogs are, by their very nature, personal. And impersonal outreach doesn’t cut it.

Yet despite years of bloggers’ attempts to explain just how ineffective these pitches are, they endure. In fact, it’s such a tired topic that at blogging conferences moderators usually begin sessions about working with PR agencies by saying, “This is not the place to share bad pitches or we’d be here all day.”

But sharing sure is fun. Sites like Bad Pitch Blog and Dear PR Flack were created with the sole purpose of outing the worst offenders in order to educate them, and yet, the practice continues. I can’t help but wonder: if bloggers think this is all just a waste of time, what do the PR people think about what they are doing? And an even more scary thought? What do their clients think about the wasteful way their money is being spent, especially after learning that bloggers are deleting their pitches in droves without ever reading them?

Having spent the last two years running a boutique social media marketing agency along with my three partners, we don’t have any time or money to waste when it comes to connecting our network with brand opportunities. It’s not fair to us, it’s not fair to them, and ultimately, we think it’s just plain bad business. That is exactly why: we don’t pitch.

Stick A Fork In It: Pitches Are Done

When Cat Lincoln, Kristy Sammis, Sheila Bernus Dowd and I started Clever Girls Collective, one of our missions was to help brands connect with thoughtful, professional influencers in a more meaningful way. Using our marketing and business expertise, we created the Clever Network to identify the best social media users in key verticals so that when we had a client opportunity we could go straight to the most capable bloggers for the job.

How do we know these bloggers are capable? Because the four of us have been blogging for a long, long time. Each one of us has been active participants in the social mediasphere for almost a decade (as in, over 40 years combined. We’ve also been on Twitter for over 15 years combined. For real. We know our bloggers because we read them, and if we don’t know them, our network members aren’t shy about sharing who they think we should get to know. Bloggers have to apply to be part of the Clever Network and we vet each application carefully.

When we have opportunities from clients where we can cast a wider net, we still don’t waste time with impersonal and irrelevant pitches. We identify the specific types of bloggers the client needs, and we use the tools are our disposal to present the opportunity to interested bloggers in our network.

More Clever, More Better

Clever Girls is a full service social media with one exciting difference: the power of the Clever Network, our vetted group of 2500+ online influencers.

We don’t email thousands bloggers in the hopes that 10 or 50 qualified candidates will respond.  We can go directly to those 10 or 50 qualified candidates—ditching the pitch and cutting out all that wasted time and effort—and say, “Hey! Because we know you, we think you’re the perfect match for this opportunity. Are you interested?” And they are.

By and large, social media agencies don’t have a dedicated influencer network. This results in wasted time and inconsistent response and results. Other blogger networks aren’t set up to do professional agency work; either they are too big or too small, or it’s just not their primary business focus.

Clever Girls Collective is the best of both worlds. We offer agency professionalism with a dedicated network. Solutions are targeted, scalable, turnkey—and, of course, measurable.

We founded Clever Girls partly on the principle that pitching doesn’t work. It’s a waste of everyone’s time, effort, and money, and we’re not about that. We’re about changing the game and doing it better.

“Thought You Might Be Interested”…In Getting Paid

We’ve spent a lot of time over the last two years educating our clients on how to work with bloggers in a way that respects their time and effort. Want a busy, professional mom blogger to take a look a your product or service and really give it the time and attention it deserves in order to write a thoughtful, compelling review?  Then pay her for what she is really doing. She’s not just writing a review, she’s doing your marketing work.

We also founded Clever Girls on the principle that we are here to help bloggers reach their personal and professional goals, and that includes being compensated for their work. Any time one of our network members hits publish on a post, she (or he) is increasing a brand’s SEO or adding content to searches that will help future clients decide whether to purchase the product or convincing her community to act. They are an integral part of a brand’s marketing efforts, and that is why bloggers deserve to be paid.

The time is long overdue for brands and PR agencies to treat bloggers like the professionals they are.

We’ve heard the arguments that this practice is akin to “pay-per-post” or that bloggers need to conduct themselves more like journalists. We don’t buy it. Bloggers aren’t journalists. (We’ll cover that in our next post.) When bloggers with professional aspirations want to connect with brands in a professional manner, we feel strongly that they should be treated professionally by being compensated* for their hard work. (Are you reading this, Arianna Huffington?)

(Note: We require absolute transparency from the members of our network. Their posts will always disclose the nature of the relationship with the brand and especially if they were compensated.)

*Compensation can take on many forms from cold, hard cash to once-in-a-lifetime experiential opportunities—whatever adds the most value to the lives of our bloggers. (Most of the time it’s cold, hard cash.)

Happy Bloggers=Happy Clients

Whenever potential clients ask how we “find bloggers” and we explain to them that we don’t pitch—we skip that step and simply connect them with the right influencers for the job—it’s like a revelation. It what makes what we do at Clever Girls so powerful and we’re delighted to be driving that paradigm shift.

Clients have more control over the blogger outreach process and are assured that they will be working with the perfect bloggers for the job. Bloggers know that the opportunities presented to them are the correct match for their content, values, and timing. We often hear that bloggers in our network are just as excited to receive our emails as we are about sending them. Everyone’s happy: clients, bloggers, email inboxes. And we like happy.

—Stefania Pomponi

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