No to Carrots, Yes to Pomegranates

Shannon Paul, at her excellent and Very Official Blog, wrote earlier this week about a situation where a company tried to pitch her via a comment on one of her blog posts. The product had nothing to do with the topic she’d written about (using her grandma’s carrot cake recipe as a metaphor for sharing great content) and the pitch itself, for skincare products from a company called Yes-to-Carrots, came off as a “free billboard” advertisement. The story has somewhat of a happy ending, as the offending commenter later called Shannon to apologize. But trying to pitch via public comments shows a pretty incomplete understanding of effective blogger relations on the part of Yes-to-Carrots.

Pomegranates, however, are a different story. A few weeks ago, in my post about the changes to US Airway’s inflight magazine, I mentioned that part of the magazine included an excerpt from the new book Rubies in the Orchard, which is Lynda Resnick’s story of the founding and marketing of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice. I said I had read the chapter excerpt in the magazine and was likely to read the whole book at some point. It was merely a mention in a post that wasn’t really about the book at all, but two days later I received the following e-mail:

Amy,

I enjoyed your post, Blogs on Paper at 35,000 feet. Did you pick up the Rubies in the Orchard book yet? I’d be happy to send you some POM juice to enjoy while you’re reading.

Send me your contact info and I’ll get you some juice within a week or so.

Cheers,
Jeff

I sent them my address, more to see what happened than anything else. Today, I received a package in the mail with a case of POM Wonderful juice, a personalized letter, and a fact sheet about pomegranates and their health benefits. I didn’t intend to blog about their outreach, as it’s really nothing new and bloggers are frequently targeted and pitched. But POM Wonderful’s efforts were in such stark contrast to what I read about on Shannon’s blog that in the end, I did end up writing about them again (although I’m sure they’re sad to learn that my blog’s audience is about 15 readers, including my dad). Perhaps most importantly for them, however, is that they’ve gained a customer: I really did like the juice and will probably buy it.

I’m sure Yes-to-Carrots and POM Wonderful both ended up at Shannon’s and my blogs, respectively, via a Google alert on a certain keyword (although Shannon’s follow-up post seems to indicate that her commenter may have been a regular reader). But what separates the carrots from the pomegranates was what they did with that info. POM Wonderful used it as an opportunity to send me a private e-mail. Yes-to-Carrots inappropriately posted a public comment to Shannon’s blog. As Shannon noted in her own comment, “I can’t think of an example where it would be a good idea to pitch someone in the comments.”

Even though Yes-to-Carrots did the right thing by calling Shannon to offer an apology and trying to start a dialogue with her, she stated that she might now be hesitant to buy a product that she already knew of and liked. Yes-to-Carrots potentially lost a customer because of botched blogger outreach. POM Wonderful gained a customer because they did a good job. Sometimes being a little seedy is a good thing.

Update: Jeremy Epstein, who posted the original Yes-to-Carrots pitch on Shannon’s blog, posted a “learn from my mistake” post at his own blog. Check it out - very impressive and goes a long way toward undoing the “damage” from the initial comment, in my opinion. Kudos to Jeremy!