I considered titling this post “Today in my InBox” because in all my years working with children, I always loved the concept of catching people being good instead of just pointing out their mistakes. Huh? What’s that have to do with my email inbox? To explain, I offer up this collaborative post with Rob Wheat of Zebra Partners, a marketing and public relations consultant.
One of the most difficult things for most of the website owners I know who run app review and book blogs is the sheer volume of email requests they get unsolicited. In many cases, simply reading & deleting these emails takes me over an hour a day. If I wanted to properly respond, it could take half the day and then I would never have time to actually DO any of the things people are asking for in all these missives. Then again, among the most frustrating experiences for an app developer is to submit their app to hundreds of media outlets and to hear absolutely nothing back. And I really empathize with them, having gone through this process myself two years ago, for several apps my husband developed.
In 2011, a year into running my review site, Digital-Storytime, I penned a post about my experiences, titled The Dirty Little Secret About App Review Sites. Then last summer, I contributed a post that appeared in the MomsWithApps blog titled, 5 Tips for Working with Review Sites to give developers some good ideas about how to get their apps reviewed. The conversation Rob & I had today is an example of how to engage with the media in a way that leaves both sides less frustrated and maybe even a little inspired to get back to work.
Rob first contacted me in early March about a project called FingerPrint. He didn’t submit the apps through our request form at first, but he did use our official feedback form and was very gracious, so I pointed him in the right direction. It took me two weeks to respond and another 10 days before I had time to preview the app he submitted correctly through the form. I could tell it wouldn’t fit our site’s very narrow editorial guidelines, but did not contact him.
In the transcript below, you’ll notice also that I simply ignored one of his questions, about having Skype contact with the CEO of the company. Often if an email has multiple questions, a reviewer will only answer one of them in the interest of time. A blog that likes to do interviews, however, might have chosen to answer Rob’s question about the Skype call and ignored the request for review.
Then in early April, Rob contacted me again, which is a very reasonable amount of time to wait for a follow up. Most review sites, including mine, do not regularly contact developers when we reject an app for review, so about 90% of submissions get no response. However, very few requests are ever followed up, so a polite inquiry is usually not unwelcome. I responded to let him know my decision.
You’ll see that when Rob contacts me again, he is persistent at times but never rude, clear in his requests and usually brief and to the point. Most importantly, though, Rob’s warm and thoughtful approach treats me like a real person and he knows when to switch gears and accept no in lieu of something more realistic. Often when I say no to someone’s request, if they respond at all, it is often in a disgruntled or angry way that makes me unlikely to consider any contact with that developer in the future. Each media outlet you contact has very different resources and if you are dead set on one thing (a review, social media mention, etc.) you may miss out on other resources by alienating someone over email.
I’ve been shocked by the number of people who forget even the most basic social graces when communicating online, especially the ones that come across as entitled to my time or coverage on my site. You can rarely tell, by the look of a website, just how ‘big’ the organization is behind it. A blog can look very polished with current tools and have lots of great content while still being run by just one full-time mom, working part-time. Rob’s approach, in part because it is so rare, made me feel more generous about continuing the correspondence and offering additional resources. In the end, I suggested he collaborate with me on this post, which was a win-win.
A review site or blog that simply responds to a request by email has given the developer an opening, but it may not be a very wide one. During the several hour stretch of today’s part of the thread of emails, I also received but did not respond to a dozen other new requests. Rob picked up on the opportunity to basically ‘chat’ over email since it was obvious I was online. I do not respond to all emails this way, I simply can’t, but if you are persistent and remember that you are talking to a real person, one of the many sites you contact is likely to respond. And when they do, consider Rob’s approach:
Mar 4 To: Carisa Kluver, From: Rob Wheat
Name: Rob Wheat
E-Mail: r—- @gmail.com
Dear Carisa, Hoped an email would be a less obtrusive way to check in and hope you’re having a good week so far… I was eager to write you to introduce a really cool company named Fingerprint Play, which is slated to release more than 40 new educational games this year for three to 12-year-olds – including Veggie Tales, Calliou, Max & Ruby, Franklin and others. I have codes to their games – Scribble My Story or The Flying Alphabetinis – to show off how learning can be fun and would be eager to get you those codes… Could I please send you some more information? Would you have time for a 10 to 15 minute connection by phone or Skype with CEO Nancy MacIntyre? Well, thank you very much in advance, I’m eager to get the ok to send you some brief materials and I know you’d find Nancy to be someone with a very unique to speak with about the future of mobile games, books and apps… I also have great artwork in the form of screen shots, etc. I’ll stand by, thank you very much in advance and please write of call xxx-xxx-xxxx anytime… Take care and thanks!! Rob
Mar 18 To: Rob Wheat, From: Carisa Kluver
This sounds like a great project and we are happy to take a look at each app, if you would like to submit codes.
You bet. I have the sites that guest review for me, plus adding http://melissanorthway.
And here are Rob’s great insights about our interaction:
I think that makes the PR person feel more like a “partner” in the process than an intrusion, hopefully…
When I approach the media, I try to think of myself as another blogger (reporter) and anticipate what those needs might be. That was something I learned early at my first job, Golin-Harris, after coming from a newspaper sports / feature writing background.
Rob Wheat is a national media relations specialist with experience in television, radio and newspapers. Rob worked with Nintendo for more than 15 years through Golin Harris and is now a freelance consultant working with Zebra Partners among other clients.