My Name Is and the 3 Things all PR people should know

This is an open letter to anyone who writes a pet blog, and there are a lot of you out there. I get asked for advice about blogging a lot, and the number one thing I will tell you is this: Your blog and your time have value. It’s ok to remind people of that when they ask you to work for free.

I’ve seen plenty in the almost four years in the blogosphere. To stick it out this long requires a clear understanding of why we’re doing this and what we’re about (neither of which, incidentally, have to do with money. Because ha ha ha.)

The PR representatives who pitch you, with varying degrees of success, products to review do not, unfortunately, understand you the same way I do. At first, of course, the attention is flattering. Oh, wow! I must be an influencer! You want to give me a free sample of your stuff that I’m not even sure I need! Awesomesauce! And then, five hours later when your dog won’t eat the food or the leash is rubbing purple dye all over your cat, you realize: uh oh. This is a lot of work.

Much like Tribbles, such offers of stuff pile on themselves as companies start to realize that hey, here’s another one out there who will write about our product for free. And before you know it, whatever it was you started a blog to write about in the first place is shoved to the back burner as you try to keep up with the piles of products you’ve agreed to review, promote, and plug for reasons you’re not even sure of yourself. The old grizzled, battered veterans of the pet blogosphere have long ago learned to be crotchety and picky, because you have to be.


Thing That PR People Should Know Number One: My name is Dr. V.


I can’t blame the PR people for trying. They’re just doing their job. Though I will blame them for putting the wrong name on the email, or worse yet, “Hello pawcurious,” or even worse than that, just “Hello,” because I’ve made it REALLY EASY from day one for people to know who I am:

Names are important, as Rumplestiltskin and Dale Carnegie will both attest to. If you can’t be bothered to figure out my name before asking me to do you a favor, then I can’t be bothered to respond.

Thing That PR People Should Know Number Two: You are asking me to do you a favor.


I have absolutely everything my pets could possibly need. They don’t need a whole lot. And if there’s something I would like for them to have, to be honest it’s actually a lot less work for me to just go out and buy it than to wait for you to send it to me, photograph my pets using it in good lighting, upload it, write something about it, and make sure the post is properly edited.

I didn’t start this blog to get free stuff. I write about things because I think other people might be interested in them. If I had thought this whole “getting stuff for free” thing through a little more carefully, I would have started a shoe blog, because unlike catnip toys, my appetite for shoes is insatiable. Pet companies don’t offer paid reviews on a regular basis because, well, why should they? We keep doing it for a drop in the bucket free product.

Bill Watterson always says it best.

Unpaid reviews are the blogging equivalent of running around in the free logo T-shirt. It’s fine if you wanted the shirt to begin with, but t-shirts get old after a while. Anyone who treats sending me a product sample like I should see it as the thrill of a lifetime is going to be disappointed.

Thing That PR People Should Know Number Three: You Don’t Get to Tell Me What to Write


Offering a product or event invitation to a blogger is a roll of the dice. We can review it positively, review it negatively, or not review it at all. That is the way that it goes. Sometimes a product just doesn’t work for me or my house, and it doesn’t make sense for me to take the time to write about it in an ambivalent manner. Most companies out there, and all of the companies I’ve written about on the blog, get that.

I received an invitation the other day to a movie screening. It was a 3 1/2 hour drive one way to get to the screening, and dogs were invited. It’s not a movie either I or my dog would be interested in, but my kids were. So I asked if I could bring them.

“No,” came the answer, with the additional caveat:

“We expect you to write several posts about the experience:” followed by a list of the table of contents for the posts we would be expected to write. About a straight-to-DVD movie that I didn’t even want to see. I turned that one down too, which is a bummer because Β I probably would have written a rather meaningful exploration of how movies can open important dialogues with children, but that wasn’t on the ‘pre approved topics’ list.

(I won’t say what company they are with; I’m not that Brave. Besides, I don’t want to be overly cruella.)

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way


I wrote this post not to rant and rave, but because people are always wondering what “normal” is when it comes to blogger-brand relations. In the pet blogging world, this has been my experience- and that of most people I know. And as long as we let companies dictate crummy terms and then accept them, that’s how it’s going to continue to be.

I don’t want you to think working with all companies stinks- au contraire. I’ve made some wonderful connections with amazing brands and small business owners based on one thing: mutual respect. I respect the product they are putting out, and they respect the time and energy it takes for me to write about their product and share it with this group of readers that I adore and feel overly protective of. You guys.

Speaking of respect, small business owners have far and away been the most ardent supporters of efforts like the blogathon and of bloggers in general: Biscuits by Lambchop, Calming Collars, Dog Angel Jewelry just to name a few: thank you for doing it right.

For those just getting into pet blogging, it’s ok to say no to people who ask much and give little. I know the stats, and very few of you are making any money off this blogging thing, so make every word count and be about something you love.

Β And with that, have a happy and safe Labor Day Weekend! And if you have any insane stories about company demands you want to share, by all means do so. I will consider it research.
Filed: Blog, Daily Life, Picks of the Litter Tagged: , , ,
  • Dr. V — thanks for the great post and the warm shout out to “us” small business owners!

    • I didn’t think it was fair to complain about what I didn’t like without giving credit to those who do things wonderfully!

  • I’m a blogger, and while I’m not a pet blogger per say, pets are one of the topics I blog on. I get at least five emails a week for companies looking to get free guest posts on my blog. My fee is $100. While it’s hard to stick to my guns sometimes, I know that’s what I’m worth, and I try my hardest not to back down.

    • Absolutely. And as a finance blogger I imagine you know the importance of that better than most! πŸ™‚

  • Tonya

    I’m happy to say that I’ve done business with all three of your “star” small business owners, and they are every bit as great as you say they are! πŸ™‚

  • Anonymous


    • I’m sure you have plenty of similar experiences! πŸ™‚

  • Just happened to see this on FB first thing when I got on the computer today, and was totally drawn in to the topic as I’ve seen you evolve – was it really from the start? Just about I think. And then of course a mention on “doing it right” – thanks for starting my day out so great! And the support for all us small biz owners! – Annette & the BBL Pack

    • P.S. To me, a huge part of the what/where/why of your blog is your unspoken commitment to raise awareness where it needs to be raised and in your fundraising, often at the drop of a hat – well usually, you’re seriously talented at getting it together with no time at all, to raise donations for those in need. To name just a few, your Blogathons, help for Japan after the earthquake, helping raise funds for a little boy’s seizure alert dog….. thanks for all you do! Just a little stroll down memory lane….

    • Aw, thanks Annette. You’re right, you were there right from the start, and it means a lot to me that you’re still here. These friendships forged have meant a great deal to me.

  • Susi

    I saw this one coming. Well done, Jessica.

    • Thanks Susi. I think my birthday has made me crabby.

  • Yes, yes. Love the post! πŸ™‚

  • Well said.

    • I can only imagine what you get, J!

  • Colby

    Great post! I opened my email for the first time today and there were 4 emails about product reviews none of which address me by my name. My blog is similar to yours and has my first name in a box in the upper right hand corner next to my picture. It’s not as obvious as yours, but still very easy to spot. Oh well, 4 more emails that will go directly to the trash bin.

    • Isn’t that the truth! And to think I used to respond to all of them.

  • Bravo and well said! I think we bloggers should charge for reviews. It’s getting to the point where I may not do any reviews because I want my readers to enjoy my stories and not fear they’re going to get a pitch to buy something every other post.

  • Wonderful post! I would add that I wish all bloggers would take more of a stand for their time and effort, and be sure to ask for a fair rate. Until we all do it, it’s going to be hard to get PR companies to understand that they need to do offer it. πŸ™‚

  • Theresa O’Connell

    Great advice, thanks!

  • Rick Gregory

    Dr. V, Thanks for the clear and concise way you’ve outlined blogger/product relationships. I’m launching a tea-tree oil product that removes uric acid crystals (and thus permanently and safely removes urine odors) from any surface. I’m trying to find the most honorable and appropriate way to get product samples to people like you πŸ™‚

  • Amen, sistah! I’m thisclose to giving up on giveaways and product reviews altogether (unless I get paid for doing them). And some companies (you know who you are) launch campaigns that go out to what seems like 10000 bloggers at the same time so everybody’s giving away exactly the same thing at the same time and readers get giveaway blindness and click away. And it’s not just a matter of getting paid for the writing and access to our readership… it’s getting paid for all the tweets and FB posts and all that stuff that takes as long as the writing and photographing and pleading with your cat to eat the dang food already so I can get the photo.

    • Oh, don’t even get me started on the 10000 blogger campaigns. Even I get bored of reading about them. And unfortunately you don’t always know you’re in one until you’ve already committed. I’ve started avoiding those as well, when I can. I think I need to rephrase my work to sound more Etsy-ish: a hand-picked curated collection of content. πŸ˜‰

  • ron

    Dr. V.
    Are you any relation to the Vogelsangs in Middletown, OH?