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How to Pitch Me

Edward Hasbrouck

Are you trying to sell me something?

Notes and advice for publicists, marketers, and advertising salespeople

(Please read this page before you contact me.)


How to pitch me | Don’t | Do | Media directories | E-mail delivery services | Freebies | Guest blogging | Paid content | Ad sales | Link exchanges | Content licensing | Feedback


I’m a self-employed freelancer and self-publisher (as well as having my books published by a major travel publisher). I try to make myself accessible, and I’m always happy to hear from fellow travellers and fellow journalists. Feel free to call me if you’re if you are a traveller who wants advice you can’t find in my books or on this Web site; if you are a journalist looking for expert comment for a story of your own; if you are interested in having me speak at your event, having me appear as a guest on your talk show, or hiring me as a consultant; or if you are promoting a place as a travel destination and want to offer me a free ticket to come there and experience it for myself.

I get a lot of useful information from publicists and marketers. I’ve published stories prompted by press releases that came in over the transom from completely unknown publicists, or form previously-unknown sources. My work requires me to make myself available to the public. But I get a lot of sales and public relations pitches, including cold calls. If I gave them all as much time as they want, I’d never get anything written. Unnecessary commercial interruptions are extremely costly, especially when I’m trying to write and it takes time to recover my concentration. If I were making more money, I could afford to hire an assistant to filter the calls and e-mail, but I’m not and I can’t.

I read all the e-mail sent to the e-mail address on this Web site, and the phone number on this site is my mobile/cell phone number. Here are some suggestions and tips that will save us both time. Please read these before you send me a press release, call me to pitch a story, or put me on your press list.

I write and speak about travel as an aspect of life: something we do, not something we buy. There is an industry of companies and people who sell services to travellers, but travel is an activity, not an industry; an experience, not a product. We may pay for transportation and for places to sleep, just as we may pay for schooling, but we can’t buy experience any more than we can buy enlightenment — even if, in the best of worlds, travel sometimes brings us both. I abhor the commodification of travel, and I write and speak about how my readers and listeners can avoid it.

In prior life I’ve worked as a publicist for a travel company, and as a researcher and interviewer compiling profiles of journalists’ preferences for a media directory of the old-fashioned opt-in kind that asked people, in advance, whether they want to be listed and how they wanted to be pitched. I know that p.r. can be a hard job, even if I was paid a lot more for some of my marketing and p.r. work than I make now as a travel writer. I’m not trying to be a jerk, and I apologize in advance if my anger at disrespectful publicists sometimes comes out at people who mean well and don’t realize that what they are doing is inappropriate. I’m trying to avoid that by giving you fair warning about my preferences. I know this page may seem dauntingly long, but if you want me to take the time to consider your pitch, please take the time to read this first. It will take you less time to read this article than it takes me to scan and delete the p.r. spam I receive every week.

Summary for impatient readers:

  • Send me a short plain-text e-mail message. (Attachments including HTML-mail and MS-Office file formats are a security risk and will be deleted unread.)
  • Don’t put me on a mailing or telephone calling list without first asking if I want to be on it, and don’t buy or use press lists from spam services like Cision, Vocus, Gorkana, or Meltwater. If you find out your p.r. agency is spamming journalists, or using lists from spammers like these, fire the agency, publicly, as other travel companies have done, and do your own p.r. or find a legitimate agency to do it for you.
  • Don’t robocall me (anyone, ever, for any reason), and don’t send me a text message (SMS) unless we are already personal friends. Robocalls and unsolicited text messages are illegal, and I will publicly denounce the perpetrators and pursue all available legal remedies. I have never consented to robocalls or automated bulk SMS messages from anyone, ever, for any purpose. Encrypted messages via Signal are acceptable, but if there’s no reason for secrecy, I prefer e-mail.
  • Don’t try to pitch me or send me “private” messages through Twitter or by leaving comments on my blog. Comments in my blog are public, and I use Twitter for public broadcasts only. I’m not a registered user of Facebook, LinkedIn, eVite, Google+, Google Docs, or any Google services, and I don’t want to be. I don’t have a Google or Microsoft account or login. (There are users of some of these services named “Edward Hasbrouck”, but none of them are me.) Don’t post information for me on your Facebook page, ask me to look at a Google Doc, or invite me to an event, if viewing that information requires me to sign up for one of these services. My communications with you are no business of Facebook, Google, or eVite, just as whether you visit my Web site or blog is no business of Google or any third party — which is why, out of respect for my visitors, I don’t use Google Analytics. For the same reason, out of respect for my e-mail correspondents, I run my own mail server. Please communicate with me directly, not through Google, Twitter, or other third parties. (If you want to send me encrypted e-mail, use my GnuPG/PGP public key.)
  • I write for and about independent, do-it-yourself travellers, not package tourists.
  • I don’t print press releases as “news”. I write my own stories.
  • If you want me to write about a destination, pay for a ticket and/or provide budget accommodations for me to go there and see it for myself. I rarely write about specific places I haven’t been, or products or services I haven’t used.

Don’t:

  • Don’t call unless you already have an established relationship with me, or unless it’s about something genuinely urgent that you are confident I will want to talk about. E-mail first. Sometimes I’m out of e-mail and/or phone contact for as much as a week or two at a time when I’m travelling overseas, and e-mail isn’t always reliable, so it’s OK to follow up with a brief phone call if you don’t get a response to your e-mail within a few days. But don’t be put off if the answer is, “Yes, I got your e-mail. I’ll contact you if I need more info. Thank you. Good-bye.” That might mean I’m working on it (and may or may not call you later, at a time of my convenience), that I found it interesting and have filed it for future reference (but not for anything I’m currently writing), or that I vaguely remember getting such a pitch but that it was of no conceivable interest, and I deleted it. For non-urgent matters, snail-mail is OK, but avoid thick press packets or anything too large to fit through the mail slot in my door. Few things you can do will create a more enduring bad impression than making me go down to the post office to collect an oversized mailing — especially if it’s just elaborate packaging for a press release that, it turns out, I’m not interested in. Save a tree, and save our time. E-mail first.
  • Don’t ever robocall me. If you want to talk to me, have a human make the call. I never give anyone, even close friends and business associates, permission to robocall me, ever, for any reason. I consider all robocalls by anyone, ever, for any purpose to be harassment. If I answer the phone, and there isn’t a human on the line to talk to me, I will hang up, and I will never again knowingly answer a call from that phone number, person, or organization.
  • Don’t expect me to remember you. Sorry, but I get far too many pitches for that. “Hi, I’m the publicist for (client company) calling to follow up on a press release that was e-mailed to you for (product or service)” is more likely to jog my memory than “Hi, this is (name) from (name of p.r. agency). Did you get my e-mail?” (“I don’t know. Who was it for? What was it about?”). Explain in your initial contact how you heard about me and got my e-mail address or phone number. If you don’t say, and your message looks like a form letter (even if it was “personalized” with “mail merge” software), I am likely to assume that you got my name from a spam list service.
  • Get to the point, promptly. Don’t be afraid to seem brusque, and don’t be offended if I seem so. You’re busy. I’m busy. Your call is probably interrupting whatever else I was doing. I may be paying international roaming charges to receive your call, or have only a limited amount of credit available on a prepaid account. Remember, the phone number on my Web site is my mobile/cell phone number, so I might be anywhere, in any time zone, when I answer. (If I’m not in San Francisco, you can often but not always tell where I am by looking at my schedule of talks and events.)
  • Don’t send attachments or HTML-mail. If you’ve got something to say, say it in ASCII, in the body of your message. I read e-mail on a variety of devices. I display only the text version of multi-part messages, and will not automatically download images or visit links embedded in HTML-mail. If you insist on sending “multipart-alternative” HTML-mail (the default for many poorly designed but popular e-mail clients and services), keep in mind that I will read only the version labelled as “text”. So proofread the text version to make sure it contains your entire intended message. I frequently receive “multipart” messages the “text” version of which is null, unintelligibly garbled, or obviously (or non-obviously) incomplete. I’m sometimes in places with slow and/or expensive connectivity, and don’t want to pay to download inessential images. On a small screen, I want to display text in a legible font type and size of my choosing. Text contained only in an image file can’t readily be indexed, searched for, or used for sorting and filtering. Unsolicited attachments are a security vulnerability and will either be ignored (I might not notice that they even exist) or the messages containing them will be deleted unread. Don’t send a message in which the content is contained only in an image or MS-Word file or other attachment or only in the HTML version of the message — none of which will I open or read.
  • Don’t assume that I or my readers all use Windows or MS-Office. Linux laptops and netbooks are increasingly popular with travellers. I use Pegasus Mail, not MS-Outlook. I do have a Windows computer for use in testing services, software, and Web sites that are so poorly designed that they require Windows, but I use it as little as possible. I do have MSIE installed, but I’m even more loathe to use it because of its built-in insecurity. I don’t have (or want) a license for MS-Office, and I don’t use or recommend using bootleg software. Your product, service, software or Web site is much more likely to be useful to me and my readers if we can use it with any browser, office suite, or operating system, on any device of our choice — regardless of where we are or what tools we have available.
  • Don’t assume that I or all of my readers are carrying iPhones rooted to Apple or Android devices rooted to Google when we travel. Some travellers carry smartphones, PDA’s, or other handheld devices. Some don’t. They use a variety of operating systems. I write primarily for international travellers. I warn my readers that international data roaming is almost always prohibitively expensive, and that phones are extremely vulnerable to pickpockets and snatch thieves. I recommend (see my articles here and here) leaving your high-end smartphone home, and bringing a cheaper phone when you go abroad. I’m interested in services and publication that are usable on the widest possible range of devices. That means offline apps, or online apps that require only a standards-compliant HTML web browser and downloadable data in text or PDF format readable on any device. I’m unlikely to be interested in pitches for travel apps that only run on a specific smartphone OS. The most likely exception would be apps that rune on open-source Android (such as the LineageOS distribution) without requiring proprietary Google code, and that are available through F-Droid or other public repositories that don’t require Google Play
  • .
  • Don’t tease me. Instead of, “I want to talk to you about a great new product we’re about to announce,” just say, “We’re about to announce (brief product description — one sentence or paragraph). E-mail or call if you’d like me to send more information, or if you have questions.” If you want to send me an embargoed press release or background information, let me know in general summary what it’s about, and ask first.
  • Don’t treat me like your employee, contractor, or marketing department. If you want to hire me as a consultant, make me an offer. (Really. I’m open to offers to provide consulting services, advice, and/or feedback; take part in focus groups; etc. — for appropriate compensation.) Otherwise, I don’t work for you. My readers don’t buy my books or visit this Web site to see your press releases or advertisements. I might write about you, your client, or a product or service, if I think there is a reason to do so, but I will write and publish my story, not your press release.
  • Don’t assume that you know better than me what will interest my readers. I’m in charge here. You’re not my editor. You may actually understand my readers, but most of the p.r. pitches I get are from people who obviously don’t have a clue what would interest my readers. Instead of, “I’ve got some news I’m sure will interest your readers,” just tell me what your “news” is and let me make the call.
  • Don’t expect me to write my story with the spin you want. There’s a good chance that if your pitch interests me, it will be for some reason or from some angle other than the “story” you are pitching. You are unlikely to “sell me on a story”. Don’t be surprised if, when you tell me about a product or service, I have questions about some aspect of it that isn’t in your latest press release. If the only information you have about your client is what’s in the press release you already sent me, it’s probably a waste of both our time for you to do anything more than e-mail me that release.
  • Don’t expect me to take what you say for granted. I’ll believe it when I see it, touch it, or try it for myself, or when I can confirm it independently. I’m a journalist. It’s my job to be skeptical, and to verify what any single source claims. Don’t take it personally — that’s the way I am with everyone. That’s my job.
  • Don’t be offended if I’m not interested, or ask critical questions. I’m just doing my job. I’ll try not to be offended that you’ve interrupted me (briefly) to confirm that I got your e-mail, if it seems like you made a reasonable effort to figure out whether it might interest me before you sent it. Deal?
  • Don’t put me on a list without asking. If you have, for example, an array of pitch lists, tell me what they are and let me choose which, if any, I might want to be on.
  • Don’t contact me through Twitter if you want to send a private message, or receive a private response (or any response). That’s like spray-painting a message on my door, or posting it on a bulletin board in the town square, instead of putting an envelope through my mail slot. I use Twitter as a way to broadcast items of general interest that are too short to warrant an article in my blog, not as a substitute for e-mail or the telephone for private messaging. For the same reasons, don’t try to pitch me by posting a comment in my blog.
  • Don’t post information on your Facebook page if you want me to read it or write about it. I’m not on Facebook and I don’t want to be on Facebook, for these and other reasons. There’s no need to involve Facebook or any other third party in your communication with me. Contact me directly, or post the information on your own Web site.
  • Don’t program your fax to call my voice line! I don’t have a fax number.
  • Don’t post a comment in my blog as a way to send me a private message, pitch me about a story, or advertise yourself, your company, or your client. I moderate comments from new commenters, and p.r. spam and pitches will be deleted. You are walking a fine line if you post a comment about a product or service you think is genuinely relevant and likely to be of interest to my readers. I’ll make the call. I’m much more likely to approve such a comment if your relationship to whatever you are touting is explicitly disclosed.
  • Don’t try to control my schedule. Many things only become worthy of news or commentary in light of much later events. I may use something from an interview or news release in an article, or an updated edition of a book, months or years later. On the other hand, if I write something about you or your client (good or bad!), it will live for years in my books, or forever on my Web site. Some of the most-visited articles on my Web site and in my blog were written 5, 10, or 15 years ago.
  • Don’t ask questions if you aren’t prepared to listen to the answers.

Do:

  • Treat me as an author, a blogger, a journalist, or all three — but treat me with respect. I’ve had books in print for more than a decade (and regular updates always in progress for the next edition) with a major travel publisher. I’ve won journalism awards for work self-published on my Web site. My blog has thousands of visitors a day, and is regularly recommended by “mainstream media” as one of the most authoritative and informative travel blogs. I see no contradiction in being a travel journalist, blogger, author, and consumer advocate. I don’t make my living from travel writing alone, but I make more than most travel writers or bloggers, and I take my work, and my professional and ethical responsibility to my readers, very seriously.
  • Let me know about things that interest you and might interest me and my readers, even peripherally. I welcome story ideas, tips, and information. I have wide-ranging interests. I often find interesting bits of information buried in stories and press releases about other topics. Often what you have to say will be interesting or useful to me only in conjunction with something I learned from a completely different source. I love to hear from whistleblowers, leakers, and insiders. I prefer identifiable sources and am unlikely to rely on unverifiable information, but if you have reasons not to want to be identified, feel free to contact me anonymously or to ask that I not cite you as a source or not identify you publicly. I can’t guarantee that your enemies, or mine, won’t figure out who you are, but if I promise not to deliberately reveal your identity, I’ll do my best to keep that promise, even under duress.
  • Read what I write before you send me a press release or pitch. (Starting your e-mail pitch with, “I read your article on ‘How To Pitch Me’, and…” is a good way to get me to read more of what you have to say.) Try to figure out who my readers are. If you aren’t sure, ask. Rather than an endless succession of unwanted pitches that waste both our time, I’d much rather get one message from a new publicist saying, “I’m putting together (or I’ve inherited) a list of travel journalists. I’ve looked at your Web site, but I’m not sure what types of stories would interest you. [Hint: the subjects on my home page, the tables of contents of my books, and the category labels in my blog are good places to start.] Could you send me a message back, or call me briefly at your convenience, to let me know how we could best work with you?”
  • Approach travel as an aspect of life: something we do, not something we buy. There is an industry of companies and people who sell services to travellers, but travel is an activity, not an industry; an experience, not a product. I abhor the commodification of travel, and I write about how my readers can avoid it.
  • Keep in mind that I have readers all over the world, and regularly get press releases from companies all over the world. I hate struggling to find the clues in a release that tell me in what city or country a property or event is located (no, I don’t take for granted that everything worth reporting happens in New York, or London, or Los Angeles, or wherever you think is the hub of the universe), in what currency (U.S. dollars? Canadian dollars? Singapore dollars?) prices are stated, or in what time zone a contact is located. If you want to reach international travellers, start by internationalizing your press release stylebook. If you need help, I have some suggestions in the “Practicalities” chapter and the resource guide in “The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World”.
  • I have a diverse readership including business travellers, backpackers, travel industry insiders, politicians, regulators, bureaucrats, Eurocrats, and NGO’s concerned with travel-related government policies in the USA and around the world. My readers include independent, do-it-yourself travellers of all ages, budgets, and demographics. If you’re trying to sell me on a destination, tell me about services for independent travellers in all budget ranges. How easy is it to get around on your own, and what are the best ways to do so? What sorts of accommodations and other services are available for independent travellers who arrive in the area without reservations? What are the best ways and resources for independent travellers, not on a tour and without a guide or advance reservations, to find accommodations and travel services? How much is it likely to cost? If no prices are mentioned in your press release, I’m likely to assume that my readers can’t afford whatever you are promoting. If you only mention package tours, I’m likely to assume that services for independent travellers are lacking (or that you’re not likely to be a source for information about them).
  • If your product or service is only available to citizens or residents of, say, the USA or UK or any other particular country or countries, say so up front. If you don’t say, expect me to ask. I have readers who live in, and have passports from, countries around the world. (I write about the USA, for example, as a destination for visitors from other countries as much as, or more than, as a destination for domestic visitors.) Do you accept credit cards with billing addresses in other countries? Do the forms on your Web site accept telephone numbers, addresses, and zip or postal codes with different formats or numbers of characters than in your own country? Addresses with no zip or postal codes at all? Have you tested them to make sure?
  • If you are making a claim about a “discount”, include the basis of comparison. Is a particular rate at a hotel 50% less than the “rack” rate, or 50% off the mean rate that paying guests actually paid in the same month last year? As I regularly remind my readers, “discount” claims without an explicitly stated basis of comparison are useless at best, misleading at worst, and discredit both you and your client. If I bother to follow up on such a press release at all, I will ask about the basis of comparison. So why not just include it in the first place?
  • If you are promoting a “free” product or service provided by a for-profit entity, expect me to ask what the provider’s revenue and profit model is, and why you think consumers or travellers are better served by this profit model than by a service that they pay for directly. Since you know I’m going to ask anyway, why not just include that information up front?
  • Be aware that I rarely write about specific deals, hotels, restaurants, resorts, tours, concerts, contests, or festivals or events (unless they are really huge — the Hajj, the World Cup, the Olympics — or unless I’m already going to be in the area, which you can usually tell from my schedule of talks and events). I am interested in news about them, sometimes as case studies or examples and more often as data points for reporting about trends and patterns. So feel free to send me these news tidbits. But don’t expect much obvious, immediate, or specific uptake unless it’s a really unusual deal or of particular relevance to my particular readership. I have no interest in the new chef at your restaurant, the current package “deal” on a room and other services at your hotel, how deep the snow is this week at your ski area, the new “attraction” at your theme park, or what entertainer is performing this week at your resort.
  • If you are pitching a contest, tell me the expected odds of winning. I am extremely unlikely to recommend that my readers spend their time entering a travel contest unless you can convince me that the expected return (prize value divided by odds of winning) for the amount of time, effort, and expense of required to enter exceeds what someone would be likely to earn, and have available to spend on travel, if they spent the time on paid employment instead of contest entries.
  • Put the subject of your message in the subject line. Your message is more likely to stand out from the spam if it’s identified as a p.r. pitch in the subject line. Put the substance of the announcement or pitch at the top of the message.
  • Include a URL where I can find additional information if I am interested. If you have something really secret to announce, that isn’t yet online, ask me before sending me any attachments. Unsolicited attachments will be deleted unopened.
  • Tell me why and how — not just what. My readers want and expect me to explain how things work, the reasons for my conclusions, and what’s inside the “black box”. Conclusionary statements like, “It’s the greatest” or hand-waving about “new and better technology” are unlikely to persuade me and won’t give me what I need to justify making recommendations to my readers.
  • Expect me to test your product, service, or Web site before I write anything about it. I will try, as hard as I can, in the available time and with the available resources, to break it. I will try to find problems with it. Your job is to tell me what’s good about it. My job is to evaluate whether those claims are true, and to find out what’s wrong with it as well as what’s right. My readers rely on my expertise at identifying hidden defects. That’s why when I do recommend something, they are inclined to trust me. It’s a package deal. (If you are lucky, I may also identify applications or advantages that you hadn’t thought of.) I will also ask you, “What are the competitors for this product or service? What are the most significant weaknesses or limitations of this product or service, both in isolation and with respect to its competitors?” Be prepared to answer.
  • If I find problems or defects, be grateful for the free product testing, quality control, and expert advice. The best way to prove that you are sincere in trying to improve your product or service is if I hear directly from the people making changes in response to my criticism, and if you (or they) follow up later when there is an improved version.
  • If I tell you I don’t think my readers are likely to be interested, be grateful for my donation to your market research of the time I spent evaluating your pitch.
  • Be prepared for hard questions. That’s my job, and that’s what my readers expect and count on me to do. I’m an investigative journalist and consumer advocate. If that’s not who you want to talk to, don’t call me.
  • If you’re an outside publicist or with an outside public relations agency, expect me to want to talk directly to your client. I am extremely unlikely to trust a company enough to want to say anything favorable about them in print if they are unwilling to have any of their staff talk to me directly. If they are only willing to deal with me through a publicist or p.r. agency, it raises red flags: “What are they afraid of? What are they hiding?” Once you’ve gotten me interested in talking to your client, you’ve done your job. Put me in touch with your client directly, then get out of the way.
  • Expect me to want to talk to engineers and/or operations or product managers, not just flacks. I’m a technical person and an industry insider, as are many of my most faithful readers. Even my non-technical readers are interested in knowing how the inner working of products, services, and the travel industry affect their travel experience. Expect technical questions. If you don’t know the product or service inside out, be prepared to put me in touch directly with someone who is. If they aren’t going to be willing to talk to me, you’re probably wasting both of our time with the initial pitch.
  • Expect me to put you in my “kill file” or e-mail blacklist if you say, “Do you have any questions about (product or service)?”, I say, “Yes, (question)”, and then I never hear back from you or your client or you only repeat the same statement that was in the press release you already sent me, and that prompted my question.
  • Let me know what you think of what I write (including but not limited to what I write or don’t write about you or your clients — or their competitors). I welcome feedback, especially constructive criticism.

News media and blogger directories and lists:

Today’s best-known media contact directories are, sadly, opt-out, not opt-in. Before the acquisition of Vocus by Cision, Vocus told me that, “We do not harvest or scrape email addresses from the public Internet”, but admitted later in the same message that they had done exactly that. I don’t know where Cision (formerly Bacon’s) or Gorkana (formerly a division of Durrant’s, and like Vocus now part of Cision) got their information about me. If you are sending press releases to a list of addresses you bought or rented from Cision, Vocus, Gorkana, or Meltwater, or using a p.r. agency that uses their lists, be aware that their lists include people who don’t know they are on those lists, didn’t ask to be on them, weren’t told they were on them, and had no opportunity to explain whether or how they want to be contacted by p.r. people. I’m not the first journalist or blogger to have called these companies on these practices, but they haven’t cleaned up their act.

I have asked Cision not to put me on their lists unless and until they switch to an opt-in model, but there’s no guarantee they won’t put me back on their lists without my knowledge. Cision says that they have started telling new people when they add them to Cision lists, but they don’t ask for permission first, and they haven’t given those who were already on their lists a chance to opt out, much less to ask if they want to opt in. Cision doesn’t require their clients to identify the source of the list used for each message, or to include opt-out addresses or links in their p.r. pitches. Cision’s policy is not to tell journalists or bloggers to whom they have sold information about us (it’s not even clear from what they’ve told me whether they keep records themselves), so there’s no way I can contact those recipients to correct their misinformation about me, or to get off the p.r. spam lists they’ve put me on.

Because neither Cision nor Meltwater limits its listings to those who have “opted in” or consented to be listed, sending e-mail to addresses obtained from these companies through Constant Contact, Exact Target, or other e-mail delivery services that limit usage to opt-in or consensual lists violates those e-mail delivery services’ contractual conditions of use. (Other e-mail sending services including Contact Beacon, a/k/ Media Net Link, don’t even pretend to require opt-in to lists used by their clients.)

Cision’s actions have been illegal, although the current legality of some of their practices may depends on whether they re-incorporated in the USA when they moved their head office location from Stockholm to Chicago in 2014. Cision was originally a Swedish company whose operations worldwide were subject to Swedish data protection law, and which explicitly (although falsely) claims that its (apparently non-existent) policies on notice, consent, onward transfer and usage of information, etc. comply with European Union law (which they don’t), and that “The information we collect is not shared with email advertisers or other parties,” when in fact Cision shares information with anyone willing to pay for a subscription to their media directories and databases. Vocus and Gorkana are brands of Cision, subject to the same laws. Meltwater Group appears to be doing many of the same things as Cision, including scraping addresses from Web pages and putting them on distribution lists without asking permission, but Meltwater hasn’t yet been willing to talk to me about their methodology or their policies. Meltwater appears to be a Norwegian company, which if so would make it subject to Norwegian data protection law, with whihc it clearly doesn’t comply.

If you or your p.r. agency are using unverified lists from Cision, Vocus, Gorkana, or Meltwater, you are inevitably damaging your reputation (and that of your clients), as well as getting ripped off by Cision, by spamming some people who don’t write about anything related to your pitch, while ignoring journalists like me who don’t want (and can’t afford) to be bombarded with p.r. spam, but who might welcome your message if you contacted us individually. I’m not a client of any of these services, so I can only ask, not demand, that they change their practices.

If you are a marketer, publicist, or p.r agency who cares about your reputation in the blogosphere, I, like other recipients/victims of Cision, Vocus, and their ilk, encourage you to demand that Cision, Vocus, Gorkana, Meltwater, and similar “services” switch to a fully transparent and fully opt-in model, including purging their lists of entries added without opt in, and that — for the sake of your own reputation, that of your clients, and the effectiveness of your p.r. work — you stop patronizing Cision, Vocus, Gorkana, or Meltwater or using any addresses previously imported from them unless and until they clean up their lists and clean up their act by adding enforceable terms to their contracts requiring subscribers to identify the source of the list; pass opt-out requests, corrections, or changes back to the list broker or directory; and honor opt-out requests, corrections, or changes from the list broker or directory. If you find out your p.r. agency is spamming journalists, fire the agency, publicly, as other travel companies have done, and do your own p.r. or find a legitimate agency to do it for you.

Yes, I have made these suggestions directly to Cision. Cision referred me to someone who claimed to be the responsible person, but years have passed and so far as I know they have yet to make any substantive changes. I keep getting put back on even those lists that I’ve been told I’ve opted out of. Earlier, Vocus referred my suggestions for policy changes to their public relations director, who offered excuses (“Vocus is a technology company, not a p.r. company. We don’t tell p.r professionals how to do their jobs”), rather than to anyone with decision-making authority to change their contractual terms or practices.

Third-party e-mail delivery services:

Many spammers use third-party e-mail delivery services such as Constant Contact, Exact Target, or Contact Beacon to deliver their messages, as a way of evading blocking of e-mail from their own domains. I have opted out of these spam delivery services.

If you want your e-mail message to be delivered, send it yourself. Don’t forge the headers or use services that conceal the real sender, and don’t endorse spam delivery services or associate yourself with them by sending your e-mail through them. Messages sent from or via ConstantContact.com (or their aliases including Roving.com), ExactTarget.com, ContactBeacon.com, or MNL.com will not be received, or will be deleted unread. I’ll reconsider whether to accept mail sent via these spam facilitation services if and when they start publicly terminating accounts and pursuing damage claims for fraud against those spammers who falsely warrant that their lists are “opt-in” or consensual, when in fact they aren’t (as, for example, when they include addresses obtained from Cision, Vocus, Gorkana, or Meltwater).

Freebies, junkets, and press trips:

As disclosed elsewhere, and in individual articles, I accept some free, subsidized, and discounted travel, and I welcome such offers.

If you want me to write about a destination I haven’t been to, by far the the best way is to offer me a free ticket to get there, and/or a week’s free accommodations in a hostel or other low-budget lodging — no strings attached, with no commitment that I’ll write anything about it, and with the promise that if I publish anything about it, I will disclose that you paid for my ticket and/or subsidized my lodging.

I’m unlikely to write about a specific place sight unseen. If you send me a press release about a destination, and I respond with, “That sounds interesting. Can you get me there so I can check it out and maybe write about it?”, that means your p.r pitch was a success. Congratulations! If I’m not already going to be nearby (you can usually tell from my schedule ), and you aren’t prepared to get me there, you are probably wasting your time, and mine, pitching me about the destination or event.

I’ve never been on a group or escorted press trip, although I wouldn’t rule it out. (I have, although rarely, taken locally-arranged escorted and/or group tours at my own expense when I couldn’t find any other way to get to a particular place or take part in a particular activity.) I write about independent travel, and I generally travel on my own. I make my own arrangements as I travel, “a la carte”. I avoid making reservations in advance or booking “packages” or bundles of travel services assembled by someone else. I wouldn’t expect an organized group junket to give me much information about independent travel. To do my kind of writing about a destination, for my readers, I need a chance to explore on my own, without a guide, escort, “minder”, or advance reservations.

I welcome opportunities to visit new and different places, to revisit those I haven’t been to recently, and to experience new and different airlines. I travel cheaply, I often stay in hostels (I’m a life member of Hostelling International) and I fly coach/economy/3rd class and on “low-fare” airlines. I’ve flown entirely around the world on Aeroflot. (I wrote about it, and it wasn’t what you might imagine.) I prefer to travel in the off-season, not during special events. For me, part of researching a destination is finding out how easy it is to get around, and what it costs, for independent travellers who aren’t on a tour and arrive without reservations. So the limiting factor in my ability to visit your destination and incorporate it into my writing is usually long-haul air, rail, and rental car transportation costs, rather than accommodations (except in unavoidably expensive destinations, which don’t tend to be my beat, and where what’s most interesting to me are the possibilities for affordable lodging). I’m more likely to be able to afford to visit if I’m already going to be nearby, or at least on the same continent or in the same region. Feel free to send me an invitation. I’m happy to “sing for my supper” by giving travel talks while I’m in your area, if you can line up venues and local hosts.

If you want me to write about a Web site or service, expect me to try it. Offer me a trial. If that’s not feasible, offer to put me in touch with people who have used the service. If you want me to write about a tangible product, offer to send me a sample to try, either as a gift or loan (no strings attached, with no commitment that I’ll write anything about it, and with the promise that if I publish anything about it, I will disclose that you gave or lent me a sample). I welcome and encourage you to send review copies of books, sample copies of magazines, or URL’s of Web sites that you want considered for inclusion in the resource guide in the next edition of The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World. (Read the current edition of the book for an idea of what is likely to be appropriate.)

Guest bloggers:

I occasionally publish contributions by guest bloggers. To date, I haven’t been able to pay for guest blog entries, but I’ll give you credit with a link, and ask only for nonexclusive rights.

If you’re interested, send me a brief pitch summarizing what you’d like to write about, preferably with a link to your own blog or some other sample of your writing. I’m especially interested in guest columns by experts (guidebook authors, people who are from or live in or have travelled extensively in the destination, etc.) on independent travel to destinations to be visited in upcoming episodes of The Amazing Race. There are usually spoilers of most of the route as the race is being filmed, one to six months before each season is broadcast. If you are an independent expert on the destination of an upcoming episode, contact me as far in advance as possible (although a guest column may be possible even at the last minute).

If you want to pay me to run your content as a “guest” blog entry, or you want to offer to ghost-write an article for my blog in exchange for my agreement to include a link to your business or your client, forget it. I don’t accept advertorials, infomercials, or “paid content”, except in the form of clearly identifiable advertising. To the extent possible for a one-person operation where the writer/editor is also the advertising salesperson, I maintain a separation of advertising and editorial content.

Advertorials and paid or sponsored content

I publish sponsored content on my Web site and blog. It’s called “advertising”, and should be plainly labeled or identifiable as such. If you want to pay to publish something, publish it yourself or submit it for publication as a clearly-disclosed paid advertisement (see below). Other than that, don’t ask me to publish your content in my name. My editorial calendar and editorial decision-making of what to write about, and what to say, are not for sale or for rent. (Here’s an object lesson of what not to do.) I’m a professional writer and journalist. I don’t need or want your ghost writers, and I don’t write “sponsored” posts conveying your message in my words.

Advertising sales

Yes, I accept some advertising on this Web site. You can see that, so you don’t need to ask.

I don’t accept any ads for unknown advertisers or without reviewing them individually in advance. I don’t have a standard ad rate — it depends on the ad, the placement, the payment scheme, etc. Make me an offer. Don’t waste my time and yours asking if I accept ads without making a firm offer with the ad and the price.

Send me a copy of the ad, or a pointer to the URL where I can see it, with a message like this: “I would like to place the ad (attached) (at URL) for (client) for (product or service) on your page (URL) (run of site?) (page placement?) for (time period?) (open run?). I will pay (US$___) (___% of sale) (per impression) (per click) (per action).”

If you are offering an affiliate relationship, don’t beat around the bush: “I would like to offer you an affiliation with (vendor, product, or service). We pay (explanation or URL with compensation scheme). You can sign up at (URL).”

Vague advertising or affiliate enquiries without this information will be ignored — I can’t afford the time to worry about them.

All ads or affiliate links will be fully disclosed, and I’m likely to be suspicious of advertisers who don’t require that their advertisements, product placements, paid content, affiliate links, or other promotional “partnerships” be fully disclosed.

Link exchanges:

I don’t “exchange links” with anyone. Don’t bother to ask. If you want to link to my site, link to it. If I want to link to your site, I’ll link to it, to the specific URL and in the specific manner I choose. If you’ve got a site you think might interest me and/or my readers, tell me about it and tell me why I might want to link to it. (Not why you want me to do so, but why you think I might want to do so.) I link to another site only if I think my readers might find the link interesting or useful, or if it’s a paid or affiliate advertisement link clearly identifiable as such.

Content licensing:

Make me an offer if you’d like to license or syndicate content from this Web site, my e-mail newsletter, my books, or any of my other writing. Subsidiary rights to some content from “The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World” are controlled by, and must be licensed from, the publisher of the book, but check with me first to see if that includes what you want to copy. Work published on this Web site and elsewhere is available for licensing for use in books, as article offprints, for use on the Web or in e-mail, in e-book formats, or in smartphone apps. I’m not unknown or unfindable, and no rights to my work should be considered “orphaned”. I have not “abandoned” any of my work. If I haven’t registered copyright in particular works, that is only because it would be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming to register my copyright in everything I write. All of my work is either available for licensing, and/or I have already published or licensed it in the way I think best serves my interests, and/or I have chosen not to publish or license it. If you don’t receive a response to a request for permission to copy or license my work, you should assume that I have received your request, given it whatever consideration I thought it warranted, and have decided not to grant the requested permission. No inference should be drawn that you have not “found” me, or that any rights to my work have been “orphaned”. Publication on this Web site or elsewhere does not imply any intention to grant any implied license. Mirroring, caching, redistribution, retention, or archiving of any copy of this Web site is expressly forbidden, except with the express prior written permission of the copyright holder.

There’s no need to ask permission to link to this site (or any other), but it’s a kindness to let me know that you’ve done so. In general, unless you are prepared to pay for a syndication or reprint license, the answer to most questions of the form, “May I copy your article from (URL) on my Web site?” is, “No. Link to it instead. That’s what links are for, and that way if I update it, visitors to your Web site who follow the link automatically get the updated version.” I’ve had too many problems in the past trying to keep mirror copies of my FAQ’s in sync.

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"Don't believe anything just because you read it on the Internet. Anyone can say anything on the Internet, and they do. The Internet is the most effective medium in history for the rapid global propagation of rumor, myth, and false information." (From The Practical Nomad Guide to the Online Travel Marketplace, 2001)

This page most recently modified 13 January 2021. Copyright © 1991-2021 Edward Hasbrouck, except as noted. ORCID 0000-0001-9698-7556. Mirroring, syndication, and/or archiving of this Web site for purposes of redistribution, or use of information from this site to send unsolicited bulk e-mail or any SMS messages, is prohibited.