The internet is a dark, hateful place, a bit like high school, everyone has an opinion and no matter how harsh it is they let it fly, and with convention season approaching, most of you will be out trying to market yourselves. This little tidbit of advice is aimed at a few different aspects of this business such as building business relationships, ending business relationships, handling bad deals, dealing with negativity, how to respond, late responses, asking for press passes and items for review, as well as how to conduct yourself when you’re out representing your brand.
*Disclaimer: I am just a blogger/magazine columnist. I am in no way an ethics professor or anything of the sort. I am only speaking from experience.*
Working in any form of entertainment or publication, it is important to establish lasting business relationships whether that be with other writers, companies, conventions etc.. These relationships are usually what helps you advance in your field and aide in deciding the longevity of your brand. When building these relationships, it is important to find people/companies in the same line as you (horror, fashion, comedy etc.), doing so will ensure that the two of you are on the same page and share similar interests. Sometimes, I enjoy finding writers in the same field as myself, but approach things with a different style, in a good business relationship, you will learn things from one another. How do you form these types of relationships?
- Do your research. Get to know the person or company that you are reaching out to. Social media and Google are phenomenal tools, be sure to utilize them.
- Have a resume ready. Some companies are willing to work with you no questions asked as long as they like the content you are putting out, but some are interested in your skill sets as well as past projects. Not to mention, having a resume ready to go adds to your professional appearance.
- Do not badger. When you send that email or message, it’s a bit like asking someone to prom, be sure to include all questions and information about yourself in one email/message. You can send a followup message if you have not heard back, but be sure to wait about a week as the other party may be busy or still considering your offer.
Just like a romantic relationship, business relationships may start out all hearts and flowers, but they can turn bad. Here are a few signs that it may be time to end that relationship:
- It becomes one-sided. When you are the only one contributing to the partnership, it may be time to end.
- No response. When you send and email, message or depending on how close your relationship is, text message or phone call and you get no response. People get busy, but common courtesy would be to let you know that they are busy and that they received your message and will get back to you as soon as they can.
- They begin to work more heavily with someone else or start looking for someone to replace you. This tends to happen mostly when there is no contract between the two parties. It is OK to work with others as long as it is fine with your partners, but when you start getting the cold shoulder and the new party is getting the better work, it is time for you to find someone else to work with
Ending Bad Relationships
If your business relationship has gone sour, it is time to walk away. This step is easier if there is no legally binding contract.
- Be courteous. No matter the reason for the bad deal, be professional, basically, don’t be a huge jerk.
- Send a well structured, professional email detailing your side of the situation. Include your reasoning for wanting to end the partnership and be sure to wish them luck in their future endeavors whether the relationship is ending on positive or negative terms, it’s only polite.
- If the other party apologizes and wants to continue the relationship, you may. If you truly feel that they are being sincere, by all means, continue your relationship with them.
Now that the generic situations are covered, it is time to dive into the more detailed scenarios.
When doing business in the digital world, email is the main form of communication. This is where a lot of people mess up.
- Respond in a timely manner. I have been guilty of this myself, sometimes I will check emails on my phone, but I respond on the computer and sometimes I forget about things or they get lost in the shuffle. If it is possible, respond to the email as soon as you see it.
- Apologize for late responses. If for whatever reason you are late responding to an email, be sure to apologize and let them know that their message matters.
- Receiving an offer you don’t like or do not have time to take on. Occasionally we all get an offer that we just don’t like or we are just too busy to take on a new task. Whatever your reason for not taking the offer, be truthful, don’t just ignore the email and many times if I can’t take the offer, I will offer someone that would like to or does have the time to take the task and I will forward the information to them.
- Always show gratitude. Now don’t go all Hallmark, but be sure to let the other party know that you do sincerely appreciate their time and offer whether you accept it or not. A simple “thank you” will go a long way.
Asking For Products For Review
Sometimes companies will send you offers to review their products, but if you are newer to the game, you may have to reach out on your own. When it comes to asking for products to review, it is important how you do so.
- Be semi-formal. Remember that unit in English class where you learned how to compose a formal letter? Well, this is one of those few occasions where the “you’ll need to know this” lecture is true. You want to look as confident and professional as possible. No text message talk, no abbreviation and be sure to use structure. If you forget hoe to do this, Google it.
- Be thorough. Start with the basics like your name. I know this sounds like common knowledge, but you’d be surprised how many forget it. Let them know that you are somewhat familiar with their company/products. Be sure to include links to your site, another key part many forget. If they don’t know what you or or site is about, chances are they won’t want to work with you.
- Start small. Don’t reach out to huge, well known companies. Stay with smaller, newer business. There are a few reasons for this, small businesses need more help than well established companies, well established companies already have advertising agents that help them. Smaller companies are also more grateful for your contribution and it is much more rewarding to work with a real person and not some faceless corporation.
Asking For Press Passes
Convention season is a big time of year for bloggers, vloggers and magazine columnists, and most of them offer press passes to media outlets. I get asked a lot around this time of year how I acquire them, well it’s really not that difficult. A simple email to the convention coordinators is usually all that it takes.
- Again, start with the basics. Start with a simple sentence like, “My name is ______ and I am a writer/blogger/vlogger for______, and I was wondering if there were press passes available for (name of convention.” It really is that simple.
- Include a link to your site, and if you have done any kind of pre-convention coverage of the event, be sure to include links to it.
- Don’t be greedy. Only request the amount of passes you need, don’t try to get passes for all of your friends. I get passes for myself and my husband (who also writes for the blog). Some conventions only allow a certain number of passes to an individual based on the type of media (internet, magazine, podcast etc.), and some like Horror Realm have a limit on the number that any one individual can request.
- Be prepared for paperwork. Some conventions will respond with a yes or no based on your previous work or they will send you an application for consideration. These are typically a very short form where you tell them about yourself, your site and how many passes you are requesting.
Now that you have your passes, it is important that you know how to use it and how to conduct yourself since you will be representing either your own brand or a brand you work for.
- A press pass is not a golden ticket to the chocolate factory Charlie. Some conventions do have media only events as well as other perks for press pass holders, but do not try to use it as the ring to control everyone Bilbo. OK, enough pop culture references, basically, use your head, don’t let it turn you into Gollum (I swear that was the last one).
- No fangirling. If you are there as a media professional, conduct yourself as such. Get a grip and remember that you are there to work. Remember that no matter who you are talking to, they are just a person no matter how awesome they are. If you can’t conduct yourself in a professional manner around celebrities, maybe you should consider a different career path.
- Don’t abuse it. If you ever want passes to that particular convention the next year or to any others, use it for what it is there for. Don’t use it to cut in line or to sneak into parties or to monopolize anyone’s time. If you have an interview scheduled during the convention, try to make it as brief as possible. If it is at all possible, try to get your interview either before the convention begins for the day or at the close of the show for the day.
Well that pretty much covers that, but here is a bonus section. I am asked a million times a day and have covered the topic a few times now, but I am more than happy to cover it for you once again.
Dealing With Negative Feedback/Criticism
Negative feedback and criticism is something that everyone in this line of work MUST learn to deal with in a professional manner. It is not as hard as everyone thinks it is. If I gave up every time someone tried to cut me down, I would have hung it up a long time ago. It takes practice, but you can master it.
- Read/listen no matter how painful. Some people lack that filter that tells them that maybe the way I’m saying this is a bit rude, and they will be nasty. Some people even post things to purposely hurt others. The best way to get used to negative feedback is to read it, reading it will only help you develop a thicker skin.
- Depersonalize criticism. Going hand in hand with with the previous point, understand that most people are only talking about that particular piece and not you as a person. I write for Moviepilot as well, and I recently wrote a slasher article that irritated quite a few people, and some of those people where straight up, excuse my language, assholes, but they were talking about the article and not me as a person. Once you learn to do this, you will be able to handle anything.
- Acknowledge good points from the other side. As long as the person is being somewhat respectful, if they are making good points, take the advice.
- Disagree without being disrespectful. Believe it or not, there is a way to disagree with someone and stand by your point without being disrespectful to the other party.
- No matter how rude someone is being to you, never resort to personal attacks or insults. In this field of work, sadly jerks come with the territory, but NEVER stoop to their level. If you see no way to politely address them, ignore them as hard as it may be.
- Most of all, remember that anyone who has accomplished anything great has critics. Take the fact that people are even taking the time out to leave feedback on your work as a sign that you have produced a successful piece. Whether they liked it or not, it is still gaining reads. Sometimes the negative feedback is the best kind, I mean when someone shares something saying that it is horrible or offensive, the first thing I do is click on it, just saying.
I hope you found this article helpful and put this advice to good use. Good luck!