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Advice for DesignersBlogging Advice

Tips for Bloggers: Do’s and Don’ts for Working with the Media

By 09/10/2013July 27th, 201845 Comments

I first met Mary Leigh Howell at the Design Bloggers Conference this past February in LA. She’s a PR Professional and although there was a group of us that were about to have dinner together one evening, it suddenly turned into just the two of us.

Dos and Don'ts for Working with the Media

During dinner, I asked her why she was at the conference. She replied “To network and create relationships with bloggers, I’ve pitched you three times and you’ve never responded”.

“Oh”, I said.

“Well I get probably 30-40 press releases a day, I mostly hit delete. I don’t have a staff of salespeople dedicated to selling advertising for my blog so I’m not looking for editorial disguised as free advertising. If a brand wants to promote their products on my blog, they should pay.”

“A lot of bloggers feel that way, it’s why I get so many advertising rates back from bloggers when I pitch them” Mary Leigh said.

Dos and Don'ts for Working with the Media

Mary Leigh Howell (right) with one of her clients Regenia Payne (on left) from Taylor King

“Well how should we respond?” was my question.

Before the conference started in LA I went to a cocktail party at HD Buttercup there I met a rep from a very popular flash sale home decor site. I asked her why they had never approached me to do a curated collection for them since bloggers much smaller than me have done them. She said it was because ‘They don’t ship to Canada’?  Since I have 10 times more readers in the US than I do in Canada I was very surprised to hear that answer. It’s the world wide web. Just because I’m Canadian doesn’t mean only Canadians read my blog.

And the other tip I received from another publicist at the event was that Americans like Americans. If you want to work with American brands the address of your blog should be in the United States. She isn’t the first person who said that to me about being Canadian. Someone else said I should try to look as American as possible. And that starts with spelling colour without the u. That habit is hard for me to break.

You can see that I don’t have any general advertising on my blog but I’ll tell you why in a future post.

Dos & Don'ts for Working with Media
Taylor King Upholstery

Back to the point of this post, here is Mary Leigh’s advice for bloggers:

The challenge for bloggers, advertisers and public relations professionals, is that we’re applying a traditional model to a new profession.

Journalists, PR and advertising professionals are taught that every media outlet has two sides: editorial and publishing, and the two don’t mix (in theory).  It’s PR’s job to work with editorial to communicate our client’s message through earned (unpaid) stories. And it’s the advertising professionals’ job to work with publishing side to negotiate space and purchase paid messages.

Then along came blogs. Bloggers have a tough job. They have to handle editorial and publishing — create content (editorial) and make their blog profitable. They are identified as media, so we apply our traditional media model. But that doesn’t always work. 

We deliver a newsworthy message for our clients and work to develop a relationship with the blogger. This traditional approach works with some bloggers, but for others, our outreach results in a request for money. Most of us don’t have budgets for sponsored posts, and some in our profession believe paying for content dilutes our client’s brand or product story. 

So what’s the best way for bloggers to handle this conundrum?  A candid conversation with the PR professional is the best place to start.  They’ll appreciate your honesty. If you never accept anything other than sponsored content, let them know that.  If you’re open to some sort of traditional editorial content, explore that topic with them.  They may not be able (or desire) to exchange cash for content, but they might be able to assist you in other ways —  providing product, promoting your blog or featuring you at a special event.

You’ll never know until you ask, and there is great potential in working together to find that common ground.     



Taylor King Upholstery


Journalists have more respect for editorial resources that know how to work with the media. Become one of their favorite go-to sources by noting these Do’s and Don’ts of working with the media.

1. Do respond to journalists in a timely manner.

If a journalist doesn’t give you a deadline for response, 24 hours is the maximum time they should have to wait to hear from you. The sooner, the better. If they have to wait, they’ll just move on to another source.

2.     Don’t suggest you receive editorial coverage because you advertised with their publication.

Media outlets are divided into editorial and advertising, just like a separation of church and state. Talk to editors and reporters about story ideas, and talk to ad reps about advertising, but don’t mix them. Implying to an editor you should receive coverage because of your role as an advertiser is an excellent way to alienate yourself.

3. Don’t thank a journalist for coverage

The problem is not thanking them. You should thank journalists – for being thorough, for painting an accurate portrait, for their time, for working  with you, for writing a great story – but not for covering you. They aren’t doing you a favor. They are doing their job, making the calls as they see them for what’s newsworthy and what isn’t.

4. Do prepare for every media interview in advance by making a list of the kinds of questions that you expect to be asked.

Remember to ask the hard ones as well.

5. Don’t ask to see/review/edit an article before it is published.

This is editorial, not advertising.  The fact that you have no control over the outcome makes it more valuable, and gives you and your company more credibility.

6. Don’t have an “off the record” conversation with a journalist.

Nothing is ever ‘off the record’.

7. When doing an interview via phone, don’t use the speakerphone function.

It gives the  reporter the impression that you don’t consider the interview a priority.

8. Do consider standing up during a telephone interview

Sometimes this will help you to keep your thoughts organized and will help your voice carry the messages that you want.

9. Don’t encourage small talk with journalists.

It’s a good source of embarrassing quotes.

10. During in-person television interviews, do maintain eye contact with the interviewer and other guests, not the camera.

If you are on a remote, you will be asked to speak to the camera, and on the screen it will appear that you are talking directly to the audience – don’t let your eyes wander.

Do's & Don'ts for Working with the Media


Taylor King Upholstery

Funny story, at the Withit Conference last month when I was in Raleigh, I started chatting with Regenia Payne (pictured above). For some reason I was telling her the story about having dinner with this PR professional (I couldn’t remember Mary Leigh’s name right then) at the design bloggers conference. As I was chatting with her, Mary Leigh walked up to us and I said “OMG you’re the one”. Well as it turns out, Mary Leigh IS Taylor King’s Public Relations Professional. Is that a small world or what? Regenia laughed and said “You are worth every penny we pay you”. 

Well I sure know who she is now! Mary Leigh is a great example of fabulous networking in action. We could all learn from her. Thanks so much Mary Leigh for all your excellent advice!

Does anyone have anything to add about working with brands? I’d love if you commented below.

Related posts:

How Long can you Escape Technology?

The Best Advice for Anyone Wanting to Start an Online Business

Maria’s Guide to Starting a Design Blog

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk up to the front door, become a client. On-line or In-person.

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours – It’s All in the Undertones to get my complete step-by-step system on how to get colour to do what you want.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert. 



  • Margk says:

    Great tips Maria. Be true to yourself – colour most definitely has a ‘u’ in it. 🙂 It won’t do Americans any harm to look outside and see the rest of us! Marg in Australia.

  • Dear Maria, if you stop spelling color with a u, I’ll stop reading you! This American reader loves you the way you are.

  • I am wondering if some the advice about the American stuff (not Mary Leigh’s advice) is a bit off. Maybe you should look at some of it in the same light as those conferences that home builders go to. You know, the ones where they are told totally inaccurate information about trends. For example: espresso kitchens are still the only way to go and everybody wants their coat closet to be a wine closet. Crazy right? So is all,of that Americans only want to work with Americans BS.

    Just an opinion from an American housewife 🙂

  • kathy says:

    I think being Canadian makes you more exciting to read. I like imaging you there. We have good friends (Americans) that live in your neck of the woods and it is outstandingly beautiful there. Be yourself!

    Regarding Taylor King…had them make a huge custom sectional for me, big issues with getting the fabric–chose one of theirs-not COM, then when I finally received it, the back cushion quality was terrible, had to have them replaced twice. To their credit, they upgraded them at no cost to me when they replaced them the second time.
    Lovely photos on your blog of their furniture. Their photographer/designers are great.

  • Kelly says:

    I’d sayin terms of design information. I’d almost rather hear from a Canadian. 😉 the majority of my favorite designers reside north of the border…

  • Linda says:

    I have a Taylor King sofa and loveseat. I replaced the seat cushions once already, and the second set looks just as bad after a short period of time. I think they have a problem with their cushion quality. Although their products look great in pictures, because of this, I wouldn’t purchase Taylor King again.

  • Rachelle says:

    I am a Canadian living in he US so of course I love that you are Canadian and spell colour properly. What about French designers, or Italians? Should they totally Americanize to be liked/accepted?

  • Mary Ellen says:

    I agree with some of the others- I love your ‘u’ and everything about you and your work. I’ve never heard “Americans like American” in terms of the context shared. That seems silly to me. Excellent is Excellent – wherever it comes from. Love you just the way you are, Maria. Fabulous work. I learn so much with each blog.

  • Pam says:

    I completely disagree with the ” foreigner” distinction as a negative. I may be a bit prejudiced in this way, I’m a decorative painter and plasterer in Colorado and my company name for the past 15 years is “Coloured Paint”. I think there is a bit of intrigue perhaps……and I never thought anything one way or the other about your being Canadian vs American. You clearly know design which is what keeps me interested. Love your blog!

  • Maria,
    Thanks for the tips. As a blogger just getting into the advertising/sponsored posts game, I will certainly keep them in mind.
    I agree, I love that you spell color with a u! Keep being who you are.
    While reading the post I was impressed with the Taylor King photos. It was interesting to read the other readers experiences with them.

  • Karen says:

    Maria – I am so proud that you are a Canadian success story – never give up our ” u” in colour. As you pointed out, more of your ( yor? !! ha ha ) readers come from the USA – and you also have readers in other continents. It is a world-wide-web and if anyone thinks you are making a spelling mistake – well they have a bit of worldly information to lean.


  • Downunder says:

    Well being an Aussie – we are pretty closely aligned in many way with Canadians – being in the same Commonwealth so to speak and we spell colour the same way! I like it that way

  • Susan says:

    Dear Maria,
    Whether or not you decide to be overtly Canadian forever I have a feeling people will just love reading you.

    That whole PR thing…so fascinates me. Of course, the US is dominant in this area and the market is enormous. I would be an interesting experiment to see if dropping the ‘u’ brings you and even wider audience and more opportunities. That is the reason so many Canadian actors move to the US and are less public about their Canadian roots.

    I love seeing what you will do next:)

  • Maggie S says:

    One of the tips for having a successful blog that I have read several places is BE YOURSELF (I may have even read it on this blog) –so keep the “u” because that is who “u” are!!
    Also, I agree with Kelly -so many of my favorite designers are Canadian that I think of it as a plus (like maybe the freezing weather inspires extra creativity) 😉

  • Brooke says:

    Don’t you dare spell colour without the u! I think she is wrong, we love your blog in the US. And perhaps the Americans she speaks of don’t obsess over paint colors and decor like your readers do? Perhaps your demographic thinks beyond borders. Eh??! xoxo

  • Erin says:

    Most of these are excellent tips. As a journalist, I’m particularly happy that she went out of her to explain the difference between advertising and editorial and tip No. 4, in which she mentions not asking to see an article in advance. Also the thank you thing. But I disagree with her on the “off the record” tip. If you are working with a journalist with integrity there most certainly is such a thing as off the record. This is how journalists build rapport with sources, not to mention how they find out something they may need to know which they can then go to a more appropriate source for (or explain to you why you should talk about this on the record). Although I have to say that it cracks me up when people make a big point of going off the record over something that would never be of interest to readers anyway.

    Gosh if people didn’t feel better by saying something was “off the record” I don’t think I’d have much of a social life because I work in a type of journalism now where many of my sources are also friends. They know that if I don’t have a pen and a notebook in my hand, we’re in friends mode.

    Oh and one more tip that reinforces the first one. Journalists are always on deadline. Very few work ahead because they are busy doing other stories then. So when they say “I’m on deadline,” they aren’t lying. In most cases that 24 hours will be way too long. So call back immediately if only to say you can’t talk right then but if you called back in an hour or so would that be OK. This keeps them from finding a different source, which is what they are working on from the moment you don’t pick up the phone the first time.

  • Melissa says:

    Amazing that professional advice was to “Americanize” yourself. Many of the mainstream HGTV designers (Sarah Richardson, Candace Olsen) are Canadian and appear to be doing quite well. Being authentic to who you are is the best advise, win or lose. Don’t change a thing!!!

    • joanne says:

      I agree with Melissa.
      The u in colour is you.
      By the way, how does a Canadian look American?
      If there’s a difference, I don’t see it.

  • Stacy says:

    Stay true to yourself and you can’t go wrong! Apparently that flash decor site just needs to learn that you have clients/readers world wide! When we are ready to start making changes to our home (I am in the US), you will be the one I contact for advise. Your eye for color and design is impeccable.

  • SandyCGC says:

    Why in the heck should you have to change your spelling of “colour”? I just Googled “COLOR Me Happy” and got, in order,

    Maria Killam

    Blog | Maria Killam‎

    Color Me Happy | Longview TX‎

    color me happy – Pinterest‎

    Obviously, it doesn’t matter to Google. And I can’t think of any computer-savvy American to whom it makes a big difference. In fact, I bet some readers who find you initially don’t even notice. Color and Design are universal and your mark on them has more to do with your inner creative talents and abilities first and only secondarily, I think, with where you’re from. Can you imagine, as someone mentioned, telling an Italian designer he/she should Americanize? Stay you, Maria, and keep the “u” in “Colour Me Happy”!

  • Kay says:

    I agree–don’t change yourself. If there are people who won’t read your blog because you’re Canadian, they are probably the kind of people who wouldn’t read your blog if you were American. As soon as I read that “Americans like Americans” statement, I said “Wha-a-a-t?” Unfortunate that people who are in a position to feature you believe such nonsense.

  • Hi Maria, thanks for this great post. This is a topic that has been circulating in my brain of late, as I am also bombarded with press releases and don’t quite know what to do with them. Are you attending BlogPodium? I am hoping this gets covered in one of their sessions.

    Regarding the Canadian vs American thing, I was also offered the same advice when my home was featured on Steven and Chris. They asked that I take out any references to Canadian sources or places (I said I was from the “East Coast” instead of New Brunswick for example) so that it would “play better” on the American networks. It was made clear that Americans don’t feel as comfortable with shows that are obviously Not-American. So it seems to be generally accepted knowledge! I often wonder how that plays out in real life, and on the blogs. I love seeing all the other comments here saying “keep the u!” 🙂

  • BeckyE says:

    I agree with others. Be yourself and don’t try to “Americanize”. We Americans are not so narrow minded that we are put off by your being Canadian. After all, America is called “The Great Melting Pot”!
    This is off the subject, but your comparison using “separation of church and state” is not entirely accurate. In the past, I also believed that religion and the state had to be completely separated… that is until I studied the subject for myself. “Separation of church and state” means that the government cannot create a “state” church that its people are required to support. One of the reasons our founding fathers settled here was for religious freedom… freedom from a “state” religion like which had been imposed on them and the freedom to choose their own. It does not mean that the church and the state are mutually exclusive. The phrase has been misused for so long, we have lost our understanding of the true meaning.
    Just thought you might want to know that for future analogies! 😉

  • Elaine says:

    After 30-plus years in public relations, I’ve worked with journalists at news outlets all over the world. The idea that Americans prefer American is baloney. A good story will always have universal appeal, and so does outstanding design.

    You’ve created a terrific brand. Keep on being true to your fabulous self!

  • Great post thank you, Maria. Interesting, and nice, that the majority of your readers’ comments are encouraging you to keep the *u*. I agree! I don’t think blogging or business is about blending in. It’s about following your own line of vision and, while that vision can and should evolve organically, it’s important to remain true to your roots!

    I’m small potatoes, nuggets really, and blog for joy alone. Therefore, I have zero valuable information about branding to contribute. 🙂

    xo Sue

  • Keep ‘colour-ing’ your way Maria and keep it Canadian, that’s your distinction. If you build it they will come :))

  • Connie says:

    I wonder if there are regions in the USA that have an issue with non-USA bloggers. If so, no great loss. Here in the upper midwest we consider Canadians as “neighbours”, so keep up your lovely “behaviour” and your “colourful” blog. It is obvious you are a “favourite” with USA readers. Do us all a “favour” and ignore that bit of advice. (it harkens to fear of coming out for fear of losing customers and that is just bigotry and falsehood.)

  • Don’t listen to that nonsense! It’s never occurred to me there’s a distinction and I have never met anyone who expressed such silliness either. It’s such a truly absurd statement that I wonder if she was trying to make a joke? Irrespective of her bias or her pitiful sense of humour – You’re right – it IS the World Wide web. You are hands down my favorite blogger and I admire your authenticity.
    Much Love,

  • You are who you are! Don’t change a thing! I would say your blog puts the whole “American” thing to bed.

  • Kay Perret says:

    Agree, agree, agree. YOU, and your knowledge and the way you communicate it are far more important than a silly vowel or where you have a passport!

    I hope that we Americans are not as insular or narrow minded as that PR person would have you believe. I certainly don’t think your readers are!

  • Susan S says:

    Well, THIS American loves all people! So what if you can’t spell the word color or you say some of your words with a funny accent (;) ;), chuckle, chuckle),
    your blog is perfect!

  • Cyndia Montgomery says:

    There is a saying that “opinions are like a**h***s” so I think I would apply that to the advice you were given about the use of “color” vs “colour”. I live in the Southern US, and I’m very happy with everything you do. I would not change a thing, except maybe you should become my BFF and I could call you for advice regularly!

  • Debbie Bruna says:

    How absurd, please don’t listen to anyone telling you to act more American. Be true to yourself. I am an American and I plan to hire you for an on-line consult because you know color. Please don’t change the way you spell color. When I see it spelled the Canadian way I get to experience your culture. I am surprised that anyone would give Canadians that advice.

  • Dimi says:

    Oh please… don’t go american now… What a disaster! (and colour IS spelled with a bloody “U” for the rest of the world – that’s a lot of people). There’s history of design darlings, spend some time reading it. It’s not all about the money you know. Maria just be true to yourself! Hugs from Greece.

  • Joanne says:

    Be a proud Canadian. Stay true to yourself, as to your design aesthetics.

    • Alicia Stavropoulos says:

      Considering this American has already invested a fair amount in your online “Canadian” offerings, I vehemently disagree with the “Americans like American” advice! If any of those online decor sites (which I probably already subscribe to) are smart enough to offer you a product line, I won’t be able to click fast enough to get to it!

  • Charlie Benedick says:

    It truly makes no difference what nationality you are. Americans like good design. Period. No matter what country or continent. I thought that comment sounded more in liking to the French. Just kidding!! LOL

  • Farha Syed says:

    We love you for u. I also never made that distinction. Again as others have said we love your posts because they give us great insight and we learn something new every time. I really love your work. Starting out as a new designer, I have read your posts more than once even twice and have learned a great deal and I truly thank you for being so gracious for sharing your experiences, as well as tips and tricks that make us successful with our clients.
    Please don’t drop the u from colour.
    And I’m glad I can brag that I know you.

  • Babs Loyd says:

    I agree about the BS re Americans only like Am’s. When I follow your advice re decorating, I can tell anyone who asks where I get such great ideas for decorating and I can say: “From my Canadian/International Decorator Maria Killam!”

    Spell color/colour anyway you like to, we know you are the expert.

  • Whether you spell ‘Colour’ or ‘Color’, with ‘U’ or without it, both are beautiful. Because for the people like us, who work with colour/color, understand the true value, love it. We don’t paint a house seeing ‘U’ in it, we do it from heart, with passion. I think, everyone should be just true to oneself, that’s all. BTW, nice tips.

  • Lesli says:

    Maria, I have recently had the honor of receiving some great press and this advice was so helpful. Especially the “thanking” part. You have such a great way with words ….or maybe it is just that your words are so clear and uncluttered, with trying to say something “just right”. I appreciate your honesty and especially your generosity.
    One day…you WILL look out and see my face at a workshop! and I hope soon!

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