Before I start bashing non-disclosure agreements, I want to caveat my argument by saying that I completely understand their importance in most instances. If you’re a brand about to launch a major product or feature, you want to be able to control the flow of information surrounding the pending release. If you’re marketing a TV show or movie, you want to control how much information is available to the public before they get a chance to see it. Imagine if Variety had a front page article that said [SPOILER ALERT] “Bruce Willis is Dead the Whole Movie” before The Sixth Sense had released in theaters.
I can also understand NDAs from a competitive standpoint. If you have hired a marketing agency to do some great and innovative work, the last thing you want is your competitor finding out what agency you’re working with, so they can inevitably go to them at the end of your contract and say “hey, do all that same awesome stuff for us!”
But there are times where NDAs can drive me absolutely crazy.
Travel with me for a minute, back to the set of a 1970s game show:
Pretend you’re a contestant on this game show. With all the bright lights shining directly down upon you, beads of sweat begin to form on your brow; the pressure builds with the crowd sitting anxiously, awaiting to see how well you play the game. The host meanders over with his microphone and slick suit. There is a closed door and a window in front of you:
“The time has come for you to make your choice... As you can clearly see, behind that very transparent window is a year’s supply of your favorite cookies... But behind that mysterious closed door... there could be ANYTHING! What are you going to choose?”
The lights dim and the crowd goes silent...
With no other information, you would most likely sit and ponder this decision for a while. What if behind that door there is something far more valuable than a year’s supply of cookies? A car? A million dollars? Flying poodles? One horse-sized duck? A hundred duck-sized horses? The list goes on!
Fortunately... You’ve watched this show before. You have seen far too many people get burned when they choose the door. In fact... in all the times you have seen someone actually risk a year’s supply of cookies for the mystery of whatever is behind the door, you have only seen them end up disappointed.
Let’s relate this game show to outreach:
Now, just for fun, let’s say you’re an up and coming food blogger. You’re sitting at home one night preparing to write a new post, and you get the two following emails at exactly the same time:
<p >I really enjoyed your recent post on five killer mac and cheese recipes. As a foodie myself, I love the guides you provide in an easy-to-understand format, very easy to share out to my friends and fellow food nuts. Kudos for that.
Anyways, I am currently working alongside a top brand in the food industry that is interested in contributing some recipes and cooking guides of their own to top food blogs. I noticed you accept the occasional guest author, so I’d love to discuss a few topic ideas if you’re interested.
Looking forward to chatting!
I really enjoyed your recent post on five killer mac and cheese recipes. As a foodie myself, I love the guides you provide in an easy-to-understand format, very easy to share out to my friends and fellow food nuts. Kudos for that.
Anyways, I am currently working alongside Spatula City, a leading cookware brand (you can check out their site here: http://www.spatulacity.org if you’d like). They are interested in contributing some recipes and cooking guides of their own to top food blogs. I noticed you accept the occasional guest author, so I’d love to discuss a few topic ideas if you’re interested.
Looking forward to chatting!
Similar to the game show example, the mystery of “a top brand in the food industry” might strike a new blogger’s curiosity enough to wonder who that just might be. It could be any number of recognized brands, and it would certainly be cool to have them write for you!
But I can see the experienced bloggers reading this shaking their heads with a smirk on their face. 99 times out of 100, that mystery brand at the other end of the email is likely giving themselves a bit too much credit. You might even be lucky if the mystery brand has anything to do with your blogging niche to begin with. I would be willing to bet you’d much prefer the email with the most transparency.
But don’t take my word for it:
I wouldn’t deal with someone whose client has an NDA. Basic rule: I’m lazy. Make things too difficult and I’ll just archive your email.
On how he handles outreach efforts that try and sneak client links into guest posts:
There was once a time when I’d email back and be all polite and cordial about the links needing to be in the author bio or whatever. Now I take out their anchor text, put it in the author bio and link only to their brand name. I’ve had a few people ask what happened to their gorgeous anchor text link; I just say it’s site policy and that it’s up to them if they want to keep the content with me.
On pitching irrelevant brands (even if the content might still be relevant):
I run a design blog and do NOT want to post content about the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix! I also completely ignore boilerplate emails. I truthfully ignore >90% of outreach that hit my inbox because of how bad they are. I do tweet about it though!
I’ve started asking people to email me the client link they plan to use before I approve the post. Last week a person sent me a post with links to sites that weren’t the sites I approved prior. The writer corrected the blog post, but I still didn’t publish it, because although it may have been an honest mistake on her part, it’s very frustrating for people not to take guest blogging relationships seriously.
We as bloggers have a relationship with our followers that we want to honor and we can’t do that with bogus content linked to scammy or irrelevant sites.
When a guest blogger sneaks a client link into their post:
Being Transparent and Authentic:
SEOmoz’s TAGFEE tenents are a great place to start for anyone curious about keys to having a successful outlook on outreach. The two that we apply most commonly to our efforts are transparency and authenticity. As you will hear us say thousands of times, solidly deliver by building relationships not links, and a lot of this is being authentic with the people you are working with.
The NDA drastically takes away from these two key points in the outreach process. If you are not trusting your marketing team or agency to make the right decisions so that you require minimal disclosure, you probably should not be trusting them with your business anyway.
Agree? Disagree? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!