At Tractenberg & Co., we’re lucky enough to count some seriously amazing editors as friends. With years of experience in print and digital media, our friends are incomparable sources of advice and inspiration—and we want to share them with YOU. That’s why we’re starting our series “Media Spotlight.” With each installment, we’ll introduce you to the best and brightest minds in the business. To kick things off, we have Polly Blitzer, beauty expert and digital media extraordinaire who launched one of our favorite sites, Beauty Blitz, after years of experience working as an editor for magazines like Marie Claire and InStyle. Polly has written up an invaluable guide to making sure your brand gets heard in the digital media world. Read on for her tips and words of advice.

For the 12 years that I have worked with Jacquie and her amazing team their strategy has always been spot on. When they pitched features when I was a beauty editor at InStyle the ideas were delivered in a thoughtful way that translated perfectly to the printed page. Being familiar with the media’s format and voice is essential for getting coverage and now that we are in the digital age, Jacquie and her team have adapted seamlessly.  Navigating the sea of sites and personalities can be daunting and confusing to some.

When I worked in print, there was a finite list of editors and freelancers associated with mainstream outlets. There was a tried-and-true rubric for pitching and working together. Data like circulation and demographics were readily available and accessible. Brand clients had a solid understanding of how a placement in, say, Marie Claire or the New York Times benefited them. During my entire time working in print (1998 – 2007), there were only a handful of new outlets (Cargo, Lucky, Shop Etc and a couple others). Launching a print magazine is a huge investment and commitment for a publishing company. But now people can launch pretty blogs on a whim for under $100. There aren’t ASME regulations and corporate policies, creating a big conduct question mark. Today, the volume of blogs is dizzying. And some powerful voices are confined to one medium, like Instagram or Pinterest. There’s confusion about measuring the publicity value of each. Should you care about unique monthly visitors or just sites you like? How should you handle people who seem unethical? Or writers who treat you like a pest or make unreasonable demands? My friends in PR constantly start sentences with “We’re really struggling with. . .” It shouldn’t be this hard, so here’s a bit of advice.

As a disclaimer, I am typing this on May 21, 2014. Considering media’s rapid evolution, my advice could be old and dusty by July. But hopefully you will retain the overall message that working with digital media doesn’t need to be overwhelming, unsteady or uncertain. You can pick and choose sites, without bowing to pressures that feel icky.

Here are the most common questions I’m asked by agencies and brands, along with honest replies.

PR Concern #1: How can I keep track of all these sites? Who should we be pitching?

The short answer is that it depends on your brand and goals. With online press, it’s good to think more about your overall brand DNA and how you want the brand story to be communicated (a luxe lifestyle? eco-minded messaging?). Then think about which sites can tell that story with you. You won’t have one comprehensive media list with 50 editors, like print. So spend a few hours with your team and brand to determine which outlets matter most to you. When I started Beauty Blitz in 2008, brands were traffic-focused, and now quality of content seems to be eclipsing quantity of readers. So brand priorities are constantly in flux. They prefer beautiful layouts and creative photography, strong writing, a unique point of view and, of course, a good reputation. I don’t hear the term “so many eyeballs” anymore – it always made me think of a haunted house, not web traffic.

Even with a small digital media list, there may be times when you don’t have enough samples to send. Online outlets shouldn’t take it personally. Social media gives a lot of transparency to the way brands treat editors/writers, so there will inevitably be times when one writer is home in bed looking at Instagram shots from a party she’s not attending. Or someone will click on a brand-focused hashtag and notice a cool editor mailing she didn’t receive. This is just the nature of the business – you can’t be all things to all people. On the flip side, your brands might not be covered in every outlet. My team is might receive 100 serum for a feature that requires only 8 bottles. Editing down products for a TV segment is the same.

You don’t have to send products to everyone who asks. Skip sites you’ve never heard of (get to know them first), sites that seem off-brand, irrelevant or inappropriate. Let them know that you don’t have any samples to send, because of low inventory. You can e-mail a press release to describe the product. It’s important to tactfully draw boundaries, especially with people who come across as entitled or pushy.

PR Concern #2: Some bloggers won’t cover us unless we buy ads or pay for a post. Do we have to pay for placements?

No, that’s not ethical. Graciously explain that it’s against company policy to trade editorial for advertising or payment, but you truly value their support of your brand. If it’s an important relationship, consider exploring a different type of collaboration. Partnerships on a larger scale (a full campaign involving branded content or a customized platform) are different, and should be handled in much the same way magazines and brands traditionally approach advertorials and branded content.

PR Concern #3: Bloggers complain about generic press releases and want “unique experiences” or “original content.”  

You should never have to craft unique pitches for each outlet. It’s unnecessary and gratuitous, and here’s why: the task of creating good content should fall on the writer and designer, not you. It’s not your job to spoon-feed bells and whistles to make them stand out. They should make themselves stand out. That said, offering access or cool insider-y things to an outlet you value and respect can (and should) be a major part of your strategy. This approach is far more effective financially and logistically.  For example, you could invite a few outlets to a counter to demonstrate how a new product works and let them take photos, ask questions, etc. Hands-on experience with a product always connects the writer to a brand in some way, even if she doesn’t like it.

PR Concern #4: How should we handle negative reviews from bloggers?

Handle them delicately and on a case-by-case basis. You could ignore them, for starters. Remember that someone who’s already published a public comment about your brand might do the same with your follow up. Make sure you’re respectful, apologize if you feel it’s merited, solicit more feedback and thank them for the feedback.  If the writer chose the wrong formula or shade, you could offer to send a sample of a different product. But if you get an icky vibe, you do not have to reply at all. If the writer doesn’t like something you can’t change, like the scent or price, you can figure out how to address.