Media coverage in WordPress should take another route

Oana shares her insights about media coverage in WordPress

Efficient communication implies unceasing effort and plenty of empathy even though we easily take it for granted. In the end, we all communicate in a way or another, right? Well, thoughtful and authentic communication is a challenge, one that the WordPress ecosystem keeps failing at.

I have ten years of experience as a communication specialist and eight as a community builder within the creative industries. I cover what you could call the entire spectrum: from academia background — I studied Communication and PR and have a master’s degree in Advertising — followed by an intense practical training as a freelance copywriter and marketer-employee for various companies.

I’ve been crafting my skills seriously in various contexts: from NGOs of all kinds to magazines where the concept of narrative journalism stays at the core, from my day to day job as a storyteller to the role of a community-glue for the creative tribe of entrepreneurs I’m representing at the moment.

On top of that, I also worked in the European Funds territory, where I was in charge of communicating with different stakeholders while respecting a bunch of constraints: legal, financial, moral, intellectual, related to time, and other resources. I run press conferences, interviews, I wrote content for radio ads, newspaper articles, and so on. 

I still have plenty to discover, but my career path while wearing this hat has been quite crowded and full of various challenges. 

None of them gets closer to what is happening today in the WordPress world related to how publishers treat advertisers, especially if they are creating themes, such as we do at Pixelgrade since 2013. 

Even though I really dislike generalizing, my gut feeling and hand-on experience say that 95% of them are unprofessional and provide poor content services. They couldn’t care less about creating solid relationships because the market brought them into murky waters. 

Why should they bother leveling up when there are plenty of players who pay the price without a second thought?

These challenging times we are confronting right now feel like a two-sided sword, and the stakes are getting higher. On the one hand, a bunch of WordPress authors I personally reached out do not care at all about the quality of the coverage most of the publishers offer. By quality, I do not say shameless self-promo or a fluff tone-of-voice. I mean accuracy. 

Their mantra is: I just want to be all over the place. How they are writing or how they represent my brand or me is out of my hands. 

On the other hand, the publishers were so accustomed over time with this level of superficiality that they also started to act detached and throw tons of empty words up there without any logic nor meaning. 

The supreme goal? Ladies and gents, the (affiliate) link.

Let me tell why I am disappointed, and yes, it sounds emotional for this cynical world, about both the WordPress authors and the publishers who are part of this community and how together they keep damaging the outcomes for everyone. Yap. Not only for them, for every single one of us.

Read more if you, too, raise your eyebrow when you read senseless content within the ecosystem, no matter if it’s about themes, plugins, or anything in between.

Professional WordPress authors should care more about their work and customers

It’s such a pity to see various WordPress authors out there who treat the content they are getting from reviewers with such a lack of interest. They are not only manifesting unprofessionalism (this label became peculiar for most of them these days), they also show disrespect for their actual and potential customers. 

Dear WordPress author, the simple fact of misleading people says something about you and your values.

Moreover, as both a communicator and business partner at Pixelgrade, I am mesmerized about the level of ignorance regarding how this impacts their brand. 

  • How could you not care about the fact that the overall image of your company is dilute? 
  • How would you accept being represented in so many ways that anyone could replace the name of the company with another one without any consequence? 
  • How could you be so ignorant about how you treat your actual and potential customers?

It is your responsibility to do more. It is your responsibility to educate the publishers you work with. It is your responsibility to lead from a place of care and transparency.

Because you started to look only on the profit margin, you forgot about the big picture. You are afraid of asking the hard questions, such as: How much it will last this fiasco? because the answer might keep you awake during the night, and you are afraid of that as you are terrified of seriously thinking about how Gutenberg will dramatically change the themes’ market.

The main consequence that really triggers me is if this is how you treat your work, I wonder how you treat your team, your customers, the local community.

  • Do you care about your people besides paying their checks? 
  • Do you invest in maximizing their chances to grow and evolve? 
  • Do you treat them with empathy and humanity or as numbers that bring or not added value at the end of each month?

You should do a better job.

It is not only about you at the end of the day. It’s about your team, their family, your neighbors, the extended family, the tribe of peers. You impact them all, even though you don’t acknowledge or refuse to believe that.

WordPress publishers need to work harder to gain trust and authority

When you write down 20 random adjectives in a row just for the sake of winning the SEO game, it means you are lazy and unprofessional

When you don’t do research to dig deeper about what makes a WordPress theme truly unique in terms of how it works and how it looks, it means you are superficial and indifferent. 

When you don’t take the time to test each and every feature of a product carefully, you are after earning easy money or cheap attention.

‘’The insert a name theme is modern yet simple, efficient yet flexible, for bloggers and for publishers, could work for magazine and lifestyle websites, and it is full of customization options which can help you create several layouts out of one. The multiple demos guide you through an ocean of possibilities, but no worries, you can handle them by yourself and still create a beautiful, elegant, sleek, minimalistic, with a top-notch look kind of website.’’

Sounds familiar?

The grotesque goes on because they not even respect the niche they address when they are including such a review. Lots of WordPress publishers write about food blogging themes, for instance, and the first mention is a multipurpose product that has nothing to do with the industry.

It was not built to serve the real needs of those folks; they are just a neverending story of one-size-fits-all. Moreover, the same product is covered in 30 articles, each on a different niche. Therefore, I wonder: Okay, I got it that we’re talking about a multipurpose theme, but can it actually fit perfectly so many fields?

Of course not.

If you really want to build — the best WordPress platform with news, your go-to WordPress resource, the best curator of the WordPress world — kind of website, you really need to level up your game

Your meaningless content written in 10 minutes, duplicating 90% of the original one or overreacting some things just to sound posh says something about you too.

Every single e-mail in which you don’t even have the common sense to introduce yourself and your activity properly marks the end of the beginning. Personally, I am not accepting this poor level of collaborating just because there are other WordPress authors out there ready to pay the bucks you ask for just because they think they don’t have alternatives. There are always various routes to arrive at the same destination.

This approach of obeying simply doesn’t feel right and balanced.

You should be able to have media kits, to provide cold data about your traffic, you should know in-depth information about your readers and the overall audience, instead of pretending that you are a big publisher with requirements similar to the crew of NPR or De Correspondent.

You are not NPR nor De Correspondent, you are barely someone with a www who was clever enough to start this game a few years ago and fought for keywords, and you are now part of a playground where some folks allow such crappy things.

The normality and the high standards in terms of publishing are not happening today in the WordPress ecosystem.

Specific and straightforward solutions to level up this game on both side: authors and publishers

In the WordPress theme authors universe, I suggest you do a few things before accepting news deal to get media coverage for your product:

  1. Ask for a media kit (traffic, insights on the audience, demographics, conversion rates, etc.)
  2. One example of a success story (a collaboration from the past which worked)
  3. Meaningful content (thoughtful and well-written content about your product; not a promo for the same of promo, just honest stuff, put together after concrete research and testing)

These actions will help us all clean up the landscape and get the garbage out.

On the WordPress publishers side, this is what I would recommend you to start doing as soon as possible:

  1. Ask for hard data (expertise, sales, number of customers, etc.)
  2. Ask for soft data (testimonials and reviews from real customers)
  3. Ask for direct access to the entire experience of the product (not a screenshot or a demo, vote for walking through the entire process).

Do your homework, and your content will become better on every single level, which means it will attract the right visitors, and only good things can happen from thereon.

My lessons as a communicator within WordPress gathered in the last couple of years:

Honestly, I was talking with my fellow marketer Andrei a few days ago that I am happy I hit rock bottom where I no longer accept such attitudes and behaviors when working with WordPress publishers.

This level of disappointment and sadness made me realize that the WordPress world is full of flaws of all kinds. At WordCamps we’re heavily talking about the coolness of this community and give rounds of applause, but I rarely heard about what’s wrong about it when it comes to publishers and advertisers.

I am not naive to think that we are the only community facing all these ups-and-downs, but we definitely differentiate ourselves when we are talking about authenticity, transparency, quality, and being professional in getting the right coverage for the right products.

Here I go:

  • There are publishers who act humane and are open-minded for long-term collaborations. I thank you for that! Here are a few you could work with: WPLift, WPBeginner, WPTavern, WPBlog, WPMail, Themeora, WPKube.
  • I worked with people who were pleasantly surprised by the fact that I asked about their needs too, I wasn’t bragging only about our interests.
  • A few WordPress publishers out there do their job as they should: they have content calendars, they follow the entire writing process, etc.
  • Most of the publishers are asking for a lot of money for too little in return.
  • With some publishers, it’s better to be cautious and provide a lot of feedback because they often mislead people.
  • There are big players who bring a lot of traffic and no conversions.
  • Most of the publishers require dozens of hours invested in writing e-mails, which can become exhausting and expensive.
  • Never work with someone who replies to your e-mail with a few words poorly written, full of typos and a price next to them.
  • Don’t believe in cheap promotions where you get a review for $650, and if you write it yourself you get a discount of $50.
  • And the list can continue.

If we really are a community in any sense of the word, and we’re not acting like one just during official events and other places where we can play politics, I think that the current challenges we are facing can be overcome. 

At Pixelgrade, we know for a fact which core values lead us in everything we do, so there’s no wonder why I chose to write this piece of article. It comes from a strong sense of caring and making things right aka in alignment with who we truly are. 

As always, we will continue to push boundaries and be our voice within this tribe. If the echo disappears for whatever reasons, then it might be time for us to jump into another ship, closer to our inner-why. Time will tell.


Oana is a storyteller at Pixelgrade and community builder for creative industries. A true believer in the power of making the world a better place one story at a time.