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Be Careful When Hiring Gatekeepers


As you become a more successful blogger, you might start to get a little overwhelmed with all of the emails, comments, and phone calls you have to answer. Many bloggers turn to hiring virtual assistants to help with this overflow of work, and often these VAs turn into virtual gatekeepers. If you want to reach the blogger, you have to get past the gatekeeper first.

It can feel a little cold, but it’s a necessary evil. If you want your favorite blogger to keep blogging, they need to filter out all the crap emails – spam, requests for favors from people you don’t even know, advertising/guest post emails from people who’ve clearly never read your site… the list goes on and on. Your email might not be crap, but if it is low priority, it might take some time to get through the gate or you might deal only with the gatekeeper, with the blogger you’re trying to reach never even knowing that you sent an email.

That’s why, today, I want to urge anyone who’s considering hiring a VA to be very careful when hiring a gatekeeper. Very careful.

Point in case: Today, I read a story about Ina Garten, who is better known as the Barefoot Contessa, a personality on the Food Network. In case you don’t want to read the entire story, here are the main points: 6-year-old cancer patient Enzo Pereda was granted a wish from the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and because he spent many days sick in bed and watching the Food Network with his mom, his wish was to cook with Garten. She declined, citing the fact that she had a very tight schedule due to her book tour. Rather than make a second wish, little Enzo decided to wait until her schedule was less hectic – but again she declined.

Then, news of the snub hit the Internet. Suddenly Garten changed her mind and decided to call Enzo and invite him to spend time with her at the Food Network studios. It’s the exact statement her camp sent to ABC news that had me raising my eyebrows:

“Ina became aware of Enzo’s story this weekend and will be calling him today. She looks forward to inviting him to spend some time with her at the Food Network studios.”

She became aware. You know what that tells me? It tells me that she didn’t have a very good gatekeeper. It tells me that someone she trusted to be her filter decided that this was not a good opportunity for her and declined to pass on the information. I wouldn’t be surprised if that person got fired or is at least on probation.

Now, any gatekeeper is going to make mistakes. They aren’t you and they can’t know exactly what you would want to do in every situation. Nor can they ask you – because if they ask you what to do with every email or phone call, then you might as well be answering them yourself. You hired them for their good judgment, so you need to trust them to make decisions.

But be careful. Check their work at random to ensure that they’re representing your brand well. Go through training with them so that they understand exactly what you want done. Make it easy for them to ask for your help. Trust them, but only after they earn that trust. VAs can be an awesome addition to your business, but when someone is serving as a gatekeeper, be careful to hire only the very best.


  • Hilary

    I really think Ina Garten’s “just becoming aware of it” excuse is, well… just that… an excuse. She has to say something with all the negative publicity that’s going on.

    The heart of this post is right on though. You have to be very careful of who is representing your brand – be it a virtual assistant or any other service provider you work with.

    When looking for a VA, start with asking your trusted friends and colleagues if they have worked with anyone they would recommend.

    • Alli

      You could be right about Ina. I’m definitely giving her the benefit of the doubt!

  • Anonymous

    The make a wish foundation is a huge network of kids that are asking simply that; a wish! No matter who answered the email, it should have been looked at regardless or passed on to her. The VA if any, should have verified or reached out to make sure the information was correct. Negative publicity is never nothing nice, but trying to all of a sudden, “play nice” is suspect to me. If your in the public eye and you accept money from that, then its the price you pay.

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