Blogger relations: 5 tips to hone your approach

Blogger relations continues to be an evolving discipline. I get people are still learning. But, I continue to be surprised at the breadth of SPAM-like pitches from agencies, consultants and organizations that sound like they’re being produced and sent in a factory-like fashion. Isn’t that the exact anti-thesis of what good blogger relations should be?

I’m no expert. You won’t see me claiming to be one. But, I tend to think this whole blogger relations concept is really pretty simple. Let’s walk through this step-by-step:

Do your homework. Once you have your strategy and you know the audience you’re targeting, get to work researching. My favorite resources for blogger research? A combo platter of Technorati (authority), PostRank (rankings) and Alltop (catch-all). There are a few other tools I use, but for the most part, those are the biggies. But remember, it’s not an exact science. It still requires some thoughtful analysis on your part. All these tools help you do is narrow own the pool of “targets.” Once you have that, you need to really dig in and get to know the blogger. Read a few posts. Check out their blogroll. See what they’re saying on Twitter. All that will help you make a more informed decision on whether to keep them on the list or not.

Don’t overlook the “B-listers.” Sometimes, the best approach isn’t to target the A-listers of the world (I hate using that word, but it’s the best way to classify bloggers). Stick with the “B-listers” (for lack of a better term). Why? First, A-listers get so many pitches per week. I’m not sure about an exact number, but I’d be willing to bet it’s in the 10-20 a week range. B-listers, on the other hand, are lucky to get a handful. Big difference when it comes to competing for attention. Second, don’t get lost in the numbers. Yeah, A-listers attract a lot of eyeballs. And, in some cases, you need that reach. But, B-listers sometime offer something much more powerful: Trust. With a capital T. Their communities can be stronger and much more tight-knit. And, as a result, their followers sometimes have more intimate relationships than those who follow A-listers. And, that can translate into perception, attitude and behavior change. Exactly what you’re looking for from a PR perspective, right?

Get to know the blogger. Spend some time getting to know the blogger. As a person. Remember, bloggers are typically strong-willed. Creative. And passionate. The last thing they want to be is stereotyped or lumped in with a larger, more homogenized group. Treat them like a person with unique needs and interests, and you will succeed. Virtually every time. Treat them like a number on a list and, well, you could end like this poor guy that decided to pick a fight with Scott Stratten after what sounds like a horrible initial “pitch.”

Don’t pitch. Collaborate. This is a key ingredient to the blogger relations mix. You’re not pitching the blogger. You’re collaborating with them on a post idea. You’re giving them an idea for future content. You’re helping them. I even go as far as to eliminate the “P” word from my vocabulary when I’m dealing with certain bloggers (and clients). Small difference–but a big one to bloggers.

Don’t be afraid to give it away. Don’t be afraid to give away your most valuable asset–your product, service or knowledge. It might seem counter-intuitive, but it will payoff in the long-run. After all, how can a blogger really get to know your brand without using or experiencing your product or service firsthand. I know it’s a classic case study, but I still go back to Sea World-San Antonio here. Kami Huyse helped put together a wonderful example of how to engage a community of enthusiasts in your brand. You know what made this particular campaign so brilliant? Sea World gave these bloggers full access–and then some. They didn’t just give them a sneak peek at the new ride. They gave them access to the whole park. They gave them media to use for posts when they got home and wanted to write about their experience. And (I’m taking an educated guess here), they treated them as people and folks who were passionate about amusement parks and roller-coasters. Or, look what Chevrolet did with its new Volt at South By Southwest earlier this month. Simple, but smart. Target tech bloggers. Give them the keys to your newest, geeked out car. Ask them for a quick interview. And ask no more.

What tips do you have? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

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14 comments on “Blogger relations: 5 tips to hone your approach

  1. Mike Keliher says:

    This isn’t additional advice so much as it is summarizing what you’re getting at above: focus on quality over quantity.

    Quality of blogs on your “media list,” not sheer quantity. Quality of audience you’re able to collaborate or communicate with, not the sheer quantity of “eyeballs we can get.” Etc.

  2. arikhanson says:

    Oh, call a brother out at 7:45 am. Real classy Mike 😉

    You’re right–I probably mis-titled the post. But, regardless, thanks for stopping by, Mike.


  3. I’m with you, Arik. I always shake my head when I see the archaic tactics that are being used to reach out to bloggers. But for those who think that a SPAM-like pitch with no personalization isn’t really that big of a deal, I would like to share an email that I received Monday from a blogger:

    “Hello Cydney,
    Thanks very much for your email. I must say, this was a first for me. I’ve had several random businesses contact me via email, tell me how great their company is, and ask me to post something on my blog about them. I haven’t replied to any of those.
    This is the first time I’ve had a business email where the sender actually provided thoughtful commentary that showed you actually read one of my blog posts. Thanks for that! :-)”

    Straight from the horse’s mouth. (And for the record, I’m not sharing this to show how crazy cool I am, I’m sharing because I want to see our industry grow and to see less entries on

  4. Brad says:

    One would think that, by now, the strategy of pitching a blogger is not much different from pitching traditional media.

    I mean, if you were pitching a story to a reporter at the Orange County Register about your client’s product, wouldn’t you do the necessary research to make sure it’s in the reporter’s sweet spot? Why do we take such lazy approaches with bloggers?

    It’s time to stop treating them like “the 35-year old who still lives in his mom’s basement,” and more like the members of the media

    Hopefully one day there will no longer be a need for posts like this, but until then, I support these steps.

    Nice post.

  5. Dave Folkens says:

    Good points Arik,
    I think a lot of the really poor efforts with bloggers, or traditional media outlets frankly, is just a result of PR people that aren’t really trying that hard. I hate to say that but when there are still so many horror stories out there (like Scott’s example, all the Bad Pitch Blog cases, etc) it means that a lot of communications “pros” are just blasting info out to a big list likely to justify their fees by saying “we reached out to 300 contacts.” It’s embarrasing for our everyone in the industry.

    However, it’s clear that some people really get that it’s quality rather than quantity. You, Mike and Cydney are on target in understanding that we have to treat people, well, like people. Shocking huh? =)

  6. Corrin says:

    I think these are really great suggestions that should become common sense for both PR professionals and bloggers.

  7. Arik,
    When I saw this blog post pop-up in my Twitter feed this morning, I was instantly excited. I’m currently in the process of doing blogger outreach and I appreciate the tips.
    I agree with your point about not overlooking the “b-listers.” That is where I have had the most success.

  8. Excellent points. I’ve always been interested in quality vs. quantity – there is no reason to bombard bloggers who have absolutely no interest in your industry? B-listers can actually get you a lot more targeted traffic because of their reach into your own industry.

  9. David Spinks says:

    Great stuff here Arik.

    I remember discussing the concept of reaching out to B-listers with you. I’ve since received a cool tip that is supposably Donald Trumps method.

    He said if you need $1 million in funding, reach out to 5 people for $200,000. For each of those 5 people, reach out to another 10 people for $20,000. For each of those 50 people, reach out to…and that’s where I stop doing the math.

    But hopefully you get the point which I thought was really interesting. If you can’t land one big fish, make sure you’re reaching out to an “equivalent” amount of medium, then smaller fish.

    I’d be interested to hear how you use Technorati, Alltop, and Postrank to find writers, and how Scribnia might be able to help in the future. We’re hoping to provide that service as well.

    Hope all is well by you my friend.