8 blogger outreach no-nos to avoid at all costs

Wed, Sep 22, 2010

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Last week, Danny Brown and Gini Dietrich led an interesting discussion in the “Start Blogging Now” (#sbt) chat around PR and blogger outreach. It was an interesting discussion and one that prompted Gini to throw down the gauntlet the next day in this post about treating bloggers like second-class citizens when it comes to outreach.

I have to admit, I agree with Gini to a large extent. When it comes right down to it, PR as an industry, is still missing the boat when it comes to blogger outreach. How we identify “influencers” and targets. How we “pitch.” And how we interact with bloggers.

I’m not just saying this as an observer–I’m saying it as an active participant.

I’ve received a number of pitches in the last few months. Some from large PR agencies. Others from reputable PR organizations. Most of which missed the mark (with the notable exception of one great pitch from the folks at Social Media Club).

On the flip side, blogger outreach is one of a number of key services my firm–ACH Communications–offers. So, I’ve led and organized a number of blogger outreach programs over the last year-plus. And, based on the responses I’ve received (both over email and in person), I hear more feedback about misguided and off-center pitches than I do ones that really resonated with bloggers.

So, as I followed the #sbt chat, I couldn’t help but think that we still have a lot of work to do to get smarter as a group about how we approach bloggers from a business perspective.

Here are 8 blogger outreach no-nos and what you can do instead:

* No-No #1: Don’t ask the blogger to write specific things about your brand. By and large, bloggers are fiercely independent, love thinking up new ideas and, as a rule, aren’t crazy about being told what to do. Treat them fairly and approach them as collaborators–instead of telling them what to write.

* No-No #2: Don’t ask the blogger to abide by set rules. Again, most bloggers don’t like to play by the rules. They’re outside-the-box-type thinkers. Instead of asking them to play by YOUR rules, ask them what they think. You can usually come to a resolution that helps meet BOTH your goals.

* No-No #3: Fail to reference at least one previous post in your initial email. First and foremost, your initial pitch to the blogger needs to be relevant. Put it through your BS meter. If it doesn’t pass, don’t send the pitch. If it does pass, make sure you read at minimum the last five posts the blogger wrote–and reference at least one in your pitch. It will prove you’ve read their blog and start building goodwill.

* No-No #4: Don’t ask the blogger to help “spread the word” about your brand or event. I can only speak for myself, but my blog does not exist as a platform to help your organization “spread the word” about an event, product or service. It does exist, however, as a way for me to express my thoughts and ideas on topics in PR/social media that interest me. I think it’s a safe assumption most bloggers feel the same. If you’re pitching a blogger about an event you’re promoting, why not give them exclusive access to the keynote? Or, better yet, give them a pass to the event. That instantly makes it relevant and involves the blogger from the get-go.

* No-No #5: Don’t lead with your product, service or company. Just like any pitch or sales letter, a good lead is crucial. And, when writing to a blogger it’s important to keep in mind that they don’t necessarily care two beans about you or your company. So, it’s important to lead by talking about THEM. How can you help them? Talk about a post they wrote that piqued your interest. Or, maybe a nugget you picked up in their Twitter stream the last 24 hours. Whatever the case, make sure you lead with them–not you.

* No-No #6: Don’t just focus on your industry’s A-listers. As I mentioned in the #sbt chat last week, a blogger doesn’t have to have 100,000 subscribers to be “influential.” Heck, they don’t even need 10,000. What they do need, however, is trust. How do you identify that? It’s not an exact science, but there are key indicators. Monitor blog comments. Check out the blogger’s Twitter stream. See what others say about the blogger online. It should all paint a pretty clear picture. The bigger issue though: Don’t get caught focusing solely on the thought leaders. You don’t need to be an A-lister to influence purchase decisions.

* No-No #7: Failing to follow up. Good, solid follow-up is critical in blogger outreach. Not only in making the initial pitch (figuring out how to be persistent, but not annoying), but also after you’ve partnered with the blogger. Make sure you follow through on your promises. If it’s a giveaway/contest you’re proposing, make sure you follow up and get winners what they’ve won promptly and professionally. Basically, make sure you’re getting the blogger what they need when they need it. You might be surprised how few people practice good follow through–and what a difference it can make.

* No-No #8: Don’t ask a blogger to delete or take down content. Might seem obvious, but I continue to hear stories of PR people asking bloggers to edit or delete language, words or phrases from their posts once they’re live. Unless the information is factually incorrect, you don’t have a leg to stand on here.

Any other No-Nos you’d add?

Note: Photo courtesy of ificutmyhairirelandwillsink (my favorite FlickR handle of the year, by far) via FlickR Creative Commons.

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13 comments
davinabrewer
davinabrewer

I remember the chat, Gini's follow up post. Good points here Arik.. shame that points like #2 and #8 have to be included. To #3 I'll chime in with other comments here and add: Failing to be Relevant to blog's audience. Goes back to research, reading the older posts and leading with the blog, not the brand or service. You wouldn't pitch a new restaurant story to a tech reporter, so why send a wine blogger who never posts on gadgets the latest techno-toy to review? FWIW.

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

The day has come that ALL of us want personalization...in products and services that we buy, in discounts we receive, and in the way we're pitched. Long gone are the mass email/news release days. It's time to figure out how to reach the right blogger (or journalist) with the right message, crafted to them personally. It's harder work and it's more labor intense, but the pay-off is huge.

Erika
Erika

Great tips. However, most of these rules apply to pitching ANYONE, not just bloggers. So 1) I hope PR people follow these rules in general whether the target is a traditional journalist or not and 2) I hope PR people aren't changing their tactics for bloggers, thinking they will just do what they ask.

Signalfire
Signalfire

Thanks for this! We're just getting started in blogger relations and while some of it is a no-brainer, other points are really good. Thanks for the article.

E Adam Quinn
E Adam Quinn

These are all great points. The one point which stood out for me was failing to reference another post when reaching out. That shows you are not spraying and praying for bloggers to accept. Just like with any outreach, you want to show that you put time and effort into your project.

Jennifer
Jennifer

Great post! As a blogger I prefer concise pitches, one paragraph is sufficient. If you get too wordy or you go on and on about your product/brand I will put it aside for another time or delete it. Also, it helps if you include any images or html instead of me having to do the extra leg work. I think the next discussion being put out there is compensation. Thoughts on that?

Arik,
Another thing that should be understood by companies and PRs that pitch you is that you've worked extremely hard to build your blogging community. That means what they're offering should in some way, shape, or form equal or exceed your output! Always funny when it's way less than that ;)

Barbara Krause
Barbara Krause

Hi, Arik - great post, I agree with your points. You mention an outstanding pitch you received from the Social Media Club. Are you at liberty to share it?

Terrific post Arik. The only thing I would add to your list is to not treat bloggers as a step down from a journalist from a media outlet. Bloggers often carry more influence within their sphere than a reporter from the local television station as bloggers tend to be viewed as "one of the people". Treat bloggers with the same level of respect you would any other media outlet. Should go without saying, but you just never know.

Becky Johns
Becky Johns

Good stuff, Arik. I'm still relatively new to blogging, but I've already received some pretty lame pitches. I'm trying not to judge too hard because I'm a PR professional, but I think the issues you've pointed out here are written from a human being perspective, not just someone that is knowledgeable about good PR.

For me, the biggest no-no is asking a blogger to talk about something you're not giving them real access to. Like you mentioned, don't just ask the blogger to promote your event. Invite them and make sure they have access to the best stuff and key interviews. Likely, you'll get several posts instead of just one and the event organizer will be quoted as an expert delivering quality rather than just maybe getting a few registrants to an event. Same goes with products and services. Don't just ask bloggers to talk about your new-whatever-thingy. Send them one. Let them test it out. Make sure it's relevant to what they write about.

And I think people have just got to remember that most people blog because it's a passion. A pretty small percentage of us do it because it's our job. It takes time and effort and we're doing it in addition to the million other things in our lives, so if we get pitched in a way that doesn't respect our passion, it rubs us the wrong way. For me, that's the biggest issue.

Arik Hanson
Arik Hanson

Agree 100 percent, Matt. That was the point of Gini's post, too. We're obviously not anywhere near that point yet, but we're getting there. Baby steps ;)

Arik Hanson
Arik Hanson

Excellent point, Becky. And, to that point, if we don't get back to you within an hour, keep in mind, most of us have "day jobs." Again, it's a passion, not a profession. I think PR folks forget that sometimes. But, the biggest thing remains to make the pitch relevant. Basically, answer this question for the blogger: What's in it for me?

nettaP
nettaP

i agree with becky on this one. if you're going to ask a blogger to write something featuring your event, person, or brand, you've got to give them access to it in a way that will give them a story angle. that all comes back to remembering not to treat bloggers as second class citizens. they can totally be just as influential, if not more than, traditional outlets. especially if you're targeting a younger market that may have never even picked up an actual newspaper.

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