Now, I don’t get pitched that much. I’m not a lifestyle blogger, after all. But, I do get a few emails from time to time–“pitches”, if you will.
But the pitches I typically get are far less sexy than those my colleagues on the lifestyle side typically receive (I did some blogger research with my friends at Weber Shandwick earlier this year; if you’re interested, that info is here).
And, they’re off-target in one other key area: They typically treat me the same way they treat mainstream media.
What do I mean?
One pitch I received a few weeks ago asked me to help promote an event by blogging about said event.
Another talked about an upcoming business awards deal. Again, the pitch was to basically promote the awards for the organization.
These are mainstream media pitches–and, I might add, not the best pitch for mainstream media either.
But, for a blogger, they’re not even remotely on point.
Now I fully realize I’m coming across as the whiny, entitled blogger here, but there’s a bigger point at play here: Bloggers are NOT mainstream media.
We’re just bloggers.
Most of us have “day jobs.”
Some of us only write when we have time.
And others don’t even work in the industry.
All reasons to treat your pitch to bloggers a bit differently.
Like I’ve said before on this blog, the key with bloggers it to first think: “What’s in it for them?” Answer that question, and you’re halfway home.
It also pays to think it terms of collaboration when you’re approaching bloggers–instead of pitching them an event or idea to “cover.” Again, that is mainstream media thinking–we’re talking about bloggers here.
In the examples above, if the “pitcher” would have treated things just a bit differently, their odds of success would have been greatly improved.
For example, they could have taken the following approaches:
Don’t ask bloggers to promote–just give them access and get out of the way
Instead of asking bloggers to PROMOTE an upcoming event, why not ask them to attend said event and then just get out of the gosh-darn way? After all, that’s really what they want–access and “exclusivity.” In my case, this is something I routinely do (write about events I attend), and if the “pitcher” in this case had done their homework beforehand, they would know this 😉 Bonus points for giving the blogger access to content or speakers other bloggers/authors wouldn’t have access to (read: the blogger would have an “exclusive” in mainstream media terms).
Don’t ask bloggers to promote–give them exclusivity
Instead of asking the blogger to PROMOTE a local award, why not see if I’d be interested in interviewing and profiling a few of the winners? Again, in my case, if the “pitcher” took just a few moments to flip through my blog, they would have noticed that I do this ALL THE TIME! And, I LOVE to do it! It’s easy content for me and I get to highlight some really smart and great people. This would be a home run pitch for me. And again, all it would have taken, is a few minutes of homework. But, the overall key here is exclusivity. Think of ways you can give bloggers “exclusive” content they can’t get anywhere else. They will gobble that up.
So, to recap, are we all on the same page? Bloggers are NOT mainstream media.
Let’s repeat that: Bloggers are NOT mainstream media.
So let’s stop treating them that way.
They don’t exist to “cover” events for your client.
They don’t exist to help promote your organization.
And they certainly don’t exist to help you.
Bloggers are actually a pretty easy group to figure out. Much like you, they are out for themselves. They are content-hungry. They want unique opportunities.
Think of your blogger outreach in those terms, and I can virtually guarantee you’ll be successful.
If you work in PR or social media, chances are, by now, you’ve had a chance to participate in a blogger outreach campaign on behalf of a client or your employer. But, despite this surge, we still need work when it comes to understanding how to successfully orchestrate a blogger outreach campaign. Big time.
It’s not all on PR folks, of course. Part of the reason we see so many horrible blogger pitches is because PR people aren’t always involved.
Many of the bad pitches I hear from bloggers comes from start-ups. Those companies typically don’t have the resources to hire a PR firm or consultant. Which means, they’re doing the pitching. And that’s a recipe for disaster.
Other companies have general marketing staff who try to pull this off. But that strategy often backfires as well because marketers typically don’t understand the intracies of PR–much less how to work with bloggers (which is a bit different from the media).
That leaves us with PR agencies and consultants–who, in fact, do a lot of the pitching. PR fims aren’t off the hook here. I’ve seen a lot of off-base pitches from agencies–both on my blog and others. So, late last year I formed a partnership with the Minneapolis Weber Shandwick office to study bloggers a bit more so we can understand who motivates them and how we can work better with them, on behalf of the brands we represent.
I’m working with friend and colleague Lauren Melcher at Shandwick, who’s the perfect partner because she (like me) is one part blogger, one part PR/digital counselor. We see blogger outreach campaigns from both sides.
So, a few weeks ago, we held our first blogger focus group with five Minnesota “lifestyle” bloggers via Google Hangout. We spent half hour on the Hangout asking them questions about how they like to be pitched, what kinds of pitches work/what kinds don’t, and if/how they participate in blogger networks.
As we reviewed the focus group and sifted through the data, a few key themes emerged:
Opportunity abounds for PR firms/consultants.
Most pitches lifestyle/mom bloggers receive from PR folks are off-topic. In fact, one blogger said “out of 500 emails I receive, I only reply to maybe 5. The rest are completely irrelevant to my blog.” Another blogger said the following when asked to rank PR people on a sliding scale in terms of performance in blogger outreach: “80 percent are about a 2; 20% are about a 9 or 10.” Clearly, there is room for PRs who understand blogger outreach to reach these highly influential people online–it just takes time, smarts and perseverance.
Keep pitches short. REALLY short.
Many bloggers lamented how they routinely receive longer pitches from PR people. Bloggers are busy–with kids at home, with work, and with hobbies and other interests. They don’t have time to read lengthy pitches. Another tip: Don’t copy and paste a press release into your pitch–bloggers don’t care (and they said as much in the focus group). Instead, get to the point quickly. And tell them why your idea is relevant to them and their audience. My general rule of thumb: Try to keep email pitches to three short paragraphs or less.
Relationships matter. A lot.
We heard this theme from the bloggers loud and clear. One blogger started working with one brand because she knew the PR person from online interactions and knew she had credibility. Another blogger noted that a PR person mentioned a child by his nickname in the post–showing that the PR person had done their research and read the blog. So all that time spent researching and interacting with bloggers in advance of the pitch–bloggers are saying that pays off. The lesson for brands? Invest more time (and budget, by the way) getting to know bloggers you’re pitching and developing relationships–it’ll pay big dividends in the end.
Compensation is key–but it doesn’t always have to be dollars
Almost every blogger to a woman noted that compensation was required when working with brands. Their time is simply too valuable, and their communities too lucrative for brands. However, what was interesting is that compensation doesn’t always have to translate to dollars, according to lifestyle bloggers. In fact, one blogger mentioned she prefers to do more “pay in product” situations than “pay in money.” Another noted that compensation doesn’t always need to be made in cash–it could be something different, like a stay in a nice hotel. The lesson for brands? Compensation always needs to be a part of the equation when working with lifestyle bloggers–but you might want to think creatively about what that compensation entails.
Blog networks are critical networking tools.
Almost every blogger we talked to mentioned they were part of a blog network (like BlogHer). The reason? Networking. These bloggers are looking to chat and commiserate with other bloggers like them. To learn best practices. To build skills. And to, well, network. Brands should think about how they might work with these blog networks creatively. Whether that means finding a way to activate your brand at a blog network event like BlogHer, or figuring out ways to interact with bloggers in these networks effectively and efficiently.
Note: We provided the five bloggers who participated in this focus group with $25 Mall of America gift cards for their valuable time. Thank you to Mall of America for being a great partner!
Holy Hannah. You’re going to love this one, if you didn’t hear about it already yesterday. I was pointed to a little kerfuffle between Bulldog Reporter and mommy bloggers yesterday from a friend and colleague.
Apparently, Bulldog Reporter thought it would be a good idea to sell mommy blogger contact information to PR folks across the country. Not the end of the world, except for the fact that said information contained personal phone numbers, emails and home addresses without (alledgedly) their permission.
Let me repeat that: WITHOUT their permission.
That, on its own, would have been bad enough. But, after digging into this a bit more last night, I discovered a few more reasons Bulldog completely missed the boat with this “Mommy Blogger Contact Guide” (take a look at the complete one-pager if you have time). Let’s have a look:
Partnerships not “placements”
When in the heck are we going to learn? When you’re dealing with bloggers, it’s not about “placements.” These people aren’t mainstream media outlets. They’re not paid to report on your news or event. Well, you might pay them, but they’re not reporters, folks. They have topics they like to talk about, sure. But, they’re often not aligned with your clients narratives. So, why do we continue to think in terms of “placements”? It’s about PARTNERSHIPS. I recently completed a small focus group with my partners at Weber Shandwick here in Minneapolis–I’m excited to share the results next week, but lets just say the bloggers we talked to (which were all mommy bloggers, by the way) weren’t interested in “placements”, they were interested in working WITH brands TOGETHER to develop content that benefitted them both.
Bigger doesn’t equal better
Another mantra we need to beat through our thick skulls. The Bulldog promo note highlights “290 of the most popular and influential mommy blogging outlets” (again, outlets? Really? They’re blogs, not mainstream media outlets!). But, not all brands want to (or SHOULD want to) work with the “most popular” bloggers. Smart brands want to work with the RIGHT bloggers. Bloggers who are aligned with their values. Bloggers who have an engaged community–not just a big follower count. Bigger isn’t always better. Repeat after me.
Bloggers are NOT reporters
Maybe it’s just the language the Bulldog folks used in the promo one-pager, but I think it’s indicative of how a lot of people still think about bloggers. Let’s look at a few lines: “Learn exactly what kind of hooks and stories they’re looking for, best times to call and pet peeves…”. Really? Hooks and stories? Bloggers don’t look for “hooks.” They look for ideas for posts (remember, bloggers don’t have to sell their story ideas in an editorial meeting each morning). There is a difference. Also, best times to call? WHAT? The media don’t even want calls at this stage. You think people who BLOG want to use the phone? I can’t even believe that was actually in print. Or, what about this statement in the promo note: “Obviously a single placement in one of these blogs can be worth thousands of dollars in visibility to your products and brands…” OK, we covered the “placement” beef, right? The problem with this statement is it makes no point of talking about the benefit to the blogger. Again, these bloggers don’t exist to help your brand (even if you are paying them–for many bloggers, money isn’t the primary motivator). So, they don’t blog to make your company or client money. Treat them like real people and they will treat you and your clients the same way. Not too tough.
Ask for permission–every time
I have a general rule of thumb–when in doubt, disclose when it comes to online communication. On a similar note, when in doubt, seek permission when it comes to information online–whether that be sharing email addresses, photos, or even home addresses (why did Bulldog think it was even relevant to share home addresses? Doesn’t obtaining that information come much later in the pitch process?). Bulldog failed miserably here–and worse yet, with the intent of making a buck. They apologized (kind of), and did take the home addresses off the list (according to a Facebook post yesterday), but what about the phone numbers? And what about the fact that they’re still trying to sell something that they clearly did not clear with the bloggers? Now, I understand bloggers put information out there, and with that they need to be open to other people and organizations using that information–mommy bloggers aren’t completely off the hook here. But, I just think Bulldog could have went about this a much different way. Why not just ask the bloggers for permission? That just doesn’t make sense to me.
Don’t want to completely throw Bulldog under the bus here (whoops, too late), but this is such a blunder. And, for a long-standing and widely followed organization/publisher like Bulldog, quite frankly, I’d expect more. I’d expect them to *understand* blogger outreach before they go around selling a list like this. I’d expect them to act ethically. And, I’d expect them to show some integrity (again, they did kind of apologize–although “sorry” was never uttered).
Maybe I’m just a little disappointed…you?
Last week, I was having a conversation with a client of mine. Talking about bloggers and an opportunity we might have in the near future to reach out to them.
As the conversation continued, we inevitably started brainstorming potential approaches to these bloggers. How would we approach them? What would the angle be? What’s in it for them? Would what we’re offering resonate with these bloggers?
All valid questions, right? But all questions that had no answers. Just “educated” guesses from our team.
But it occurred to me–what if we weren’t making educated guesses? What if we were making decisions about this kind of blogger outreach based on answers and input from bloggers themselves?
My thought: What if brands created “blogger focus groups”, for lack of a better term?
The idea: Get a handful of bloggers together a couple times of year and sound them out on potential approaches, offers and programs to see what resonates, and what doesn’t, from their perspective.
The brand would have to compensate these bloggers, obviously. Cash, product, that kind of thing. That would be the brand’s call. But, that would be fair, right? It’s what we do with other focus groups. And in return, the brand would get valuable intelligence–not just about what might work and what wouldn’t from a blogger outreach approach. But, they’d get a firsthand look at how bloggers think (which would REALLY help a lot of brands). In fact, maybe these blogger focus groups could mesh with the “regular” focus groups for economies of scale on the brand side.
So, what do you think? Crazy idea–or a great way for brands to better understand what makes bloggers tick? I’d love to hear thoughts on this…
Note: Photo courtesy of Adam Tinworth via FlickR Creative Commons.
OK, weird title, right? That’s because I’m taking a page out of my friend Greg Swan’s book today and running a bit of an experiment. You see, I probably get somewhere between 5-10 “pitches” a week for this blog. As someone who write about PR (and blogger outreach, specifically, at times) you’d think I’d get some pretty targeted and relevant pitches.
And you’d be dead wrong.
Let me start by saying that I don’t actively get involved in the SEO of either myself or my clients. I prefer to use reputable SEO agencies who I can trust to deliver results, such as ShiftWeb Solutions. As such, I don’t consider myself an expert when it comes to all of this “terminology” these guys use, like PageRank, dofollow and nofollow – but I do understand when they are trying to game my blog for a link.
In fact, many of the pitches I receive are what I’d call “SEO plays.” Companies merely looking for links. And, in some cases, they’re willing to pay for them. Which leads us to my experiment.
I was pitched by a company a couple weeks ago about a “sponsored post”–here’s the initial email (without names):
You have an amazing blog!! Congratulations.
Do you offer any sponsored posts? We run promotion campaigns for companies and we have expert bloggers in our Ambassador program who we invite to write reviews for us. We offer reimbursement or an SEO package at no cost in return.
We have several clients who I believe are relevant to your area of expertise. Please let me know if you provide sponsored reviews or any other opportunities for reviewing.
Fair enough, right? I have absolutely no doubt that this person didn’t read my blog though. That first sentence tells me a lot. But, I wanted to play along. And, they were asking for a sponsored post, so payment would obviously be involved–a bit different than a straight, organic pitch. So, I wrote a short note back asking her to tell me more. Here was the follow up email.
I think your blog is a great fit for us. Currently we are running a promotion for Conferencegroup.com. If you can review the site and its services, that would be great.
All we ask that you:
-use at least one of their keywords and link to their site: http://www.conferencegroup.com and use a keyword in your title (keywords to choose from are before- no more than 3 for a post)
-you send us the url and your paypal email address and we send you payment. We don’t do interfere with your work as the blogger and appreciate any opportunity you can help us with.
We pay $50 to $300 depending on authority and other quality rankings of your blog- you are at about $200/post. Let me know if you have questions or want some examples, and I hope you come on board as an Ambassador:)
First of all, I get more evidence that she didn’t read my blog in that first sentence. If she did, she would have known what I blog about–and that it has little to nothing to do with audio and video-conferencing services. But again, we’re talking paid posts here, so that changes things a bit.
What’s much more concerning than the laziness of this pitch is the *reason* for the pitch–links. As you read this, doesn’t it seem like they’re more interested in the links than the actual review/content? And again, why would I review a audio/video-conferencing solution? I mean, it’s somewhat relevant as a solo counselor/small business owner, but you’ll note there’s not one mention of that in the back-and-forth.
Is this really the best way for companies to go about getting “link juice” online? Is this really how you want your brand represented? Is this really the way you want to win?
For most companies, I would hope the answer is “no” here, but like I said, I’ve seen an increasing number of these types of pitches lately that leads me to believe otherwise. And that makes me a little sad.
But, since this is an experiment, and I promised to review The Conference Center (and it is somewhat relevant as a solo consultant), here’s my two cents.
As a solo consultant, I do have audio and web conferencing needs from time to time. And, I find more conference call solutions to be too expensive. But, in glancing at the Conference Center site, I see an option called “Together Talk” that seems fairly appealing. For only 2.5 cents per minute, I can get access to reservation-free con call capabilities. That’s actually a pretty good deal for someone like me. I may look into that.
So, was that worth $200? Was it worth completely exploiting people who would read this blog? I’d say pretty strongly, “no.” And, more importantly, did the post itself impact your decision to use or not use The Conference Center? Or, is this merely a link play, as I claimed above?
Curious to hear your thoughts.
Note: I’m putting the $200 I receive (given I actually do receive it, which may be a long shot), toward my HAPPO efforts.
Photo courtesy of Matti Mattila via FlickR Creative Commons.