Don’t Ignore Blogger Outreach

    April 23, 2007

The issue of blogger outreach has been on the minds of several communication-focused bloggers in the last few days. Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, from the Church of the Customer blog, posted an item that advised against blogger outreach of any kind:

Bloggers are not traditional media, so the last thing a PR person should do is create another column on a spreadsheet that includes bloggers in future email blasts.

PR companies could actually become more strategic service providers by helping their clients cultivate relationships with existing, well-connected customers. Appeal to the people who already love your clients and foster those relationships.

The pair’s bottom line: “Stop pitching bloggers you don’t know.”

I can’t remember ever disagreeing with anything I’ve read at “Church”—and I read everything—but I disagree with this one. It’s true that bloggers are not reporters and cannot be pitched the same way. (In fact, a lot of mainstream media shouldn’t be pitched the way a lot of PR people pitch mainstream media—but that’s another post.) And McConnell & Huba are right to advise companies to build relationships with key customers. However, there are more options than (A) pitch bloggers like media and (B) ignore bloggers.

As BL Ochman notes in a response on “What’s Next,” influence is PR’s top job. “The bottom line is that nothing you say matters if your product sucks,” she writes. “But assuming it doesn’t, intelligent PR can still make new friends.”

Indeed. We make new friends all the time in the course of our day-to-day social media activities. Post a comment to a new blog, build a relationship, get to know what interests him,and now you can inform that blogger about news or information that might appeal to him, whether it’s on behalf of a client or not. Unfortunately, that tactic won’t work when the client is ready to make an announcement; there just isn’t time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to bloggers you don’t know, assuming you’ve done your homework.

I’ve been involved in several blogger outreach efforts recently. In each case, I carefully read several posts and comments, along with “About This Blog” details, then crafted an individual message to that blogger. One, for instance, was part of Jeremy Wright’s B5 blog network, so I noted that I knew Jeremy and that he’d vouch for me, if the blogger wanted to check me out before replying. Her reply specifically noted that I seemed to know what I was doing: “Thanks so much for your nice letter—(it is) definitely different coming from someone who knows blogging.”

In fact, most bloggers appreciate solid content they can write about that’s consistent with the focus of their blogs, assuming you approach them correctly.

I’ve never had anyone reject my outreach efforts or suggest that I was a clueless PR person because I had contacted them on my client’s behalf. And the outreach generally produces exactly the desired results. (Take a look at the account for crayon‘s outreach efforts associated with the recent Coca-Cola/Virtual Thirst initiative. I particularly like the ones that claim the effort is an example of social media done right.)

That’s not to suggest that you’ll never rub a blogger the wrong way or get a negative review. But do it right and these will be the exception, not the rule.

Emergence Media has done a nice job of assembling the best guidelines for pitching bloggers onto its wiki; it’s a page worth bookmarking. And, of course, the guidelines are on a wiki, so the community can update and improve them. The firm’s explanation of the guidelines is on their blog.

The bottom line: It’s better to do it right than not do it at all.