If you’ve ever seen a crack press team in action, you know the basics of media relations: you find the reporters covering your issues, get to know them, feed them good information and become a trusted source. Reporters and press people generally understand the rules — what’s on the record, what’s on background, what the difference is between a press release (which mimics a full story) and a statement (which is just designed to provide quotes). Basically, a mix of customs and social structures governs the relationship, and all sides are usually fairly clear about how the process works. For instance, reporters may hate bad press releases, but they generally recognize the value of a good one.
Bloggers are usually different — no one goes to blog school! And consistent professional rules have yet to gel. Bloggers generally aren’t listed in media guides, so they may be tough to track down. And, even when you find the right sites, not all of them will even have an email address listed, so contacting the authors may be a lost cause entirely. When you do manage to get a blogger on the phone or engaged in an email or IM conversation, he or she may interpret the rules of the conversation very differently than a traditional reporter. “Off the record” may mean nothing, for instance, and that carefully crafted quote you devised for your boss’s statement will likely fall on deaf ears. Rules of thumb: bloggers generally laugh at press releases, and anything you write in an email might end up published.
So how do you break through? The hassle is that each blogger and each particular niche provides a unique challenge. In some fields, particularly the technology and celebrity gossip worlds, bloggers DEPEND on tips — without companies pitching or insiders dishing, TechCrunch and PerezHilton wouldn’t have nearly as much to write about. In the political and policy worlds, though, many bloggers seem to resist the notion that their ideas are influenced by outsiders, and pitching them stories can be a dicey proposition.
First, you’ll need to spend some time on each site you’re trying to pitch — get to know their stories and their audiences to see how you might shape your info to match. Next, package your story well, with links to supporting material and additional resources that might pique the author’s interest. On group blogs, carefully identify which authors are your best bet and approach them directly — a writer on the rise might be hungry for a fresh angle on an issue. If you can, buy ’em a beer (or coffee or lunch) — bullshitting with a blogger is no different than cultivating a relationship with a reporter. Once they’re ready to write, give them something they can actually use: a juicy paragraph, nice graphics or embeddable video. One other point: remember that the blogger probably isn’t your target, but his or her audience IS. Blogads may do more good than a pitch.
Clearly, blogger relations relations takes time — often, much more time than traditional media relations. But if you can get your message out in front of exactly the right audience, it may be worth the effort. More on blogs and blogger relations.