October 29th, 2009
Because I’m doing a blogger relations training on Friday, and because everyone loves a good Ten Rules piece, let’s do…
Ten Rules for Blogger Outreach
1. Know Your Targets
How do you know whom to pitch if you’re not following the right folks in the first place? Before you reach out, get to know who’s writing about your field, and if possible get to know the kinds of topics each author seems particularly fired up about. Even on big sites such as Huffington Post or Daily Kos, different authors tend to cover their own favorite topics, and if you don’t know who writes about what, it’s very hard to…
2. Target Your Pitches
On a basic level, you’re not likely to have too much luck pitching sports stories to a political blogger and vice versa. Following Rule #1 helps, but also keep in mind that pitches tend to work best when they’re customized in some way. Figure out how you can relate your pitch to a topic dear to a blogger’s heart, and make that connection explicit in your pitch message. It never hurts to reference something they’ve written.
3. Participate When Possible, But Otherwise Monitor
Bloggers tend to notice the people who regularly comment on their sites, particularly when their audience doesn’t number in the millions. If you can see an opportunity to contribute to the discussion, do so. If you’re seen as a part of the community, your eventual pitch won’t be coming from a complete stranger. But if you don’t see a good angle, don’t feel obliged to talk just for the sake of talking — monitoring the discussion will do just fine until you can add something substantive. Note that contributing doesn’t just mean commenting, since many bloggers are open to guest pieces, so think about what you, your boss or your issue experts have to offer. Bloggers have pixels to fill.
4. Buy ‘em a Beer
It rarely hurts to invite a local (or visiting) blogger out for lunch, coffee or a beer if the opportunity exists — if you’re genuinely interested in the subjects they write about, you’ll have plenty to discuss. And after a couple of beers, you’re not a stranger.
5. Be Cool
Do what your momma raised you to do and be polite when you’re working with bloggers. DON’T get involved in a flame war either in public or behind the scenes unless you absolutely have to defend yourself or your organization against slander, and do go out of your way to treat people well, even if they disagree with you or completely ignore your pitches. Reputation matters! You want a blogger’s ears to perk up when they see a message from you — their email trash bin is always just a mouse-click away.
6. Value = Content + Credibility
Bloggers want to provide value to their readers, and you can help them do it if you have good content to offer. Try to “package” your information for easy digestion, combining words, images, video and even data into a prototype news story of your own. That way, a blogger has plenty to choose from, and can use your resources to craft his or her own unique take — different writers may derive very different stories from the same basic pot of content, based on their own styles and needs.
Credibility is a little more subtle — it derives in part from your own reputation (reminder: be cool) but also from the reputation of your organization or even of your position on the issues. Every contact you have with a blogger, either in public or in private, works to either build or undermine your credibility. Don’t forget that you can have the best content in the world but be out of luck if an author doesn’t trust you or it.
7. Twitter and Google are your Friends
Plenty of bloggers have taken to Twitter like ducks to (very shallow) water, so get into microblogging if you haven’t already. Start following the folks you may need to pitch down the road, and try to “retweet” their content by occasionally republishing it on your feed with attribution — retweeting helps bring you to their attention. Also, don’t be afraid to send a blogger a direct message if it’s appropriate.
Google helps in a very different way, since bloggers are just as likely to start their article research on their favorite search engine as anyone else. Get your (nicely packaged) content out on your own site and on other channels like YouTube to maximize the chance that bloggers and journalists will find you on their own. And make it easy for them to get in touch — have prominent links back to your main site on any content you’re spreading around, and don’t hide your contact info under a bushel.
8. Link to Them
Just as with retweeting, linking to a blogger’s stories can be a good way to get his or her attention. Of course, if you or your organization don’t have a blog, it’s a lot harder — but you might try Twittering about their stories or linking to them on Facebook or a social bookmarking site such as Del.ici.us (a Facebook link isn’t as automatically trackable as a link from a blog, but it’s a start). And think about getting a blog if you know that blogger relations is going to be an important part of your online strategy, since even just using it to link to other stories in your topic area can be very valuable (aggregation is content creation, too).
9. Try and Try Again
Blogger relations, like traditional media relations, tends to reward persistence. Don’t be annoying (reminder: be cool), but also don’t give up if a blogger ignores you completely the first few times you try to contact him or her. You never know which story might finally resonate. Of course, if someone tells you explicitly to buzz off, I’d move on to another target — preferably their competition.
10.Reporters are Bloggers, Too
In the internet world, the lines between journalism and blogging have blurred considerably — the two approaches now exist along a communications continuum rather than in separate boxes. Many traditional media outlets such as newspapers and television networks encourage their reporters to blog actively and even to engage bloggers directly in public discussion, building the connections between the blogosphere and the mainstream media by the day. When you pitch a blogger, you may also be pitching a journalist, and one who counts many other reporters among his or her readers as well. In other words, cast your bread upon the waters of the blogosphere — it might ripple farther than you expect.
Find Out More
That’s it for the rules, but there’s a lot more to learn about working with bloggers — for a start, check out the Online Politics 101 chapter on blogs and blogger relations.