Discussion: Spreading the Word About Your Issues in the Blogosphere

A conversation yesterday on the Progressive Exchange email list was both a pleasure to read and the source of some expert advice on the best ways to boost a campaign or issue’s profile in the blogosphere. A list member got things started by asking about tactics for getting blog exposure and the topic of blog ads came up quickly. With the permission of the participants, I’ve reprinted the discussion that followed:

From (the irrepressible) John Hlinko of Grassroots.com

Well hell, I’ll toot the BlogAd horn as well — BlogAds rocks. It’s a great way to get a message out there, to do it quickly, and frankly to show some love to the bloggers who are working their tails off. Remember, these are a lot of folks working individually, so even one ad can make a big difference, in terms of giving them the financial freedom to do their thing.

My two cents on this front — if you do a blog ad, DO NOT treat it just like a banner ad. The goal shouldn’t be just to get people to click, it should be to provoke them to talk about what you’re doing in the body of the blog itself. That conversation is what makes blogs so different from normal sites, and what can give you infinitely more value for your ad if you can get it going.

So do something interesting, do something creative, and do something provocative. But for the love of God, don’t just resize the same banner ad you’re running on a non-blog.

By the way — the folks who run BlogAds.com are a class act, very willing to help with advice, and it’s been a pleasure working with them to help launch some of these campaigns. I recommend it 100%.

Next, Eve Fox from M&R Strategic Services dove in:

Blog ads is probably the easiest way to get your message out there as a few people have said. However, I do want to caution you that we’ve tested it for a few campaigns (albeit mostly environmental orgs, not political campaigns or something really sexy) and got truly terrible results in terms of recruiting new activists and donors, though.

It’s possible that the right campaign could work (something highly politicized and urgent would likely be most effective) but I wouldn’t count on amazing results.

The ads are no where near as cheap as they used to be, but some of the blogs (the ones that get less traffic, of course) are still fairly reasonable.

I’d think really hard about your ad before spending much money on this — John Hlinko is probably a good person to pump for creative ideas. And Henry Copeland, the creator of blog ads, also is usually willing to give you ideas as he knows the network really well and is a pretty innovative guy.

It pays to do your research when you want to break into the blogosphere I think.

Hope that’s helpful.

Followed by Kathy Mitchell from Consumers Union:

Just a cautionary note. I agree with John that the goal shouldn’t be to get
people to click, mostly because I’ve not had much luck in that regard (and
we always design our blog ads for blog placement exclusively). I generally
agree with Eve’s post on that topic.

But I would also say that I haven’t had much luck getting bloggers to do a
post when I’ve bought a blog ad, and I’m not sure I agree that blog content
is affected by its advertisers. I’m sure that’s not what John meant, tho. 🙂

Mostly, we try and send individualized emails to hundreds of bloggers with
information about our campaign news, event or new release — and that method is having less and less impact over time.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the way to do effective issue promotion
among blogs is to blog. Be a blogger. Have a blog. Have blog relationships
and regularly post stuff that links to other blogs. As someone with limited
time and too many tasks, I often postpone my blogging and then regret it
when its time to get my own message out there. We are in the process of
launching campaign blogs on all our “micro-sites” to encourage a lot of
campaign related blogging long before we launch a specific imitative. We’ll
know more soon how that works for us.

Back to John:

Oh yeah, I’d agree with Kathy on the no overt “quid pro NO” thing. Treat bloggers the way you would any journalist — there’s no way you would go to the NY Times and demand an article because you placed an ad. That could get your head taken clean off.

That being said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to place ads as well. On the one hand, it gets your message out even without a post, but it also is a sign that you respect what they do. And while there may not be a quid pro quo, you might find that they’re more willing to at least return the respect and fairly judge what you are pitching, if you do it right. But it’s a subtle art, handled with great care. 🙂

But honest to God, if you want to get the most traction with blogs, there’s a fairly simple way to do it: DON’T PITCH THEM STUFF THAT SUCKS.

Seriously, the best blogs exist and thrive because they provide timely, interesting information to readers. So before you pitch a blog, ask yourself the following questions:

1) Is what I’m pitching creative, compelling, and “blog-worthy?” Would I spread it to my friends?

2) If the blogger got 117 emails in the last 10 minutes, and mine was number 118, would it realistically stand out as head and shoulders above the rest?

3) Have I really tested my idea with people who are willing to give an honest response? (seriously, if you don’t have a friend willing to say, “gees, I love you, but that idea sucks royally,” then you need to get one right now)

I won’t get off on a rant, I promise, but… If you provide interesting, engaging content, it will spread.

Next, Garth Moore offered advice on organization blogs:

I worked at the ASPCA for five years and now work with a consulting group that helps nonprofits set up blogs, mailers, etc. Here are some good tips to starting and promoting your blog:

Use a low-cost service: Use Blogger or a cheap Typepad account. Don’t spend it on something can takes a lot of support, a complete server setup, or a service will nickel and dime you with fees. This way, if your blog only survives a year, you aren’t out a fortune. I like Typepad, personally.

Use your voice: Don’t just put up press releases or content from your website. make sure one or more of your content providers uses a voice for discussing TM’s works. Be informal, funny, earnest, and DO editorialize. You don’t have to be objective with a blog and more people will read your blog if you have something to say.

Use the Web: del.icio.us, Technorati, Google Blog Search, Feedster.. use them all! Put your blog links prominently in all outbound messages to your users. Offer RSS feeds all over your site for your blog. Make it a nav item on your website. If you put videos up on YouTube, then put your blog URL with it.

Use it often: Blogs are only good if you maintain your blog regularly. I mean every other day at the least, not just once a week. Blog audiences like updates. If you become passive, they will become passive towards your blog.

Use your audience: Make sure you always open up for comments and encourage users to comment often. Unless they say something hurtful or extremely OT, let them post what they may. Welcome dissension and don’t edit their voices. it will help maintain interest in your blog.

Finally, Luis Hestres of Families USA talked about using community blogs:

I’ve had some moderate success using community blogs like Daily Kos, MyDD, etc., to promote our issues. Here’s a case study, so to speak:

We were in the middle of the fight against the infamouse “Enzi bill”, which would’ve stripped consumera of many health care protections at the state level. I used a Families USA account I had created some time ago to post this diary: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/5/2/151127/2173

The diary made it to the recommended list. Then georgia10 moved the diary to the front page. The result: 166 comments, 676 votes in the online poll and God knows how much traffic to our site or how many calls to Congress through our toll-free 800 number. I only regret that I didn’t have an e-action alert ready instead, but you get the idea. I think this succeeded because I drew a comparison between Medicare Part D, which was already well-known and hated in the community, because it was well-sourced and had an urgent tone, and because of the happy coincidence that georgia10 was thinking about blogging about this anyway but I beat her to it.

I also had a diary on a different subject “rescued” by SusanG a few months ago, and had another diary (about our campaign for children’s health care) front-paged by Elisa, Markos’ wife, who blogs at Mother Talkers. She even signed the petition, and I think she’ll be a valuable contact in the future. I’ve also established a good relationship with NYCEve, who blogs about healthcare at Daily Kos.

This hasn’t been a consistently successful tactic but it’s yielded some results, so you might want to keep it in mind as you craft your overall strategy. Becoming an active member of these communities could yield some unexpected results.

To an extent, this echoes Kathy Mitchell’s point. I’ve done this because we don’t have a blog of our own. It’s a poor substitute, but it’s yielded some results. Ideally, we’d have a blog of our own and combine that with this.

That’s a lot of free consulting work for one email exchange…buy ’em a beer next time you see them.


Written by
Colin Delany
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