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Blogger Outreach vs. Media Relations

I’ve seen a lot of buzz for blogger outreach lately. Next to social media marketing strategy development, it’s the number one social media offering for public relations agencies (and driving much of the increase in PR spending this year). Is blogger outreach really a new service offering? I don’t think so. I think it’s just a different way to say media relations. All blogs are media, therefore, targeting blogs for coverage is media relations.

To support my argument, here are some media relations basics that can be easily transferred when targeting any media:

  • Identify Your Target Audience – who are you trying to reach?
  • Formulate Your Message – what do you want to say? How will your message vary across channels?
  • Develop Your Delivery Strategy – how will you reach your target audiences with your message (in this case, which blogs will you target)?
  • Which Blogs Are Most Influential – prioritize your target blog outlets (offer your story to the most influential one first) – but be realistic, target the best blog most likely to write about your topic?
  • How Will You Coordinate Efforts to Maximize Impact – after your top target, how will you scale the rollout of your program to build momentum? What sharing aspects have you incorporated to push word-of-mouth for you message?
  • How Will You Measure Results? – how will you track coverage and sharing of your content on and off the Web?

While there are some general rules of media relations that work when targeting blogs, here is some advice specific to blogger outreach:

  • Blog Targeting – research the right blogs for your need – do this way in advance. If you’re working in a particular industry, you should already be reading the top blogs and know what they DO and DON’T write about. Don’t pitch bloggers that don’t write about your type of news. Where is the best place to research blogs? Try a blog aggregator like Alltop or Regator, use Google Blog Search or read the blogrolls (blog suggestions) on other blogs you like.
  • Branch Out – it used to be the norm for a blog to have one contact. While that’s the case with a lot of blogs you will come across, a lot of blogs have staff equal to or greater than mainstream magazines. You’ll want to apply your traditional media relations skills to target the right blogger with your story. Don’t overlook freelance bloggers who write for major blogs on a regular basis – they could be easier to reach than the main contact at the blog.
  • Not All Blogs Are Pitchable – I recently reviewed a blogger outreach list that included a dozen or so bloggers that would never write about a company pitched to them. I only know this because I read the blogs. The only way for you to really know whether or not the topic you want to pitch would be of interest to the bloggers you are targeting is to read their stuff. If you’re pressed for time, at least read the about page to see what the bloggers write about and what their affiliations are. In some cases, you’ll be surprised to learn you’re trying to get a competitor to write about you.
  • Write Your Own Blog – if you really want to appreciate what bloggers (and all journalists) go through on a daily basis, start writing your own blog. After a few months of consistent posting, you’ll make your way onto blogger outreach lists (eh hem – media lists). You’ll start receiving pitches and press releases on a daily basis, most of which have nothing to do with what you write about. This will shed additional light on the previous bullet above, and if you didn’t get it already, you finally will.
  • Be a Real Person – don’t sound like a robot with your pitches. Have some personality. If you’re confident that your story is a fit for the blog (because you really, really have read all the posts and have subscribed to the blog’s RSS feed for years), than you should be able to write in a conversational tone and actually capture the blogger’s attention. A good rule of thumb is to keep your pitch to three sentences, not three paragraphs. Imagine you’re pitching the journalist on an elevator ride between floors. You only have a few seconds to get them interested. Just be yourself and be honest.
  • Follow Up – it’s okay to follow up on a pitch, but there is a difference between being persistent and annoying, which varies by blogger. I’d venture to guess that half the stories that appear in blogs as the result of a blogger outreach program were pitched over and over again. Sometimes pitches get lost in the cracks. If your pitch is really good, don’t forget to follow up. From my experience, it’s always better to get a “no, I’m not interested” than a “no response.”
  • It’s Not a Program – a program sounds like something you start and stop. Blogger outreach should be a daily task for you. Track your outreach and interaction with bloggers on a daily basis. It’s fairly common for PR professionals to pitch bloggers and never log the notes in a system. I’ve done interviews with 100s of PR pros and the most common feedback I get is they don’t want to give a leg up to their peers.
  • Bonus Tip – More is More – while a trending story on Mashable could be nirvana for your PR team, the thrill fades fast and the referral traffic trails off. On the other hand, being included in 20 blogs most people have never heard of can have MORE impact than the Mashable piece. While you should try for both, don’t overlook the ‘long tail’ effect to targeting B (and sometimes C level) blogs.

Is blogger outreach the same as media relations? It’s really a question of semantics. It’s still about building relationships with influencers – whether those influencers are bloggers or print journalists, it’s still media relations. Is it media relations when somebody sends me their press release, suggesting Journalistics’ readers would be interested? That’s a question for another post.

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