What’s the best way to pitch bloggers? That’s one of the most common questions I hear from PR professionals and one of the most popular story suggestions from our blog readers. I think that’s the wrong question to ask though. There is no best way to pitch a blogger (or any other media for that matter). For me, pitching any journalist or blogger really comes down to common sense and a lot of legwork. I’m confident I could land a story in any media outlet if I had something relevant and newsworthy to offer, if I invested the appropriate time and energy it takes to effectively target a writer, and if I conducted myself as a professional. So could you. It’s really not rocket science.
First, the Common Sense Part
What’s common sense is not always common practice. I’m not sure where I heard that quote, but it’s appropriate here. I think most PR professionals know the right and wrong way to pitch a blogger, but they don’t always make the right choices. They take shortcuts, mass distributing template pitches, cutting and pasting contact information, and playing the law of averages in hopes of some response from somebody on their target list. Here are some gentle reminders of the common sense stuff you should know when pitching bloggers, but you might forget sometimes:
- Read the Blog. Don’t just scan the last two articles; read the blog. Subscribe to the RSS feed. Read the posts. Read the comments. Study the outlet, its bloggers and its tendencies. Don’t rely on the pitch tips from your media database. If you do this step alone, your pitches will improve dramatically. Don’t pitch stories that the blog doesn’t cover. See, I told you it was common sense.
- Join the Conversation. If you’re reading the blog enough and you’re genuinely interested in the content, then join the conversation. Share your thoughts on a post. Engage in dialogue with other readers and the author. This is the best way to develop a positive relationship with the blogger. This is what blogging is all about. Do it not because you want them to write about you, but because you’re genuinely interested. If you’re not interested, then how will you be able to deliver a compelling pitch? And, don’t pitch your story in the comments or post a shameless plug for your client or products. That’s a big no-no.
- Bloggers Will Call You Out. If you botch a pitch to a newspaper or magazine, you’ll rarely see it appear in print. If you screw up on a pitch to a blogger, chances are good they will blog about it. I know you’ve seen examples of this, so I won’t re-hash those “when pitches go bad” examples now. Don’t give a blogger an excuse to discredit you or the client you represent.
- Be Creative. Be Casual. Most bloggers are pretty laid back. Blogs are a platform for conversations. Don’t use the same old boring pitch tactics you’ve been using for years. If your story is interesting and compelling, make sure you can communicate it that way. If you don’t get excited after reading your pitch, then don’t send it. Your initial reaction to your pitch should be “this pitch is awesome.” It may sound corny, but you really need to be excited about what you’re pitching. Genuine enthusiasm goes a long way in pitching.
- Keep it Short, To the Point, and Relevant. Don’t pitch on Twitter, but think in those terms. Can you boil your pitch down to a sentence? Here’s an example: “You’ve been writing a lot about X lately. What do you think about Y as a fresh angle on this topic? If you’re interested, then give me a call.” It sounds pretty basic, huh? This casual tone has resulted in more call backs for me than any full-page pitch I’ve ever sent. Try it, you’ll be surprised (no, don’t use that sentence as a template). One more point on the example, notice how I’m asking for his/her opinion? You want to know what they think about your suggestion. If you do this often enough, you’ll learn to develop increasingly better pitches.
Now, The “A Lot of Legwork” Part
As an extension of the Common Sense points above, here are some points on the legwork I believe you should put into your pitch preparation for every single individual you plan to pitch.
- Have They Ever Written About Your Topic? If yes, have they recently covered a very similar angle to the one you’re pitching? They probably won’t write about it again so soon. If not, have they covered anything similar that would feed into the topic you’re pitching? Maybe it’s been a while since they covered the topic, but you learn it’s something they’re passionate about. You should now have some fuel for your intro.
- Have They Ever Written About How To Pitch Them? Most bloggers get a ton of pitches (even I have received pitches, and I’ve only been blogging for a couple of months). Since they get a lot of pitches, chances are they provide information about how to pitch them somewhere on their blog. Search for this information and read it. Most bloggers don’t mind pitches, provided you play by their rules and only pitch them relevant information.
- Know Your Subject Matter. You should be able to write a blog post on your pitch. If you don’t know the material inside and out, don’t pitch it. If you are lucky enough to get a blogger interested, you’ll need to be able to provide all the information they are looking for. Learn your material, practice your pitch, anticipate questions and develop great answers.
- Get Away From Static Lists. Most media relations pros manage a lot of contacts. If you’re not already taking detailed notes on all of your research and interaction with journalists and bloggers, start doing so now. You’ll want to be able to refer to those notes for every pitch. Having a good understanding of who your contacts are will make your job much easier. You can’t remember everything.
- Get to Know Them. Reading the blog and commenting are a great way to get noticed by a blogger, but why not reach out to them and have a conversation? I can’t remember a blogger or journalist ever turning down a request like this. Most want to talk about the content they write and are happy to know people are interested in what they do. Journalists and bloggers are people too. Have a conversation with them and you’ll be in much better shape when you decide to call them with a pitch. You can learn from bloggers and they can learn from you. It’s a two-way conversation.
- You Should Blog Too. The final (and most important) point on this list is to blog your own stories that you’re pitching. Write about your topics and you’ll build an audience. Case in point, I’ve already been included in stories on other blogs and in print publications based solely off the posts I’ve done here. Blog it and they will come. This also gives you an opportunity to build relationships with bloggers by linking to their blogs on related topics. This is the best investment in media relations you can make. Journalists and bloggers will find your information if it’s relevant to what they cover.
In summary, there is no right or wrong way to pitch a blogger, but you should put some effort into it. It’s disrespectful to send a generic, impersonal pitch to any journalist or blogger. If you put some time and effort into your pitch preparation, and you use some common sense and courtesy, you’ll have much more success. You’ll know without a doubt that your story is a good fit. That doesn’t mean bloggers will take you up on the offer, but I’ll guarantee you they’ll listen for a change.