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Sharpen Your Blogger Relations Skills: How to Reach the 77% of Internet Users in the Blogosphere

By Kelsey Mohring (@mohrinkd)

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a Mastering Blogger Relations session as part of Adfero Group’s Get PR Smart series. I found this workshop to be particularly educational since, as an Account Coordinator at CRT/tanaka, one of my main responsibilities has been blogger outreach. Therefore, I’d like to share some of my takeaways from the event.

As the media landscape changes, we are finding more and more that bloggers are the ones to reach. Seventy-seven percent of internet users read blogs, which offers an exciting opportunity for engagement. Although traditional news media continues to be the most trusted source of information about companies, in the past year, new media (which includes blogs) saw a huge rise in trust, jumping by 75 percent since 2011.  Audiences are now looking to bloggers for targeted and trusted content, which is bolstered by the human voice factor associated with blogs. Additionally, we benefit from the SEO increases and the ability to reach out to a niche, targeted network that we already know has interest in our topic.

So how do we develop this simpatico relationship offering value to the bloggers while creating a high ROI for our clients? We frequently discuss how important researching the right media outlets is, and we all nod knowing that if we had all the time in the world, then we would research each pub for tone, themes, content and correct contacts (while also trying to figure out their pet’s name and favorite color.) But, realistically it usually it comes down to pitching an already created master media list that has maybe 200 somewhat-related-to-the-topic bloggers on it. Is this shotgun method the most effective practice? I’m not so sure.

I think it comes down to a few things. First, we need to educate our clients on the time it takes to successfully conduct blogger outreach and build these relationships, while setting realistic expectations. If our clients have the expectation that five hours should be plenty of time for successfully pitching a story to bloggers, then not only are we stressed to the max trying to meet an impossible goal, but they will almost always be disappointed when we either go over our allotted time or don’t garner the desired amount of coverage.

Second, we could make better use of our time by focusing our efforts on a list of 25-50 contacts that we have researched, built relationships with and know are the best bloggers for our audience. This requires making connections with bloggers before we need them. Tweet at them, comment on their blog, send a complimentary email when you see a post you like (who doesn’t love a compliment?) or even link to them in your online content and social networks. Believe it or not, these bloggers can tell when we attempt to make a generic email look personal by using mail merge to insert their names. (I know, shocker, we thought it was a secret.) It’s like dating; they have to feel like they are in an exclusive relationship (even if the reality is you are playing the blogger field) and there has to be a courting process involved before you pop the question. Similarly, bloggers need to be wooed before we make the big ask for coverage. There are people behind those words on your computer screen and they don’t like feeling used, so make the extra effort to establish those relationships. Then, when you call on them in your hour of need, they are much more likely to lend a helping post.

Third, we need to understand how blogger relations differs from traditional media outreach. Whether it’s pitching health blogs for The Medicine Abuse Project or travel blogs for Air New Zealand, I have found this difference to be clear. How so? To start, most bloggers don’t blog for a living; rather they maintain their blog as a hobby apart from their day job. This often makes communicating with them tricky, so flexibility in timing of outreach is crucial. This could mean hosting a weekend event, or a night time blogger call to reach the bloggers when it is convenient for them. Additionally, with the blogger landscape taking off comes the ability for bloggers to charge for content, so more and more bloggers are starting to ask, “What do I get out of this?” As a result, the sponsored blog post is becoming more of a norm. A sponsored post is one that the blogger is paid to include in their content. It can be written by the blogger or the sponsor and, in accordance with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations, should always be identified as a “sponsored post.” Naturally, not all clients can afford to pay for “sponsored” blog posts and some don’t even have the resources to offer product samples or schwag. As a result, the key becomes earning placements by figuring out what you can provide the blogger that will be of most value to them. It can take the form of exclusive content, interviews, infographics, connections in the field, photos or quotes from higher level officials. Whatever it is, the important thing is to focus on what we can offer bloggers and how we can help make them successful. Ultimately, developing those relationships will make us more successful.

What best practices have you discovered during your ventures into blogger relations?

Images courtesy of Direct Marketing Observations, The Jonathan Rick Group.

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8 Comments on “Sharpen Your Blogger Relations Skills: How to Reach the 77% of Internet Users in the Blogosphere

  1.  by  Blake Gray

    Sensible advice. I would add that the topic sentence of the email pitch is crucial. I delete 80-90% of the pitch emails I get without ever opening them.

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  4.  by  Hugh Anderson

    Great advice, Kelsey. I think the managing expectations point is critical – it is not a quick win, it takes time and care, but if you do it right, the rewards in the medium term can be outstanding.
    One thing that surprises me is Edelman’s statement that “traditional news media continues to be the most trusted source of information”. It conflicts with a Nielsen study of a year or two back that clearly put online customer/blogger opinions higher than traditional media and I would have thought that this trend would only be increasing. In fact, here’s the link: http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/consumer/global-advertising-consumers-trust-real-friends-and-virtual-strangers-the-most
    Maybe it’s all in how you ask the question. Either way, trust in social media (including bloggers) is surging.

  5.  by  Kris Chislett

    Good tips. I was actually blown away by the number of press releases I received on Thanksgiving. Way higher than normal, and all starting with “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE”

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  8.  by  Colleen

    Does your website have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like
    to send you an email. I’ve got some recommendations for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it develop over time.

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