If you work in PR or social media, chances are, by now, you’ve had a chance to participate in a blogger outreach campaign on behalf of a client or your employer. But, despite this surge, we still need work when it comes to understanding how to successfully orchestrate a blogger outreach campaign. Big time.
It’s not all on PR folks, of course. Part of the reason we see so many horrible blogger pitches is because PR people aren’t always involved.
Many of the bad pitches I hear from bloggers comes from start-ups. Those companies typically don’t have the resources to hire a PR firm or consultant. Which means, they’re doing the pitching. And that’s a recipe for disaster.
Other companies have general marketing staff who try to pull this off. But that strategy often backfires as well because marketers typically don’t understand the intracies of PR–much less how to work with bloggers (which is a bit different from the media).
That leaves us with PR agencies and consultants–who, in fact, do a lot of the pitching. PR fims aren’t off the hook here. I’ve seen a lot of off-base pitches from agencies–both on my blog and others. So, late last year I formed a partnership with the Minneapolis Weber Shandwick office to study bloggers a bit more so we can understand who motivates them and how we can work better with them, on behalf of the brands we represent.
I’m working with friend and colleague Lauren Melcher at Shandwick, who’s the perfect partner because she (like me) is one part blogger, one part PR/digital counselor. We see blogger outreach campaigns from both sides.
So, a few weeks ago, we held our first blogger focus group with five Minnesota “lifestyle” bloggers via Google Hangout. We spent half hour on the Hangout asking them questions about how they like to be pitched, what kinds of pitches work/what kinds don’t, and if/how they participate in blogger networks.
As we reviewed the focus group and sifted through the data, a few key themes emerged:
Opportunity abounds for PR firms/consultants.
Most pitches lifestyle/mom bloggers receive from PR folks are off-topic. In fact, one blogger said “out of 500 emails I receive, I only reply to maybe 5. The rest are completely irrelevant to my blog.” Another blogger said the following when asked to rank PR people on a sliding scale in terms of performance in blogger outreach: “80 percent are about a 2; 20% are about a 9 or 10.” Clearly, there is room for PRs who understand blogger outreach to reach these highly influential people online–it just takes time, smarts and perseverance.
Keep pitches short. REALLY short.
Many bloggers lamented how they routinely receive longer pitches from PR people. Bloggers are busy–with kids at home, with work, and with hobbies and other interests. They don’t have time to read lengthy pitches. Another tip: Don’t copy and paste a press release into your pitch–bloggers don’t care (and they said as much in the focus group). Instead, get to the point quickly. And tell them why your idea is relevant to them and their audience. My general rule of thumb: Try to keep email pitches to three short paragraphs or less.
Relationships matter. A lot.
We heard this theme from the bloggers loud and clear. One blogger started working with one brand because she knew the PR person from online interactions and knew she had credibility. Another blogger noted that a PR person mentioned a child by his nickname in the post–showing that the PR person had done their research and read the blog. So all that time spent researching and interacting with bloggers in advance of the pitch–bloggers are saying that pays off. The lesson for brands? Invest more time (and budget, by the way) getting to know bloggers you’re pitching and developing relationships–it’ll pay big dividends in the end.
Compensation is key–but it doesn’t always have to be dollars
Almost every blogger to a woman noted that compensation was required when working with brands. Their time is simply too valuable, and their communities too lucrative for brands. However, what was interesting is that compensation doesn’t always have to translate to dollars, according to lifestyle bloggers. In fact, one blogger mentioned she prefers to do more “pay in product” situations than “pay in money.” Another noted that compensation doesn’t always need to be made in cash–it could be something different, like a stay in a nice hotel. The lesson for brands? Compensation always needs to be a part of the equation when working with lifestyle bloggers–but you might want to think creatively about what that compensation entails.
Blog networks are critical networking tools.
Almost every blogger we talked to mentioned they were part of a blog network (like BlogHer). The reason? Networking. These bloggers are looking to chat and commiserate with other bloggers like them. To learn best practices. To build skills. And to, well, network. Brands should think about how they might work with these blog networks creatively. Whether that means finding a way to activate your brand at a blog network event like BlogHer, or figuring out ways to interact with bloggers in these networks effectively and efficiently.
Note: We provided the five bloggers who participated in this focus group with $25 Mall of America gift cards for their valuable time. Thank you to Mall of America for being a great partner!