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8 blogger outreach no-nos to avoid at all costs

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Last week, Danny Brown and Gini Dietrich led an interesting discussion in the “Start Blogging Now” (#sbt) chat around PR and blogger outreach. It was an interesting discussion and one that prompted Gini to throw down the gauntlet the next day in this post about treating bloggers like second-class citizens when it comes to outreach.

I have to admit, I agree with Gini to a large extent. When it comes right down to it, PR as an industry, is still missing the boat when it comes to blogger outreach. How we identify “influencers” and targets. How we “pitch.” And how we interact with bloggers.

I’m not just saying this as an observer–I’m saying it as an active participant.

I’ve received a number of pitches in the last few months. Some from large PR agencies. Others from reputable PR organizations. Most of which missed the mark (with the notable exception of one great pitch from the folks at Social Media Club).

On the flip side, blogger outreach is one of a number of key services my firm–ACH Communications–offers. So, I’ve led and organized a number of blogger outreach programs over the last year-plus. And, based on the responses I’ve received (both over email and in person), I hear more feedback about misguided and off-center pitches than I do ones that really resonated with bloggers.

So, as I followed the #sbt chat, I couldn’t help but think that we still have a lot of work to do to get smarter as a group about how we approach bloggers from a business perspective.

Here are 8 blogger outreach no-nos and what you can do instead:

* No-No #1: Don’t ask the blogger to write specific things about your brand. By and large, bloggers are fiercely independent, love thinking up new ideas and, as a rule, aren’t crazy about being told what to do. Treat them fairly and approach them as collaborators–instead of telling them what to write.

* No-No #2: Don’t ask the blogger to abide by set rules. Again, most bloggers don’t like to play by the rules. They’re outside-the-box-type thinkers. Instead of asking them to play by YOUR rules, ask them what they think. You can usually come to a resolution that helps meet BOTH your goals.

* No-No #3: Fail to reference at least one previous post in your initial email. First and foremost, your initial pitch to the blogger needs to be relevant. Put it through your BS meter. If it doesn’t pass, don’t send the pitch. If it does pass, make sure you read at minimum the last five posts the blogger wrote–and reference at least one in your pitch. It will prove you’ve read their blog and start building goodwill.

* No-No #4: Don’t ask the blogger to help “spread the word” about your brand or event. I can only speak for myself, but my blog does not exist as a platform to help your organization “spread the word” about an event, product or service. It does exist, however, as a way for me to express my thoughts and ideas on topics in PR/social media that interest me. I think it’s a safe assumption most bloggers feel the same. If you’re pitching a blogger about an event you’re promoting, why not give them exclusive access to the keynote? Or, better yet, give them a pass to the event. That instantly makes it relevant and involves the blogger from the get-go.

* No-No #5: Don’t lead with your product, service or company. Just like any pitch or sales letter, a good lead is crucial. And, when writing to a blogger it’s important to keep in mind that they don’t necessarily care two beans about you or your company. So, it’s important to lead by talking about THEM. How can you help them? Talk about a post they wrote that piqued your interest. Or, maybe a nugget you picked up in their Twitter stream the last 24 hours. Whatever the case, make sure you lead with them–not you.

* No-No #6: Don’t just focus on your industry’s A-listers. As I mentioned in the #sbt chat last week, a blogger doesn’t have to have 100,000 subscribers to be “influential.” Heck, they don’t even need 10,000. What they do need, however, is trust. How do you identify that? It’s not an exact science, but there are key indicators. Monitor blog comments. Check out the blogger’s Twitter stream. See what others say about the blogger online. It should all paint a pretty clear picture. The bigger issue though: Don’t get caught focusing solely on the thought leaders. You don’t need to be an A-lister to influence purchase decisions.

* No-No #7: Failing to follow up. Good, solid follow-up is critical in blogger outreach. Not only in making the initial pitch (figuring out how to be persistent, but not annoying), but also after you’ve partnered with the blogger. Make sure you follow through on your promises. If it’s a giveaway/contest you’re proposing, make sure you follow up and get winners what they’ve won promptly and professionally. Basically, make sure you’re getting the blogger what they need when they need it. You might be surprised how few people practice good follow through–and what a difference it can make.

* No-No #8: Don’t ask a blogger to delete or take down content. Might seem obvious, but I continue to hear stories of PR people asking bloggers to edit or delete language, words or phrases from their posts once they’re live. Unless the information is factually incorrect, you don’t have a leg to stand on here.

Any other No-Nos you’d add?

Note: Photo courtesy of ificutmyhairirelandwillsink (my favorite FlickR handle of the year, by far) via FlickR Creative Commons.

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8 blogger outreach no-nos to avoid at all costs

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