PR And The Blogosphere: A Short Guide To Success
Proceed with caution
As a PR practitioner who spends most of his life in the digital world, I can’t help but notice the mistakes of others in the industry who sometimes give the rest of us a bad name.
Ignorance is no excuse, and PR people need to treat bloggers and web publishers with the same respect as they would their print counterparts. If anything, I’d argue they need to treat these people with even more respect, because as time moves forward and deeper niches are drawn out in the media industry, having those key bloggers as allies can be vital for your success.
The PRs world is buzzing about blogs (and has been for quite some time). All the glossy trades have articles talking about campaigns, case studies and statistics; companies and firms are vying for blogger’s attentions, and the interaction and experimentation in the blogosphere is well underway.
New media sounds fresh and exciting (it is), and everyone wants to get involved. It is dangerous, however to dive right into the blogosphere without knowing what you’re getting into. In this space, anything you do can (and usually will) be exposed, so don’t send out anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable published publicly for the entire world to see. If you pitch a blogger, for instance, don’t be surprised to see that he or she has posted your entire pitch (potentially along with your email address) for the world to see.
Realize that most bloggers aren’t blogging for the money. Most keep a blog purely for the passion of their subject matter. And, even the ones who are making money blogging still realize that they could easily lose their audiences they have worked tirelessly to build up over the years if they publish material that isn’t ultra-compelling for their users. Don’t think that just because you have found a popular blog on your client’s subject that it’s going to be easy – just the contrary.
Most (but not all) blogs also skew towards the younger demographic, and many of them are not journalists by trade (although many journalists do keep blogs now too). If they aren’t already fans of the brand, they may be weary of your news, or even of someone just directly reaching out to them altogether. It may be an entirely new experience for them.
Get in the mix
The only way you will ever fully comprehend the blogosphere is to jump right in. As I mentioned before, every marketer and PR professional should have a blog. It’s beneficial on so many levels, you will:
- Get perspective on what it’s like to blog
- Understand what motivates bloggers
- Document your professional expertise
- Create a strong personal brand and a standout resume (yes, your blog can act as a resume – one that potentially gives you the edge over someone else)
- Learn a little code
- Have an altogether learning and positive experience and perhaps even make some new friends
If you’re unwilling to take this step, then it may be wiser to leave the blog outreach to someone else.
Subscribe, read (daily), learn and follow the trends
If you desire success online for any degree of time, you have to realize that the web is the fastest changing system ever known to humanity. Trends, flavors, people, topics, music all come and go so fast, you need to really have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening if you’re going to stay ahead of the curve. Some ways to get started:
- Read Digg and Reddit and StumbeUpon
- Subscribe to blogs you want to get on – and read them…even the comments
- Subscribe to Techno//Marketer, Strategic Public Relations, and other marketing / PR blogs (these are just two fantastic samples, there are many – find the ones which speak to you);
- Have Google Alerts setup for the topics of your choice (industries you’re in, your clients, etc.)
- Have Google Alerts setup for your competitors
- Read BoingBoing and other Technorati Top 100 blogs
- Have your own Facebook and MySpace pages
- Mess around with Twitter and other popular web services
- Subscribe to the trade publications (ie, MediaPost, which is actually free)
Ditch the press release…at least for now
There are cases a blogger does want your press release. If you’re Apple, for example and about to release a new, revolutionary product – go ahead and send Engadget your release. It’s compelling for their users. It’s a direct fit, and something their readers are already raving fans of.
But what if you’re a company they haven’t heard of? Yes, you could just send them your press release, but that’s a better chance you’re lost in the shuffle of the thousands of emails they’re getting daily. If you’ve been reading their blog, you probably have a strong sense of what they write on, their tone, what they might cover and what they won’t cover. If you’ve been commenting on their blog (you should be) they may already even know your name.
Opening the doors of communication with a friendly email saying you’ve been enjoying their content is something appreciated, especially if you are in the blogosphere too and can share your content with them. Connect with them, and they may want to help you. Give them something you know their readers want, something that ties into their passion. If you’re passionate about it too (you should be), it will be obvious and it will create a smooth interaction. They may even ask for a press release later on with the full details – permission marketing in full effect.
A tailored approach is desired, and the blogger will appreciate it. Write it in their tone of voice, give them images and video (if you know they’ll want it), let them know this is unique for them, and you really think this would be a great fit. If you’ve been reading their blog, what you’re sending should be.
Tips for pitching bloggers:
- Read their blog daily, subscribe to their feed, comment
- Get creative, give them something they haven’t seen
- Always be prepared to see your pitch verbatim, in public
- Don’t just send your press release unless it’s really on beat, or you know that the blogger runs press releases
- Have compelling images and compelling copy
- Give a popular blogger an exclusive – even before mainstream media. The story, if exciting enough, could end up on the front page of Digg
- Treat them with respect, take your time, and be sure what you’re sending is on beat
- Respond to their comments directly and promptly, as bloggers move onto new things quickly. If you’re not quick, you may lose the story.
- Use services like YouTube to offer video along with your information. It’s an easy, quick way a blogger could embed content to go along with a post.
It’s an exciting space to be in, and with proper time, effort and creativity you can create positive buzz in this space. Bloggers and their readers are some of the most vocal people on the planet, and are clearly setting the trend for culture online. Success here is possible only if you take the time to learn, interact and contribute in ways which make everyone content.