Blogger pitches: How and who?

In the last few weeks, I noticed a common topic popping up on my RSS aggregator. A few bloggers have been discussing views on “how to pitch to bloggers?”

Aaron has asked me to do an “interview” for the video show he has been putting together titled “Princessa and the little lamb” on the topic of blogger relations. My mad schedule lately delayed the discussion.

This post contains some readings and thoughts that I have gathered on the topic. I don’t have a personal list of 101 tips on pitching to bloggers but I am hoping to open this up for some discussions from PR folks and bloggers (especially those in Singapore and the Asian region).

Just last week, Ben Koe of Hill & Knowlton, Singapore wrote about why traditional media relations won’t work in the blogosphere in the Marketing magazine. Ben also gathered insights from some of our mutual friends like Walter, Ivan, Kevin and Coleman, a couple of them are “A-list bloggers” and currently working in the PR and communications industry. An interesting point that Ben highlighted in his article:-

At the end of the day, the best way to know the blogosphere is to be a blogger.”

I’ve noticed that a common question that every blogger I come across asks is, “Do you have a blog?” and being a blogger, I find myself asking that at times when meeting new friends. However, it is not quite possible for every PR consultant to start a blog in order to reach out to bloggers. I believe that blogging is not for everyone.

So, what do we do?

We do what we are trained to do in media relations and pitches. We find out about the target blogs, we read them, we learn about the bloggers – the topics they cover and the preferred communications methods. These are the basic (almost common sense) that every PR consultant should do.

I have a lot of media friends who complained that PR folks (esp. the younger ones) who called up the writers to pitch a story, not knowing anything about (1) the publication (2) the section they are pitching (3) the style and preference of the writers. While traditional media pitching methods might not all work in blogosphere, there are some fundamental practices that PR consultants should remember.

Jeremiah Owyang (one of the top bloggers in blogosphere) has this to say about pitching to top bloggers like himself, whose focus is web strategies:-

Don’t pitch me. Instead, get to know me, and build a relationship, leave comments on my blog, join the conversation. Find out what I’m interested in. Read my blog, examine the keywords, read the about page, my focus is on Web Strategy, find out what that means!

Definitely valid points there.

I have come to realised that pitching to bloggers is a very time consuming process. In one of my earlier posts titled The Affair with Bloggers, I mentioned that blogger-PR relations should be a two-way process. Bloggers, like journalists look for good content for their posts and the PR folks (especially people from agencies) often have alot of content. The challenge for PR people is to get those content over to the bloggers in the right way.

Bloggers should also not be ignoring PR pitches just because the PR consultant is (1) not reading every post on your blog (2) not commentor on your posts (3) not friends or have a prior relationship with you. I agree that we all don’t have alot of time to respond to every email but if a blogger see that an agency or a PR person (even though he or she might send a badly written pitch) has got some potentially good content that you can keep in mind for future posts… I say – drop a note back, say thank you for noticing and targeting your blog. Even if the pitch is not right for you at the moment, you can still keep in touch. What’s so difficult with doing that? Those few lines take less than 2 mins?

I also noticed an interesting comment on Jeremiah’s post by a CEO of a US/ Russian set up who believed that companies’ executives should handle the blogger relations themselves and not engage a PR firm to assist:-

  1. Yakov September 9th, 2007 6:57 am

    Being CEO of a US/Russian startup, I simply spend a significant amount of my time communicating to bloggers and started doing this. For example, I flew in from Moscow to London to join a pub tour with Uk bloggers and personally meet with Robert Scoble and Hugh MacLeod who led the tour. I joined FOWA last February to demo our new user interface to Michael Arrington of TechCrunch who agreed to exclusively review it when launch a few days later…

To some extent, I see great benefits for a company whose CEO is keen to do bloggers outreach himself. As a blogger, I would love to hear directly from the CEO of a company on his products rather than from PR folks. However, the reality is, not every CEO or the top executives have the time, the “bandwidth”, the right communications skills to do the outreach and thus, either a PR firm or the company’s internal communications team has to do it.

We have read and heard tips on the how to pitch to bloggers, let’s move on to the WHO to pitch to instead (a topic that is not widely discussed).

Here, I would like to also open up the following thoughts and issues I see in the Singapore blogosphere (and these are purely based on my own observations) for discussions:-

Unlike other countries where there are bloggers who write about specific topics, whether it’s technology (ie: Scoble’s), web strategies (such as Jeremiah’s), new media and PR ( like Brian Solis’), in Singapore, I often find it a struggle to pitch to local bloggers. There are alot of local bloggers but not many cover specific interests/ topics and those who cover specific topics tend to have smaller, niche group of audience. The ones who have larger readerships tend to write about (what I call frivolous stuff such as “what I have for lunch” and “is that celeb gay” type of posts).

If I have a premium tech product (to be launched in Singapore) to share with the local bloggers as part of my new media campaign, does it make more sense for me to target people like my friends, Ben and Kevin who often cover related topics or should I reach out to bloggers who might not be even tech savvy but have a bigger readership? (disclaimer: both Ben and Kev have great audiences reading their blogs, I am just throwing out an example for discussion sake).

Many blog posts I read about the topic of blogger relations are usually US-based, the Asian blogosphere can be quite different. I have been searching for bloggers in the region (english language blogs so that I can actually understand), so if you are one of them, drop me a note!

For more good tips and views on the topic of pitching to bloggers, here are some interesting reads:-

 

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6 thoughts on “Blogger pitches: How and who?

  1. Pingback: Pitching to the Blogosphere « PR Goddess

  2. Pris is right. The pool of “serious” celebrity (I’m using this term very loosely here) bloggers in Singapore is really very thin and not many of them would claim to be focused on particular fields of thought and discussion.

    Unfortunately, there is really so much we as PR practitioners can do to engage new media in Singapore. Even then, any semblance of these efforts to what one would seriously consider a “New Media Strategy” would be almost self-delusional.

    Pardon my ignorance but Singapore’s new media scene has not reached that kind of critical mass to warrant a “strategy” in its engagement. And I hate to admit that for me the fastest way to reach the most mothers online is still through my wife’s personal blog, and there are probably a few hundred of such mummy circles talking about everything from breastfeeding to their husbands’ performance in bed (ok, maybe not that…).

    Still the fact remains that any grand plans to engage such blogging circles would be a long, protracted affair which is tedious to uncover, nurture and sustain, and something not really worth embarking on unless you have a long term project that requires such extended contacts.

    And hence the dilemma. Frivilous (albeit popular)bloggers who talk about everything under the sun should not be pursued simply because they reach a wide audience, because their huge reader base may not include many of those whom you’re targeting.

    Yet relationships with popular bloggers who talk about specific areas are difficult and often not cost- and time-effective to maintain, expecially for that one-off 3-month project.

    How many of us have the bandwidth to build and maintain that kind of participative relationship (as Jeremiah mentioned above) with each of the few hundred mommy circles? Even if we do, we do so with vested interests and would most probably disappear from these circles once our projects that warrant such relationships are completed, not because we want to, but because we simply can’t afford the time and energy to do otherwise.

  3. Priscilla:

    Thanks for commenting about my reference to your blog. I made sure my students took a look at your post.

    No, not working on a Ph.D. in PR. I have a master’s degree in administration, an undergrad in PR, and did some Ph.D. work in sociology. I teach PR at K-State.

    Thanks for pointing me toward your colleague’s blog. I’ll take a look. In the meantime, I’ll add you to the blogroll!

  4. I think Jeremiah hits the nail on the head with regard to pitching to bloggers. You need to have a relationship with them – no matter how far removed – and some affinity in terms of areas of interests before they are keen to blog about your product or service.

    What you have stated so far comes pretty much from an agency point of view. As Matthew has rightly alluded to, the multiple number of clients multiplied by the time needed to service each account makes it difficult for you to be best buddies with A-list bloggers. The need to multi-task makes it difficult for one to build truly endearing relationships on 2nd life – 1st life is already difficult as it is!

    However, the situation varies considerably with inhouse PR practitioners like myself. My blogging strategy is simple. Work with those who have shown an interest in my subject matter (in this case heritage, culture, museums and nostalgia), and cultivate plus engage them. Make them part of a community. Even better if they can be friends.

    I am glad to report that my community of about 15 heritage bloggers are still going strong. When I ask them for a favour, it isn’t seen as a pitch if I can show that it is mutually beneficial (eg I will link back to related posts). Perhaps something which PR agencies can help to do is to facilitate the building of long-term customer and user communities of bloggers, and get the client involved in helming it. Once that happens, they can then gently let go.

  5. Matthew,
    I hate to admit but your last point is true, especially for us who are in agencies. My “solution” to keeping in touch with bloggers is to at least RSS their blog feeds and try to read or at least glance over their new posts on a daily basis. I try to link or comment their posts to my blog and keep conversation going.

    Do you find that most clients already expect us to have a prior relationships with the bloggers (just like how we should with mainstream media) and not just start targeting a few after starting with a new project?

    PRgoddess,
    Thanks for adding me onto your blogroll. Glad some of my posts provide some information for your students.

    Walter,
    In the ideal world, it will be great to have the client participate and keep the conversation going between client and bloggers on their own. But in reality, from experience, the chance of that happening is pretty low (not all clients are savvy and understand the new media as you do) but I agree it is definitely worth looking into. Perhaps, like how agencies arrange for clients/ spokesperson to have media training, “blogger relations training” can be included in that.

    Posting the same question to you as I did with Matt – as a client, do you also expect your agency to already have prior relationship with bloggers (esp. the 15 and more who are relevant to your company)? Is that a key to you as a client? Most clients all assume we are great friends with ALL the media, so for new media, what is the expectation?

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