Bad blogger pitches. We've all been on the receiving end. Or if you haven't, you will be. It's almost a mathematical certainty.
I recently wrote about a pitch that I received that generally was very good; the only problem was a gaffe the PR executive made when she called me by the wrong name. All in all, it was a minor error, but it was enough to put me off. But something remarkable happened in the wake of that post and I'd like to share it with you. It's resulted in what I call a recipe for success from a blogger's perspective.
First of all, the reason I say a bad pitch is inevitable is simple: blogger outreach is not immediately scalable, so mass emailing is commonplace. But every blogger is different and needs to be personally courted. I'm not talking about a deep and abiding romance, but rather a simple relationship that is forged between PR executive and blogger, through genuine engagement and conversation between the two. It's a matter of establishing a 1:1 relationship - of showing the blogger you understand his writing or that you care enough to respond to one of her posts.
And this is difficult to do when a PR professional - who, let's face it, is used to mass mail-merging press releases and pitches - is trying to contact maybe 100 different bloggers. To spend a couple of weeks of lead time following, reading and responding is a major commitment. But I think it's crucial.
So, here's what happened in the wake of my post They Almost Had Me and why I think it's so compelling to share with you.
Before I do that, I'd like to recommend a couple of resources that you might check out. The first is a well thought out Blogger Outreach Code of Ethics from Ogilvy's 360 Digital Influence. It's a great effort that will likely evolve over time, but in my mind is a cornerstone. The other is a thoughtful post from the always thoughtful Todd Defren of SHIFT Communications' PR Squared blog.
After I wrote my post, I received a comment and an email from Kristen, the PR executive who had originally contacted me. This demonstrated a couple of things to me: that she was monitoring the blogosphere for mentions of her client and that she wanted to make a personal connection regarding the error. It took courage to admit to her mistake, and I admire that kind of selfless conviction.
As part of her email, Kristen mentioned being new to social media and still having a lot to learn. I used that as an opportunity to write back and offered to speak with her specifically about the pitch and more generally about social media. So, we had a phone conversation.
During the call, I learned a little more about the client she was representing (and I'll review said company in another post) but I also had a chance to take a look at blogger outreach from the other side - something that I think we bloggers are sometimes too quick to dismiss. During the course of our call, I came up with a few interesting ideas that might be worth considering if you're a PR professional doing blogger or influencer outreach.
Kristen said that she much preferred the 1:1 interactions that build trust and establish engagement. Of course, this just isn't achievable in a mass outreach program. She mentioned that she's more of a phone person. Again, kind of difficult when you're dealing with writers who ply their trade online. And they're not likely to call a PR person back if given a phone number in an email pitch.
Quite the conundrum. What to do? Taking crayon's model of community, dialogue and partnership, I've developed a simple three-point plan that will allow any PR executive to have a better shot of engaging with the blogosphere.
Establish Your Credibility (Partnership)
One of the mising links in blogger outreach is a personal connection with the PR executive; while there's an opportunity for the PR person to understand and connect with the blogger after reading so much of his writing, the blogger ends up having to deal with a faceless person connected with a corporate or client interest. One way to avoid this is for the PR executive to set up a page about them. Tell us a bit about who YOU are, who you work for, how long you've been doing what you do.
Take it a step further to outline the goals of the outreach, tell us about your client, post some interesting links or existing press. In short, be transparent with us.
This page can take the form of a landing page, or, more to the point, it can be set up as a blog. It doesn't have to be extensive with lots of posts. A single entry about you and about your client, along with a sidebar containing additional information and/or links is all that it will take. The result will show the blogger that you've got some skin in the game and are willing to immerse yourself in the blogger's world.
Find Common Ground (Dialogue)
If a phone conversation is a key element to your communication style, then use the tools at your disposal to make it that much easier. I use a service called GrandCentral (now owned by Google) that gives you a single phone number that can ring through to all of your phones. But one of the features on their site is the ability to post a button on your blog or page that will automatically dial your number when someone clicks on it. How much easier could that be? You direct the blogger to your site, they read about you and simply click on a button to talk with you a little more.
"Great," I hear you say. "But what if I don't want to rely on bloggers to contact me?" Another way to approach this is for you to reach out to them. A service called Jangl allows you to fill in an email address for your contact, after which Jangl will give you a Jangl phone number to call them and leave a personal message. Jangl will then email your voicemail and provide them a local number to call you back on. Head over to their site to check out the full explanation of how it works.
But done right, with Grand Central or Jangl, this can change the way you're doing your blogger outreach. Creating a dialogue with your
Create a Sense of Community (Community)
In retrospect, this idea seems to obvious that I'm surprised I hadn't thought of it (or heard about it from others) before. With Facebook being one of the fastest growing social networks for 25 year-olds, it is the place to be. And if a PR professional (who typically has a strong network) isn't part of Facebook yet, shame of them.
It's fairly easy to establish a group for your client, linking to their web site, sharing posts that have been written by them or about them, posting videos or photos of their product or their customers, etc. The key is that once you've established the group, you need to invite your network to join it. Browbeat everyone at your firm, your client, their contacts and the bloggers you're reaching out to join your Facebook group. The idea is that if Facebook members see their friends joining a group, they're more likely to join too. Voila! Instant community. And again, use that personal page to place a button, badge or link to your group.
Another option is to have a Facebook application created for your client. This may not work for everyone - check out the applications (some 4,000+) in Facebook to get an idea of how apps can be viral. Indeed, Facebook is now starting a $10 million fund that will reward and support development of the most innovative applications.
While you can't create an application for a group, if you come up with something that's truly inspired (and tied to the brand), the app will spread across the entire Facebook network quickly and benefit your client.
So there you have it. Connecting with bloggers is all about the personal connections through conversation, offering a compelling reason to act, and making them feel like they're truly valued as part of a larger effort. If you try an end-run around it, your mass mailing mentality will be easily spotted and you stand less of a chance with bloggers.