I gave a talk to the local Blugrass Chapter of PRSA today inspired by my PRSA International session with Heidi Sullivan and Jay Krall from Cision entitled, “Not All Blogs Are Created Equal.” While the PRSA International version was more robust and contained some great insights and information from Heidi and Jay, it was an hour-long presentation I had to fit in 30 minutes.
What follows is the presentation I gave, focused on how to find relevant blogs for outreach, how to differentiate between them for prioritization and some pointers on blogger outreach from my perspective.
The simple fact of the matter is that, at least for now, there is no one tool, website or service that can help public relations professional identify blogs for their outreach. Technorati is a good place to start, but is essentially a search engine with no organization in results. Hunting for authority numbers through search results and not being able to organize them using that parameter makes most people wonder if there’s anyone inside the big green box focused on improvements or innovation at all. In their defense, they aren’t there to serve PR people trying to target blogs, though. Google Blog Search is helpful, but prioritizes on Google’s relevance scale, often burying significant blogs in results because their latest content isn’t less than an hour old. I’ve also found that a regular Google search often helps. If you’re looking for the top blogs in education, search for “Education Top Blogs.” Someone’s probably posted a list at someÂ point.
As an aside, I am close to having research conducted on top education blogs which I conducted for a client, but also to supplement my work for this presentation. I’ll publish those results soon.
And then when you do identify a few blogs worth targeting, go the extra step of looking at their blog rolls. If Angela Maiers is a relevant education blogger you are trying to reach, there’s a good chance the education blogs she reads and links to are going to be in your sweet spot as well.
Of course, media database companies like Cision can help, but are paid services. What I presented today was how to do it using free tools.
Once you have your list of blogs you want to target, you may want to find ways to differentiate among them. The default answer is normally those with the highest traffic, but there’s really no good way to find out how much traffic someone else’s website gets. The three tools you can use for free to make an educated guess are Alexa, Compete and Quantcast. Alexa and Compete, however offer vague numbers based on people savvy enough to download and install Alexa and Compete browser tools, so the numbers are skewed to tech geeks and, like Nielsen or Arbitron traditional metrics, are small samples of the total data out there. In short, I’m not confident those numbers are altogether relevant. As a follow up though, I promise to dive into Alexa and Compete a bit more thoroughly soon.
Quantcast is by far the most useful traffic tool, even offering demographics, geographics and more, but it only offers information for bloggers who insert Quantcast tracking code on their sites. AngelaMaiers.com, for instance, doesn’t show up in Quantcast. That could be because Angela doesn’t know about Quantcast or it could be because she doesn’t want the public to have access to such telling metrics about her blog. Either way, it’s a crap shoot to get this kind of information since bloggers have to opt-in to use it.
So then you’re left with other relevance metrics to determine which blogs are better. Number of RSS subscribers, quantity and quality of comments, number of bookmarks or in-bound links are all relevant numbers to look for when researching blogs. I would also argue that number of Twitter followers could be used as a comparison. If a lot of people follow a certain blogger, that’s one measure of his or her influence.
I talk a bit about Postrank, formerly AideRSS, as well, which is the first tool I’ve found that takes a step in the direction of differentiating blogs and blog posts. Their Google Reader plug-in focuses on differentiating between posts, so you read what’s most important based on in-bound links, bookmarks, comments and more. But I would suspect they’re coming up with some magic to compare blogs in general since folks like Mack Collier and myself are constantly bugging them to do it manually for us (they’re helping me with the education blogs post).
The outreach portion of the presentation essentially regurgitates my ongoing philosophy and stance that individual, custom outreach and focusing on building relationships with them is the way to go with both bloggers and media. I see the two as no different, only that e-mail and fax blast technologies have lulled the PR industry, in large part, to laziness and quantity over quality outreach in the past 20 years or so. PR folks have been treating all media wrong. The media just hasn’t pushed back the way bloggers do. Bloggers do not need to be handled differently than media. Media need to be handled better.
But again, that’s probably another post altogether.
Check out the presentation and supplement the information with your best practices, thoughts and insights. Maybe our ideas will inspire Postrank, Technorati or someone else to build a tool that makes blogger outreach research easier. Until then, it’s roll up our sleeves and work it.
Here’s the link to the video on RSS I promised the attendees. [RSS in Plain English]
The comments are yours.