A fellow public relations professional posed the question: “How do I get placement on blogs?” The answer I gave was honest and to the point, but it didn’t address the a hidden problem in his approach.
[flickr style=”float: left”]photo:126354515[/flickr]My answer was something along the lines of, “Pitch bloggers the way you would primary targets within traditional media. Do your homework. Personalize your pitch. Reach out in a manner that suggests (hopefully honestly) that you’re trying to build a relationship and provide something valuable to his or her audience. If you truly are, the blogger will respond just like the Wall Street Journal editor or nightly news correspondent would.” And while that is absolutely the way I would approach trying to “get placement” on blogs, his question beckons a tad more discussion.
The real answer to the question, “How do I get placement on blogs?” is simple: You don’t.
PR pros don’t “get placement” on blogs. Blogs don’t have placement opportunities. They have stories. To be in them, your client’s product, service or event has to be damn interesting, compelling and engaging. And even if it is all three of those, it still must be relevant to that blogger’s particular audience. If it’s not, the blogger will create something with those qualities in its stead.
The major obstacle most public relations professionals encounter when dealing with bloggers is the disconnect between media outlets and bloggers as media. Blogs normally aren’t publications or broadcasts with editors and assignment desks. They are opinionated people with varying degrees of intelligence, ethics and ego, who are going to write whatever the hell they want whether it’s fair, accurate or even truthful. You can make a logical pitch to an editor and get placement in the Metro section. You can make the same pitch to a blogger and he’ll salute you one finger at a time.
Let’s say you make cold medicine for toddlers. You might send out a press release about your amazing new product that has tested better than any other on the market. You’ll follow up with some big-name parenting writers and pitch away. The publications and broadcasts pick up on your new product because their audience is interested in parent-helping material. You get a 30-40 percent pick up rate and a healthy pat on the back from the client.
Now you turn to the blogosphere and send the same press release to all the parenting bloggers Technorati can spit. You’re giving them valuable information about a new product that could help parents everywhere. Their audience is probably interested. Why wouldn’t they use it?
Because for most bloggers, it’s as much about them as it is about the audience.
You have to approach each personally. And that doesn’t mean sending them shwag. Shwag, in fact, normally gets you outed and made fun of. They want to know you understand who they are, what interests their blog serves and then what their audience is interested in.
I’ll use the same scenario with a blog I don’t know. Let’s take SarcasticMom.com. (No offense to Lotus Caroll, the author, but I haven’t read the blog before Saturday night, when I wrote this. It was chosen randomly from a list of parenting blogs I browsed on Technorati.) Keep in mind that one should always start by frequenting the blog, commenting on stories, participating in contests and memes, discussing issues with other readers in the comment sections and so on, LONG BEFORE ever pitching. Establishing yourself as both an audience member and a trusted participant in the online community of a blog breaks down the first barrier to a successful pitch: the blogger doesn’t know you.
But let’s assume I have been given the client’s orders with no time to spare. While this greatly lessens my chances of success, I have been told to “Get this on blogs!” Assume that I know better than to approach a blogger cold, but my client has given me no choice.
So I go to SarcasticMom.com and start reading. Ten minutes of research tells me this blog is mostly personal stories, pictures and observations from a parent about her own children. She has a sarcastic tone and wit about her and a weekly photo winner meme that incorporates other bloggers and audience members. While she does sometimes blog about products she uses and this is an influential and popular parenting blog, it is NOT a “how to” or advice site for parenting information.
So how to you “get placement” from this blogger? Well, here’s my hypothetical email to her. My hope is that Lotus will swing by and tell us if the pitch would have worked. Granted, she may be 100-percent anti-PR, “I ain’t writing crap about you, blasphemous marketer persons,” and comment below that I can go suck it. But here’s what I might write in an email:
I’ve been enjoying your blog lately. Braden certainly is one of the cutest kids I’ve seen. And congratulations on the soon-to-be. I’ve got two myself and can safely predict you’ll have a LOT more to blog about soon.
While I know you don’t write about products often, I wanted to let you know that Rid-Snot Toddler Cold Medicine (I work for them) is about to become available in stores. Consumer Reports says it more effective than all other cold medicines on the market for 1-5 year-olds. I was wondering if I might send along a sample for Braden to try the next time a cold hits? Blog or not, we just want your feedback. Since we hope Braden doesn’t run into any colds, perhaps we can send a few samples for you to share with friends with children and get feedback from them. Just let me know how many you’d like and where to send them and we’ll overnight them to you.
And, as always, if you’re not interested in trying, just let me know. I appreciate you taking the time to consider it.
Oh â€¦ and the naked butt picture from the “Giving Up Carefree Toilet Time” post might be the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while. Cute kid.
Thanks a million!
Because this person is a blogger, and the fact that there’s a lot of personal stuff in her blog, I wouldn’t think of following up with a phone call, even if I could find her number. Too stalker-esque and creepy. At most I would follow up with a, “Did you get that?” email a couple days later, then assume she wasn’t interested. Knowing when to stop trying is as important as knowing how to approach a blogger. Pestering them will lead to almost certain retribution somewhere.
Of course, if I had started out by participating on her blog as a part of her community for some time before the pitch, I would continue to participate as normal, never mentioning the pitch or the outcome of my approach. As my new cold medicine will hopefully be around for a while, from the pitch forward, I would make it a point to comment on posts as often as I am compelled to do so. In other words, now, on behalf of my client and myself, I am a full-time reader of her blog.
Here’s why I think this kind of pitch would work:
- I immediately made a personal connection, recognizing she blogs about her son and is expecting. (I’ve read at least a few posts back.)
- I’m giving her relevant information about a product she might be interested in personally, and her audience might be as well.
- I’m NOT ASKING HER TO BLOG ABOUT IT! I’m merely asking if she’ll try it. This is critical. More often than not, bloggers will automatically say “no” if you ask them to blog about something. Giving them reasons to blog about something, however, is different. (Consumer reports, free samples, offer of extra for friends, etc.)
- I’m also asking for her feedback, whether she blogs or not. Her opinion matters to me. Remember, it’s as much about the blogger as it is the audience.
- I wrap it up with a reference to a blog post from almost a month ago, validating the humor she finds in her son and showing that I’ve read more than the front page.
- Other than asking for a reply, there are no strings.
Keep in mind this is a special circumstance because this example is a personal blogger. I chose this type of blog because they are sometimes the most influential, yet most difficult to find success with. In reality, reaching out to someone mentioning their children by name is creepy. I would steer clear of Lotus if I didn’t have the requisite time to dive in and participate in her community first. In that regard this is a bad example, but again, these are often the most potent places for your client’s products or services.
And just to clarify, unless you go through clients like babies through diapers, reaching out to these bloggers and communities should be a long-term and ongoing process. If I had a client that worked in the child product category and SarcasticMom.com was a “target” blog, I would devote a block of my schedule each week to commenting, participating and communicating with Lotus, even during weeks when I didn’t have something to pitch. Keep in mind my attitude couldn’t be that it’s a “target” blog and I’m trying to infiltrate the community. I would approach it as a genuinely interested party. (I enjoy stories of other people’s kids, have two of my own I like to talk about as well and can share parenting stories all day.) Eventually, I would become familiar to both Lotus and her commenters and assimilate into the community as a trusted member. Once at that point and so long as I’m forthcoming and honest when pitching something, my guess is that Lotus would take it into consideration, perhaps even more favorably than with others.
So here’s your Monday treat. I’m sticking my neck out a bit on two counts. First, if Lotus does come by, she may rail on me for being a marketer. Hopefully, she’ll see the example as a valid one in which a product relevant to her and her audience is approaching with respect, courtesy and honesty and therefore isn’t offended. Not to mention, I’m only using her blog as an example and not actually hocking Rid-Snot. The second is that I’ve rolled out a pitch for all to see. While it is hypothetical, my approach would be fine-tuned and existing relationships leveraged in a real situation, you now have a chance to pick it apart.
How would you react to the pitch?
How would you pitch it differently?
Other Posts You’ll Find Interesting:
- Thinking Clearly About Social Media Relations
- Can This Pitch Be Saved?
- Revisiting: Talking To Bloggers
- Luke, I Am Your Blogger: How To Pitch From The Dark Side
- How To Pitch To Bloggers: 21 Tips
[tags]pitching bloggers, blogger relations, bloggers, public relations, PR, media relations[/tags]