I’m a huge advocate for blogger programs and blogger engagement. Those of you who have read me here at SME for a while know that I’m on a bit of a personal mission to improve outreach methods by PR and marketing people, and also help bloggers to work more effectively with marketers. Good blogger programs are really a win-win for everyone, if true to both brand and blogger missions, and executed well.
So why is it so difficult for people to execute on blogger programs? In part, it’s about identifying the right targets for these programs. I’m a marketing blogger, yet I get pitches in my inbox regularly from clueless marketers asking me to review baby products, women’s products, and non-marketing books. My lifestyle blogger friends get daily pitches from marketers asking them to jump through extraordinary hoops to promote their brands – and most often for free. Marketers who are sending out these scattershot pitches to broad lists of people must learn that engaging with a smaller number of highly targeted influencers will yield far better results in the long run.
Small is Beautiful
In my own agency, the only blogger programs work we do is for clients who understand the benefit of a highly focused “ambassador” or influencer program. We craft very specific outreach lists and engage a small number of bloggers for medium- to longer-term engagement with the brand. We never “pitch” or send scattershot emails; each of our emails, Twitter DMs, Facebook messages or phone calls is to a blogger we either know personally or know a lot about, and we often craft special brand touchpoints for each of them. These programs have value far beyond the “quick-hit” of a single product review or brief mention by an influential blogger. I really believe that more and more marketers are starting to think this way, and both brands and bloggers will benefit as this becomes commonplace.
Another problem marketers have with blogger engagement is that they often don’t know what to ask of the blogger once they’ve identified them.
As we know (and as evidenced by my inbox) identifying an influencer and reaching out to them is far from a guarantee of success. Brands must move influencers carefully and deliberately through a process to help them get to know the brand, believe in the brand, forge a connection with the brand and become loyal to the brand.
A few non-pitchy ways to engage with influencers include:
- Asking them to be a special guest at a Twitter chat or webinar, to share their expertise
- Bringing them in to a focus group in their city or in your offices
- Inviting them to contribute content on your blog (vs. solely writing about you on theirs)
- Giving them a starring role in a corporate video or advertisement
- Sending them the latest issue of your internal corporate newsletter, so they know what’s really going on at your company
Note that in my world (I work primarily with lifestyle bloggers), most bloggers are looking to have their time spent with your brand compensated, so plan accordingly. In other areas of online influence, that is not necessarily the case.
Make a Roadmap
My client, Appinions, a leading influence marketing platform, is working to help marketers solve the problem of how to work with influencers and help them learn about, and become more involved with, the brand. They’ve recently created a roadmap for influencer engagement, which they call the Influencer Continuum™. (Disclaimer: I’m quite proud of it because I helped to craft it!).
In the Influencer ContinuumTM, Appinions has laid out that process and corresponding engagement touchpoints in a pretty straight-forward way that could help nearly any person charged with influencer outreach.
Of course I’m being totally shameless by saying “go, download the darn eBook already.” (P.S. It’s free, no registration required.) But seriously – if you’re doing blogger outreach or working with influencers in any way, this framework may be helpful to you.
It’s high time that everyone stopped making blogger outreach equivalent to begging bloggers for a product plug, and started thinking about it as building long-lasting relationships with influencers who can really move the needle for brands. However you get there, roadmap or not, the time is now.
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