How to Reach Out to Bloggers

fishing Are you hoping to connect with bloggers and get the word out about your product or service? Are you hoping that you can find someone who’s interested in what your company is offering, and then share the pertinent details so that hopefully the blogger will write a decent story about you, maybe even include a few links? Have you felt frustrated by the varied and less-than-successful experiences you’ve had with your efforts?

Let’s talk about it.

Do Your Homework

All bloggers aren’t the same. Big numbers don’t mean big response. Just because someone writes about X doesn’t mean that your product is actually X to them. Bloggers can be fickle and often work to the beat of their own drum.

I get dozens of pitches a day. I delete almost all of them unread, unless I know the person, and then half the time, I delete those, too. The reason is that people aren’t considering what I write about before pitching to me. I rarely ever cover software here, so if you’re showing me a software story, it damned well better have a human angle.

The same is true for any of the bloggers you need to reach. Not sure where to find the bloggers you need? Use these resources:

Once you have a sense of who you might want to reach for your stories, it’s all about building relationships.

Be There Before the Sale

This is something Julien and I wrote about in Trust Agents, and it’s the first part of making your blogging outreach more successful. If you want people to write about you, they should probably know about you first. Quick ways to get that started:

  • Follow them on Twitter.
  • Comment on their blog posts.
  • Set up Google Alerts and comment on related articles.

Is this more work than just blanketing someone with email and hoping a few write about it? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.

The trick is not to talk about your stuff. You should have started this outreach weeks and weeks before ever needing anything, and it should be genuine. Be interested in the people you hope will take an interest in you.

Make It Easy

People that I like in the outreach department work to find the people who she thinks make the most sense for the story. They deliver tons of information and preparation. They do lots of checking and double-checking (because bloggers can be fickle or forgetful). They make everything as seamless as possible. Some ideas:

  • Make everything dead simple.
  • (Tyler in the comments suggested) Be clear what you want the outcome of the outreach to be.
  • Provide URLs to everything, so that bloggers can refer.
  • Provide photos to go with the piece, or a video, or whatever other content.
  • Keep your outreach emails brief, and keep the details highlighted and bolded appropriately.
  • Make sure your FIRST email does nothing but get the buy-in to pitch the story.

Let’s pause on that last point. Some people disagree. They want the whole pitch in the first email, because two becomes a clutter. I’ve honestly seen it done both ways. I know that when Cathy sends me an email asking to pitch me, I’m going to ask for the pitch. I’ve seen others send me the pitch in the first email and it’s been okay, but more often than not, I prefer the two-email system. You can dispute this. Really.

To me, making the effort simple is a good thing.

Ask the Right Questions

I’m often given business books to review. I’m a voracious reader, and I like sharing the good ones with people. However, I also tell people who send me books that I don’t guarantee a review. Sometimes, the book is okay, but not my favorite. Other times, I really don’t like the book. If the people who send me the book ever push for a review, I usually explain that it might not be as positive as they’d like. As an author, myself, I don’t like giving bad reviews.

To that end, think about some questions that might let you have some guidance on how the blogger acts.

  • Can you tell me how long it takes to post from when you receive the product?
  • May I check back in a few weeks from now?
  • What do you do with negative reviews?
  • If you have disagreements or problems with the product, could you email me first to make sure you have all the information?

Questions like this and others can be really helpful to you setting your own expectations.

Above All Else, Don’t Push

If not this story, the next one. Believe me, relationships in this space run long and weird.

Christina Pacelli from Red reached out to me to cover the Eye Fi (a USB-to-wifi cool gadget) over a year ago. She sent me one. I couldn’t really get over my own techno-idiocy to make it work. A year later, Christina and team got smart and mailed me a new Eye-Fi (still have the old one, by the way) and a Novatel Mifi device (which acts like a wandering hotspot). Combined with BOTH, I’ll be able to use this product on the show floor at my next event and report back what I think of its benefits to various groups.

A year. Christina has been politely persistent for a year. And it will pay off. (Who knows? Maybe the links already make it pay off.)

Don’t push bloggers, and just accept that sometimes the story doesn’t hit. I’ve had a series of situations where things seemed right, and upon checking them out, I just didn’t feel good about blogging it, or wasn’t moved to blog it, etc. As the person pushing that particular product, I’m sure it doesn’t feel well when your push goes nowhere. I’m so sorry when I’m the cause. I imagine bloggers also have their own reasons and feel bad, too.

In most cases, it comes around to the better at some point. This is a long game for lots of us. Be patient. Learn who doesn’t work out. Move onward.

An Imprecise Science

There’s more to it than all this, but this is a good start. If you’ve questions, I can definitely add more. What do you think? What have you tried that’s worked? What else have I missed?

Photo credit 蓝莓兔子

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  • http://twitter.com/SocialCatz Andrew J. Gay

    Chris,

    First of all, love the book, especially the part about hacking and making your own game. I think that goes well with this post and should be mentioned. Everyone needs to consider that a professional blogger gets pitched so many times per day that they cannot possibly get to all of them, even if they wanted to. So, making your own game or at least modifying the rules of the game to your favor should be implemented here as well.

    I call it “Acting Like A Celebrity” in my 2010 Social Media Blueprint. Celebrities do things (usually stupid things) all the time to get and keep people talking about them. They do it so that they stand out, we live in a world largely based on popularity and who you know. Of course I'm not suggesting that one should do something they wouldn't mind being known for, but everyone that is serious about utilizing the viral phenomenon that is social media needs to find a way to get noticed.

    We are talking about trying to enter into circles you may not be a part of, and it's not easy. But if you make them notice you, getting your foot in the door will be much easier.

  • http://www.literaryspring.com/ Rebecca

    Checking to see if a topic fits seems to be one of the biggest problems with both online and offline writing submissions. This post is a good reminder.

  • http://twitter.com/jason_justpros Jason Miller

    This is a really good blog post. God information. Thanks.

  • alexds

    This article is so relevant to what is going on right now in the world of internet marketing. I work for a Boston web design firm and our SEO division has had an on going conversation about how this type of link building and use of social media marketing is likely to become ever more relevant and valuable in 2010.

    I noticed as I looked over some of the comments already posted below, that this blog post has inadvertently become a source for bloggers interested in guest blogging relationships to find each other–

    Another great resource i recently discovered? MyGuestBlog.com

  • Cal

    Thanks for this posting. I need the reminder that one P passion does not make up for the others, especially patience….

  • tallulah

    Thanks for a direct reply to the SMR question. I prefer writing SMRs myself, so glad to know they please some folks. Although…”blogger turd”? I think you just coined a term some bitter PR folks can use. However, I doubt it would apply to you.

    Thanks for the references too. I follow @briansolis, but wasn't familiar with the others. I'll check them out. I was going to add @dmscott, but I see from the comment thread that David Meerman Scott is following you. I've been learning loads from him, I all of a sudden feel like I'm in great company.

    Lastly, I actually just finished reading Trust Agents, and that “One of Us” concept stuck with me throughout the entire read. I find it such a paradox that PR is based in soliciting trust, and yet a lot of traditional PR is thought to be synonymous with “spin”. I think Social Media is changing that, urging PR people to, as Mr. Scott says, “lose control of their own marketing”.

    Thanks again for such a great chat. Love getting blogger-related questions answered by actual bloggers.

    Tallulah

  • partywedo

    Thanks Chris,

    You have exposed the holes and errors in some of our past outreaching efforts. This council and instruction can assist us in improving and learning from our past mistakes.
    Reading blogs like yours is a great value to the person who truly wants to do better and is willing to listen to good advice.

  • http://twitter.com/mcbrundage Mark Brundage

    Chris,

    This really ties back into what you said during your keynote discussion at this past years Blog World. That being… Give and promote everything and expect nothing in return.

    I also feel that we all owe it to the community to help promote outward to grow beyond just our bands of groupies and get more people excited about how things are changing.

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  • http://twitter.com/MikeSel MikeHudson

    Really interesting article Chris! Also, loving the iPhone app, and you seem to have mastered the iPhone template. Something I'm having lots of 'fun' with over at http://www.mikesel.info.

    I may invest in the app now though!

    Cheers
    Mike

  • absolutpurpose

    I'm glad you covered this, I had a previous experience with marketing a film through well know bloggers with mixed responses, I'm glad that you've shared your preferences along with the best practices regarding networking with bloggers. A far as bloggers go you have to expect that they want to produce quality content for their readership and if they are not feeling the product they shouldn't blog about it untruthfully, that would be blog abuse.

  • Sean Horrigan

    Great post Chris. This should be standard reading for all PR people. Sending out a blanket press release is old school and often counter productive. The new PR is about creating dialogue. I think David Meerman Scott was right on when he referred to social media as a “cocktail party.” We all need to listen, make friends and play nice. Cheers!

  • http://twitter.com/melsil Melissa Silverstein

    Really helpful piece. I blog and I also do outreach to bloggers. One of the things I make clear to my clients is that there is really no way to assess how many people will write about something. It is not an exact science. If I have a client that wants me to promise something that I know is not possible or even probable, I sadly, sometimes walk away.

    As a person who gets pitched to constantly I really get pissed when I get asked to cover something they KNOW I would never write about if they had actually read my blog (www.womenandhollywood.com), so when I do my outreach I try and be extra sensitive to that.

  • http://www.umcle.com Tim Baran

    Integrity works both ways. We, as bloggers need to have the patience and fortitude to earn the right to be solicited. During my first year, I turned down requests and was very frank about the reason — that I needed more time to establish my site and have a “product” that I’d be proud of – enough to advocate on behalf of another.

    Next up is collaboration – cross-guest posting which is where I’m at. But ultimately, it’s a commitment to keep plugging away. I think I remember you saying something like 11 years, yes? :)

    Thanks for provocative post, Chris! Bookmarked to check out months from now to provide perspective.

  • tompick

    Excellent points Chris. Even “B list” bloggers typically get half a dozen pitches per day now – I can only imagine how many you must see. Some PR pros are really starting to catch on to what works (relevance, personalization etc.) but many still seem to be clueless.

    “Warm” pitches always work better than cold ones. That is, if the first contact a PR person ever has with a blogger is the pitch, the odds of success are low. But if the PR pro has been following the blogger for a while on Twitter, commented on their blog, maybe asked or answered a question or two, and then sends a pitch – the odds of a pickup greatly improve.

  • http://copyblogger.com/ Brian Clark

    Because all these years after Cluetrain people still don't have a clue?

    Have you noticed all my responses to you lately are questions?

    ;-)

  • http://rolfingjourney.com/ Carole LaRochelle

    Chris,

    Thank you for this post. You said two things that caught my attention.

    1) If not this story, the next one. Believe me, relationships in this space run long and weird.

    2) In most cases, it comes around to the better at some point. This is a long game for lots of us. Be patient. Learn who doesn’t work out. Move onward.

    Your experience with Christina from Red and how it's taken a year of her staying in connection with you for you to finally mention her product was enlightening to me.

    I've had a similar situation going on for a year myself. I was approached by a web start-up who asked to publish my writing. I submitted content, photos, worked with one editor, worked with another editor who was let go. I was given multitudes of excuses, and a year later my work has still not been featured on the website.

    I have patiently stayed in connection and still maintain good relations with all the staff, but after a year, I'm moving on. They still promise me they are interested.

    Will be interesting to see how this “long and weird” saga wraps up. I'll let you know if my work is ever published. :-)

  • http://tonymackeypr.blogspot.com/2010/01/brogans-not-necessarily-wrong-but.html Tony Mackey

    Great post as usual, but I worry about the PR folks (comments posted above and folks I’ve talked to) that think your way of pitching bloggers is the only way. I’ve spent a long time in high tech B2B PR and specifically the IT security industry and that is an industry that required a unique approach to blogger relations. If interested I discuss the differences here.
    http://tonymackeypr.blogspot.com/2010/01/brogans-not-necessarily-wrong-but.html
    I’d be interested in hearing if you agree or disagree with my opinion.

  • http://moviestarentrepreneur.com Marshall Wayne

    Thanks Chris. I’ve been using this approach on Facebook. I see that everyone is trying to push mlm programs and their latest hot product on everyone.

    Since I don’t make my living that way it’s been easy just to build friends by making useful comments on their wall and doing whatever I can to help them out.

    This has now lead to speaking engagements and guest blogging opportunities that will help me to get my blog noticed more and more. All from not even attempting to promote my blog.

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  • http://www.blogirific.com/ Richard @ Blogirific.com

    What a co-inky-dink! I was thinking all day about how I could go about getting in touch with some hi-profile bloggers to get their opinions on a few things and whammo! I catch a glimpse of your blog post…

    Thanks Chris. Perfect timing!
    Richard

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  • http://twitter.com/EvolveTom Tom Ohle

    Definitely a good starting point for a lot of PR reps. Being able to build a relationship with a blogger before the initial pitch isn’t a luxury you’ll always have, though. Right now I’m working on a huge project that requires me to reach out to writers and bloggers in an entirely new industry, and because of the relatively short timeframe, I’m pretty much forced to start cold-calling/emailing without any time to build the relationship. It sucks, but it’s an inevitable situation unless you’re working in one industry forever.

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  • http://thecaffeinatedblog.typepad.com/ Kari Rippetoe

    You make some really great points, and I agree that blogger outreach is an inprecise science. I have used the one-email system and it’s worked great, but I also make sure to follow up with every blogger who has either responded to my email in some way or didn’t respond directly, but acted on the pitch by posting/tweeting/etc. It’s important to build those relationships (and build them on trust – don’t mislead bloggers in any way).

    I agree about making everything dead simple. One way I’ve done this is to provide bloggers with a sample post with all the pertinent info and mentioning that they are free to use that or write their own post. This has worked extremely well.

    I wrote about this in my blog about a year ago and gave my own tips for blogger outreach: http://thecaffeinatedblog.typepad.com/the_caffeinated_blog/2009/02/10-tips-for-a-successful-blogger-outreach-campaign.html

  • Anonymous

    If the ‘science’ is imprecise, as you say, then clearly, it’s an art, and not a science.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      You think all science is precise? Yikes.

  • http://www.tlmarketing.net/ Tom Lindstrom

    As always, excellent post! When it comes to the internet, if you can make things as simple and easy as possible you will have a better chance of succeeding.Before contacting someone, it´s a good idea to do some research in advance so you have a better understanding who you are going to contact.

  • http://twitter.com/Conrider Content Writer Vivek

    It’s all more about people than pitching. Yet if the outreaching efforts carry some value, the blogger might be more than happy. Same with SMR’s. Christina has been right in approach to emphasis on the virtues of the Eye Fi repeatedly and politely. Great post. Thanks.

  • http://www.RosiesFreeBay.com/ Rose Quaranta

    Hi You really have a lot of information here. I been blogging a long time, but now I am finding out about it and you said a lot. Thank you, found you because you saw my twitter ;^) Learning that one too! Rosie Q

  • http://www.RosiesFreeBay.com/ Rose Quaranta

    Hey you really say something. Great for newbies or anyone doing blogs. You came to my twitter account, thanks

  • http://www.alexanderdrewniak.com drewie123

    Excellent point.

  • http://www.bigthunderpr.com/ Doug Hovelson

    Good information, Chris. Very helpful and certainly makes interesting reading. Persistence without being a pest, patience under fire (kind of like Hemingway’s “grace under fire” idea), hard to master but essential in the business of pitching and most other business matters. All that and of course, having something worth pitching in the first place!

  • Anonymous

    “Warm” outreach works better than cold outreach. If the first communication you have with a blogger is “write about me!,” your odds of coverage are slim, unless your news is super-compelling. But if you’ve been following that blogger on Twitter for a while, leaving (worthwhile) comments on their blog, maybe even asking a question or two — then when the time for outreach comes, you’ve got much better shot at getting their attention.

  • http://www.onebyonemedia.com Jim "Genuine" Turner

    I would extend that even a little bit more Jay and say help those bloggers make it into the Major Leagues and they will be on your team forever. Open doors for them get them things that usually only the A-listers are getting access to and they will be recognized by the top bloggers wanting to know more about the up and comer and which will in turn open a door for the top bloggers to you.

    Wow. I'm not sure that made any grammatical or logical sense but it was how it came out of my head.

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  • eddiereeves

    I'd add one more “R” — Respect! (justa-justa-justa-justa-justa-justa-justa justa -justa lil' bit)

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  • http://wordsdonewrite.blogspot.com/ Amber Avines

    My first career was as a television reporter. Later, I moved into PR. I believe that this put me head and shoulders above my fellow PR peers because I knew how media thought. Don't waste their time, don't be a stalker, don't annoy them with pitches that aren't their beat. Instead, be a resource. Offer assistance. Help them do their jobs better. The same goes with today's media: the blogger.

    If you make contact when you have something relevant, something targeted, something that illustrates you know the blogger and his/her blog, you're ahead of the game. Nothing like a weak and inappropriate pitch to earn you a reputation as someone who offers no value and is only an overly-aggressive salesperson.

  • http://www.hightechdad.com hightechdad

    Great points! And bloggers can help as well. I created a Vendor/PR form on my blog to help them fine tune their comments to me. You can see it here: http://www.hightechdad.com/vendors/

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  • http://SuccessClinic.com NoahStJohn

    Great info, Chris. I am redesigning my blog right now, and yours is one we're using as inspiration (including Thesis).

    Will let you know when it's up and running. What are the next events you're speaking at?

    Thanks again,
    ~Noah

  • http://marketingconversation.com/ Lowell Dempsey

    Great tips, Chris. One of the things that I would really stress is responding with “understanding and care.” During an outreach, it's absolutely inevitable that you'll get the negative response from at least one of the bloggers. You should always keep your cool and let them know that you understand (even if you don't) their choice not to take your pitch. And do it in a friendly/professional tone.

    Ultimately, you're reaching out to people with influence. You don't want those with the influence writing about how terrible and unprofessional you or your company are.

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