How PR pros still screw up pitching to bloggers

Here’s what you’re doing wrong, and how to get it right, says a PR agency director.

A curious but seemingly true observation: Public relations professionals don’t seem to be very good at blogger relations. You rarely hear about the folks who created valuable relationships for their clients, but you certainly hear plenty about the marketers who did not.

Keep in mind that I’m not talking about a “one hit wonder” placement, where you manage to get that superb client mention in exactly the right blog post. Instead, I want to know what you did after that to start an ongoing dialogue with the blogger?

How did you extend a series or emails or tweets or blog comments into a meaningful professional friendship?

This shouldn’t be so difficult. Classic media relations activities require using almost all of the same “muscles,” including doing the proper research and analysis, providing useful and appropriate information, and ensuring your content is forward thinking.

But we’re not making that connection as a profession. Why not? Maybe it still feels foreign to us, maybe we think we can get it by using tools like Technorati or Alltop or BuzzStream, or perhaps we just don’t think there are enough hours in the day.

It doesn’t really matter. It’s sloppy, and it’s lazy. Your clients deserve better.

For starters, do our profession a favor and avoid these mistakes: form notes/emails, business jargon, attachments that haven’t been asked for, and outreach that starts around a project.

Essentially, don’t make a bad first impression. Here are nine steps to making a good impression:

  • Read: The most important and easiest step to skip. Know what matters to and motivates thy target.
  • Segment: Identify a small circle of key influencers/VIPs that you can truly get to know, instead of a large population that you occasionally “blanket” with news.
  • Analyze: Put together a simple grid that summarizes (1) your VIPs’ content type/appetite, (2) the frequency of their posts, (3) the character and leaders of their blog community, (4) their own current marketing activities such as keynotes, and (5) their relevant professional partnerships, etc.
  • Connect: Overlay your research with what’s being said online about your priority topics. Search hashtags and look at relevant keywords using a monitoring tool. You’ll begin to make relevant connections once you better understand the conversational trends around your topic.
  • Stalk: You’ve got to watch these folks closely, so you can truly understand what might make them interested in your client’s content. Send their posts to your email (unless you are very good at checking your Google Reader) and create private Twitter lists or Google+ circles. Start seeing how they discuss their content with others. That could be your opening one day.
  • Give: Once you truly know what interests them, start looking for ways to provide valuable resources that are not connected to your client. In other words, start by being genuinely helpful and not self interested. For example, why not build an e-book of publicly available, relevant data for your VIP group? Or could you give an exclusive to them instead of to a print journalist? (Note: Guest post offers are for later.)
  • Engage: Comment on their blog and interact with them socially. Essentially, live where they live.
  • Understand: This is an extremely time-starved population. Pitch notes should be three or four sentences instead of a page.
  • Absorb: A blogger lives and dies by his or her community. So how well do you know that group of people? Who are the leaders? What do they say in the comments section? Where and how do they share socially? By playing detective, you’ll better understand what motivates your blogger and you might even be able to build meaningful connections with his/her “tribe.”

Are there other tips or mistakes that you’d add to this list? Do you think that PR folks are good at blogger outreach?

Elizabeth Sosnow is a managing director with BlissPR. She writes for the firm’s blog, where this article first appeared.

Topics: PR

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