There are 130 million blogs on the Internet (according to Technorati), and 350 million people reading blogs daily (according to Comscore). Clearly, engaging with influential bloggers can be a real boon to your business, if you can win them over towards your brand and persuade them to evangelize your product.
The flip side to this, of course, is that an unhappy blogger can just as quickly throw a major wrench in your public brand perception with negative articles and bad publicity if you frustrate them, annoy them, or get on their bad side in general. So how to win over important personalities in the blogosphere? It all comes down to the golden rule and common sense, but here are some tips that will help:
1. Have a story to tell
Think about what motivates a blogger; their primary objective is to get a story that will get their readers talking (and writing and publishing their thoughts) as quickly as possible. They will need to find a good ‘hook’ or news angle to their story to catch their reader’s attention. If you can offer this up to a blogger, that will go a long way in persuading them to consider your story, and will pave the way in establishing a good relationship with them.
2. Offer exclusives rather than freebies
Again, put yourself in a blogger’s shoes, and think about what motivates them. Top bloggers are always trying to ‘scoop’ their competition by publishing breaking news and exclusive photos before anyone else. Exclusives are like catnip for bloggers. If you can offer an exclusive to a individual blogger, the chances that said blogger will want to write about your story increases exponentially. However, you need to be genuine and honest about it -- if you try offering exclusives to multiple individuals, you could find yourself in a sticky situation if more than one person takes you up on your offer.
Paradoxically, I find I am rarely offered exclusives on stories, and frequently offered (or worse yet, just sent) free things that I don’t need or want. Any good blogger worth their salt -- who actually has readers and credibility -- will be much more interested in an exclusive on a story than a free product or a junket. Bloggers who treat their job like professional journalists (rather than a way to get free stuff) are the ones who have lots of readers and influence, and the best way to entice them is with exclusives. (hint hint...)
3. Do your research
This should be common sense in all situations, but it really pays to know who you are talking to before you fire off on Gmail. Read a blogger’s blog to understand their opinions and interests before you reach out to them. What is guaranteed to impress a blogger: sending an email with a genuine insight/opinion about a previous article that they have written. What is guaranteed to piss them off: addressing them by the wrong name (or ‘Your Name Here’) or saying that you would really like to be published on their competitors blog (I get at least one sloppy PR email like this each day). Seems obvious, but apparently, this is a very common mistake.
4. Be transparent
Good bloggers will usually sniff around and do their own research, so it always pays to be upfront and transparent about your brand’s goals, successes and failures. Bloggers can smell B.S. from a mile away and are not going to build their story on your press release, so if what you are saying does not match the facts, be prepared for trouble. If your brand has recently had some publicity backlash or issues, it is better to try to address the situation and engage in dialogue than to bury it under the rug.
5. Be available to talk, and offer easy-to-use pics, quotes, etc.
Many PR agencies work on the scattershot approach -- they blast press releases out to as many people as possible, but when it comes time to responding to requests for images, quotes and more information, they suddenly can’t be found. If a blogger wants to write a story about your product, they will likely need images and possibly quotes, prices and more information. If you make it difficult for a blogger to find this information, they will likely just give up and move on to another story. If you offer this stuff up front, it makes it easier for a blogger to get his or her job done, which makes it more likely said blogger will want to work with you in the future.
As I type these tips they sound very obvious, but it constantly amazes me how many public relations professionals call and email me who: 1) don’t know my name, 2) don’t know the name of the publication I run, 3) offer (or just send me) unsolicited products that have nothing to do with what I write about, and 4) are hard to reach when I actually really need to talk to them. I think in the rush and franticness of the daily grind, we all need gentle reminders on how best to approach people when you are trying to make connections, build relationships and curry positive attention for your brand.