When it comes to blogger outreach, I've seen it from both the sides: as someone who receives pitches on a daily basis as well as someone who sends them from time to time (or manages the team who does), I have had my share of pitches from marketers, founders, and social team leads. I have also had to reach out to other bloggers more than once for guest posts, product reviews, and general networking opportunities.
Some of the blogger outreach I have encountered has been amazing, and taught me a lot about my own pitching efforts. Others have been a total embarrassment. A couple have been outright offensive.
Though I am ashamed to admit it, early on my own attempts were less than stellar (read: a total disaster). It was through trial and error that I learned the trick to reaching out to bloggers.
Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes. These are the things you should never do, and the things you should do instead.
Related Article: Telling Your Brand Story: How to Engage the Masses
DON'T Send Out Copy/Paste Emails
This is probably the most common blogger outreach faux pas.
You may think that your little customizations are making you seem just unique enough to get by. But we can tell even the best ones, and while some bloggers will let it slide, others will just delete your message.
Other copy/paste emails are far more egregious, bordering on insulting. I once got an email from a writer I worked with on the blog in question, introducing himself to me as though we had never met. He went into spiel about why that blog should have partnered with his.
Not only did he completely ignore that we had known one another for months, but the blogs had nothing to do with one another. It was a failure on such a scale that I was speechless.
This article offers a few good email templates to get inspired by: note that you should never rely on templates, even good ones. It's all about authentic conversations: Templates are only good for inspiration!
DO Individually Speak To Each Blogger
Bloggers are not faceless content creation machines. We are people with personalities and skills. We are also busy and trying to run a high quality website, which is what brought you to us in the first place.
Skimming through pitches, a personalized and engaging email is going to catch our attention. It is also what is going to keep us reading to the end, and make us more willing to communicate back.
Write all emails from scratch, and be sure to show the writer that you know them and their work. They will appreciate it, and you will get a lot further.
Be respectful and real: You can never fake being real!
DON'T Demand Positive Reviews
We can assume that you are promoting some kind of product or service. You want the blogger to talk about your product or service, so obviously you have to provide a sample of trial or some kind.
Hoping for a positive review is natural. Demanding it is ridiculous. I can't tell you how many bloggers have to deal with demanding brand reps telling them that they have to say X, Y and Z about their service. If they wanted a disingenuous review, why not write it themselves?
I love it how Tomoson, the blogger-marketer connection platform, makes it very clear that marketers are not supposed to demand anything:
Dictating your terms on which you'd like that relationship to be built is a great way to get into reputation management crisis. Bloggers can be very vocal when they get insulted.
Related Article: Telling Your Story: DIY Public Relations for Small Businesses
DON'T Expect It For Free
And it's not only about money.
Many bloggers will not take money for reviews. That is their prerogative. There are plenty of other terms to collaborate with those bloggers: Get creative! You could invite them to an event and offer to pay for the trip. You may volunteer your team member to be their regular contributor. You can offer to send them a product...
If you can't afford real-time networking, give the blogger some publicity. For example, you can invite the blogger to do an expert interview on your business blog. Two most efficient ways to promote an expert are inviting them to host a Twitter chat or a webinar. For arranging Twitter chats I use this tool and for webinars I've heard many good things about Click Webinar.
Jeanne Alford has offered more ideas:
I learned long ago that my team needed to treat bloggers like we treated journalists. In other words, we worked hard to identify the right target blogs -- for instance, at Dolby Laboratories, we looked for experts in high end audio-video. We then reached out to each one (first via email with topical information, and then as the relationship grew, by phone). We included the top targets in lists for editorial events - i.e. special demos, screenings, editorial events.
By doing so, we built a stronger working relationship, ensured we got even-handed coverage and, in the end, great advocates for our brand.
Be ready to offer each popular blogger a customized deal to nurture that relationship. With a good approach, many of those bloggers will become your brand ambassadors which results in many more reviews and mentions in the future.
Be Informed About Prices
Many bloggers have to earn their living though (Here are some ways bloggers monetize their blogs you should be aware of), so in many cases that publicity will cost you money. But never run into risks like this:
The price for review is a complicated topic and it may vary from case to case, so you'll need to use your own discretion. I usually judge from the following loose criteria:
- How many interactions each blog post received (in general). I am just browsing the blog looking at comments, quality of discussions, number and quality of shares to get an idea how active the blog is
- Do they have a newsletter (if so, how big is it?) and would my product review get featured there
- How active is their Facebook page and is there a way to get my product review "boosted" there
You may be thinking that it is obvious. But you would be shocked by how many brand reps will contact blogs enmasse, pay whoever responds for a post, and then discovers that some (or all) of those posts were entirely ineffectual.
Overall, I am not paying for reviews too often (I usually find other ways to partner) but I think properly-disclaimed and well-promoted product reviews may offer your business a lots of great benefits.
Use Platforms That Connect
Especially if you have no connections at all, joining blogging communities is a great way to start. I already mentioned Tomoson as one of the possible options.
Another great one to join is MyBlogU which lets bloggers crowd-source their content, so you can start building your connections on a very productive level: By helping them write their articles.
Another great platform I've honestly never considered until a few weeks ago is Disqus (hat tip to Patricia Anthony). Disqus lets you comment on relevant blogs and thus discover bloggers to pitch as well as build relationships through comments.
This term may have some negative connotation but honestly, being on the both sides, I've never found anything offending about that tactic. Complimenting is one of the ways to build connections with people and ego-bait can be viewed as one of the types of a compliment.
Connect on Social Media and Beyond
Social media networking is one of the most obvious and most efficient ways to build stronger relationships with bloggers. I use Twitter lists and Google Plus circles to organize my blogging connections. I also find Twitter one of the most effective ways to follow up.
Tweetdeck is my preferred Twitter contact manager. For clients, we are also using Oktopost, a B2B social media management platform allowing any business to monitor conversations and reach out to other businesses, publishers or bloggers, helping build engagement and relationships.
Reaching out to bloggers isn't difficult. In fact, it is very easy because people who run sites are begging for more content ideas and things to write about. The problem is in how you do it, and too many brand reps and marketers are doing it the wrong way.
I think that is because they know that blog have gained legitimacy and power over the years, but they don't understand that is extends to the bloggers themselves. You are not buying space on the site, but the influence of the person writing the post. They are the ones with the followers, who have developed trust and a relationship you will be capitalizing on.
Once you understand that, and you act accordingly, you will see a real improvement in your outreach success.