Building a Bridge Between Your Story, Bloggers, and People – Part I

To all of you advanced new media PR professionals, this post may seem a bit remedial in comparison to some of more technical and exploratory subjects we usually cover.

Last year I ran a series covering blogger relations Forward Moving, a specialized blog dedicated to PR education. Due to unexpected demand, I’ve been asked to update these posts and re-run them as an ongoing series.

I’m happy to do so. I’ll try to double up on posts to make sure that we still review Social Media and other new communications subjects to advance and expand the conversation.

Before I jump in, let me just say that even though we’re talking about blogger relations, we shouldn’t forget that at the end of the day, we’re talking about reaching out to people. This is not unlike talking to reporters. It’s all based on building, investing in, and cultivating relationships. And, relationships are built on respect, understanding, communication, and information (among many other things.)

The difference between bloggers and journalists is only the medium they use to reach people. Wait. That statement is loaded! But think about it. I know I should say that the difference is a formal education in journalism (which I have, even though I’ve been in PR since 91), experience in the print business (or online too), and circulation through traditional channels. This is why blogging is one of the great disruptors in media. It, at its very foundation, gives a voice to anyone with an opinion and an internet connection.

In a general view, the blogosphere is simply powered by people, whether they’re journalists, enthusiasts, pundits, or simply writers.

And to all those who still have yet to admit the importance of blogging, please eradicate your impression that the blogosphere is simply comprised of self-important ranters who simply keep an online presence in order to satisfy their own egos. You brush them off at your own peril.

So with that said, as one of the main drivers in the new world of Social Media, blogging has done nothing less than change everything. Even though, to this day, I am still questioned by various folks as to why I place such great emphasis and resources on bloggers, in addition to top tier press. How are they even capable of moving the needle for companies?

Well, the are bloggers in every market segment that have the sheer numbers behind them and have the ability to not only influence the people you want to reach, but also drive reporters in traditional media to cover the same topics. BusinessWeek, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Time, Forbes, Fortune, and USAToday, among many, many more, dedicate editorial resources to monitoring the blogosphere.

Why? Because blog readers are very loyal and enthusiastic and it shows in the internet metrics and analysis each month. While others may not have volume, many smaller communities can pool together to make a big difference.

For those who are unfamiliar with the almost immeasurable level of clout many blogs carry today, they have substantially grown from pockets of disparate musings, personal experiences, enthusiast rants, and op eds to full blown reporting across every category you could imagine – with influential pundits defining and stimulating activity in every demographic possible. And, the interconnectivity between bloggers has formed an incredibly powerful network of authority that changes how people find information and make decisions in every facet of life.

Bloggers are ranked based on the links back to them, the traffic to their site, the amount of subscribers to their feed, as well as how well they grasp the industry they represent. There are a variety of online tools (which we’ll cover) that help define their reach, not necessarily their ability to impact decisions.

Remember, don’t gun simply for the top ranked bloggers, they’re not the only game in town, nor are they the always most beneficial or necessary target in your overall communications strategy.

Top ranked bloggers usually represent the thought leaders, held in high regard by their readers, with many creating a dedicated following that look forward to every post. When they cover a topic, it sends a flurry of online traffic, almost instantly, inciting a series of online discussions that usually extends across the blogosphere – lasting several days to several weeks. In my business, which is technology, one of the top targets is TechCrunch, which is capable of sending upward of 10 – 50,000 visitors to any given Web site within 24-48 hours.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to overlook this group. Obviously, they lend credibility to your brand, or the brand you represent – that is, as long as the exposure is representative of the story you helped to cultivate. In my experience, however, this group typically jumps from topic to topic and product to product, with very little investment in dedication or loyalty, simply because their focus is driven by activity. For the right product, story, or service, you will find that a decent percentage of these bloggers, and their readers, will keep their partial attention with you – if they like what they see.

But sometimes, it may be more meaningful, or additionally beneficial, to reach the “magic middle,” a group of passionate people dedicated to writing about topics and issues that are relevant to them peronsonally. They tend to inspire real world customers to explore and experiment with new products and services based on the word of their peers.

Customers and people are influenced, inspired and driven by unique channels and communities. Figuring out who we want to reach, why they matter to us, and why we matter to them, is the ante in order to buy into this game. Then we reverse engineer this process of where they go for their information and discussions to learn about how to reach them. And, while there may be several horizontal mediums that overlap, the vertical avenues are usually distinct and dedicated.

BUT WAIT. Please don’t think that this is your last step before you reach out to bloggers.

Be respectful and honest. Listen and read before you engage.

There’s much to learn about each of the conversations, information and communities you wish to jump into. You’ll find that more often than not, you’ll change your story based on the insight garnered from simply observing. It’s the difference between speaking in messages and relevance and most importantly, honesty.

This entire process is invaluable to the new world of marketing, traditional and social media alike. It forces PR to think like a customer instead of competitor.

Read this important and timely post over at CityMama and Kimchi Mamas. This is an invaluable lesson of why you have to be honest, transparent and smart about how and why you’re reaching out to any given blogger.

“We all know PR people don’t read our blogs. I mean, if one more PR person starts and email with, ‘Hey! How was Hawaii!’ because a quick glance through last month’s posts mentions my trip, I’m gonna scream…Tell me you looked up my stats on Alexa. Tell me you picked me because you *think* I may be influential. Tell me that you know mombloggers g
et pitched to all the time but that you’d *pretty please* like me to listen to you. Just don’t bullshit me by telling me ‘you read my blog.’ I know you don’t.” – Stefania Pomponi Butler.

Don’t be that PR person.

Here is a historical review of past discussions on the subject:

TopRank

TechCrunch

Andy Lark

LiveDigitally

Jason Calacanis

Technosight

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  • Geoff_Livingston

    You da man. Well done, my friend. Love the advice on the A-Listers. How true. And to be frank, I think they read the more dedicated bloggers for source material.

  • David

    Well done, sir. I was at the BlogHer Panel that Stefania refers to in her posts (i’m not the jerk in it) and wrote the “open letter to mommybloggers” in response:

    http://itsnotalecture.blogspot.com/2007/07/open-letter-to-mommy-bloggers.html

    You should also check out Mom101′s post: http://mom-101.blogspot.com/2007/07/lookin-out-for-mah-peeps-thats-you.html

    But here’s what’s also important – to be really good at this, we don’t want to just read the blogs, we have to change the way we do this to include diverse voices.

    I would refer you to Mocha Momma: http://www.mochamomma.com/2007/07/30/marginalization-marketing/

    And Kristen Chase’s podcast this week: http://blogtalkradio.com/hostpage.aspx?host_id=995

  • Tom

    Nice observation, thanks. I don’t visit your blog every day, but when I
    visit your blog I enjoy browsing through your old posts and try to catch up
    what I have missed since my last visit.

  • Saskboy

    This is my first visit, through Eric’s CommonSensePR blog, and I learned a lot. Thanks.

  • dtheus

    Brian:

    Oldie but goodies. Am forwarding this series to my client. So much of this boils down to genuine human respect.

    I am wondering in your experience if the blogger outreach experience is all that different from reaching out to traditional journalists? I mean, in my limited experience with journalists, if you have ANY hope of reaching them you have to have a good hook that relates to their story or beat (those that still have one) etc. Is it all that different with bloggers? Or does their relative accessibility make them “appear” to need less attention, when in fact, they need the same amount (or more…).

    Suggestion? Can you put the links to Parts II and III here in the first post (or more prominently if I missed them after scanning around for them).

    Dana

ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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