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

Blogger relations is a popular topic of discussion these days, not just on the blogosphere, but within the HR departments of PR agencies and businesses alike. It’s something new and perceived to require a very different skill set than most PR and communications professionals possess.

Therefore new job positions are opening up in an attempt to hire people who understand the art of blogger relations and, if that doesn’t work, hire anyone who blogs – regardless of industry and communications experience. After all, if you blog, then you must understand company value propositions, marketing, customer relations, and ultimately why all of this matters to the people you’re trying to reach right?

Well, not exactly.

Several companies that I work with, advise, or simply know of, have hired bloggers to handle blogger relations, even if they haven’t engaged in the process before. Their thinking? Bloggers know the game, so they must understand how to get posts written on their behalf.

I can tell you from personal experience, that anyone half decent in media or blogger relations will tell you that it has less to do with the mechanics of publishing media and more to do with story telling, an understanding of what you represent, why it matters to those you’re trying to reach, and a genuine intent for cultivating relationships.

I’d love to simply say that Blogger Relations is about common sense, but we all know how uncommon common sense really is.

In order to genuinely approach blogger relations, or media relations for that matter, we must first deconstruct the process of the media ecosystem and reprogram ourselves to tap into the basic building blocks of what makes good content and sparks conversations, which in turn helps define why people should make the effort to talk with us.

Like the press release, the PR industry has been stuck in a rut for so long that the industry is content with the existing manufacturing line of building news, writing reports, schmoozing, and simply broadcasting messages to anyone with an inbox.

PR is experiencing some of the greatest innovations and advancements in quite some time due in large part to all things Social Media. But instead of embracing a new and improved commitment for creating and sharing news with people, we’re using the same old marketing ethics and tactics to spam our recipients.

Well like good media and analyst relationships, blogger relations is about people.

First and foremost, blogger relations is about respect. It all starts with understanding what you stand for. Seriously, how many PR people actually take the time to really “get” what it is they represent and why it matters to the rest of us. And, more importantly, how will it help me?

Here’s a test.

Quickly, the timer’s running.

Tell me in one sentence why I should write about you and why my readers will care.

I’m listening.

It’s amazing at how many “PR Pros” can’t pass this test. Trust me. I am pitched every day, and it blows me away at how few people take the time to read what I write and match their products/services to the most important part of this blog, you.

That’s right. It all starts with listening and reading.

The next step is to really think about why you should reach out. What is it about what you represent that will compel someone to share it with their community. Remember, a blogger has a responsibility to their readers in order to maintain credibility, along with the trust of the community. In today’s attention economy, they must actively compete for their precious time, so you can bet that any good blogger is going to be selective.

Oh trust me, I know you’re thinking, “Who has time to do this? To dedicate one-on-one time with bloggers in addition to traditional media exceeds the amount of hours in a day!”

Let me say this as clear as possible, “make the time.”

Just prioritize the people you want to reach.

Which reminds me of a discussion that recently played out at TurnPRon, a conference in San Francisco where I recently presented on a panel discussing the future of Public Relations. At one point, someone had asked why we should “waste” our time chasing down every blogger that covers our markets when we could just focus on the top, the cream of the crop as he said, as they are the true influencers out there.

Oh boy.

While there is an a-list for every market, trust me when I say that the a-list helps with the credibility of a brand, but does very little for generating new customers or enhancing brand loyalty. The true influencers are the peers of your customers.

The best communications strategies will envelop not only authorities in new and traditional media, but also those voices in the “Magic Middle” of the attention curve. They help carry information and discussions among your customers directly in a true peer-to-peer approach. The Magic Middle is defined as the bloggers who have from 20-1000 other people linking to them. It is this group that enables PR people to reach The Long Tail, and it’s effects on the bottom line are measurable.

Your campaigns should never be limited to either blogs or press, nor should it simply focus on the Top 100 list at Techmeme, Technorati or any other service. You need to be where your customers are discovering, sharing, and talking.

Blogger relations is all about people. And sometimes the greatest influencers are those who are already among the customers you hope to reach.

Blogger Relations Part I

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  • Laura Fitton

    Yes! To me, the most fundamental shift? The bridge is your eyes and your ears. Reading and listening, listening and reading. It used to be your “mouth” – the outbound messages – not anymore.

  • Erica

    Brian – What a thoughtful and eloquent post. As a newbie to the PR world, I have to keep reminding myself to slow down and really think about my pitches and how what I’m pitching will affect the readers of that publication, blog, etc. It’s a difficult task, but one that pays off.

  • Xavier Vespa

    “we all know how uncommon common sense really is.”
    Touché!

  • john cass

    I am curious. How do you define blogger relations?

    Is it like media relations where you pitch, or something entirely new where you never pitch? Or both?

  • Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

    Brian, what’s your advice to people who have very limited time to pitch bloggers either on their own behalf or on their PR client’s behalf?

    If, say, there are 10 bloggers who blog about your topic, and four have a Google page rank of 0, another four are ranked 1 to 4, one is ranked 5 and one the last one is ranked 6, and you only had time to pitch two of them, which two would you choose?

    How important is the Google page rank when determining whom to pitch?

  • Brian Solis

    Hi Laura, nicely said.

    Erica, thank you. It does pay off!

    Xavier, thanks!

    John, I think of it as more of a conversation consisting of recognition, honesty, questions, sincerity, value and information. Never a pitch…

    Hey Joan, great question. Maybe it’s just me, but PageRank (PR) is more effective for tracking the reach of traditional websites and blogs, for example, have their own ecosystem. I would look up their authority on Technorati for example. One might have a PR of 0 but an authority of 100 in Technorati. Remember the magic middle is defined by those with 20 – 1,000.

  • shwibbs

    Blogger relations should be a PR function and link with reputation management. I like how you touch on how important it is to speak with your “target market” rather than pitch to everyone.

    Dan Schawbel
    Personal Branding Expert

  • Linda VandeVrede

    I agree – you have to make the time to do it.
    Ironically, the technology that was supposed to make PR people’s lives easier has also facilitated communication one on one.
    It is a PR person’s responsibility to use whatever means available to foster those relationships with as many bloggers, analysts, editors, and other constituents as possible.
    Anyone who doesn’t want to do that or can’t, should get out of the industry.

  • onlineprguy

    Here’s a wild thought: Why don’t PR pros spend some time blogging?

    I think this would go a long way to helping our industry understand blogging, from the inside-out.

    vince

  • John Cass

    Interesting, most people view blogger relations as media relations. I’ve discussed this at length with a few people. My preference for the definition is not to use the word pitch also. However, because most people do I describe that definition as well.

  • Stuart Henshall

    Brian, you may be interested in my post yesterday re Blogger Relations vs Social Media News Release (SMNR)http://www.henshall.com/stuart/2007/10/15/blogger-relations-vs-social-media-news-release-smnr/
    Cheers
    Stuart

  • Donna St. Jean Conti

    Brian, Thank you. Your post is so right on, on many levels. I was just talking with a long-time colleague yesterday about blogging, and her comment was, “I miss the good old days of Comdex and media parties. Blogging takes too much time.” I said the same as you, “Make the time for the bloggers who reach your customers and tell how & why something’s useful.” It truly requires a different mind set. And, John Cass, I agree re: “pitch.” I tell people to think “share.”

  • John Cass

    I think Donna’s use of the word share is a good one. Though maybe participate is even better.

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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