In February, Guy Kawasaki wrote an extensive article that was in essence, a strategy guide to strengthen the bridge and enhance the likeliness for PR and communications professionals to reach influential bloggers. Yes, I know, February…that was a lifetime ago in Silicon Valley. But, I think this article will only gain greater relevance as time goes on and is more important today than it was just several months ago.
Let’s, for the sake of editorial continuity, agree that blogs are an important and distinct channel of influence. According to Guy, his site is currently #36 on the Technorati chart, 4,518 sites from the top ten. If you look at Michael Arrington’s Techcrunch which covers Web 2.0 sites, he grew from 60 readers last year to 66,457 at the time of this writing.Tactics and strategies evolve along with the online and technology landscapes. Meaning, that the principles of this article will exist, but some methods and the approaches will modify over time. In his research, Kawasaki pulled together a collective series of essential recommendations from bloggers and industry influencers to help any communications professional have a better shot at reaching and convincing the most important bloggers in their field or market. Of course, there are a few points where my opinion differs, but that is more along the lines of historical perspective and tactical preference, which does not diminish from the importance of blogging and how to effectively suck up to key bloggers – or at least attempt to suck up without falling flat on your face.
According to Kawasaki, “Blogging has flipped traditional PR on its head.” According to Solis, “Who was doing traditional PR anyway?” In all honesty, blogging represents a new channel and a new opportunity for PR and buzz creation. But blogging in of itself didn’t change anything that wasn’t already happening since 95 in one way or another. In my opinion, it was the net that flipped traditional PR on its head, and everything that was born out of it. E-zines, discussion groups, forums, message boards, review sites, etc. all required specialized and personalized approaches because they were usually published or moderated by everyday Joe’s and enthusiasts.
But now even the blogging landscape is changing dramatically – which is a sign of long-term growth and a fortified position as a legitimate publishing channel. All forms of online media (whether citizen or journalist), including blogs, have evolved to almost dizzying heights. Now many traditional journalists have also jumped ship, and are blogging full time in order to cash-in on the craze. While there are tips, tricks and hints to help you effectively reach bloggers, it is my experience, that every writer is different and therefore requires a personal touch. I have not found two bloggers where all tactics work equally.
Guy breaks it down into nine points:
Create a great product – yes, this is incredibly true. Not even the best “spin” can save a product/service/solution that isn’t fully baked or supported.
Cite and link – Up-and-coming bloggers appreciate the quotes because it helps establish them as experts in their field, plus links help boost visibility online. An easy way to do this is to comment on their articles you find compelling and refer back to them when commenting on other online articles and blogs. More popular bloggers will most likely enjoy far too many links to notice every single mention, however, you can refer to it in a pitch.
Stroke them – well, I’m not sure if this was in reference to an old Billy Squier song or if he was referring to paying compliments and homage. Any industry influencer enjoys recognition, and BS aside, they have worked pretty hard at establishing their rock star status. Let them know you appreciate their POV.
Give schwag – You have to be careful with this one. Believe it or not, many bloggers are abiding by a code of ethics. Michael Arrington publicly discussed how a blogger’s reputation could be instantly deflated if word hit the streets that coverage on their site could be purchased. There are also new services, such as Payperpost.com that attempt to connect businesses with bloggers who are willing to blog about a product – for a price. The companies can set guidelines for their requests such as whether a picture must be included and whether they will only pay for positive blog coverage. I’m sure this will go over like a special appearance by Paris Hilton to sing her new single at OzzFest. On the other hand, poignant schwag could be effective.
Make connections before you need them – Always a good point. At least introduce yourself to the top influencers of any industry where you might play ball. Acknowledging them and their stature before you pitch them could help you land on their radar screen.
Be responsive – Believe it or not, there will be times where bloggers will need something from you, either from a direct pitch or perhaps something they read about. Either way, they’ll need access to information to turn around and they’ll need you to make things happen for them, interviews, pictures, executive or customer quotes, evaluation products, and sometimes, even a bit of industry research to help them with market numbers.
Use a rifle, not a shotgun – ALWAYS an important point. Bloggers appreciate personalized contact and an understanding that you took the time to acknowledge why their blog is an ideal venue for your product/service. If you can’t take the time to share with them the reasons why their audience is ideally matched to your product, then I can bet that they won’t bother taking the time to do your homework for you.
Be a foul weather friend – I interpret this point a bit differently than intended. This is a good point for bloggers and media in general. In this industry, contacts shift, change gigs, take time off, etc., but they always come back in one way or another. Be there, even when you don’t need anything from them.
Be a source – This goes back to “be responsive.” Honestly, do your homework and become an expert in your industry. No one will tout your product better than you. Therefore create a complete package. Create the story, customized by the blogger’s angle and provide resources, quotes and statistics to help them maintain their “expert” status.
There are others who are attempting to help PR pros reach bloggers. Most recently an SF-based agency introduced a working press release template that attempts to distill news and publish it in a way that speaks the language of bloggers, Technorati, RSS, del.icio.us., etc. This was created in response to an article written by Tom Foremski on SiliconValleyWatcher calling for the death of the press release. While the concept is nice, let’s not forget the true, and largely untapped power of traditional press releases, even in this new realm of blogger influence.
Outsell, a marketing research firm, interviewed 7,000 professionals in corporations, government, healthcare, and academia to find out: 1) How much time they spend searching and reading info for their job (12 hours per week) and 2) Where they search and read that info.
According to Outsell:
#1. Press releases online have overtaken trade journals and their respective sites as the top information source for knowledge workers.
#2. 47% of study respondents were reading “real content” such as news and e-books on their wireless handhelds regularly.
#3. The average respondent was reading nine blogs on a regular basis.
#1 is very important. Aside from the traditional value of the wire, the web has brought a new dimension to PR. In the beautiful world of mashups, wire services truly mash PR and SEO (search engine optimization), the results of which are largely untapped and undocumented.
Nowadays buzz drives coverage. And buzz can tidal wave from different forms of online tools, press releases, links, SEO, blogs, and forums, just to name a few.
Truly, this article represents just a few of the many tools that PR pros need to keep in their arsenal of 1:1, 1 to many, and many to many communications weapons – whether it’s reaching bloggers or traditional journalists.
Information means something different to each market. And, in order to truly pass the news along to all target demographics, we can’t overlook the value of relationships, traditional releases, research, and individualized pitches. I actually had a “web 2.0” reporter send an email after reading a digital PR 2.0 release, asking me to send him a regular press release because he prefers to draw his own summaries and conclusions. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
I think it can all be summarized this way:
#2 Become active in linking, comments, and spreading the word online (link back to your favorite bloggers)
#4 Create a direct story
#5 Sprinkle it with something that will win them over (schwag, info, help)
#6 Follow up