Blogger Relations 101

I receive PR and media pitches daily. I receive a lot of bad pitches daily. As a result of this, and my bloggy friends having the same experience, I've developed this Social Media Relations primer. Truth be told, when I first wrote it was all about bloggers, but really...the same rules generally hold true for those who do other things online (for example, Tweet). If you're a marketer or a PR practitioner, please read and absorb this before you contact me or any other blogger. Questions, comments or concerns? Contact me.

Before getting into how to work with bloggers, there are few basic points that need to be covered off.
  • PR is genuine two-way communication between a company and its publics and/or audiences.
  • Advertising is a paid message.
  • Blogs are two-way communication vehicles.
  • Bloggers are people who have audiences.
  • If you want to communicate with a blogger's audiences, you must understand how to build relationships with bloggers.
I know the above is both PR and Marketing 101 and most professional PR practitioners know and understand this, but it's worth stating here.

Most bloggers are hobbyists and are employed, are in school or have lives--sometimes a combination of any or all three. For the most part, we do not charge access fees to access our work. Blogging is about sharing genuine, personal experiences with people, things and concepts, so to maintain veracity, many of us do not accept a salary or payment in exchange for posting content.

Many of us are social and have developed offline relationships with our readers and with other bloggers, as a result, we talk amongst ourselves.

Before pitching to a blogger
Plan your overall campaign
  • Bloggers do not replace journalists. Develop a media strategy independent of a blogger/social media strategy. A journalist's role includes discovering what's new, noteworthy, timely and/or prominent. Bloggers, by nature, will write about whatever they want.
  • Bloggers are simply another audience. See below re: research.
  • Blogs are another medium, akin to the old photocopied angry neighbour letter stuffed through mail slots. Blogs are modern-day grassroots marketing/social communication vehicles.
Do your research
  • It's crucial to know both the blogger you’re trying to persuade and their blog. Many blogs are specialised (books, cars, food, etc); ensure your pitch matches the blog's content.
  • Find out what was said about the product before you email us the pitch.  You may have found we've mentioned your product, or a competitor's version of your product already. Don't assume we wrote a positive or favourable post. Read it from start to end before contacting us.
  • Some bloggers have policies and guidelines outlining what they will or will not do. Search their site for this information. If you cannot find one, please email them asking what their policy regarding pitches and reviews is. Here is my review policy and guidelines for my blogs and web site.
Communicating with bloggers
Approach bloggers similarly to journalists
  • Again, I have to repeat: bloggers do not replace journalists, but we want similar things. Your pitch should include the 5Ws + 1H (who, what, when, why, where and how), along with a person's name and corporate contact information so we may follow up if we want more information. Remember, like journalists, we decide our content.
  • We will contact you if we are interested in your pitch. Please do not pester us with multiple communications for the same product or event. If we do contact you for more information, please reply quickly.
  • "What makes a PR person and a journalist form a relationship is exactly what makes a PR person and a blogger form a relationship."
Personalize the approach
  • Most bloggers have a name or a screen name: use it in your salutation. Do not fluff your way through a first impression with just "Hi" or "Hello Confessions of a Cardamom Addict," and remember" we can tell if you've just read one post...or half of one post...
Watch your tone, mister
  • Don't be arrogant or rude. A flag goes up instantly when a pitch tells us we will "want to feature this fabulous product/idea etc." in our blog. Why? We decide what is worth posting to our blogs--not a marketer or a PR practitioner and we decide if it truly is a fabulous product/idea etc--not a marketer or PR practitioner. Leave all arrogance, ego, pompousness and smarmy marketing talk out of your communications--we don't like it.  If your approach is particularly odious, some of us will post your communications to our sites and offer ever-so-helpful advice as to how to do your job effectively. Do you really want your boss, potential clients or shareholders reading how you represent your company?  Notice how long this para is, in comparison to the rest? Yup, it's a problem.
  • Some of us are actually your colleagues, in your field or are journalists writing under a pseudonym. Think of it as pixilated karma.
  • Don't presume we will fall all over ourselves to make you happy because you contacted us. We're nice, but not that nice.
We hate spam and don't think much of being put on mailing lists without being asked
  • You think your inbox is bad? You should see ours.
Spell-check and grammar-check your communications
  • Lazy communicators make your company/client look really unprofessional.
  • Many of us are professional communicators. 'Nuff said.
Blogging events, product reviews and media events
Know how blogging events work before you recommend your product for one
  • If you've heard about an ongoing event, and think your product could be appropriate to it, ask the organiser(s) about how they work, including what you will be required to do and what they will do. Chances are you’ll be responsible for providing the product free of charge to all involved.
  • Organising online events are old hat for some of us. If you are interested in having an event for your product, let us know.
  • Plan communications with the blogger-organizer. If you are planning on issuing a media release, let the blogger-organizer know before you put together a release. Ensure the blogger has signed-off on it prior to letting it cross the wire/releasing it to your contacts.
  • Never demand a result (sales, positive reviews).
Product reviews and media events
  • Not all bloggers are American, or North American--as a Canadian, I can't stress this enough. Make sure the product you're pitching is normally available in the blogger's home country, before you ask them to review the product.
  • Send product without strings attached. This means don't demand an article because you've sent a sample or only offer the product in exchange for a post.
  • We will blog about your product if we think it's worth blogging about.
  • Don't tell us what to say, how to say it or "suggest" copy. The blogger decides what gets posted (if anything). Once you try to dictate content, you are in advertising territory, so be prepared to pay whatever the blogger's rates are.
  • All bloggers don't live in NYC, London or Toronto. Heck--some of the best bloggers don't live in big cities. Since many of us can’t make a Wednesday 2pm product launch, be prepared to send us media kits/added info.

  • Don't ask for subscriber/reader lists or blogging contacts.
  • Don't ask for links to your commercial site, flogs, blomercial (my pet name for corporate blogs) on our blog rolls, nor assume we'll do reciprocal links for free -- that's advertising, for which you should pay.
  • Don't ask us to do your research for you--isn't that what you're paid to do?
  • Don't ask for links, buttons, or text blocks that link back to your email or web page, unless you are willing to pay for this advertising.
  • Don't use our content without our permission. This includes images, sound and/or video files, as well as text.
  • Don't leave comments on our blogs that are product pitches/”suggest” people find more info on your site. We know how to moderate comments.