July 29, 2011

12 tips on how to approach bloggers


David SparkOn July 27 I attended and moderated a panel at the PR Summit in San Francisco. This blog post is a report being submitted for Intertainment Media, makers of the desktop communications and content app KNCTR and the real-time chat translation tool Ortsbo.

Pestering bloggers. It’s a PR rep’s time-honored tradition. A client has something to announce or show off, and PR reps go out of their way to get the attention of bloggers. But what’s the best way to approach them?

At the PR Summit in San Francisco, four bloggers and I tried to answer that very question:

  • Ryan Singel (Wired.com)
  • Jolie O’Dell (Venturebeat)
  • Beth Spotswood (SFGate, Huffington Post, and CBS)
  • Michael Leifer (Guerilla PR)

12 recommendations on the best way to engage bloggers

Here are 12 tips and arguments that came up in the discussion on how to approach bloggers:

1. Keep it short and sweet. Far too many email pitches have endless copy. Ryan Singel was really impressed with a particular five-line pitch. It’s OK if you have more information. Just send it once the blogger expresses interest.

2. Avoid ALL CAPS, jargon, and the term “Press release” in the subject line. Universally all the bloggers said they delete any emails that have “Press Release” in the subject line. Plus they get annoyed with all caps and industry jargon.

3. Personal is best, but bloggers will accept mass mailed requests. All the bloggers definitely appreciate the personal approach where the PR rep knows the bloggers, what they cover, and what they’re interested in. While they understand the problems with “spray and pray” they are still receptive to mass mailed requests, if they’re on target.

4. Getting on a blogger’s radar is a win. Just because someone wrote about your competitor doesn’t mean he or she wants to write about you right away. In most cases they won’t, but it’s still valuable to get a competitive product on a blogger’s radar. Even though it’s not published right away, you need to count that as a win for your client.

5. “Me too” or “not me too” comments on blogs? The bloggers showed annoyance for people who left “me too” comments on a blog post, a.k.a. a comment that says, “Oh, we do that too” with a link to the business. They find the practice annoying and I agree that blatant self-promotional without additional insight is irritating. But I believe if someone is writing about a competitor in your space and you don’t leave a comment, it’s a missed opportunity. Realize that anyone that reads that post is pre-qualified to being interested in that subject. Take advantage of that real estate and place yourself in the conversation.

6. Don’t call. Seriously, don’t call. Once again, all the journalists agreed that they hated when PR reps call to make a pitch. Their biggest pet peeve is the call to ask if they received the email they sent. One PR rep, Ken Shuman from Trulia, asked, “Why are bloggers so allergic to phone calls? You call us when you need something.”

Ryan Singel responded, “You’re right, it’s not fair.”

7. Urgent requests are OK, but use them sparingly. Bloggers are receptive to urgent requests and respond to words like “Urgent,” “Quick Fix,” or “Time Sensitive” in the subject line. But be judicious of your urgent announcements and requests. Bloggers admitted that some PR reps took liberal advantage of the urgent requests and as a result been filed under “cry wolf” reps for which all future requests are ignored.

8. If a blogger writes your story, a “thank you” is enough. Don’t do anything overly effusive as that will break journalist policies at the outlet. A generous gift, even a fruit basket, and then the blogger feels like they’re doing you a favor and that’s not their job.

9. Media requests can come from anyone. The bloggers don’t care if it comes from a PR person or an executive of the company.

10. Email is the preferred means of communication … but not always. On this panel there was a lot of disagreement as to whether you should use Facebook, Twitter, or some other social avenue to pitch a journalist. All the bloggers argued to not invade their social space and stick to email. although that decision should be made individual by individual.

In my interviews with people on how they manage their social networks, each person has a clear definition, which stays in their own head, as to what each social network should and shouldn’t be used for. If you cross that individual’s unknown line as to what’s right or wrong, then you will definitely offend and possibly get unfriended. So tread carefully in social spheres.

Some are more responsive in the social space. I know of cases where Twitter is the preferred form of communications. For example, members of the IT security industry have embraced Twitter and appreciate using the microblogging platform over email, explained Matt Hixson, formerly of Tripwire, an IT security company. A message sent to a security journalist via email might take days to get a response. That same request sent via Twitter will probably get a response in minutes. For more on this, read my article, “How to Become One of the Most Respected Companies in Your Industry.”

11. Follow up emails are OK. Bloggers admit that they do sometimes miss emails that they’re interested in, but it doesn’t happen often. They will accept a follow up email, but if they don’t respond, then accept that as a “no.” Bloggers don’t have time to reply to every email with “I’m not interested.”

12. Act like a journalist if you want to talk to a journalist. Marketing speak definitely doesn’t win journalists over. If you write and talk like a journalist, then you’ll be read by a journalist.

Photo credit: Paul PhilleoDavid Spark, a partner in Socialmedia.biz, helps businesses grow by developing thought leadership through storytelling and covering live events. Contact David by email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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7 thoughts on “12 tips on how to approach bloggers

  1. This is a great website, I really like your theme. I am a little new to the blogging scene, but I definitely understand how bloggers can become irritated by repetitive emails and requests. Just spam in itself presents a very irritating issue. Do you have any recommendations regarding how you can get a blogger to write something that is promotional to your website in some subtle way.

  2. I have to agree with #10. I think using social media to make a request, or whatever your intentions are, kind of puts the blogger on the spot. Everyone is listening and waiting for the blogger to respond. I think keeping things private and professional is definitely the way to go.

  3. People often trample over the invisible lines separating how others do and do not want to interact. Email, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook can make insensitive trampling even easier. I like how the 12 points above underline what we all feel and know is right, but so often forget: people are warm and accepting toward us when we bring something to the table first.

    The PR Summit group is a talent bunch and it's good to get such concise feedback about how to be sensitive when approaching others online. Thanks for the detailed info David!

  4. Well written Post David, I know what you mean about bloggers hate phone calls I have tried this method in past and have had little success from it…

    Even now I still have difficulties reaching out to bloggers and the step i seem to fail most on is The subject…

    What would be the ideal subject title if I was to reach out to you ?

  5. Hey David! Really useful the ideas in your article ;) Especially now when we’re enlarging our IT security blogger data base :) Right on the spot! Thanks!