Tips for PR Professionals to Engage the Modern Blogger
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Guest post by: Dominick Evans
As a writer turned blogger, I have the unique perspective of knowing what seems to work PR-wise from a journalistic perspective. I work with hundreds of PR representatives each week. Some of these reps are a pleasure to do business with, while others I might work with once, but I don’t form any type of long lasting relationship with them. While some PR relationships are just destined to be a one-time thing, some should and could flourish a lot longer than they do.
Let’s face it. Blogs seem to be read more, these days, than traditional news sources. In many instances, a blog is considered a legitimate news source. With so many successful blogs out there and consumers turning towards the internet for everything from deciding what movie to purchase on DVD to finding out the latest on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it seems only fitting that PR professionals are turning themselves towards the blogging world.
If you are successful at PR, then you probably already work with bloggers. If not, you need to consider reaching out to the blogging community, because this vast group of eclectic individuals can and will promote for your clients in a way no other media sources can. This means you most likely will want to start finding bloggers to work with, just to see how this relationship can benefit both you and your clients.
So, How do I Find Bloggers?
Finding bloggers doesn’t have to be difficult. You can search for bloggers in a specific niche on Google or Yahoo. Most bloggers who are doing this for a living (or trying) use social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. You can even find journalists/bloggers that are eager to promote a wide selection of products and services who are attending #journchat, which is held on Twitter once a week. I’m just one of the many who join in on the conversation, so #journchat is a realistic way for bloggers and PR reps to connect. The potential for creating relationships during #journchat is great. PR mavens who attend #journchat should take note of this.
In some cases, bloggers will try to find PR professionals on their own. Help a Reporter Out (HARO) has allowed me to connect personally with several of the PR contacts I have today. I’ve also emailed PR representatives, on my own. When I was starting out, I didn’t have any PR companies knocking on my door. I had to find them. It took time to build up a relationship with many of the PR companies I work with the most. I just never gave up and the bigger my website became, the more willing I was to re-email past PR reps that had previously ignored my emails.
If you represent a particular brand or company, the easiest way for you to connect with perspective bloggers is making your media relations/PR email address available on the corporate site for the companies you represent. Why?
Because someone who wishes to work with a certain brand is going to look up said brand, and they are going to be looking specifically for your contact information!
Ok! I’ve Made Great Connections! What’s Next?
The first step is connecting with bloggers. The second and most important step is getting through to these bloggers, to make sure your mutual needs are being met. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen PR representatives make is being rude. If anything turns me off, it’s a superiority complex by a PR contact who is only working with me because they feel they don’t have a choice.
I get that some PR reps are new to the online thing. They don’t get how vitally important it is to establish a relationship with any blogger they are working with to promote a brand/company/product. I’m mature enough to not let their attitude affect my view and vision for whatever they want me to promote. I won’t give their brand/company/product negative press just because the PR rep is unkind to me, but some bloggers will. Some bloggers will expose bad PR experiences and further the bad blood between the PR and blogging/journalist groups. As PR reps, you can’t let this happen. You hold this power in this area.
I enjoy forming actual relationships with the PR reps I work with, and I’m more apt to have an easier relationship with those I have on Twitter or Facebook. If you are a PR rep, don’t be afraid of getting to know the bloggers you are working with; you might just surprise yourself by how much you have in common with them. Most of the companies I work with I’m on a first name basis with and some are friends who I can joke with about sports, politics and a wide variety of topics, between discussing business.
PR companies can’t be above working with bloggers. There is a company I have tried to work with for the past two years that doesn’t want to work with blogs. I work with every single one of this company’s competitors, but no matter how many emails I send, the PR rep for the company keeps holding out. The one time I received a response, the PR rep was rude, dismissive and not very helpful in explaining why the company didn’t want to work with bloggers (or at least my site in particular). The sad thing is that the company she represents isn’t getting the same attention that her competitors are getting.
Additionally, you shouldn’t rely strictly on numbers to determine who you plan to work with on a specific release. Yes, numbers are somewhat important, but they aren’t everything.
Some smaller blogs have a tighter group of readers, who will actually listen more to what the bloggers say than the bigger blogs with a lot of traffic, most of whom simply breeze by the site because it’s popular.
A good example of this is a website a friend of mine writes for, with thousands of writers and excessive amounts of content. The quality of the articles on this website is poor, with a typical review of a product running at no more than 500 words. There are grammatical errors in these articles and they don’t really say much about what is being promoted. A smaller, more thorough site I visit gets less chance to review the same kinds of products, but their reviews are more in depth, over 1,000 words usually, and they are well written. Chances are good that their opinion is respected more by their readers than the opinions of the bloggers from the bigger website.
Yes, your brand will be marketed to a wider audience at the bigger site, but that audience might be more dismissive of said brand than a site with a smaller, more engaged audience. You need to take an active interest in finding blogs and writers for said blogs that reflect the quality you want to represent your brand. If the blogger loves your brand why do they love it and why will their readers benefit from it? If they don’t like your brand, is it clear why they don’t like it or are they vague in their dismissal of this brand? These are the questions you need to be asking before forming long lasting relationships with these bloggers.
Note: Be realistic when you ask for numbers. Think about how popular your brand is. I work with many of the top brands in my niche and I had a small PR firm representing a small brand throw a hissy fit because my numbers were not surpassing the page view count of Google (who does?!)! It was unrealistic in their expectations to want me to write for them, but only if I received over 2 million page views. I’m good, but not yet there. I kindly informed them it was fine I wasn’t working with them because I had too many promotions for companies X, Y, and Z (all bigger than their brand). The PR rep tried to come crawling back for my promotion, but by then it was too late. It’s also good to work with smaller blogs if you feel they have promise. Who knows? You could be working with the potential next big thing and not yet know it!
I Have Blogger Connections. How do I Keep Them?
You need to send press releases that you think will appeal to the bloggers on your contact list. You should try to keep your blogger list separate from the list you use to email traditional media sources. Sure, you might be sending out the same press release to both groups, but it’s easier to cater to the specific needs of a blogger if you have them as a part of a separate contact group. Make sure that it is clear your bloggers can email you whenever they need something. Sure, you’re busy, but so are your bloggers. They will rely on you to provide them with certain things they’ll need to further promote the brands you represent. So, make sure to be available to them.
Bloggers have different needs than traditional journalists. Many bloggers will host contests with products that represent your brands. This is a great way to promote a product and help a blogger out at the same time, with all the traffic they’ll receive from the contest. Bloggers have the potential to reach a much different audience than traditional media outlets, so they may require more attention than your traditional media contacts. This isn’t a bad thing. It just means you might be working more closely with these bloggers. That’s why establishing a great relationship with your blogger team is vital!
TIP: Set up an online press area for downloading press materials.
I find this is a lot easier for me, as a blogger, than having to hunt for things like screenshots and product images. I hate having to email a contact if I don’t have a way to find product materials. I have far more respect for those who have set up FTP download areas or download websites. It saves me time and them time, which is great since I’m sure the PR reps I work with have schedules nearly as busy as my own.
Keeping a relationship with a blogger isn’t difficult. Make sure you communicate with your bloggers. Let them know what you have available for them to promote, review, interview or feature. In the blogging world it all comes down to the old adage, ‘if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.’ So, as long as you keep your bloggers happy, they’ll do the same for you.