Dos And Don’ts Of Managing Press And Blogger Relations
It’s an unfortunate fact that many companies don’t think about press or bloggers until the very end of a product or service push. Often, a company will spend 6-12 months on a flagship product they want to announce, only to engage a PR firm at the last minute, hoping to “push the story out to the media.”
This isn’t how the media (which includes influential bloggers) operates any more, and to follow this model is at your own peril.
At the beginning of the blogging movement, there were a few passionate individuals who owned most of the influence, and were trying to play with the “legitimate media” so they were more interested in press releases and “exclusives” when they were approached. Now, bloggers are a million-headed hydra for every vertical, and they can wield their clout with caprice, because they have built a strong audience who trusts them.
The ABRs of Blog and Press Relations: Always Be Reaching Out
The new press paradigm means that you will have to be focused throughout the year on finding and starting up new relationships with bloggers and press. Set up a Google Reader with topics directly tied to your vertical or industry. Consider using a content service like Prismatic to show you new posts, sites, and blogs on topics that are important to your business.
Find bloggers and journalists you’d like to do business with and when you don’t actually need them, comment on their posts or reach out to discuss an article you like with them. Don’t make this a business-style hard sell. Show appreciation in a short and sweet message, and move on.
As your relationship progresses, you can ask these bloggers and journalists deeper questions. Without getting personal, ask them their opinion on other companies’ strategic moves (make this topical, so it doesn’t seem like espionage).
Try to meet up with some of your press contacts if you are attending the same conferences. Just putting a face to a name and having an off-the-cuff conversation can help solidify your relationships with bloggers.
Once you’ve got a level of comfort and a regular pattern of reaching out to bloggers, send them advance news for your company. They might pick it up, or they might not, but the gesture will not go unnoticed.
Make Your News Newsworthy
Just because your marketing team is really impressed with the project you’ve worked on doesn’t mean it’s news. In order for your item to get picked up by the press or bloggers, you need to make sure it has a hook, and that you’ve tailored your hook to your audience. This means including a personalised introduction, and a unique slant on the story that’s relevant to their beat.
This might seem like a lot of work, but as far as penetration of your story goes, six independently themed stories about your product are better than 12 rewordings of your press release. These articles will automatically be more informative and persuasive, because you will be able to capture nuance and unique features that your two-page, high-level press release can’t.
How to Aggravate Bloggers
Remember, bloggers are passionately dedicated to two things: their subject matter, and their community. If your news fits in with both, you’re in. However, just because you scored a home run the first time, doesn’t mean you can go back to the well if you’re not observing the correct etiquette. To help you not make mistakes, here’s how not to irritate bloggers:
- Don’t only e-mail them when you need something, or if you need something in an emergency. Being a blogger or journalist is a very time-consuming role. Bloggers need to filter their inboxes for what is immediately urgent TO THEM or THEIR READERS. After reading pitches for two hours in the morning, when they finally get to yours, and, without any other contact, you are begging them to cover you, they are most likely going to think: “Why should I care? I already covered these guys. I’ve got 16 other posts to make today, and I don’t have enough time to add one.” Your story will be rejected.
- Don’t send them something you’re sending EVERYBODY ELSE at the same time as everybody else. When I started my career, there used to be a specific order you had to break tech news in so that you made certain bloggers were happy that they were getting the news first, and they would be indexed by Google as breaking said news. The landscape is a lot more diverse and fragmented, so it’s not as crucial to hit “the right bloggers” first, (because the only right bloggers are the ones appropriate for your brand, and who you have cultivated great relationships with.) but you’ll still need to make sure the bloggers you have the best relationship with are on the priority list for receiving your company’s news first. If you have a deep relationship with a blogger, you can even leak tidbits about your company to get some preferential press.
- Don’t ask them for introductions to their competitors or for intel on their competitors unless you know them well. Bloggers in the same vertical do typically know each other, but if you get turned down for coverage by one blogger, it’s not OK to ask them to help you reach another blogger. This happens a surprising amount, and it never goes over well with bloggers. The general consensus, when faced with these questions is “why should I help someone who isn’t interested in me, or in creating a relationship with my colleague? Blogger relationships take time, and respect. Respect your bloggers enough not to ask them to do your work for you. Do not ask bloggers for anything untoward, either, unless you want your e-mails posted and your brand to be ridiculed. Bloggers build trust with their audiences and try to maintain professional distance from all of the companies they cover. Don’t ask them for scoop.
- Don’t ask for corrections unless there is something fundamentally factually inaccurate. In the world of the semantic web, there is hubris among social media users, and by extension, companies who use said media that they can somehow control the message. This is categorically not true. Yet, brands still attempt (regularly) to correct bloggers on articles they have written. Keep in mind what bloggers are writing are their own opinions, and it’s their prerogative whether they cover you, and what shape that coverage takes. If you have been doing your homework, and building your relationships, your chances of getting negative coverage is minimal. Remember that bloggers write these articles because they are passionate about a topic. Unless there are factual errors in their piece, (which you can have corrected with a short note indicating the error, with supporting proof), don’t ask for changes or “tweaks” to what has been written. This is as insulting as asking to watch a chef cook your steak for you at a restaurant. Don’t ask, because your asking might become the story, and you will get way worse press than you started out to correct.
So, what can you do to ensure success when you do launch, and you need to pitch press?
- Prioritise your list: Make sure the closest connections with great reach get the news first. This helps further your relationships with key allies
- Make personalised pitches that aren’t all business: Most people appreciate genuine connections and conversations. Make sure your pitch is tailored to your connection, and includes enough non-business content (jokes, comments about sports teams, etc.) to make them receptive to what you’re pitching. EVERYONE likes to be asked about themselves or their opinion on something newsworthy.
- Send your contacts a thank you note, and reciprocate post-launch: Thanking a friend for something is a must in your social life, and thanking business partners for their help/encouragement/contribution should be too. Do not take this as an open invitation to send bags of swag to your bloggers to “thank” them for a positive article. That is transparent and insulting. Instead, a quick note thanking your bloggers for the coverage, plus some sort of reciprocation when they aren’t expecting it is your best bet to make the correct impression.
Blogger Outreach isn’t a tick box on a list of launch activities. It is a year round, time consuming, but essential part of business and requires a high level of attention to detail to the etiquette of business relationships. The more energy you put into building and maintaining these relationships, the better your coverage will be.