Marketing Mythbusters: Blogger Outreach Programs
A quick check of your browsing history should tell you the power of blogging. Whether you have to get your celebrity fix from “Oh No They Didn’t,” your ideas for dinner from “Food52,” or just find out “10 Reasons the 90s Were Awesome” on Buzzfeed, everyone has their trusted blog sources to enrich their lives.
In the last five years, brands have sought to tap this vast landscape of hyper-focused (and in some cases, hyperlocal) trusted online voices. Some have been incredibly successful and have built long-term relationships with brands, and others have had profoundly negative experiences (either from not correctly defining the relationship, or from a blogger being “too honest” about a brand, and the brand treating this as a betrayal.)
As with all digital and social media programs, blogger outreach is part of a long term strategy. It takes a lot of time and a lot of relationship-building to get the most for yourself and the bloggers with whom you work. It is neither a quick fix, nor a “sure thing.” Your brand needs to be on its best behaviour and have a deep comfort level with transparency to maintain the trust between your brand and your bloggers.
How Do You Know if Your Brand is a Good Fit for Blogger Outreach?
Every brand has the potential to benefit from blogger outreach because there are trusted subject matter experts for EVERY type of product or service. Not every brand is familiar with this type of program, nor are they comfortable working with bloggers who are free to say whatever they want. In addition, these bloggers could potentially have issues or scandal outside of the brand relationship, and that could be a tough spot for a brand to be in (the chances of this are very small, but you need to understand various objections.)
If your brand likes to experiment, and you have a team who has the time and enthusiasm to build and maintain blogger relationships, you should definitely try leveraging bloggers.
Getting Started Working with Bloggers
The first step to reaching out is the easiest. Ask people in your company, your friends, and anyone with a passion for the vertical your company falls into for suggestions. Check Google. Often, bloggers are part of groups and readily recommend their competitors and compatriots. Make a spreadsheet with their site names, URLs, editors’ names, and contact email information.
Next, GET READING. Take copious notes of what excites each blogger, or specific niches they are fond of, brands they talk about, and HOW they talk about brands. Follow them on Twitter or Facebook to get a clearer picture of what they are about. Take note on their site as to whether they have advertising information or take cash to review items. Put these details in their own columns on your spreadsheet. You need to know this information
Once you have a clearer picture (and you’ve culled bloggers who don’t fit from your list) you should reach out to the bloggers in question. DO NOT reach out when you have something to promote in a few weeks. Reach out with NO AGENDA. Relationship-building is the goal.
Your e-mail should be short and sweet and include some important information:
- A courteous greeting
- A comment on what you like about their blog
- An introduction to you, your brand, and your team (with contact information)
- An invitation to talk some more
- An offer to provide that person with information on your brand; and invite them to events.
That’s it for your first outreach. You might hear back right away, you might not. What do you do in the meantime? Sign up for a commenting account on their blogs. Comment, fully identifying yourself, and keep the conversation going. The more proactive you are, the more seamless it will be to ask for a review or participate in your future outreach.
When You’re Ready to Launch
When it’s time to actually activate a program, you need to send another e-mail clearly outlining:
- The goal of the campaign
- The complete request, including estimated time investment on the blogger’s part (don’t devalue their time; you’ll burn a bridge)
- What you’re prepared to trade for their time – this can be buying advertising on their site, a review fee, a gift bag, an experience, an invitation to meet and greet someone important, or anything else of intrinsic value to that blogger (if there is an exchange of time, there needs to be an exchange of value)
Once you have interest from your bloggers, you should formalize the agreement using a Memorandum of Understanding. All you really need for an MOU is:
- The date
- The outline of the exchange taking place (including dates of events, dates a story should run, etc.)
- The names and addresses of the two parties
- Signatures of the two parties
You should both keep copies of this document. You can also outline a few additional items that might be important to your brand including:
- Requests that the blogger not do similar work for a competitor
- Requests for embargoing a story (include dates)
- Requests for other forms of promotion: Twitter, Facebook, newsletters, etc. (be prepared for extra charges)
Once you have this agreement in place, you will need to stay close to your bloggers, communicating with them regularly, and ensuring that they are kept happy.
What To Do If Things Happen That Are Out Of Your Control
There is always a chance with a blogger that they may drop out of participation in a campaign. To solve this problem, you need to have some bloggers in your “back pocket” who you can pull out on short notice. The more you outreach and have positive experiences with the community, the less this will happen (and the more you will be able to call people at the last minute and have them help you out).
If your blogger posts a negative review or negative comments about your product, you need to look back on the experience from their point of view and be honest about whether your team was responsible for a bad experience in some way. If this is the case, FIX IT IMMEDIATELY. Pick up the phone, and ask what you can do to help them out.
If they have made a negative comment about your product where you know you have a weakness, address this with them either personally, or in the blog comments. You can turn a negative experience like this around if you acknowledge an issue and tell people you are addressing it.
If someone who blogged for you has some kind of problem that you are worried might reflect negatively on your brand, you should really tread lightly. You can post in the comments section of the post a very rehearsed PR pitch, and then say nothing more.
When To Call In the Pros
If you have the budget and you need blogger relationships in a hurry, you might want to call in an agency to perform blog outreach for you. The advantages of hiring an outside company are sheer reach and exposure on short notice, but the drawbacks are that you haven’t really made those relationships yourself; so you might not be hitting as targeted a group as you would if you do your own blogger research.
Blogger outreach programs are a great layer to add on to digital campaigns, and the relationships you make with bloggers can sustain you through some slower business news periods. As long as you approach outreach as a relationship-building exercise, you will get great mentions and reviews from the effort you put in.