Wednesday 27 August 2014

10 Steps to Undertaking a Successful Blogger Outreach Programme

Originally posted on Social Web Thing.

This post is the third of a series looking at online influencers. The first listed great free tools that help identify influential people and the second suggested practical considerations when selecting online influencers. However this post is the next step – 10 steps to undertaking a successful blogger outreach programme.

We all know what bad blogger outreach looks like, such as poorly targeted influencers, lack of personalisation and spelling mistakes – but there are some steps you can follow to ensure that outreach has the best possible chance of being mutually beneficial.

I’ve taken the scenario of inviting bloggers to an event, but this list includes guiding principles that are applicable to any blogger outreach.

Preparation

1. Set expectations

Before you make any contact with bloggers it is important to set expectations with the client, such as how many bloggers you will outreach to, the number you hope will attend the event and what the expected outcome will be. Ideally, you will have existing relationships with the bloggers you will be talking to, but in reality if you have a new client or piece of work this will not always be possible. We tend to say that 10-15 bloggers is a good number to attend an event, but obviously this will vary depending on the project. Another consideration is that it can take an hour to properly research and investigate a potential blogger, so it is a time-consuming, but important process.

I’ve mentioned the client first as they have to be your first priority, but once the parameters have been agreed upon you can set expectations with bloggers. There should be no assumption that bloggers will write about the event, but your approach should seek to ensure that bloggers have such a great experience, they will feel compelled to. In addition, I’ve heard of bloggers being uninvited to an event, after the client reviewed the list of attendees. It is vital that clients review the list before outreach begins and that they understand it’s not acceptable and potentially damaging to uninvite people.

2. What’s in it for the blogger?

Before any outreach begins you have to really consider what’s in it for the blogger. I do not mean to make bloggers sound like mercenaries – far from it. The fact many bloggers are amateurs means they can be more refined in their choices. They don’t have deadlines to hit. Bloggers can just say ‘no’. You have to clearly define your proposition. What is the benefit for the blogger that will illicit the response you are looking for?

News releases are rarely interesting enough, so think how you can provide value to the blogger or their readership. Exclusive content, QAs, competitions, product trials, vouchers and invitations to events are all more engaging than an announcement about a new product. Blogger outreach is about creating and sustaining mutually beneficial relationships – unfortunately too many agencies just want online coverage and do not put enough emphasise on the blogger benefit.

3. Research the blog

This is probably the most important step in the process. Undertaking due diligence and comprehensive research is vital. Poorly targeted outreach is a waste of time for everyone. The blogger get’s annoyed, the PR doesn’t achieve their aim and the clients money is being poorly spent. So it’s worth spending time researching a smaller number of blogs more thoroughly, rather than going for a larger list of bloggers who are unlikely to be interested. It takes at least one hour to find a new blog, read the posts, appreciate the blogger’s interests and understand the blog’s readership.

Initial outreach

4. Personalise your outreach

One of the best quotes I’ve heard recently is ‘the best press release is no press release’ from Daniel Burstein. When speaking to bloggers if you don’t know them already, you should avoiding pitching anything. Instead you should focus on introducing yourself and your client and then gauging if the blogger would be interested in hearing about future events or receiving exclusive content, product trials, interviews etc. The importance of personalising your pitch to bloggers or journalists cannot be underestimated. Some bloggers even tell you how to pitch them, which if you have spent time researching will become apparent.

I would also say that journalists have deadlines to hit and to a certain extent, expect to receive pitches from PRs – this is not the case with bloggers. Subsequently your approach should be different to how you pitch journalists. Bloggers want a personalised pitch, that is press release free and clearly offers a benefit. I would also add that many bloggers already know each other and may share bad practice. It does not take much to see past the one-size-fits-all approach.

5. Get the tone right

Tone is often overlooked, but it’s fundamental to how you approach bloggers and will have a huge impact on your success rate. Bloggers respond best to outreach that is both human and professional, not a rehashed press release. You have to remember that bloggers typically write for themselves as opposed to an organisation, so outreach should clearly state what the benefit will be to the blogger or their audience, rather than just reiterating the new features of a product – for some this is a new way of thinking. The hard-sell is unlikely to work and I speak from experience that a human approach is preferred, rather than a pasted press release.

Check out this deck entitled ‘Your Social Media Event Kit Bag’ from the guys at Content Motion or this blog post by CMs Ben Martin.

6. Honesty at all times

Openness, honesty and transparency has to underpin everything you do. The business case for doing so is huge, but also in the context of a world, where private electronic conversations can quickly and easily come out in the public and leave a permanent record – you have to be 100% open with people at all times. Whilst, it is unlikely Julian Assange will turn his attention to blogger outreach any time soon, the web is full of examples of disgruntled bloggers who have published posts dedicated to what they consider to be dishonest approaches.

If bloggers are allowed to test and keep products you should ask them to state this on their blog. If you do not make everything clear from the outset or even worse, try and change the conditions, you may well find the email being republished online for everyone to see – and rightly so. Check out the WOMMA Honesty ROI for more information on what this means for you.

Follow up outreach

7. Consider the blogger’s time

This is more of a practical consideration, but you must remember that bloggers are often amateur and their blog is not their main source of income. Subsequently, this will have an impact on two things, how quickly bloggers can reply to your outreach and when the event can take place. If bloggers have a full-time job, pitching to them can take longer than it would a journalist and you may be unable to speak to them on the telephone. You’ll also find that evenings, rather than daytime or weekends are normally the best time to get bloggers attending an event.

8. Pay expenses

Again this is more practical advice, but in order to get the largest number of attendees you should offer to pay expenses for all bloggers. As mentioned previously, few bloggers make a career from their writing, so you should fully compensate them for attending. It’s important to stress that you should pay for travel. Also note that the recent OFT ruling means that both you and your client could land in trouble if the blogger does not reveal payments that have been made.

9. Tell them about the event #hashtag

We all know that #hashtags help link common interests within the Twitter community, so there’s not too much to expand on with this tip – except that letting bloggers know the event #hashtag early on is a good way to generate online conversation and hopefully anticipation about an event. In addition, it also enables attendees to see who else it going and they can begin discussing their shared experience which will also be archived.

Afterwards

10. Say ‘thanks’

Thanking bloggers for their attendance is a great way to show your appreciation – and it is the easiest step to implement, but one that is often overlooked. PR is about building mutually beneficial relationships, not simply hosting an event, hoping the blogger produces some ‘coverage’ and then forgetting about them. Blogger events should be looked at as the first step of a relationship that will continue to grow and saying ‘thank you’ is a courtesy that will enable this relationship to continue.

I’m confident this list of steps will act as a good starting point to anyone undertaking a blogger outreach program. Nonetheless, I recognise this list is far from definitive, so I would be interested to hear what tips you would recommend.

Image credit: anonymouscollective


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