Thursday, September 25, 2008

Blogger Outreach for PR - Worst Practices

Despite the fact that several smart PR bloggers, including Cece Lee, Laura Moncur and Elge Premeau have written about what works in blogger outreach for PR, there are still a lot of agencies and PR people who just don't get it. Their efforts at appealing to bloggers are awkward at best, counterproductive at worst.

Want bloggers to write nice things about your product, service or company? First, it helps to understand how to get bloggers to write about you. Second, here are 6 practices to avoid.

1. Just send a press release.

This is likely to do your company or your client more harm than good. There is an extremely low chance that a blogger will write about you based on getting press release, but a pretty darn good chance that he/she will view you as a spammer and ignore any subsequent emails you send.

Imagine it's a phone call instead of an email. And imagine you're on the phone with a really influential blogger, like...Seth Godin. Seth answers the phone, you introduce yourself, and Seth says, "I'm really busy but, tell you what, I'll give you five minutes." Would you really spend that five minutes reading your press release to him?

Didn't think so. You'd acknowledge his interests, then tell him in a compelling and straightforward manner why he and his readers should care about your story. So, do the same in your email outreach to bloggers, and you'll have a far greater shot at getting some online coverage than you will with a press release.

2. Act like you expect coverage.

If a particular blogger doesn't respond to your outreach, it may mean that your pitch wasn't interesting, or it may simply mean that he/she was too busy to get to it. Or any of a hundred other reasons. Sending a follow-up note saying "Hey, I wrote to you about this a week ago, why haven't you written about it yet?" is another great way to really annoy a blogger, assure that all of your future messages are viewed as spam, and you get no coverage.

Note that this is not to be confused, however, with polite, periodic follow up. It's perfectly acceptable to send a follow-up note along the lines of, "Hi, here is a new development at our company that I thought you might find interesting. I know you're busy, but whether you decide to write about this or not, do you mind if I send you updates from time to time on what's happening here?"

3. Send exactly the same message two (or more) times.

This is almost worse than #2 above. Sending exactly the same message to a blogger more than once makes it appear that you are either a) hopelessly disorganized (which makes you look bad), or b) using some type of automation for blogger outreach (which makes you look even worse).

4. Promise something you can't deliver.

This actually happened: a PR person sent a blogger a press release about a report that was coming out based on some economic research. In her accompanying note, she offered the opportunity to interview the author of the report. After a few emails back and forth, the blogger sent her half a dozen questions for the economist to answer.

She bounced the blogger back a couple of days later to tell him that the report author couldn't answer the questions posed (despite the fact that they were rather obvious follow-up inquiries based on the high-level findings in the report). A complete waste of time.

A month later, she sent the same blogger another press release and interview offer. Unbelievable.

5. Don't acknowledge return correspondence.

If a blogger responds to an email you send, ignore it. Just send that same blogger another message that completely fails to acknowledge their response. This is even more effective than worse practice #3 above at making your outreach practices appear automated and oblivious, and guaranteeing you a spot in the blogger's junk mail folder from that point forward.

6. Don't acknowledge coverage.

When a blogger actually does write about your company or product—just ignore it. Don't send a thankyou note, don't Digg/Mixx/Stumble or Twitter it, don't post a link from the news area on your website, don't do anything. Act like it never happened.

While all of the tactics above are bad practices, this one is the worst. Why? Because this is the practice bloggers are most likely to talk to other bloggers about. Sending a blogger an unsolicited press release will just get you ignored by that blogger. Failing to acknowledge, in any manner, positive coverage, can get you blackballed by an entire swath of the blogosphere.

If you want bloggers to cover your news, follow the advice of people like Dave Taylor, Cory Doctorow, or this cartoon. But if you just want to really screw up your own and your company's or client's reputation among bloggers, use the six worst practices above.


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom


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