This blog could have been written a thousand times before but the message is clearly not getting through: Too many public relations (PR) people do not understand bloggers, how they work, or how to approach them. While I feel like this post may resonate about as much as a fart in a hurricane we can but live in hope.
I myself am a digital comms consultant with a long history of blogging*so I have also done a fair deal of blogger relations in my time, and bloggers are distinct from journalists in that they do it for the love of their chosen subject, to the point that many now make a living from their art.
To help PRs target these changing ‘influencers’ a number of media intelligence bodies provide lists of bloggers. Some of these are as diverse as ‘Food & Drink’ or ‘Lifestyle’, which means those PRs already predisposed to take the ‘spray and pray’ approach to sending out client material – i.e. send a press release to enough people and hope that some might cover it – can now bombard niche beer writers like me with the life-sapping shrapnel of irrelevance.
Here is a summary of ill-targeted approaches I have received in the last two weeks alone either for The Guest Ale or my on-hold Planet Content digital blog. I have tried to be as vague as possible as not to get any individuals or their agencies in trouble:
- A ‘fairy tale experience’
- A cocktail menu launch and various recipes
- A new line of luxury desserts
- An invitation to a property expo
- Several new wine launches
- An invitation to a cooking expo
- A launch of new teas
- News of a new toy ad
- The launch of a new Greek restaurant
- A warning on the dangers of fad diets
How to pitch stories to bloggers
Bloggers will often complain of the same things when dealing with PRs. The reason the above didn’t ever hear back from me was because they were completely irrelevant to what I blog about and clearly indicated that the PRs had not read my blog at all, otherwise they’d have saved themselves – and me – the hassle.
Just one of the above pitches actually addressed me by name. For those that didn’t bother to research my name, FYI it’s a massive deal-breaker in blogger relations. PRs have no excuses with The Guest Ale because I lay it all out for them on my About and Notes for PRs page.
Summarising how PRs should approach bloggers like The Guest Ale:
- Read the blog: If you represent a brewer, yes, I’d like to try your stuff and hear your news. I can’t guarantee I’ll cover it but at least give me the choice
- Search for your brand: has the blogger covered your client previously? An English brewer did this to me recently: asked me if I’d like to review a beer I had, er, already reviewed and they’d have known this if they’d bothered to use the ‘Hunt for Beers’ search box before pitching me. They could then have tried a new angle and I’d have probably been interested
- Personalise your approach: Know the author’s name (see above)
- Understand how the blogger works: Does the blogger have a full-time job? If so, then they are most likely going to get little time to post
- Be clear on what you want out of the relationship
- Build database on relevant information and update regularly so you don’t miss-target
- Research blogger on all social media: that’s a sure way to understand their interests and segue intros. Follow us, tweet us…just not in a salesy way
- Be helpful
- Offer exclusive content: bloggers want unique content that no other blogs have. How can you help?
- Share coverage on your social networks: Around half of the reviews I do – and the majority of beer I buy myself – go un-retweeted by brands. Often, small-to-medium-sized brewers with in-house marketing teams are the best at RTing
As long as there is an Internet, there’ll be bloggers, and we’re more trusted than a lot of media sites so form a big part of the consumer decision-making process. We need you as much as you need us, so let’s all work together a little more intelligently and benefit from a solid long-term relationship.
*Just a bit of background, I myself am a comms consultant, writer and journalist, and have been blogging since 2001 (anyone else remember Geocities?). As far back as 2007, the company blog I edited won Best Business Blog from Communicators in Business.