Blogger Relations Series: Bloggers Talk To Agencies and Brands

09/05/2008

Pulse of the Industry: Blogger Relations Part V

Social media marketing combines the innovation of technology and the internet with an old fashion concept .. building customer loyalty by creating stronger relationships through understanding. However, social media as a new marketing strategy is more than a blog or a social network or a tweet. Unlike any marketing technique I know it involves reaching out and connecting with and to people.

Blogger relations is a new tactic that some say is it a form of public relations. Perhaps. Perhaps not. However, swirling around BR are many discussions on the expectations of bloggers, as well as, agencies and brands. Susan Getgood has written some great posts on the topic. I was curious to know what bloggers thought was the "right" way to reach out to them. I also wanted to know what agencies and brands have learned in the early stages of this emerging industry.

So I conducted an online survey and tapped a few bloggers, agency and brand people. 99 people participated. Since the research is not statistically valid let's call it an industry pulse check from the people who are working in social media. Their feedback is a good starting point to understanding expectations and continuing this critical conversation about how to create value for bloggers, their communities and our client brands.

Blogger_social_collage_march_5_low It seems appropriate that the last question in this series about Blogger Relations should go to the bloggers. Warning! This is a long post. However, the insights were so valuable that it was difficult to cut back much. Delicious the post and read at your leisure.

Part I: Blogger or Journalist Part II: Successful Blogger Relations Strategy Part III: Agencies Talk To Bloggers Part IV: Brands Talk To Bloggers Part V: Bloggers Talk To Agencies

Question: If you are a blogger ... what would you tell people on the agencies and the client side who ask you to participate in blogger relations strategies? 68 responses

The big take aways for me were:

  • Read my blog. Know who I am. Target to my interests. Personalize.
  • Provide value to me and my community.
  • Tell me about you. Ethics count.
  • Treat me with respect. Treat my community with respect.
  • It's a two-way conversation.

Katie Paine, hit the high notes, "Listen for a long time before you take action. Get a sense of the conversation. Only contribute what the blogger will see as valuable and relevant."  In her kind to be cruel way, Nicole Simon adviced, "Become less clueless. it is basically the same game, with new rules and new participants."

Read my blog. Know who I am. Target to my interests. Personalize.

Liz Strauss offered her insights to how bloggers are different from journalists and continued on on to tell how to create relationships with bloggers without spamming.

Most bloggers are not journalists in the way we view our readership. We view them as communities who share a bond of trust. We don't offer that relationship to someone we don't know. Email blasts insult us. If you don't know me or my blog, what you've sent is spam.

Carefully choose the bloggers you invite to that small gathering at that fine hotel for your client's product. The event won't do much if you invite us to something we don't blog about normally and the hosts aren't genuinely interested in getting to know us.

Corporate PR releases won't cut it with Nedra Weinreich. "Read my blog! Don't send me a corporate press release without showing how your products fits with my blog. A personalized pitch makes it more likely that I will respond." 

Nor will they entice Randall Moss. "I am happy to blog about your product or your service anytime, so long as you ask nicely and the content will fit into my general scope. If you send me an idea you can send me copy as well but please try and make it conversational and not a PR pitch. I can see through that and so can my readers."

Or ..

Mass pitches and straight press releases rarely work. Send me a personal email, let me know why this is relevant for me and why you chose to send it to me. Better yet, build a personal relationship with me before you actually need me for something. Finally, give me some kind of incentive or exclusivity. – Rohit

Or ..

Take the time to read my blog and know what it's about. I have a unique niche and don't respond well to mass-market pitches. – Sybil Stershic

Several people reinforced that that bloggers are not under any obligation to write about your company or brand. Keep WIFTM .. what's in it for me .. top of mind.

  • Read my blog first and stop freaking pestering me like I HAVE to write about what you're pitching. - Anonymous
  • Know my name and my blog. Don't delude yourself that I have any great desire to write about you to HELP YOU (BTW: journalists don't write about company to help the companies) Ask yourself what's in it for me, the blogger, not you, the company. – Anonymous

Read my blog ..Blog_read_blog read my blog .. read my blog - please! read my blog.

  • At least read my blog before you contact me (and look carefully on my blog for clues on how to contact me). And don't mass-email me from mailing lists you acquire. Ever. - Neville Hobson
  • Please try harder to target your efforts towards me versus just the rough pencil sketch of "blogger." Meaning, look at our last 10 or so blog posts to see if your relations pitch matches the person. - Anonymous
  • Please read the blog first and then contact me with educated questions. Otherwise, I feel like it's spam. - Cece Salomon-Lee
  • Read my blog and website, watch my YouTube videos, search for me on LinkedIn and Facebook and listen to my podcast before you contact me. – Jay Berkowitz
  • Read the blogs first, if you think it will be a good fit for your company or product then contact the creator of the blog. It's important to make sure that you both have a vision that is headed in a similar direction. Kinda like acquiring a new company. The Gap would probably never acquire Hot Topic because the long term vision is too diverse it's not a good fit. The same way with blogger relations. - Mei-Li Thomas
  • Understand our coverage area before pitching to us. - Anonymous
  • Don't waste my time with irrelevant pitches. - CB Whittemore

Relationships are important. Get to know me.

  • Relationships are everything. Get to know me before you pitch me. That doesn't mean we have to be personal best friends, but that you are acquainted with my blog, topics I cover and and interacted with me either through twitter, Facebook or email. - Paul Chaney
  • Get to know the blogger you're targeting. Just sending them a freebie isn't enough. – Rich Brooks
  • Please at least make an effort to seem like you're trying to personalize an approach - don't just do a mass e-blast and call that blogger relations. Anonymous
  • Since I straddle the two (agency/social media co and a blogger - will take a shot at this too) Its a two-way street here unlike traditional PR activities which were more push. Listen well, engage in REAL conversations, don't appear to 'spam', make yourself visible in the blogworld! Better still, start blogging yourself :) - Dina Mehta
  • Get to know the blogger before you ask for exposure on his\her blog. Strike up a relationship first, ask for favours second and make sure your requests add value to the blogger's community.- Mark Goren
  • Build a relationship with me; don't just tell me you are a "loyal reader". I would prefer to know you over time so we can trust each other. Becky Carroll
  • Start a conversation and begin a relationship before trying to sell me. Just like you (hopefully) would in person. Anonymous
  • Stay in continuous contact and understand that helping bloggers and the company better communicate and understand each other should be the main goal. – Anonymous

Not all bloggers welcome participating in a blogger relations program with a "stranger." "Don't bother. I write what I want anyway. Just be my friend. You'll have better luck that way." Anonymous

  • As a blogger, I would tell social media marketers to use 80% education/inspiration/entertainment and only 20% or less sales promotion when interacting with the blogosphere (including micro-blogs like Twitter, Pownce, Plurk, Jaiku). A company or ad agency should delegate the job of interacting with bloggers and social networks to people who have a genuine passion for the problems their products solve, and not just sales of the product.

Contribute relevant insights and helpful tips, and only rarely, almost reluctantly, hype a product, and even then only "product as solution", as when someone is seeking a digital voice recorder, for example. Steven E. Streight

Provide value to me. Provide value to my community.

  • Give them (my community) the same attention they have given you, by reading my blog and taking further action to learn more about you and your products/services. - Roxanne Darling

In addition to offering dos and don'ts BL Ochman also reminded us, "The bottom line is that nothing you say matters if your product sucks."

  • No Dear Blogger emails - read the blog and know what we write about. Hint: most of us list the categories we cover - no embargos that allow bloggers to run a story after MSM - Google the bloggers on your list so you know if they've covered your client's competitor - don't say "because your Alexa ranking is amazing" I think you'll want to cover this (I'm not making that up. It was in an email pitch last week.)

Don't send a 500-word pitch. - Don't pitch. Inform. - Give me a heads up BEFORE you give the story to everyone and her dog or don't bother me.

What is "Value?"  Junk_man_cart As the junk man says - what is of value to one person may be trash to someone else. In blogger relations relevancy for the blogger and her community plays a big role in what matters.

  • Give us early access, give us lots of information and images. let us give feedback and know that it will make a difference. Listen, track, and monitor what people are saying. Make sure someone can answer questions as they come up. – Tris Hussey
  • Provide value, be authentic, show personality, include humor and focus on building relationships. - Anonymous
  • Emphasize facts and access, not packaged PR - most of us can tell the difference ... - Marc Danziger
  • Give me content that I could use - give me data, give me research, figure - that's what helps me. Don't give me press releases. Rajesh Lalwani
  • Don't send me junk. Don't send me the same thing you sent 25 -100 other bloggers. Let me actually help you by giving me what I want: good content, access to leadership and some level of exclusivity. Drew McLellan
  • Give them the two definitions, find out what their goals are, as those goals will determine the strategy, conduct an audit of the community and the company, for scope of what needs to be done, and to understand the capabilities of the company. Is someone available who should write, can they write well, can they write the amount that will be sufficient within the community? – John Cass
  • I only have relevance to my readers because I act as a filter for them. If you can help me to do that, then we may have something to talk about. But there does need to be an exchange of value. It is not just about "news". - Anonymous
  • Please be relevant to me and my readers. - Becky Carroll
  • Connect me to the product or service and don't ask me to blog about the product or service. I will do so if I feel like there is some value to my readers. – Marianne Richmond
  • Stop looking at me as a target, send me stuff that will make me look smart and informed when I share it. - Kami Huyse
  • Don't ask a blogger to blog about your products. Instead, post rich, relevant, altruistic comments on her blog that demonstrate your expertise and credibility as an innovator or industry leader. Such enriching, or even comical, comments will inspire the blogger to check out your ecommerce site and perhaps try your product or alert others to your company. - Steven E. Streight
  • The strategy needs to be something that is consistent with my current goals - Sherry Heyl
  • I am not going to lie for you or shill for you. I will offer my honest opinion, but only if I think that the product or service is something my audience is interested in. - Alan Wolk
  • Show real value. Illustrate that you know me and know what I write about. Hey, these are the same rules we've had for traditional media relations. Sadly, too few seem to be following the rules. In fact, it seems that the number of bad actors increases exponentially each year. - Robert French
  • Military history is written by the winners. Capitalistic history will be written by the bloggers. Make sure the product or service is serving the triple bottom line of economics, environment and social good. The last thing you need is to draw permanent attention to the product (and company) that brought destruction to the planet or society. If your product doesn't serve the triple bottom line, then don't take to bloggers. – Mary Hunt
  • That I would be happy to "play" as long as our goals mesh and our audience is similar. I don't have time to spend promoting things that have nothing to do with my long range goals. - Heidi Richards
  • I actually get these too, as a blogger. I have many contacts in the industry and elsewhere and periodically get requests to help them spread a message. It's always very flattering and if I believe in it, I will blog about it and help distribute the message.

I tell folks that I don't like to advertise unless it is something I believe in. My readers expect that, so I don't mention anything that I don't actually believe in or support. I get offers to advertise on my blogs, for pay, but so far I haven't found any of those offers to be anything I actually support. – Tim Jackson

  • If it is relevant and it helps me forward my own goals, I am fine with it. But as journalists have been saying for decades - do your homework, read the blog. Make sure you don't pitch off topic ideas that mean nothing to me or my readers. - Sally Falkow
  • Make sure that the product is germaine to my area & community. – Anonymous
  • Give me samples to share or loan out so my audience can try the products, make mashup videos, etc. Give me access to one or more of your execs/tech staff to interview and add a real face to the company. Give them some reign to discuss things besides the product itself. Think out of the box. An in-depth project or campaign with a specialist in your space might have much more ROI than a scattershot approach that is far less personal.- Roxanne Darling

Tell me about you. Ethics count.

If blogger relations is about building relationships it would be wise toWomen_whispering listen to Shel Israel. "This is not one directional. It is conversational or the program is likely to fail."

The social media mantra: honesty, transparency, authenticity is also two directional. Bloggers hold brands managers and agencies people to the same standards that they impose on themselves.

  • Always be authentic and I believe you increase "trust" in your business! I always think of blogging as an online resume or meeting and stay aware of professional boundaries (Don't think it's local bar, it's more like the old office watercooler.) If you're going to participate I believe you need to be approachable and converse - it's a 2 way dialog (if not you may actually create a negative backlash). - Cyndee Haydon
  • Be up front and transparent and don't waste my time. – Anonymous
  • Don't hide behind anonymity. Come out, use your real name, and engage with people. Put up an About section and personalize it with names, photos and short bios. Focus on building relationships with people, too. It may seem risky, but in the end you will be better off. – Anita Campbell
  • That they have to make the transition from safe disembodied corporate prose to one with a strong voice, strong opinions, and caring about the world. – Jane Geneva
  • We value transparency and complete disclosure. - Prashant Kew
  • To tell me you have someone senior, preferably several, in your team who is blogging regularly and with whom I would be able to discuss directly and frankly any stresses that arise in the relationship. - Des Walsh
  • Be reader-focused and genuine to your principles and beliefs in the subject matter. - Elaine Fogel
  • Be straight up. I don't expect you to know how all this works, though I do expect you to be honest with me about your goals and tactics and where I fit in.

Inform your partners and engage them. If you are a manufacturer, integrate your dealer network. If you are in consumer products, integrate your retailers and sales staff. Train them in advance (some bloggers like myself offer training and coaching), get them ready to participate and capture those leads on the spot.- Roxanne Darling

Treat Me With Respect. Treat My Community With Respect.

The Big R Word .. Respect was repeated many times through out multiple questions. Some people felt that brands/agencies don't "get" that most bloggers do not get a pay check for writing their blogs. It takes time to write a post and time does not always = money.

  • Treat bloggers with the respect they deserve as influential media. - Carolyn Wilman
  • Time is as important or more so, than money. Please be available to participate in the conversation on my blog; don't expect me to answer technical questions that you could do better. - Roxanne Darling
  • Once again, it's all about educating readers and connecting them with each other, NOT promoting a product or brand. It's a tricky wire to walk for brands - how do you sponsor without seeming biased? -  Michele Miller
  • Respect the fact I owe you nothing. Any reason I choose to work with you is because I believe in your product/service. Recognize I did not establish myself as a blogger to be a clearing house for your public relations or advertising needs. You don't get to set the rules. I do.

So, the one question you need to ask me is, "What are your goals for your blog and your readership and how can we work together to achieve a good fit, because we'd like to talk to your readership?" - Susan Cartier Liebel

  • I need to ask if it's paid, they seem to take our time and input for granted. - Anonymous

Yvonne DiVita suggests that new bloggers may not care about the "relationship" but rather the ego stroking by a popular brand's notice.

  • New bloggers who don't care about blogger relations...they just want to tell friends a major brand approached them to blog. imho they will take over and true blogger relations will fall by the wayside. interestingly, fan bloggers are the best people to engage for blogger relations...those of us who have large blog networks may know the ins and outs of how PR should approach us, but...as time goes on, PR will not need to approach us. they will have all the bloggers they need, in the general populace.

To pay or not to pay .. that is the question.

  • Finally, never pay or otherwise compensate bloggers or comment posters to attack your competitors or praise your company, as in PayPerPost. Incentivized opinions are detrimental to the blogosphere, because they break the Trust Web of peer-to-peer recommendations. - Steven E. Streight

Alanna Kellog commented that even if a blogger agrees to write about a brand or book or event the blogger decides what to say and when to say it.

  • If you want to reach a blog's readers -- and control the message and the timing -- buy an ad. - Alanna Kellogg

Merrill Dubrow reinforced the benefits of blogs.

  • It is the latest communication tool that allows you in real time to gain reaction to anything and everything you could ever imagine which allows you to get a pulse on a new product or service for your client - Merrill Dubrow

Bringing it back to what's is all about .. combining a blogger's interest with those of his community.

  • Write about what you want to write keeping in mind your target audience but without compromising the integrity of your blog. - The Marketing Girl
  • Be very clear on your intentions for blogging - the Who, Why, What, and Where - that forms your existence and relationships. Then stay true to your intentions. Do not take comments "personally" - it's not about you. You can be "right" or you can make a difference. - Cynthia Holladay
  • As a blogger, I would tell social media marketers to use 80% education/inspiration/entertainment and only 20% or less sales promotion when interacting with the blogosphere (including micro-blogs like Twitter, Pownce, Plurk, Jaiku).

A company or ad agency should delegate the job of interacting with bloggers and social networks to people who have a genuine passion for the problems their products solve, and not just sales of the product.
Contribute relevant insights and helpful tips, and only rarely, almost reluctantly, hype a product, and even then only "product as solution", as when someone is seeking a digital voice recorder, for example.
Don't ask a blogger to blog about your products. Instead, post rich, relevant, altruistic comments on her blog that demonstrate your expertise and credibility as an innovator or industry leader. Such enriching, or even comical, comments will inspire the blogger to check out your ecommerce site and perhaps try your product or alert others to your company. - Steven E. Streight

Ann Handley's response is a great end game wrap up that concludes this series.

  • My sense is that companies who have successful blogger relations outreach have acknowledged bloggers and blogging, and have acknowledged the affect each can have on their business. To that end, they have reached out to blogs/bloggers who cover their space in an effort to get to know them, but not to control or censor what the blogger ultimately writes.
  • I do make a distinction between journalists and bloggers. Journalists have a responsibility to present all sides of an issue, and should at least attempt to keep their bias at bay. Bloggers are free to have an opinion and a point of view.

Thank_you_chocolate.. to the pioneers of social media .. all of you .. who are forging new ways to make business personal and accountable while adding value for your customers.

.. to the 99 people who kindly responded.The following agreed to be quoted and publicly acknowledged.

Michele Miller WonderBranding
Mei-Li Thomas, No Fear, Just DIVA
Paul Chaney, Conversational Media Marketing
Kim Haynes, Texas Gal Ramblings
Des Walsh Des Walsh dot com
Alan Wolk The Toad Stool
Elaine Fogel, Solutions Marketing and Consulting
David J. Neff, American Cancer Society; Sharing Hope TV
Steven E. Streight aka Pluperfecter (formerly known as Vaspers the Grate)
Nicole Simons, Cruel To Be Kind
Sherry Heyl, Concept Hub, Inc
Ike Pigott, Occam's RaaR
Mary Hunt, In Women We Trust

Yigal Cohen, Linx Analyst and Blogger Relations
Susan Cartier Liebel, Building Solo Practice University
Liz Strauss, Successful and Outstanding Blog(gers)
Robert French, infOpinions?
Cynthia Holladay, UpRight Marketing
Alanna Kellogg, Veggie Eventure; Kitchen Parade
Yvonne Divita, Lip-sticking
Jay Berkowitz, Ten Golden Rules
Heidi Richards Mooney, WE Magazine for Women
Tim Jackson, Masi Bicycles  Masiguy Podcast
Marc Meyer, Direct Response Marketing Observations
Mark Goren, Transmission Content + Creative
Sally Falkow, PRoactive  Leading Edge on the Daily Dog
John Cass Author of Strategies & Tools for Corporate Blogging Blogger at PR Communications

Shel Israel, Global Neighbourhoods
Ann Handley, Annarchy; Marketing Profs Daily Fix Blog
Francois Gossieaux, Emergence Marketing
Erin K Vest, Queen of Spain
David Berkowitz, Inside the Marketers Studio,

Kate Spencer, Fordham University
Ed Gaston, Chrysler
Michael Rubin, Blog Council
Cyndee Haydon, Clearwater Real Estate Tampa Homes
Katie Paine, KDPaine's PR MeasurementBlog
Drew McLellan, Drew's Marketing Minute
Anita Campbell Small Business Trends
Rich Brooks, Flyte
Jane Genova, JaneGenova.com Law and More
Marianne Richmond, Resonance Partnership
Becky Carroll, Customers Rock
CB Whittemore, Flooring The Consumer  The Carpetology Blog
Roxanne Darling Partner, Bare Feet Studios Bare Feet Blog
Dave Williams, Co-Founder, 360i

Tris Hussey, A View From The Isle
Kami Huyse, Communication Overtones
B.L. Ochman What's Next Blog
Carolyn Wilman Contest Queen

Rajesh Lalwani, Blog Works

Dave Taylor, Ask Dave Taylor
Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing
Nancy White, Full Circle
Neville Hobson, NevilleHobson.com
Nedra Weinreich, Spare  Change blog
Dina Mehta, Conversations with Dina
Rohit, Influential Marketing Blog

Prashant, Markitechture
Katherine Malone, Fleishman-Hillard
Randal Moss, American Cancer Society; Community Mobilization
Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing
Merrill Dubrow, M/A/R/C The Merrill Dubrow Blog

Graphic Thanks to CK for the Blogger Social and Blue Chip.

Part I: Blogger or Journalist Part II: Successful Blogger Relations Strategy Part III: Agencies Talk To Bloggers Part IV: Brands Talk To Bloggers Part V: Bloggers Talk To Agencies

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Comments

Toby, this has been such an intersting series - thanks for sharing all the insights you gathered and allowing me to participate as well.

Posted by: Cyndee Haydon on Sep 5, 2008 3:00:10 PM

What a great compilation, Toby. Now, you can put this all together and write a book!

Posted by: Elaine Fogel on Sep 6, 2008 1:30:48 AM

Toby -- First of all, WHEW! Secondly, WOW... great stuff here. I second Elaine's suggestion.

Posted by: Ann Handley on Sep 6, 2008 9:25:58 AM

@Cyndee, @Elaine, @Ann - thank you for generously sharing your experiences and views. I'm glad you found value in the series. I have been thinking of what to do with the wealth of information and how we can continue to build a triple win (for bloggers, communities, brands) when it comes to BR. Perhaps a book or an eBook might just be the next step.

Wondering .. in addition to pulling from these insights what else would be important to include to round out the that work (book/eBook). Love to hear your ideas.

Posted by: Toby on Sep 6, 2008 10:35:08 AM

Toby, Wow! Now I realize that I'm disappointed that there won't be more installments. This has been fantastic and really educational. Thank you....

Posted by: C.B. Whittemore on Sep 8, 2008 8:13:45 PM

Toby!

As usual fantastic insight!

Nettie H

Posted by: Nettie Hartsock on Sep 23, 2008 5:57:38 PM

What a great compilation, Toby. Now, you can put this all together and write a book!

Posted by: Echo on Jul 4, 2011 10:33:00 PM

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