Engaging Bloggers is Easier than You Think

Mention the phrase “blogger engagement” to today’s marketer, and
you’re likely to get an eager response, followed by self-professed
ignorance. “We’d love to do that—we just don’t know how.”

To some, this scenario spells new business. (In part, this explains
why many 
agencies href="http://www.ketchum.com/digital">separate
their “digital” practice from their traditional ones.)

Yet an honest blogger whisperer will let you in on a secret: If you
can pitch a reporter, producer, or booker, you can pitch a blogger.
After all, bloggers are just people—susceptible to the same
href="http://www.slideshare.net/jrick/how-to-make-friends-and-influence-bloggers-8127728/68">charm-and-disarm
techniques
that every PR pro performs every day.

Indeed, the best way to understand bloggers is to view them as
members of the media. Think of blogger engagement as public relations,
albeit a new kind. Neither straight reporter nor pure pundit, the
blogger is a hybrid creature who observes his own rules.

For example, you wouldn’t pitch the Joe Fridays at NYTimes.com,
whose practices would make the Columbia School of Journalism proud, the
same way you’d pitch the wits at Gawker Media, who aspire to an
angry-creative-underclass
voice
.”  Instead, in order to get the results you want, it
would
behoove you to treat bloggers on their terms, not your own.

Here are nine of these terms—with the caveat that only after you
know the rules is it ok to break them.



1. Write As if Your E-mail Will Be Published

Think of this as Joe Kennedy 101. The patriarch of the Kennedy
href="http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/12/31/reviews/001231.31mallont.html">family
famously advised his children
not to write “anything down that you wouldn’t want published on the
front page of the New York Times.”

Indeed, if your pitch is good, your blogger may integrate your copy
into his verbatim, href="http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/07/technology/07blog.html">without
acknowledging his source. If you pitch is bad, your blogger may
forward it to the Bad Pitch
Blog
. As SHIFT Communications href="http://www.shiftcomm.com/downloads/bloggerrelations.pdf">advises,
“If you pitch isn’t good enough to be published as is, don’t send it.”


2. Connect and Flatter

Think of this as Psychology 101. Like most things in life, blogger
engagement is built on relationships. And relationships that flourish
tend to sprout from common interests. As Lisa Barone, of Outspoken
Media, href="http://outspokenmedia.com/blogging/coverage-from-bloggers/">advises
(my emphasis):

“Snuggle me a little. You know you’re sending the same e-mail to 20
people. I know you’re sending the same e-mail to 20 people. But
sometimes you gotta fake it to make me feel special and pretty … Woo me
… Talk about how you grew up in the same hometown (only if you did).
Comment on a post I wrote that gave you a bad case of the giggles, or
how you think my Twitter feed should come with an NC-17 rating … I’ll
be a lot more receptive once you’ve stroked my ego.”

In other words, your initial message is your opportunity to
demonstrate that you’ve done more than copy and paste the blogger’s
name and e-mail address. Show that you’ve taken the time to href="http://digitalflacking.blogspot.com/2008/01/how-edelman-conducts-blogger-outreach.html">learn
about
this guy and are familiar with his work. Show that you’re someone
worth engaging with.

A related point. Blogging is a personal and relational medium, so
send e-mail blasts only when you must. Ask yourself: Do you treat
messages in which you’re CCed differently from those in which you’re
the only recipient?


3. Make Your Pitch

Think of this as Public Relations 101. The secret to PR: Make the
blogger feel as though you’re doing him a favor, not asking for one
yourself. Explain why the blogger should care about what you’re
throwing him.


4. Exude Enthusiasm

Think of this as Showmanship 101. If you aren’t jumping for joy
about what you’re pitching, your recipient won’t be, either. Enthusiasm
is contagious. href="http://willvideoforfood.com/2008/06/06/best-blogger-pitch-letter-ever/">Spread
it around.


5. Don’t Pitch. Talk

Think of this as Communications 101. Hacks have long relied on
flacks. But bloggers, especially in tier one, href="http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2007/10/sorry-pr-people.html">tend
to look at PR people
askance. As Nick Denton, founder of Gawker Media, href="http://www.businessinsider.com/gawkers-sales-bosses-chris-batty-is-out-2010-11">puts
it,
“Our sites are allergic to corporate boilerplate.”

This is understandable. For one, while it’s common to spam a hundred
reporters with a press release, bloggers loathe releases. Instead, omit
the manufactured quotes and summarize the key points—maybe in bullets
for easy reading.


6. Be Brief

We live in an era of texts and tweets. href="http://www.briansolis.com/2008/05/escalator-pitch-going-up/">According
to blogger Brian
Solis,
“The escalator is the new elevator when it comes to pitching.” To wit:
You now need to be both succinct and brief. This means resisting the
urge to cram everything into a single message.

Instead of attaching PDFs and PowerPoints, use links generously. Your
goal is to whet your blogger’s appetite, to spur an ongoing
conversation, rather than a once-and-done correspondence.



7. Make the Ask



Think of this as Sales 101. Before you close the deal, you need to make
it clear what the deal is. In the same way, don’t forget to tell your
blogger why you’re e-mailing him. If you’re looking for him to write
something, say so.



If you’re just introducing yourself or asking for feedback, say that.
Be explicit without being Donald Trump.



8. Exploit the Subject Line



Think of this as Marketing 101. Most people devote all their energy to
crafting a compelling pitch, then wrap their labor in a cheap bow. That
is, they treat the subject lines of their e-mail as an afterthought.



Big mistake. Your subject line is an opportunity. Like the href="http://www.kstreetcafe.com/simple-ways-for-think-tanks-to-have-an-impact-online-write-better-headlines/">headline
of
an article,
its point is to persuade the reader to continue onward. Accordingly,
make sure that your subject line does your body text justice.



9. Practice Full Disclosure



Someone’s paying you to talk with bloggers, a fact it behooves you to
disclose. Some experts would advise you to begin your e-mail with
something like, “Hi, I’m Jon Rick. I do online communications for the
Department of Labor.” Others suggest that your href="http://jonathanrick.com/2011/06/how-e-mail-signatures-can-help-brand-and-promote-your-organization/">signature
block serve as your introduction.



Whatever you prefer, remember that not only is transparency important
in itself. Transparency also breeds trust.



Jonathan Rick, a social media strategist in Arlington, Va, blogs at
No Straw Men <http://jonathanrick.com/>
. This post is adapted from his AMA-DC presentation, "How to Win
Friends and Influence Bloggers < href="http://www.jonathanrick.com/2011/05/how-to-win-friends-and-influence-bloggers/">http://www.jonathanrick.com/2011/05/how-to-win-friends-and-influence-bloggers/>
."