Effective Blogger Relations is essential to brands these days. The high degree of trust of consumers in blogs, and the ability of bloggers to influence purchase decisions, make it hard to overstate the importance of this discipline.
Blogger relations are as important as they are delicate. Gaining positive coverage from bloggers is harder than being secretly criticised, publicly flamed or simply ignored.
Here are nine tips that will increase the chances of success from your Blogger Relations programme...
Have a database and record everything
Things can get out of control rather quickly when you have either an individual or a team talking to bloggers but not keeping records of the number and outcome of conversations.
From emailing a blogger who has explicitly asked someone else in your company not to be contacted, to “cold” approaching a blogger that you already worked with in the past, no database means unhappy bloggers and failed campaigns.
Whether you need a robust online CRM solution such as Salesforce, a more social version of CRM such as Batchbook or you can survive with some good old spreadsheet software, start keeping records today.
Measure, measure, measure
There is an art to good blogger relations but there is also a need for science, which is often overlooked. Analysing the level of response to different propositions or different approaches is only the start.
You will also need to measure the reach and influence of your target bloggers as well as the performance of the campaign in terms of awareness, advocacy, attention and action, so you can optimise forthcoming projects.
Don’t complicate yourself. Just ensure you keep records of all your conversations in spreadsheets in a consistent manner so that you can slice and dice all your data into insight. Get familiar with pivot tables, basic statistical analysis and experimental techniques.
For instance, I strongly recommend conducting A/B tests as part of your blogger outreach programme to tweak what you say and how you say it.
Bloggers will usually have a very defined area of interest. Their passion (and their audience’s) for their niche means any content outside of it will be deemed irrelevant and out of context.
For example, software bloggers are not interested in gadgets and football bloggers are not interested in marathons.
Better than being relevant is being very relevant. If you run a campaign for for Cravendale (surrounding the thumbcats concept) and your target audience is mummy bloggers, you will have better results if you approach mummies who have pet cats.
Try this. You can add special search parameters to your target sitelist with an Excel formula that adds “site:” before the URL and “(our OR my) cat” after it. Plunge your list of search terms into this site and find out in seconds who amongst your target mummy bloggers have cats.
Provide engagement value
Bloggers will be interested in what you have to say if you give them something of value. For instance, an experience, a product to test, some exclusive content or sponsorship opportunities. This is what they call “engagement value” at Ogilvy. In other words, it means “a reason to engage with you”.
You might think you have great content for the blogger. However, in these days of discovery engines and news voting sites you simply cannot compete on content only.
Decide what your engagement value will be well before you initiate contact. Analyse how similar cases in the past were received or test with a core community of bloggers to assess their initial interest.
Being ethical is not only the nicest thing to do, but it is also the safest and most effective way of conducting blogger relations.
Firstly, bloggers appreciate companies that are ethical and don’t put the blog at risk of a penalty or a fine.
Secondly, it is more effective. For instance, appropriate disclosure (of the relationship between the brand and the bloggers increases the trust of the reader when compared to an article that does not disclose this relationship).
Disclosed or not, consider that most readers know there is a brand behind the article, just in case you are thinking of going “undercover”.
Familiarise yourself with the WOMMA standards of conduct and seriously consider membership.
Personalise all your outreach emails
Everybody reacts well to a friendly, honest voice. If you are interested in a blog and the opportunities it represents for your brand, compliment the blogger and show him or her your interest by giving feedback, asking open questions and sharing interesting pieces of information where you share no vested interests.
Personalising emails does not only increases response rate, it also helps nurturing a deeper relationship with the blogger from the onset. Start today by emailing that blogger with an unique email that only applies to him/her.
Do you forget your friends? Quit sending them emails and texts? Stop wishing them happy birthday?
You might not need to wish your bloggers happy birthday (though it would be nice)but you need to get in touch with them on a regular basis. If you did a good job at establishing a connection in the first approach (being ethical, relevant and friendly) then you will surely have something to talk to them about.
At Unruly we have pioneered the “Happy Blogger Hour”, a cheeky twist of the “Sales power hour” where we contact or gift existing and prospective bloggers with no campaigns or projects in mind, just as a random act of kindness. No wonder we work with the happiest bloggers!
Forget brand-speak, embrace person-speak
Lastly, bear in mind you are talking to people. As in the 95 theses of Cluetrain Manifesto, conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
There are no reasons for you not to praise your own product ( after all you have great belief in it! ). However, if you don’t sound human, bloggers ( people ) will ignore you.
Describe your product with the same vocabulary you would use to a friend in a pub. Hint: “cool new app” is often better than “revolutionary new technology”
Going international? Mind the culture
If you are lucky enough to conduct global blogger outreach make sure you understand the traits, etiquette and regulations of different cultures before taking the plunge.
At Unruly, we know Spanish Bloggers prefer more casual treatment than Polish Bloggers and that Thai bloggers prefer phone conversations, as opposed to British, who favour email. We also remember when Ramadan is before approaching Muslim countries and that Youtube is banned in China.
To avoid all this confusion, simply hire and work closely to a native speaker that understands the space when conducting international blogger outreach.
These are only basic pieces of advice. Companies and agencies should always strive to constantly delight bloggers in their approach. Staying true to your values, thinking laterally and continuously experimenting new ways will allow you to take things to the next level.