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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. 

Be relevant

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.

Be ethical

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.

Keep talking

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.

Xavier Izaguirre

Published 2 August, 2012 by Xavier Izaguirre

Xavier Izaguirre is Social Media Director at Total Media and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter.

5 more posts from this author

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stanley rao

Good and nice information is being provided.. i agree with the post given above

about 4 years ago

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Miguel Alvarado

Great post and valuable information

about 4 years ago

Steve Davies

Steve Davies, CEO at Fitch Media

As one of the bloggers who works with Xavi and Unruly I can attest to the value of being treated with respect.

Some PR agencies take a patronising approach to blogger engagement, for some reason they believe offering 'exclusive content' (which never is) will be of value, then resort to pestering phone calls to encourage you to 'please' publish their content.

In reality, engagement is mutual and should therefore be more of a partnership - we speak on a bi-weekly basis, work towards adding most value to the campaign and provide eachother with 'honest' feedback about what we did well and what we should improve for next time.

It's really quite a simple formula, which in my experience very few agencies manage to put into practice.

Nice article. You may have a future in this writing lark..

about 4 years ago

Xavier Izaguirre

Xavier Izaguirre, GM Blogger Relations at Unruly Media

Wow Steve that is a very nice comment!

Getting what the engagement value is for each blogger is hard. But I find that an honest approach ( don't say your content is exclusive if you're not sure it is or if it's exclusive for just 24 hours ) works better.

In fact, what better than learning from bloggers first hand what they honestly think of a brand or campaign concept so you can relay feedback to your client...as opposed to try to convince bloggers that your product is the most amazing thing since sliced bread ( it never is, you can't beat sliced bread )

about 4 years ago

Paul Huggett

Paul Huggett, Strategic Planning Director at Stickyeyes

Great article.

It is often frustrating when agencies and brands refuse to put in the time and commitment necessary for blogger outreach. As you say, there is an art to it, and it’s something that can either be done incredibly well or incredibly badly.

I think the relevance section is particularly key in blogger engagement. If you’re really looking to build a relationship with a blogger, then take the time to read their blog and check that they are indeed relevant to your brand. It also helps to take into account social and SEO stats, quality of blog content and overall relevance to the brand for each blogger.

We have heard so many bad stories of PRs writing to bloggers and wasting their time. Putting in the groudwork at the early stages ensures you're approaching the right people, with a tailored approach, which leads to a you will get a better response, stronger partnerships and more effective results.

about 4 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

Organization is key to maintaining good relationships with bloggers. You want to know who you've reached out to so you aren't pestering the same list time and time again; you need to know who expects content from you and when; you need to keep track of what content has gone live so you can promote it and so forth.

about 4 years ago

Xavier Izaguirre

Xavier Izaguirre, GM Blogger Relations at Unruly Media

You're right Paul. In my experience, agencies don't take the time to do it properly for one of two reasons:

Firstly, they think the time is not worth to put in and that they will get better results overall by contacting people with template emails ( because it's faster ). This approach assumes that Blogger Relations is a numbers game. However, it isn't. Bloggers talk among themselves and it doesn't take long for an agency to gain bad reputation. Also, good bloggers are finite, and sometimes you just have one chance!

Secondly, they lack the skills in the team. Being relevant and personal demand skills from the person starting the conversation. Companies need to devote time and resources to train and inspire team members to be passionate and resourceful about Blogger Relations. Usually, they don't ( see point one :) )

Thanks for reading

about 4 years ago

Xavier Izaguirre

Xavier Izaguirre, GM Blogger Relations at Unruly Media

Agree Nick. Organising a good CRM (BRM?) system is probably the hardest and most important point and the reason I made it the first. I have become obsessed over time about records and databases...rightly so!

about 4 years ago

Ed Lamb

Ed Lamb, Client Services Director at Propellernet

Great post Xavier. My thought as I read your personalisation point was "are there really people who don't personalise emails to bloggers?"!

I'd add three others that we've learnt over the years at Propellernet...

1) It helps if you specialise in a particular sector so that you're talking to relevant bloggers regularly without having to come up with reasons to communicate.

2) Where appropriate, ask for feedback on concepts from trusted bloggers before producing your campaign so they can help enhance the concept and are more likely to run with the content.

3) Ask for feedback on what you can do better next time as standard.

about 4 years ago

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yourkrishna

This post is well written.I am interested very much in the subject matter of your blog.We need to follow certain rules and regulations to avoid these kind of situations, thanks.

about 4 years ago

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Cathy Debenham, MD at YouGen

Lots of people who approach me with ideas for my blog say that they have read it, and then go on to demonstrate that they haven't by proposing totally irrelevant articles. So while all the advice above is good, the relevancy section is the most important!

about 4 years ago

Xavier Izaguirre

Xavier Izaguirre, GM Blogger Relations at Unruly Media

Thanks Ed,

Short answer? Yes, there are many I find ( and bloggers tell us ). Also, where do we draw the line of personalisation? Mentioning the name of the blogger and then adding the same template than to everyone else hardly is personalisation.

Great three takeaways. I put in practice number #1 when I joined my team and results were enhanced in a very short period of time. Team members enjoyed deeper connections with existing bloggers and became better at first approach of prospectives. It also made it more fun for everyone.

And agree on the other 2. Feedback is good. It is funny to think some creative teams will spend loads of time brainstorming ideas and discussing concepts but then there is no time put in trying to ask bloggers what works with their audiences.

Oh well, there are also loads of people doing excellent work I am sure :)

about 4 years ago

Xavier Izaguirre

Xavier Izaguirre, GM Blogger Relations at Unruly Media

Thanks Cathy for the comment,

Yes, relevancy is key. Sometimes is difficult for us to read your minds, as it were, but oftentimes reading the blog for a few minutes suffices to evaluate if there would be initial interest in the idea.

When Blogger relations teams use the scatter-gun approach is when relevancy is not observed. I heard all kind of stories of mis-targeting, sometimes it's even funny.

about 4 years ago

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Jeremy Head

At this risk of sounding contraversial I think the opening sentence - blogger relations are essential to a brand nowadays - is just way off the mark. A very few bloggers do have an impact in a few very select categories. But the rest.... I've yet to see much really compelling data. And that piece you link to doesn;t add to it much.
Blogger relations for most brands is about dubious link building tactics most of the time. The rest of it is marketing and PR agencies trying to make more work for themselves

about 4 years ago

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Beaudon

Great post. I think more and more businesses will need to consider your tips before lunching a blog. I usually find the content of each blog may differ slghtly however, many are the same. Blogs grouped by category and association will have different writing style, however they can at times lack in true unique content. Conseqently the blog becomes less relevant and harder for readers to prioritize over others in some of the more competitive areas.

Thanks again. I look forward to reading more.

Cheers,

Beaudon

about 4 years ago

Xavier Izaguirre

Xavier Izaguirre, GM Blogger Relations at Unruly Media

Hi Jeremy, thanks for your comment

I appreciate what you say.

I do feel there is value for brands in Bloggers. However, the key to a good campaign is to understand what is exactly what you need from bloggers, to identify the most relevant ones.

Consider the following benefits to brands

- Awareness. Some bloggers have the reach you need to communicate to a relatively big audience. Think of Mashable for instance, (67M page impressions a month globally). A software product, mobile app or a good video can achieve a lot of awareness if they have a good relationship with editors on this site.

- Insight. One commonly neglected area from Blogger Relations is the insight generated from their conversations and feedback. I understand bloggers as "consumers in steroids". Just like standard consumers, they are in your target market. However, they know more than your regular consumer because they are experts in their area and they hold regular conversations with their audience as to what makes a good product or campaign.

- Drive action. We have just ran a campaign for a technology company (hold it under wraps for now due to client confidentiality). We drove tens of thousands of sign-ups to a competition by involving the top-tier tech bloggers in main European countries. Bloggers are trusted and drive trial, action and purchase. I hope to be able to publish the case study soon and maybe I can send it on?

To recap, I don’t think the question is “are bloggers influential?”, but “what bloggers are influential?”. Agree that many bloggers write for their family and friends but that is why we have reach metrics, social sharing metrics and ROI analysis (among other ways) to understand which bloggers generate the most value to the brands we work with.

about 4 years ago

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Hugh Anderson, Co-Founder & Director at Forth Metrics Limited

Great post Xavier. All valid and helpful points. At a holistic level I think a lot of PRs and their clients struggle with understanding the value that can be gained as blogger outreach is not a quick win and it needs patience and dedication. At a practical level, certain parts of the process are also still not that easy to do quickly and simply, particularly the researching for relevancy (which is critical) and the measuring aspect.

If you or your readers would like a comprehensive view of either the value of blogger relations (to justify to a boss or client) or a best practice guide to the process, we have published ebooks on each of these subjects that have had great reviews. Just google Inkybee.

about 4 years ago

Steve Davies

Steve Davies, CEO at Fitch Media

We've got to be careful when assessing blogger influence purely on the basis of systemic reach. While there may seem obvious choices in terms of reach (i.e. Mashable), you've then got to weigh that against the quality of the content produced by the blog and therefore how sticky and engaging this is likely to be.

Moving down to smaller sites (and bearing in mind this quality rather than quantity philosophy) some blogs have traffic, but very little engagement because they don't possess much authority - examples of this would be MSN and other portals whose blogs are often like the motorway service stations of the web, where you eat a snack but nobody is likely to talk about their meals. The opposite is true of a well loved restaurant in town whose food is so great that everyone talks about it - smaller clientele but greater influence.

Likewise these blogs are not separate islands of content - if you're running a blog or website you're aware of who else publishes the most interesting content, and like magpies most travel around checking out the content of these competitive sites. Therefore sometimes the best route is to find the sites known for original (or highly opinionated) content and use the fact that the other sites will pick up what they publish.

I guess the point I'm making is not to fall into the trap of merely pulling a list of sites from ComScore and assuming the top 5 sites are the only ones worth bothering with. Like most human systems, the interactions are more complex than merely cause and effect.

about 4 years ago

Xavier Izaguirre

Xavier Izaguirre, GM Blogger Relations at Unruly Media

Thanks Hugh

We indeed know inkybee! Not only we loved the logo at my team but we also have read the guide. We're happy to confirm we tick all the boxes! Thanks for sharing that.

True what you say about quick wins vs long term. Like with everything in business, it is hard to invest in long term. One of the things we have done for months now and has brought great results is to make time to interact with bloggers in various ways...just because, with no campaigns in mind. I was happy to see you mentioned a similar point in your guide later. We call it Happy Blogger Hour...and it's awesome.

about 4 years ago

Xavier Izaguirre

Xavier Izaguirre, GM Blogger Relations at Unruly Media

Oh Steve, the old reach vs influence debate, nice one.

Here is what I think. It all comes down to the end result the brand seeks to have in their target audience.

If a brand is trying to sell cars, or change the CRM system of an organisation, they need credibility and authority to drive influence. After all, that is not a decision to take on a whim.

However, if a brand is trying to simply get families to sign up to a competition to further engage with them, then reach can do the job better, with for example, Mumsnet.

Interesting what you say about unique vs rehashed content. Would the blogs writing unique and original content not top comScore lists naturally?

I also love your metaphor of restaurants. I am sure I will use it at some point ;)

about 4 years ago

Steve Davies

Steve Davies, CEO at Fitch Media

--"Would the blogs writing unique and original content not top comScore lists naturally?"--

One of the more disappointing consequences of content saturation on the internet is that audiences stay with what's familiar, rather than necessarily seeking out the greatest nourishment.

It very much depends on the sector - knowledge-based subjects such as business, technology and finance will tend to show a closer correlation between quality of content and traffic, whereas there are many 'magpie' sectors such as fashion, celebrities, fail-blogs and even cars which are like pin-boards of content where the quality of their content is less of a factor.

I agree that if a brand is looking to primarily increase awareness, then fill-yer-boots with the highest traffic sites available, but endorsement, engagement and sentiment change require more consideration and thought.

about 4 years ago

Xavier Izaguirre

Xavier Izaguirre, GM Blogger Relations at Unruly Media

Well I agree with that but most blogging verticals have their rankings and awards that make the whole thing more dynamic. I guess you are right in that people stick to what they know via their social media subscriptions though. But if a blog is good, over time it rises to the top...call me optimistic

For us a key metric at Unruly, as you know, is sharing. We measure social reactions to pieces of content to ascertain how engaging and reputable a source is.

Thanks for all your comments by the way!

about 4 years ago

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Anjalogica

Great article Xavier! I wish all companies would work with Bloggers like that!

about 4 years ago

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Chef Hermes

Great article, maybe some of the UK food PRs should read this.
Over the two years of my blog I've approached some PRs with stories about their clients. I've been lied to on so many occasions now that I'm hesitant to approach them & instead just publish the stories I have.
I do however have some good working relationships with PRs, thankfully these out weigh the bad.

about 4 years ago

Xavier Izaguirre

Xavier Izaguirre, GM Blogger Relations at Unruly Media

Thanks Chef ( yes, chef! )

Knowing your PR is very important. Sorry to hear you've been lied to, not sure how people expect to build a relationship based on lies :(

about 4 years ago

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Wall

It's an amazing piece of writing designed for all the internet people; they will take advantage from it I am sure.

about 4 years ago

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Natalie

You make some great points Xavi especially about relevancy and not just getting in touch when you want something. I receive a hell of a lot of emails from PRs, brands, retailers and I find that particularly with PRs and brands that many fail to answer the question of "Why should I care enough to write about this?" and "Why is this relevant *to* *me*?" It gives me email fatigue and I lose interest because I expect to mostly be looking at tat in my inbox which is not exactly very motivating. As for the getting in touch just because, loving it, because I must say that I feel like some cheap booty call - a lot of people only get in touch when they want something and it makes the interaction so insincere.

about 4 years ago

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Sanders

I'm starting a new online blog directory and was wanting to know if I can submit your blog? I'm hoping to increase my directory slowly by hand so that it maintains high quality.

I'll make sure and put your blog in the correct category and I'll also use, "Nine tips for awesome blogger relations | Econsultancy" as your anchor text.
Please let me know if this is alright with you by mailing me at:
isaacsanders@yahoo.com. Thanks

about 4 years ago

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Whittle

Greeting Home! The present was inappropriate for me personally to wear to the airport!

about 4 years ago

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Ingalls

There is definately a great deal to know about this topic.
I like all of the points you made.

almost 4 years ago

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workflow system

these are some effective and great tips which everyone can use.i appreciate them and going to be use in right way for blogging.

over 3 years ago

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