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Engaging with bloggers – dos and don’ts

Blogging is now firmly part of the mainstream. As print media circulations continue to decline, a multitude of new voices is emerging, self-publishing content as so-called ‘citizen-journalists. Mummy bloggers are perhaps the most well-known, followed by food bloggers (have you seen how many people take photos of their food these days?). But it’s not restricted to these groups, because for every niche interest – and I mean every niche interest – there’s a blogger, somewhere, writing to an engaged community of readers.

And what’s most interesting is that bloggers are increasingly blurring traditional media boundaries. In many cases, it’s bloggers – not the mainstream media – who are able to bring us the real inside track on an issue, less inhibited by the commercial restraints imposed by a publisher. In short, bloggers are increasingly savvy and out there producing, in some cases, outstanding content, read by huge audiences.

What this presents for SMEs is a compelling opportunity; by engaging with a particular blogger, a brand can gain valuable advocacy from an influential voice and also benefit from the Holy Grail of marketing: peer recommendation. Why is that so important? Because as consumers grow skeptical of advertising, peer recommendation is now seen as increasingly more credible than any other form of media.

So that’s clearly a good thing. But unfortunately, there also lies the problem. While PR relies on tried-and-tested processes (writing and pitching in a press release, for example), blogging requires a more careful, selective approach that many companies are still figuring out. And that means many are still getting it badly wrong, to the frustration and detriment of everyone involved. Here are a few pointers:

One size does not fit all

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to engaging with bloggers; some won’t ever feature brands, some will want payment, some will never get back to you. So that means never blanket emailing out your press release to a list of bloggers and hoping for the best. Just as you’d take time to understand what particular journalist or section of a newspaper would be most appropriate for your product, do the same with a blogger. So that means taking time to actually read what they write about and developing a bespoke pitch to reflect that. Think like (and be) one of their readers; what angles would be most interesting? Also think beyond a pure sales pitch, as no one wants that (unless of course, it’s a blog about sales pitches).

Detail is important

Do your homework. It’s often the little things that count, like getting a blogger’s name right. You’d be surprised at how many people get that wrong. Or pitching in your product because the blogger has already got an interest in whatever it is you do. One person I know writes almost exclusively about social marketing and PR, yet last week got approached by a brand that makes diet pills, with a view to writing a review on them. Huh?

Appreciate they are not (usually) paid for this

It’s important to remember, most bloggers do what they do out of a passion for it, not because it’s their full-time job like a journalist. But despite that, they will be approached by brands all the time. So remember this next time you’re pitching in a story or chasing them up for a response. And don’t treat them with any less respect just because they don’t do it for a living.

Be clear about what you want

While you shouldn’t expect a blogger to run an advert for your particular product or service do be clear at the outset what your expectations are so there’s no miscommunication – from both sides. Always deliver on what you say you will, and similarly, expect a blogger to deliver on what they agree to.

Think: what have you got that is of value?

By and large, bloggers are interested in bringing their readers added value, usually in the form of content, as well as increasing their own readership. So when formulating your pitch, get creative and consider how you can achieve these factors. If you’re a drinks brand, for example, have you got a taste expert who could provide some reader advice, or could you look at running an exclusive sales offer or competition? Failing that, every blogger is appreciative of more traffic, so is there any way you can plug their blog through your newsletter or website?

Starting small can make a big difference

Don’t expect to get every blogger in your industry sector to talk about your product right away – or at all. Start small, and cultivate respectful relationships with bloggers you’re interested in, and think could make a good fit with your brand. Successfully reaching a niche audience who have a genuine passion for what you do can, in many cases, be far more effective than reaching a mass audience who has indifference towards you.

Will Ockenden is a social media and public relations specialist at Lucre.

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