Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Publicity Club of New England’s first panel event of the 2011-2012 season, “Blogger Relations for PR Pros,” or, as many referred to it, “Meet the Bloggers.” Panelists Rachel Leah Blumenthal (food and arts blogger for CBS Boston), Greg Gomer (managing editor for BostInnovation), Jason Keith (SMB blogger for Boston.com) and Dianna Huff (B2B Web Marketing Expert for DH Communications, Inc.) were kind enough to discuss best tips when pitching bloggers, the importance of forming relationships, how to recognize a blog versus an online publication, and, perhaps most popularly, some general “pet peeves” bloggers tend to have based on their experience working with PR pros. Moderator Kristin Allaben wasted no time with fluff questions; following introductions, she unleashed the audience inquiries. Some highlights, below.
Biggest PR pet peeve for bloggers
If I had to sum it up in two words, I definitely would has said “untargeted pitches.” Everyone on the panel agreed on this issue, pointing out that if offenders actually read their blogs, they would realize just how unrelated their pitches were. Huff went so far as to print out several bad pitches she received in the last week (it made for an enlightening visual), adding, “Know my name, read my blog and keep it short.” She was met with no dissent from her fellow panelists.
Keith also advised against sending only a press release, warning that 99 percent of those Emails do not get read. From that point, the conversation about Don’ts shifted to the topic of Dos. Blumenthal and Gomer chatted about how much more interesting pitches are when they were accompanied by multimedia content – especially videos – considering that it takes less time to watch a quick video than it does to sift through a lengthy press release. In addition, our panelists asked us to read our pitches before we send them (earth-shattering concept, I know): did we find them interesting? If not, then how could we possibly expect our target bloggers to find it coverage-worthy?
Pitching and follow-up methodology
“Be persistent.” Seventy-five percent of the panelists have day jobs, and they noted that sometimes they just don’t get to all their Emails at the end of the day. Even Gomer, who has no excuse to not respond to every pitch immediately (kidding…), encouraged attendees to keep following up if they truly believed in their pitch (see the above on reading your own story idea). Gomer also encouraged personality in a pitch to connect with the blogger. Answer the questions “Who are you?” “How did you find me?” “Why would my readers care about what you have to say?”
When asked about the phone, the panelists all but rained fire upon the audience. Keith went so far as to say that the phone has since passed its prime. The other two panelists with day-jobs reminded us that they can’t take personal calls at work, anyway. Gomer then quipped “But if I’m calling you, you had better pick up.” Rather than track down a phone number, the bloggers said they’d be more keen to reading comments on their posts. “It’s a good way to get in front of us and be relevant at the same time,” he added.
Embargoes? “Bloggers don’t even know what they are,” warned Blumenthal. Keith had a different approach.
“Only use embargos as a Trojan to get coverage — then tell your client you’re brilliant.”
When it comes to thank-yous, they were generally discouraged unless they served to highlight some positive outcome from the story.
LinkedIn and Twitter: “Yes.” Facebook: “No.” Google+: crickets, followed by “Mildly creepy.” I think the reasons here are self-explanatory, so I won’t waste your time further on that one.
My takeaway from the panel was that in principle, bloggers should be treated similarly to traditional media reporters. In real life, bloggers are “superhuman” (suggested Keith) people with day jobs and even less time for redundancy or untargeted Email blasts. At the same time, when you aren’t targeting the TechCrunches and the Mashables, you actually have more leeway with bloggers who actually have time to read your comments and to connect with you that way.
What are some of your blog-pitching tips and lessons learned?