The blogosphere has quickly become essential for PR professionals. Blogs not only offer additional coverage, they also influence traditional journalists and spread news quickly across the web. In addition, they enable interactive dialogue with bloggers and consumers (potentially transitioning your news releases from B-to-B to B-to-B-to-C). Although the distinctions between bloggers and journalists are murky, in many cases non-existent, some different considerations do apply when reaching out to bloggers. Above all else: authenticity, transparency, relationship building and honesty.
Here are a few tips for reaching the blogosphere with your next New Media Release.
1. Target, target, target. Appropriate target lists are always important, but never is that more true than when reaching out to bloggers. Unlike many journalists, bloggers rarely opt into lists giving PR professionals approval to email then. Due to the fact that most PR distribution lists are created using subscription lists as their basis, many in the PR profession do not strictly adhere to CAN-SPAM laws. At PWR we see that as an excessively legalistic position. Whether CAN-SPAM laws apply to opt-in databases is a gray legal area to be sure, but PR professionals and news distributors should follow the spirit of the law: include an opt out link, opt out quickly upon request, and, above all, make sure you have permission to send, be that through a reputable source or by creating a personal relationship with the recipient and providing information tailored to their beat or interest. The need for permission prior to sending is especially important when dealing with bloggers who, unlike traditional journalists, are not necessarily accustomed to being inundated with email, and, have a ready-made platform for heralding their displeasure (leading to occasional resentment on the part of bloggers who receive unwelcome emails).
We are currently working with PWR clients to create totally customized, permission based, lists. We interact with every blogger on the list to confirm that they are interested in the client’s future releases and see what our clients can offer them to make their job easier. Building two-way relationships is essential.
2. Reorganize and rewrite. Transparency is highly valued in the blogosphere so a clear and spin-free press release will be more beneficial than a hyped release written by committee (or worse, your legal department!). Consider a simple bullet point format laying out the basic facts. Use clearly labeled sidebar links to give bloggers access to quotes from experts and officers within your organization, customer comments, background information and company timelines and histories–the honest nuts and bolts of any good article. Consider making a more traditionally written release a sidebar link so that bloggers who prefer to simply cut and paste the entire article can do so quickly and easily, while those who want to put their own spin on the story have the resources to do that too,
3. Go digital. Of course, a digital release packed with images, video, audio, social media bookmarks, etc. is a great way to put content into the hands of bloggers. Consider including video/audio of corporate officers answering questions about the release topic or simple how-to videos. Make sure to include images of your product, key personnel or event. Social media bookmarks, search engine optimization and other web friendly features can enhance the on-line life of your release. If you’re a real innovator and comfortable with the blogosphere, consider adding a blog element to your release to improve the dialogue and invite bloggers to speak with you in a transparent forum (and, further enhance your release’s optimization).
4. Interact. Familiarize yourself with the key blogs in your space. Google alerts and blog rolls, for example, can be used to track sources down. Then, find out how targeted bloggers want to be pitched by reading their blogs and interacting with them directly, posting comments when appropriate. Always be forthcoming about your organizational role when you do. There is nothing wrong with saying you represent “the coolest brand ever” and think that your “super groovy brand has an innovative idea to share.” Use social media tools to keep in touch and up to date: follow the prominent bloggers in your space on Twitter, befriend them on Facebook and connect with them on Linked In. Be sure you are not only reaching out when you want something from them, but make efforts to give them something they want too: offer interviews with experts and/or free product samples to give their readers. Ask what you can do for them. As Sean Bohan tweeted to me recently, the biggest idea for blogger outreach is “listen, listen, listen!”
5. Respect their time. Although the lines between traditional media outlets, on-line papers, and blogs are blurred, the drive to publish quickly is paramount for blogs. Bloggers generally do not have lead times like most journalists; in the words of John Biggs, “our lead time is approximately 5 seconds.” Since immediacy is king, offer them a chance to break your story first and give them exclusive access to information and people that will make their coverage stand out. Don’t hassle them with unwanted phone calls or irrelevant emails. Instead, become a useful resource they can turn to for news and information to pass on to their readers.
While many of these simple rules apply to “old media” as well as “new,” keep in mind that many bloggers are indeed “new” to the world of press releases and, like traditional journalists, see them as valuable resources or clutter depending on their relevance and content.
Any tips you would like to share?