I wrote a post a while ago about how I was approached to cover an interesting internet news story on my blog.

The blogger relations approach from the PR practitioner was a little clumsy but I gave the guy the benefit of the doubt and I felt the story was interesting – so I covered it on the blog. He actually thanked me for it afterwards and apologised for the way in which he approached me which I thought was a nice touch.

At Wolfstar we have been involved in quite a few blogger relations and outreach programmes and we have been targeted for them too. Some are great approaches with great products, some are poor approaches with poor products and some are simply a mix of the two.

A couple of examples of outreach programmes which have reached our radar recently include the launch of the Skype Phone, 02 Cocoon phone, 02 XDA and the launch of a new James Bond book.

I read a great post yesterday from a twitter friend Todd Defren at Shift Communications. I respect Todd hugely and yesterday’s post was so good I felt I should share it with others too.

Blogger Relations Advice

If you are considering using blogger relations for a communications campaign, the first and most important thing to do is good old fashioned research. Then follow this up with lots more reading. Unfortunately it’s not a quick process but if it’s done correctly it can be a very useful tool for communication for your clients or brand.

Here are my ten top tips on how to approach a blogger:

  1. Research the blogosphere carefully using blog search engines such as Technorati, checking the blog’s ranking and authorityto find the most popular
  2. Actually read the blogger’s posts don’t just skim it – read several first to get a feel for their interests and personality. Check out the categories they cover which will also help – subscribe to their feed and check it daily
  3. If the blog is irrelevant – don’t send information to the writer anyway as this could cause more harm than good
  4. Make useful and constructive comments on posts which interest you – try and make the comments mean something
  5. Never make blatant plugs for your own or a client’s company straight away – this can cause major irritation
  6. Approach the blogger only after you think he may actually recognise your name. The approach should usually be personal but if it’s a team blog, address the team properly and say hello
  7. Use simple public relations – make sure you relate to this specific public
  8. Make sure your story is relevant before you send it
  9. Try and send other pieces of information with it rather than just a plain news release – try sending useful demo videos, photos and research all in an easy to digest format
  10. Apologise for the approach if it’s not relevant – these people aren’t journalists so take that into consideration

Blogger Relations Case Study – A good Example

Here is a good example of Blogger Relations from Todd Defren. I am sure Todd won’t mind if I cover his interesting case study, and he writes it like this:

“Our client, NEAT Receipts, makes a handy portable scanner. Most of our work on the account, as you might expect, had been focused on businesspeople and, specifically, road warriors. “Go to a business lunch, then scan the receipt on the front seat of your rental car before you leave the parking lot; build your expense report as-you-go.” We get tons of ink for this straightforward pitch.

But one reporter whom we’d been talking to happened to leave her post at a techie outlet to join Martha Stewart Omnimedia. Wonder of wonders, NEAT Receipts received a high-profile hit with Martha Stewart: which promptly caused the NEAT Receipts scanner to hit #1 on Amazon.com, swamping the company’s e-commerce system for a day.

Between the Martha Stewart coup and a few subsequent “lifestyle” hits, we quickly figured out that this sleek li’l scanner was a hit with stay-at-home mothers who needed an easy way to capture their kids’ drawings, their household receipts, family recipes, etc. Lo! A new market was born.

1472566778_bd1036e477_mSHIFT set its sights on mommybloggers. The problem was that everyone and their mother (pun intended) seemed to have discovered the breadth and power of this blogging niche. As a result, many of the mombloggers were being swamped with inane spam from lackluster PR folk. We needed to be especially careful and conscientious in our outreach.

After several weeks of research, we identified a niche-within-the-niche. Whereas most mommy blogs are, appropriately, about “being a mom,” there is a narrow slice of sites written by some seriously geeky, gadget-loving moms. Rather than hit-up all mombloggers widely, we narrowcasted our approach to a handful.

Stage One – “listening” – was a core component to the research. Our list of 10+ “gadget-lovin’ mommas” was whittled down to 3, once we realized that 7 out of our top-ten didn’t seem likely to appreciate our type of gadget or approach.

Stage Two incorporated respectful outreach, either via email or via the Comments section of the mombloggers’ sites. In the end, each of the three bloggers drafted nice reviews of the NEAT Receipts scanner.

IStock_000004122307XSmallBut Stage Three was what differentiated this campaign from most other programs.

Most PR agencies would have been justifiably happy with these initial successes, marking it as a successful Blogger Relations effort. We decided to push the envelope.

We re-approached the three mommybloggers with a proposition: we’d give each of them 10 scanners to give away to their readers in a contest. To qualify, their readers would need to either:

a) leave a comment about “why I’d love to win a NEAT Receipts scanner” at the mombloggers’ sites, or,

b) write a post on a blog of their own, with a trackback to the mommyblogger’s post which had inspired their entry. (This was generally preferred, as it contributed to the mommybloggers’ own Technorati ranking and overall search engine rankings.)

Our humble scanner lit up the mommysphere. Due to this single contest running on 3 sites, we generated over 80 follow-on blog posts about NEAT Receipts, and almost 1,200 reader comments about “what I’d do with a NEAT Receipts scanner.

This information was pure gold to our client, who had not only recently discovered a new market opportunity, but now also had access to hundreds of pages’ worth of free, user-generated market research which they could use to inspire future product development and messaging ideas.

From my perspective, this type of success – and the passion created for the NEAT Receipts brand – is even better than a Walt Mossberg hit!  (Not that we wouldn’t love it if Walt took a look, too!)”

Thanks Todd for a great case study.

Cross Posted: on Wolfstar

About Chris Norton

Chris Norton is the founder of Prohibition and an award winning communications consultant with more than twenty years’ experience. He was a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and has had a varied PR career having worked both in-house and in a number of large consultancies. He is an Integrated PR and social media blogger and writes on a wide variety of blogs across a huge amount of topics from digital marketing, social media marketing right through to technology and crisis management.