Blogger Relations: A Grass Roots Approach
Last week, a friend from Switzerland reached out and asked me a few questions about blogger relations. She was concerned with the time it takes to initiate and nurture relations with bloggers before you “need” them to write about a client. But, at the same time, she realized that unless you are specialized in a certain field, there is no way that you can converse with all these bloggers. I’ve heard this concern before and it is on the minds of many professionals who only have so much time in a day. I, too, have been asked by clients and prospective clients, “Do you know bloggers in our field.” It’s interesting, because I can answer this question in one of two ways. The first way is to say that because I am a blogger, I have become the people I want to reach. So, it’s very easy to engage another blogger, based on knowing blogger relations and proper blogger etiquette.
A lot of the relationships you build, let’s say on Twitter, for example, will come from following bloggers, joining in conversations with them, retweeting and sharing their information, adding meaningful or helpful information to their current conversations (could be a hashtag discussion), and learning more about them by researching their blogs including topics and the type of content they share with their community members. Eventually, when a blogger sees you are contributing helpful information to benefit the community and you are chatting with them on a regular basis, the conversation can then move to a DM (which is more private) to emails once you have established a relationships with them. And, yes these relationships do take time to grow and to build trust . It’s about giving and helping, long before you receive.
However, there are times when you have to act quickly on behalf of client or a new project and when you might not have a personal contact or group of bloggers that cover a certain area or a specific region of the country. In this case, you DON’T just want to build a list and spam everyone on it. Rather, it’s best to take a grass roots approach to build new relationships. Let me give you an example of one approach that’s worked. My agency needed to find food and mom bloggers in the five different cities across the U.S. (Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC) who would blog, tweet and post to Facebook about our client’s new product, which was a gifted dining experience specific to those regions. Our effort started with reaching out to personal contacts (whose networks, in some cases, were large and connected). These friends, more so than not, were nice enough to provide the contact information to their blogger friends, because they believed their friends would be interested in what our client had to offer. Our contacts also said, “Yes, you can use me as a reference.”
With a few names in each city, we received an excellent response from food and mom bloggers, who were thrilled to hear from us, based on the fact that their friends made the recommendation that we contact them. The subject line of the email read: Review of [client’s product name goes here]: Referred to you by [blogger’s friend]. Then, after engaging each new blogger in the program, well over 50% of our mom and food bloggers, were so excited by the product, they recommended their blogger friends to us, and the same pattern continued. What was once a few bloggers in each city has now turned into numerous new relationships with food and mom bloggers across the country.
So when a client or an executive asks you about your relationships with bloggers, you have to remember to tell them that blogger relations can be grass roots and that you’re able to start with a small core group that’s really interested in what you have to share, who will then take the time to not only share your information, content and/or products with their networks, but also, if they like something, recommend it to their own friends to be involved in your program.
As a result, using this type of grass roots approach, you are able to build your blogger contacts in different industries quickly. Of course, following up, thanking your bloggers, and keeping them posted on your client’s efforts, is required, just like you would do with your traditional media contacts. With all good relationships, you need to continue to cultivate them for the long term.
How do you work with bloggers and what types of blogger relations approach do you take?
January 17, 2011 @ 3:39 pm
Good post, Deirdre! I’ve found it’s difficult to follow-up with bloggers because many do not post their phone numbers on their websites. Unlike traditional media, I can’t call and discuss my story idea and rely solely on the bloggers to get back to me.
Before I write to a blogger, I always read their blog and personalize the email. This increases the likelihood of a response, and people love to know that you cared about their recent restaurant review or family trip.
January 17, 2011 @ 4:42 pm
Great post, Deirdre! At my agency, I work with a great deal of bloggers and implement the majority of tactics you listed. To build and maintain the relationship, I invest a lot of time in engaging via Twitter. To start, I always add the bloggers to a private Twitter list, monitor it for an opportunity to engage (as a human, not as a PR guy), then I will follow them after a couple of conversations. This always leads to them following me in return, mentioning our Twitter conversations in e-mails and overall (and most importantly), it helps to kick-start the relationship.
January 17, 2011 @ 6:04 pm
Hi Kion! I think what you’re doing is excellent. I love that you are separating your bloggers into a private Twitter list and then monitoring as a human for opportunities. Great approach and thanks for sharing!
January 17, 2011 @ 6:06 pm
Thank you, Elaine. I’ve been doing follow up through email (if we are at that stage of the relationship) or through Twitter. Sometimes it’s just a quick DM to say thank you or to share something that my blogger friends might find interesting. Your approach is spot on with researching first and making your outreach personal.
January 18, 2011 @ 3:08 am
Once again thanks a lot for your helpful answers.
We should definitely try to rely on each other as PR pro’s to boost our blogger network.
Please don’t hesitate if you ever need help with French speaking bloggers.
Your friend from Switzerland
January 18, 2011 @ 8:05 am
Hi Catherine! Your questions inspired me 🙂 Thank you and yes, as PR pros we should work together to boost our blogger networks. Someday I may need your help with the French speaking bloggers and if you ever need anything, just let me know. Have a great week!
January 18, 2011 @ 10:41 am
Deirdre, this was a helpful post in that it provides a specific example of how to handle both long term blogger relations and short term needs to identify and communicate with bloggers for client work. I have worked with PR firms recently that still do not accept the validity of blogger outreach. This post will provide them with some useful information. Thanks.
January 18, 2011 @ 11:43 pm
Great post, Deirdre. I hadn’t considered your tactic of utilizing personal friends who may have connections as a “way in” to bloggers. In the past, I have primarily utilized Twitter (as everyone above has) to familiarize myself with the blogger and his/her interests, join discussions with him/her and then further the communication via email. Great ideas, everyone!(And thanks again to you, Valerie and Harrison for the shout-out on PRStudChat!)
January 19, 2011 @ 8:04 am
Thanks, Elizabeth! We use Twitter a lot to cultivate relationships with bloggers. But, when you are in need of quick blogger activation, we found that a close circle of friends, in most cases, can give you the introduction you need to start a successful program. Now, there will be instances when the industry or the type of blogging is very specific and perhaps your initial contact might not know the blogger that you want to connect with. For example, when we worked with another client, it took about two or three friends of friends to get us to an individual who was able to connect us with the right bloggers for the program. A few more levels of connections, but it still worked. Thanks for sharing your experience.
January 19, 2011 @ 8:09 am
Hi Allen….Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I’m glad the post provides you with useful information!
January 25, 2011 @ 8:29 pm
Hi Deirdre! Thank you for sharing this case study. I think what stands out to me with your approach is the one to one personalized approach. Starting very small and very personalized has proven to be a highly effective approach for me as well. Sending bulk messages is seemingly super efficient but I’ve seen again and again it just does not work. Again, thanks for sharing your real world experience and the theory behind your approach.