Fall 2010
Public Relations, Social Media and Blogs: They Go Hand-in-Hand By Jennifer Wezensky

Bloggers have staked out a strong claim as the latest peddler of news and opinion in a field that had been ruled by print and broadcast journalists, and the most conspicuous in the era of new media over the Internet. And while it’s hard to spend any time at all in cyberspace without stumbling over a blogger, it’s not easy to find the right set of bloggers who will do your business or organization any good.

How to reach bloggers

Bloggers have staked out a strong claim as the latest peddler of news and opinion in a field that had been ruled by print and broadcast journalists, and the most conspicuous in the era of new media over the Internet. And while it’s hard to spend any time at all in cyberspace without stumbling over a blogger, it’s not easy to find the right set of bloggers who will do your business or organization any good. Unlike print and broadcast news media, there is no all inclusive business directory, because not all of them follow a business model or even file a business address.

The actual number of blogs has proven difficult to estimate. The numbers run from 22 million to around 115 million English language blogs, depending on the criteria used. But by any criteria, professional, corporate or hobbyist, the number of bloggers continues to grow, though many don’t stick around. So trying to buy an email list of bloggers that you can pitch with your press releases and story angles isn’t going to be very effective, or accurate.

Yet bloggers are clearly too much of a force to ignore, and too much of an opportunity for publicity to pass up. It takes some work to find bloggers who can be helpful to you. Unlike mailing lists of traditional media, where you take a large list and filter it down to a manageable amount you can target, you start small when finding bloggers and work your way up.

To search blogs on Google: Go to the Google home page or any Google search page, and in the drop down links under “more,” select “blogs.” Enter your search terms on the new page. Use “Advanced Blog Search” for more options, and to set a range of dates when the blog posts were written. As of early 2010, Google’s Blog Search only goes back to 2005 when it began indexing blog site feeds.

Set an email alert for updated results: Google also allows you to create an email alert for new postings of your search terms as a modern version of a news clipping service. On the search results page, you’ll see a prompt to create an email alert. Click on the prompt’s link, and on the new page you set details including how often to check for updates, and the email address to which you want the alerts sent.

Find blogs through social media: Ask connections established through business oriented social media such as LinkedIn to recommend valuable blog sites. Better yet, ask your connections to pass on your request to their connections. An actual example shows a particular member of LinkedIn has 34 connections. But add friends of friends, and that second degree of connections rises to more than 5,300. Add a third degree of connection, and the number rises to more than 616,000. Even if most don’t respond, and you really don’t want 616,000 emails, that’s still likely to leave a reasonable percentage of responses from people who already know the sites you’re looking for.

How to pitch bloggers

Bloggers are trickier to pitch than traditional journalists, even if some of them are also traditional journalists. The blogosphere is a more casual style of news writing and commentary, with few established standards for the bloggers to meet. Those standards are evolving as the perception of the quality and importance of blogs improves.

The blogger aggregate site Technorati.com reports in its annual “State of the Blogosphere” that 70 percent of its members surveyed in 2009 say that “personal satisfaction is a way they measure the success of their blog.” That’s true mostly for those who write blogs as a hobby. For the pros, they measure success by the number of visitors. Technorati categorizes pro bloggers as part-timers, corporate and self-employed.

But even among the pros, you can’t approach them as you would journalists. Even if a blog appears on a website run by a newspaper or broadcast news department, the writing there is meant as a personal take on the news. Blogs are meant to be conversational in tone, so to pitch a blog, you have to start a conversation.

Starting the conversation Your best bet is to find a few bloggers, maybe only one or two, who write about the field you’re interested in. If they’re credible among your peers, read their blogs, and submit a comment on what they’ve written. The comment not only introduces you to the blogger, but the blog’s readers also get to know you.

Give information, not a sales pitch

A flagrant sales pitch for your product or services is an immediate turn-off to a blogger. Worse, you risk getting publicly slammed by the blog’s readers. Instead, if the blogger writes about an industry trend, give some additional insight to that trend. Explain why you think the trend is occurring, and how businesses – not just yours – are responding. Of course you can give some details of your business’ response, but those details should be worded to explain the value to the blog reader and potential user of your product, such as how to fix a problem, or how to properly use a product or adapt it. Don’t say it’s a great product. If it is great, someone else will likely say it in the comment thread. If you say your product is great, it’s almost guaranteed someone will say it’s not.

Product reviews

Many bloggers do product reviews as a regular part of their writing. For these bloggers, it’s perfectly legit to pitch a product to them and offer to send your product to them, either for a free tryout period or free to keep, depending on the cost.

But there are some bloggers who expect more than that. Some bloggers want to be paid to do a product review, with an additional premium for writing a good review. When bloggers are open about such payments and acknowledge them on their sites, then the write-up is simply an advertorial, and you have to decide how credible and valuable the blog would be for you.

But some ethically challenged bloggers don’t see the problem in asking for payment but not telling their readers it’s a paid pitch. Stay away from those blogs. Readers are actually quick to pick up on such pay-to-play schemes without transparency, and the credibility of the blog sinks to zero. At best, the write-up isn’t worth the price you paid. Worse, it could impact your credibility as well.

Go viral

Post links to any blog write-ups you receive on your own website, and share it on social media sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook. Send out a tweet with the link on Twitter. Not only does that increase your publicity, it increases the reach of the blogger, making the writer even more receptive to your pitches.

Jennifer Wezensky

JW Public Relations is a Michigan-based boutique PR firm specializing in helping small businesses garner positive media coverage. Led by a veteran PR professional and journalist, the JW Public Relations team includes current and former broadcast and print reporters and editors as well as other experienced PR pros.The new JW PR Toolkits series has all of the tools any retailer needs to create a "do-it-yourself" PR campaign on a shoe-string budget. For more information, visit www.jwprtoolkits.com.

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