A fellow public relations professional posed the question: “How do I get placement on blogs?” The answer I gave was honest and to the point, but it didn’t address the a hidden problem in his approach.

[flickr style="float: left"]photo:126354515[/flickr]My answer was something along the lines of, “Pitch bloggers the way you would primary targets within traditional media. Do your homework. Personalize your pitch. Reach out in a manner that suggests (hopefully honestly) that you’re trying to build a relationship and provide something valuable to his or her audience. If you truly are, the blogger will respond just like the Wall Street Journal editor or nightly news correspondent would.” And while that is absolutely the way I would approach trying to “get placement” on blogs, his question beckons a tad more discussion.

The real answer to the question, “How do I get placement on blogs?” is simple: You don’t.

PR pros don’t “get placement” on blogs. Blogs don’t have placement opportunities. They have stories. To be in them, your client’s product, service or event has to be damn interesting, compelling and engaging. And even if it is all three of those, it still must be relevant to that blogger’s particular audience. If it’s not, the blogger will create something with those qualities in its stead.

The major obstacle most public relations professionals encounter when dealing with bloggers is the disconnect between media outlets and bloggers as media. Blogs normally aren’t publications or broadcasts with editors and assignment desks. They are opinionated people with varying degrees of intelligence, ethics and ego, who are going to write whatever the hell they want whether it’s fair, accurate or even truthful. You can make a logical pitch to an editor and get placement in the Metro section. You can make the same pitch to a blogger and he’ll salute you one finger at a time.

Let’s say you make cold medicine for toddlers. You might send out a press release about your amazing new product that has tested better than any other on the market. You’ll follow up with some big-name parenting writers and pitch away. The publications and broadcasts pick up on your new product because their audience is interested in parent-helping material. You get a 30-40 percent pick up rate and a healthy pat on the back from the client.

Now you turn to the blogosphere and send the same press release to all the parenting bloggers Technorati can spit. You’re giving them valuable information about a new product that could help parents everywhere. Their audience is probably interested. Why wouldn’t they use it?

Because for most bloggers, it’s as much about them as it is about the audience.

You have to approach each personally. And that doesn’t mean sending them shwag. Shwag, in fact, normally gets you outed and made fun of. They want to know you understand who they are, what interests their blog serves and then what their audience is interested in.

I’ll use the same scenario with a blog I don’t know. Let’s take SarcasticMom.com. (No offense to Lotus Caroll, the author, but I haven’t read the blog before Saturday night, when I wrote this. It was chosen randomly from a list of parenting blogs I browsed on Technorati.) Keep in mind that one should always start by frequenting the blog, commenting on stories, participating in contests and memes, discussing issues with other readers in the comment sections and so on, LONG BEFORE ever pitching. Establishing yourself as both an audience member and a trusted participant in the online community of a blog breaks down the first barrier to a successful pitch: the blogger doesn’t know you.

But let’s assume I have been given the client’s orders with no time to spare. While this greatly lessens my chances of success, I have been told to “Get this on blogs!” Assume that I know better than to approach a blogger cold, but my client has given me no choice.

So I go to SarcasticMom.com and start reading. Ten minutes of research tells me this blog is mostly personal stories, pictures and observations from a parent about her own children. She has a sarcastic tone and wit about her and a weekly photo winner meme that incorporates other bloggers and audience members. While she does sometimes blog about products she uses and this is an influential and popular parenting blog, it is NOT a “how to” or advice site for parenting information.

So how to you “get placement” from this blogger? Well, here’s my hypothetical email to her. My hope is that Lotus will swing by and tell us if the pitch would have worked. Granted, she may be 100-percent anti-PR, “I ain’t writing crap about you, blasphemous marketer persons,” and comment below that I can go suck it. But here’s what I might write in an email:

“Hi Lotus,

I’ve been enjoying your blog lately. Braden certainly is one of the cutest kids I’ve seen. And congratulations on the soon-to-be. I’ve got two myself and can safely predict you’ll have a LOT more to blog about soon.

While I know you don’t write about products often, I wanted to let you know that Rid-Snot Toddler Cold Medicine (I work for them) is about to become available in stores. Consumer Reports says it more effective than all other cold medicines on the market for 1-5 year-olds. I was wondering if I might send along a sample for Braden to try the next time a cold hits? Blog or not, we just want your feedback. Since we hope Braden doesn’t run into any colds, perhaps we can send a few samples for you to share with friends with children and get feedback from them. Just let me know how many you’d like and where to send them and we’ll overnight them to you.

And, as always, if you’re not interested in trying, just let me know. I appreciate you taking the time to consider it.

Oh … and the naked butt picture from the “Giving Up Carefree Toilet Time” post might be the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while. Cute kid.

Thanks a million!

Jason”

Because this person is a blogger, and the fact that there’s a lot of personal stuff in her blog, I wouldn’t think of following up with a phone call, even if I could find her number. Too stalker-esque and creepy. At most I would follow up with a, “Did you get that?” email a couple days later, then assume she wasn’t interested. Knowing when to stop trying is as important as knowing how to approach a blogger. Pestering them will lead to almost certain retribution somewhere.

Of course, if I had started out by participating on her blog as a part of her community for some time before the pitch, I would continue to participate as normal, never mentioning the pitch or the outcome of my approach. As my new cold medicine will hopefully be around for a while, from the pitch forward, I would make it a point to comment on posts as often as I am compelled to do so. In other words, now, on behalf of my client and myself, I am a full-time reader of her blog.

Here’s why I think this kind of pitch would work:

  • I immediately made a personal connection, recognizing she blogs about her son and is expecting. (I’ve read at least a few posts back.)
  • I’m giving her relevant information about a product she might be interested in personally, and her audience might be as well.
  • I’m NOT ASKING HER TO BLOG ABOUT IT! I’m merely asking if she’ll try it. This is critical. More often than not, bloggers will automatically say “no” if you ask them to blog about something. Giving them reasons to blog about something, however, is different. (Consumer reports, free samples, offer of extra for friends, etc.)
  • I’m also asking for her feedback, whether she blogs or not. Her opinion matters to me. Remember, it’s as much about the blogger as it is the audience.
  • I wrap it up with a reference to a blog post from almost a month ago, validating the humor she finds in her son and showing that I’ve read more than the front page.
  • Other than asking for a reply, there are no strings.

Keep in mind this is a special circumstance because this example is a personal blogger. I chose this type of blog because they are sometimes the most influential, yet most difficult to find success with. In reality, reaching out to someone mentioning their children by name is creepy. I would steer clear of Lotus if I didn’t have the requisite time to dive in and participate in her community first. In that regard this is a bad example, but again, these are often the most potent places for your client’s products or services.

And just to clarify, unless you go through clients like babies through diapers, reaching out to these bloggers and communities should be a long-term and ongoing process. If I had a client that worked in the child product category and SarcasticMom.com was a “target” blog, I would devote a block of my schedule each week to commenting, participating and communicating with Lotus, even during weeks when I didn’t have something to pitch. Keep in mind my attitude couldn’t be that it’s a “target” blog and I’m trying to infiltrate the community. I would approach it as a genuinely interested party. (I enjoy stories of other people’s kids, have two of my own I like to talk about as well and can share parenting stories all day.) Eventually, I would become familiar to both Lotus and her commenters and assimilate into the community as a trusted member. Once at that point and so long as I’m forthcoming and honest when pitching something, my guess is that Lotus would take it into consideration, perhaps even more favorably than with others.

So here’s your Monday treat. I’m sticking my neck out a bit on two counts. First, if Lotus does come by, she may rail on me for being a marketer. Hopefully, she’ll see the example as a valid one in which a product relevant to her and her audience is approaching with respect, courtesy and honesty and therefore isn’t offended. Not to mention, I’m only using her blog as an example and not actually hocking Rid-Snot. The second is that I’ve rolled out a pitch for all to see. While it is hypothetical, my approach would be fine-tuned and existing relationships leveraged in a real situation, you now have a chance to pick it apart.

How would you react to the pitch?

How would you pitch it differently?

Other Posts You’ll Find Interesting:

  1. Thinking Clearly About Social Media Relations
  2. Can This Pitch Be Saved?
  3. Revisiting: Talking To Bloggers
  4. Luke, I Am Your Blogger: How To Pitch From The Dark Side
  5. How To Pitch To Bloggers: 21 Tips

IMAGE:Wakefield Pitches” by Waldo Jaquith on Flickr.

[tags]pitching bloggers, blogger relations, bloggers, public relations, PR, media relations[/tags]

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://my-creativeteam.com/blog Harry Hoover

    Excellent advice, Jason. PR is all about making personal connections and continuing dialogue.
    Always has been. I’ve been doing this work for 30 years and the best placements I have had are a result of having developed personal relationships with reporters. But so many so-called PR people don’t get it. To them, it is all about this particular placement come hell or high water. Never mind that they may need to go back to the well again in the future.

  • http://EdRoberts.TV Ed Roberts

    Awesome, well thought-out answer to the question in so many PR company’s minds.

    I would take it a step further and simply strip out the marketing and PR talk from the email. Certainly mention the product, but as soon as you start going down the “Consumer Reports says…” route, you loose the trust relationship unless you have taken the time to build it prior to this email. “Thanks for taking the time to do your homework, but I’m marking you as spam.” The blogger will see right through to your agenda.

    Give the blogger the power to speak for their behalf. Don’t tell your story to the influencers, help the influencers tell the stories they are already writing about.

  • http://EdRoberts.TV Ed Roberts

    … additional thoughts.

    As you build your relationship, and have connected enough to mention the product you need to intentionally reveal that you work for a PR company and represent product X.

    “Yeah, my kid does that all the time……”
    “Hey! BTW, I now represent Rid-Snot Toddler Cold Medicine for the PR company I work for. I’d love to send along a sample for Braden to try the next time a cold hits?…”

    Knowing that you are genuine by revealing that you DO have an affiliation will earn you more brownie points than keeping it a secret.

  • http://www.ecairn.com laurent

    Excellent story. What you’re describing is a process to do the new PR way, focusing on relevance, understanding through listening, engaging in a personal way…So different from the old way. It seems easy to do but with the social media explosion, one may have to do that with 100s or 1000s relevant bloggers/communities. Quite a challenge don’t you think?

  • http://uniquefrequency.wordpress.com Daryl Tay

    I think you got it spot on, Jason. I just attended a small social media event where John Bell of Ogilvy was sharing their code of ethics for blogger outreach and it was practically identical. I’ve recently been approached by journalists just wanting a blogger – any blogger – to comment on their stories regardless of whether I blog about that topic or not, and that’s just poor practice, similar to the bad PR pitches you’re talking about. Great stuff, consider me subscribed.

  • http://websuccessdiva.com Web Success Diva

    Great advice and your pitch was absolutely perfect. Bloggers need to be connected with, on some personal or social/conversational level — in order to get a good response.

    Most people who pitch to me on my blog, completely miss this point. In one case, I knew a gentleman had not read my blog, because he kept referring to me as a “dude.” :-)

    Maria Reyes-McDavis

  • chasmiller

    Daryl…any chance there is a link to Ogilvy’s code of ethics?

    Good approach, Jason

    Mutual value is key. With no managing editor to report to or advertiser backlash to worry about (unless perhaps the blog is ad supported) means an independent voice.

    It IS exactly their independent voice that makes them so valued – so respect that, be transparent, be authentic. If your product stands out and is meaningful to the bloggers audience, then they will already be inclined to write about it.

    Think more info-than-torial, and you are well on your way.

  • Sarah Marchetti

    chasmillller- I’m with the Ogilvy Digital Influence team and here is the link to the code of ethics. http://blog.ogilvypr.com/?p=243. We get a lot of great feedback on it from bloggers.

    Jason- Great post. It is so interesting to hear about the different approaches people take on blogger outreach. I’m new to the DI team and am still perfecting my outreach skills, but my goal is to foster relationships that are mutually beneficial. Posts like this one are very helpful. I can’t wait to see if Sarcastic Mom replies.

  • http://serenitylife.vox.com TheJennTafur

    I had to thank Chris Brogan on twitter for telling me to check your website. Your recent entry truly talked to me because I tend to blog more about African American issues and Music. However, I get approached by a lot of musicians on my music blog [http://www.last.fm/user/2Serenity or on my myspace page] to blog but they have nothing to truly offer me because they never offer me the album or a ticket to their show. So, I have to ask for them to put their music on the website in order for me to review. [These are all independent musicians who are financially struggling but I am not rick either!] Sad, isn’t it!

    However, I review other books/music without being asked and the artists are shocked and so thankful.

    I am sending this blog to those in the industry who need to get a clue to have a personal relationship with the people who they feel could help their careers.

    Thank you!

  • http://prosintraining.blogspot.com Kelli Matthews

    Jason, thanks for this post. I had the same question come up last week. A student of mine at the Univ. of Oregon is interning with a Portland-based PR agency. He said he was supposed to pitch bloggers who had written on a particular subject and asked for advice. I am copying and pasting your link right this second and sending it to him – which fortunately complements what I told him quite nicely. Thank you!

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    First off — Thanks to all of you for commenting. I’m tied up in meetings all day and don’t always get to participate in the most important conversations … those with you here.

    Double-H — Thanks for the validation, sir. Your thoughts are always a welcome addition.

    Ed – Fantastic points and thank you for turning a critical eye to the post. These are exactly the kind of exchanges that make all of us better at our jobs.

    Laurent – Yes, scalability will continue to be a significant challenge for us all moving forward. Instead of beefing up, though, I think we need to become hyper-focused and produce superior pitches that lead to mass conversation. PR has an opportunity, through social media, to redefine itself as market-changing. We’ll see if we’re all smart enough to do it.

    Maria – Ouch. It’s kind a hard to miss that one. Thanks for chiming in … dude. Heh.

    Chasmiller — Agreed and thank you!

    Sarah — I know some of your colleagues and you’re in good hands. Kaitlyn’s work on the Code was outstanding. And thanks for sharing the link. I’m obviously late in getting here.

    Jenn — No, Thank you! I appreciate that someone with a blog outside the tech/pr/social media bubble is finding this useful. Share as often as you like and thank you for stopping by.

    Kelli — You’re obviously a wise woman in my book. Thanks for sharing, and sharing the link.

  • http://uniquefrequency.wordpress.com Daryl Tay

    Chasmiller, I was going to post it by Sarah beat me to it =)

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  • http://www.h-i-r.net/ ax0n

    I have 3 blogs on various oddball topics. I’ve gotten a lot of the “here’s $50. Can you put this block of (usually irrelevant) text in (link to one of my articles)?”

    That just doesn’t work. Ever. I don’t believe in going back end editing posts I’ve made (particularly the higher profile ones) just to add some text.

    I’ve gotten the “Here’s a product or some cash. Can you post a link to us in your side bar?” – This really depends. If it’s relevant, I might go for it. I usually end up hosting a give-away for the schwag I get this way, though. I’ve also turned plenty away.

    Personally, I would likely go for the “try this and let us know what you think!” pitch if it was even remotely interesting to me, but I wouldn’t actually blog about it (much less place a persistent link or ad for it) unless it was revolutionary. If relevant, I might mention the product in a blog post and link to the product’s page.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    axon – Great input. Thanks for the perspective. I’m glad the approach at least would get you to try the product. If the product is outstanding, the rest takes care of itself.

  • http://prmeetsmarketing.wordpress.com Csalomonlee

    Jason, great post about pitching bloggers. One point that I wanted to highlight is that regardless if it’s “traditional media” or “bloggers”, the process is still the same:

    READ what the person writes
    UNDERSTAND what the person writes about
    BE RELEVANT to the person
    KNOW how the person wants to be contacted

    The illusion is that bloggers are more approachable and “easier” to pitch. If you go in with this perspective, then you’re likely to piss off some people.

    Frankly, the best thing I did to better understand bloggers, was to start blogging myself! =)

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  • Lilly

    Great post – lots of great insight and I appreciate you “taking the hit” to see the critique of the pitch.

    I think too many PR people lump bloggers into a campaign assuming it’s just another branch of media, when really, it’s a personal means of communication for most bloggers.

    I admit though, sometimes it’s hard getting on good terms and creating mutual bonds – I like the mommy bloggers, but I’ve got nothing in common with them.

  • http://mediamindshare.wordpress.com Michael Tangeman

    Jason, good point … but, I’ve never thought PR folk got “placements” in real news media, either. You get coverage — that’s what I always thought as an ethical journalist of 18 years before going into Internet content management and more recently tech PR.

    And, to get coverage, to paraphrase your post … “your client’s product, service or event has to be damn interesting, compelling and engaging.” At least, if you’re dealing with a good journalist.

    Yeah, I know, there are hacks out there who will give you placement … especially in the industry vertical pubs, where the lines between editorial and advertiser tend to blur. But, surely, that’s the case with bloggers — especially those who take junkets and run ads on their site.

    Really, I don’t see the distinction.

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  • http://www.igorthetroll.com Igor The Troll

    I do not think you pitch will work! Maybe start your own parenting blog!

    You will probably get this

    http://www.igorthetroll.com/blog/debate-this/

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  • http://hannahesmith.blogspot.com/ Hannah

    I am curious about reaching out to bloggers if you are not pitching a product. I am currently a communications intern at a government branch, and I frequently have information that might be relevant to the scientific community because I work as a liaison between government and private companies. How should I reach out to bloggers?

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Hannah — Thanks for the comment.

    If you have relevant information bloggers and their audiences would be interested in, you can just email or contact the blogger directly, explain who you are, why you have the information and why you’re giving it to them. That should be enough. But the “pitch” is really no different. They’re going to suspect you have motives beyond what you’re saying. Are you expecting anything in return other than their use of the info? Who benefits by them having the info, etc.

    Non-product or not, you’re still pitching info as potential blog material.

    Of course, you should check with your supervisors to ensure you aren’t sharing sensitive information and are doing so in accordance with their policies and procedures.

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  • http://www.nationalboradcastingschool.com cord blood bank

    Very interesting post

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  • Allison Blass

    Hi, I found your blog linked from the Bad Pitch Blog today.

    I agree with most of what you say, but the one problem I had was with your suggestion that PR people should act like they read the blog on a regular basis. While this might work for some people, some bloggers can see right through this. When I was at BlogHer last summer, one of the mommybloggers (CityMama, I believe) said that she hated when bloggers pretended like they read her blog all the time, saying things like “Oh, how was your trip to Hawaii?” She knew they didn’t actually care and were just doing it to seem friendly. So I wonder if that’s really such a smart way to go about pitching. I prefer to actually say it straight out that I know they don’t normally do product-reviews, but that I found them from X blog or while searching for X and I thought they would be interested in such-and-such’s product or event. Most seem to be pretty receptive to the fact I’m not BS-ing them.

    But I agree with your research strategies and I also agree that it’s important to make it seem like you just want to share knowledge – not necessarily get a hit out of it. It seems the less pressure, the better.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Allison – Ideally, you shouldn’t act like you read their blog. You should read their blog. “How was your trip to Hawai’i?” should resonate and matter to you because you have a relationship with that blogger.

    Obviously, walking that fine line in the beginnings of an outreach is difficult. In the end, though, you should be a reader and the blogger should know that. Until that relationship is solid, though, it’s tricky to balance genuine interest with their perception you’re just selling something.

    Thanks for the comment!

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  • http://www.i-mediapub.com I-Media

    I couldn’t resist, even though I am a new kid on the block that has NO real PR experience. I do communicate with people on business social networks and find that what Jason is proposing rings true for me at a gut level. I agree that you cannot fake being a reader of a blog unless you are damn good, and if you are really that good then you probably know the value of making an honest connection. If you contribute, truly contribute, even being controversial when you feel it, then you will gain respect not only from other readers but also from the blogger. Just as those who have contributed here add to the value of Jason’s post so what you contribute to any blog, if well thought out, articulate, insightful, honest, and offered in a spirit of true participation will benefit all. Soon you may find yourself enjoying the participation, no more faking pleasure, it feels real and is.
    Slightly off topic: I also find it interesting to consider the difference between male and female bloggers. Is there a difference in how one pitches or participates? My gut says yes, but I defer to the experts.
    And before I close: Thank You Jason for an excellent post. I enjoy your style as well as your insight, and articulate prose. I will now go off to read more, knowing I will enjoy it before I even click.

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