Because I work with a number of PR firms, and have worked for a PR agency in the past, I’m well aware of the difference in pitching bloggers vs. journalists.  The problem is, most PR people aren’t.  My blogger friends bitch and moan to me constantly about the bad pitches they get from PR people, and how many mass emails they receive.  But c’mon folks, it’s been years since this problem was identified and there have been lots of attempts to help PR people understand the difference.  Yet blogger outreach still seems to be a problem for most PR practitioners.

I’m going to give it a shot and tell you my process for blogger outreach. This is not the only way, it’s just how I do it, and it’s been pretty helpful to me for a number of years. Hopefully it will help you too.

Good blogger outreach

img credit: music2work2 (flickr)

Identify the Bloggers

Create a list of blogs you think might make sense for your brand. Yes, your intern can do this. But it’s got to be more than a “list of mommyblogs.” (More than once I’ve been handed a list with a bunch of URLs.  Not so helpful.)  Create an Excel spreadsheet and put in all of the information you can’t find in Vocus or Cision.  For example, if you’re going after mom or dad bloggers, here are some of the things you might research and put into your list:

  • ages of the blogger’s children
  • parenting topics (kids with special needs, blended families, working parents, etc.)
  • physical location (you might need them for something local down the road)
  • whether they write about products or services at all (indeed, some blogs are still personal blogs with no PR/brand involvement – imagine that!)
  • whether they’ve worked with competitor brands
  • whether or not they host giveaways or contests

And so on.  Tailor this list to your industry or pitch needs.

Note that in order to create this kind of a list you (or that intern) will have to read the blogs. More than one post. Plus the About Me/About Us page.  This is not a task which can be finished in ten minutes. Take pity on your poor intern and realize that this is a lot of work.  If the pitch is important enough, it’s worth at least a day or two (or more) of their time (or yours).

Develop Relationships

This is the part which is most often ignored.  You will have much more success if you have a relationship with the blogger before you pitch them.  This means you’ve subscribed to their blog (in your RSS reader or via email), you’ve left a comment or two (relevant, not throwaway) on their blog, and you feel like you “know” them as you know any you do other blog you read regularly (like your favorite sports blog or celebrity gossip blog).  You can also develop relationships by meeting bloggers at events, conferences and meetups.  Add a column to your spreadsheet which indicates whether you really “follow” the blogger or “know” the blogger in real life, so that you can use those bloggers for your most important pitches.

If you absolutely don’t have the time to do this for your pitch, just be sure that you’ve done the best identification possible and have the greatest amount of information on every blogger before you select who you’re going to pitch.

Choose the Blogger and Craft the Pitch

Once you’ve got a reasonable list of bloggers to choose from, select a few blogs which seem to be the most relevant to your pitch and/or those with whom you feel you’ve got the best relationship.  For each blog that you’re pitching, determine a connection between the blog and your brand, product or pitch.  For example, if the blogger has recently gone to CES and written about gadgets, and you’ve got a gadget to pitch, mention that you read their gadget posts (which you have, right?) and that you agree or disagree with one of their reviews.  (Or whatever.)  Just be authentic, honest, and as specific as you can.  Every blogger gets pitches which say “I read your posts and just love them! You’re so funny!”  It’s not enough.

Next, determine whether what you want the blogger to do relates to brand-related work they may have done in the past.  Such as, “you’ve recently hosted a giveaway for Brand X, so I’m wondering if you’re willing to work with me to create a giveaway for My Brand which would make sense for your readers.” But never fear, even if you don’t see that they’re already doing something similar, you can pitch them on what you want them to do.  Just be polite and make your ask as clear as possible.

An even better way to gain traction with a blogger is to take a slightly longer route, and to tell them that you want to work with them to create a realtionship to the brand which makes sense for them.  Instead of assuming that they will give something away or write a review or write a guest post for you, first ask them if they are interested in the brand, then have a phone call (gasp! an actual conversation) with them to brainstorm about ways in which you can work together authentically for both parties.

Make It a Win-Win

Above all, make it clear that you want this to be a win-win for the blogger and for your brand.  And I hope I’m not the first person to break it to you, folks, when I say that for most bloggers this means they expect to be compensated in some way (and no, “traffic to your site” is not compensation).  After all, you are asking them to be your marketing arm and to help you promote your product or service to their readers. And they are not getting paid by their publication to do this work – they are the publication.

If you take the time to craft a a handful of well-researched, informed, and well-matched pitches, you will likely get a much, much higher return than if you sent out a boilerplate “Dear Blogger” pitch to a list of 100 blogs.  In the end, the time you spend upfront could very well justify itself vs. the time you have to take to follow-up incessantly with the hundreds of bloggers who are ignoring your bad pitch.

Do you agree? Disagree? Have other ways to improve blogger pitches?  Please give us your thoughts in the comments below.

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About Stephanie Schwab

Stephanie Schwab

Stephanie Schwab is the Principal of Crackerjack Marketing, a digital marketing agency specializing in social media planning and execution. Stephanie is also the founder of the Digital Family Summit, the first-of-its-kind conference for tween bloggers and content creators and their families. Throughout her 20-year career, she has developed and led marketing and social media programs for top brands and has presented on social media and e-commerce topics at numerous conferences and corporate events. Stephanie writes about social media at CrackerjackMarketing.com, sometimes hangs out at Google+, and tweets @stephanies.

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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?

  • Marcie

    Great post Stephanie. Funny too! Actually I don't think the basic principles for 'selling in' to bloggers are so different from those that SHOULD be applied to journos. Building relationships and developing a well constructed, thoughtful pitch is equally important in both cases and spamming journos is every bit as unproductive (and unwelcome) as spamming bloggers! I see the key differences being in the approach to researching targets and understanding the end game (in terms of the 'win'). Your post is a useful reminder that a blogger writes exactly what he or she wants – not what the editor or publisher dictates. And that makes them even harder to please!

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      I agree, Marcie, the principles should be the same – but too often that seems to be forgotten, and blogger outreach becomes sending mass emails to a list. Hopefully the tides are turning!

  • http://www.twitter.com/Melissa_Albers Melissa

    Some times going back to basics is what we all need to remind ourselves how important the “pitch” is in building quality relationships. Great post!

  • Gail Kent

    Great post illustrating how research needs to be done to find the perfect blogger. Really, this is how research should be done to find the right fit for any media, blogger or not. Shotgunning your press release or pitch out to the masses just doesn't work, especially now when the media is so specialized.

    Concerning one of your points about payment — if the blogger accepts payment or anything of value for writing about the product, they must reveal this in the blog for the sake of the blogger and the business. Not to do so destroys the credibility of both. In fact, such an arrangement falls under the FTC Act for “truth in advertising” and must be revealed to protect the consumer's interest.

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Yes, absolutely, I'm all about disclosure – an important topic, perhaps for another post!

  • Rob_Berman

    How true it is that bloggers are a different breed. We blog for different reasons and you need to know those when you approach us. I recently received and e-mail about a book. It asked me if I wanted a copy to read. It did not say what they wanted me to do even after I actually asked that question. If I read the book, then I will somehow use it in a blog post. Maybe a sentence or paragraph, maybe a whole post who knows. Tell us what you want when you pitch us.

    Rob

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      You'd think that would be commonplace, right, Rob – “tell us what you want when you pitch us.” It's a pitch! But not so commonplace, it turns out.

  • http://www.vocus.com Frank Strong

    Great post, Stephanie, one tip I'd add for Vocus users is to avoid the excel spread sheet. Instead, add the profile as a “user record” which means it is private (not shared). For example, I have added a private record in my own Vocus system for Jason. I've added a photo (because I'm a visual person and it's a mnemonic device), feeds to this blog, his Twitter and Facebook profile, and a custom profile I gathered from his bio. Essential, I've added anything that Jason he has made public so when I review his profile in the future, I have a good handle on what he's currently interested in. Of course, I read this blog several times a week too, and watch where he's speaking and who he's doing Webinars for. More importantly, Vocus automatically logs a record of my interactions with him, so if we don't speak for six months, I can go back (or a member of my team can go back) and review the context of our discussion. If I mark Jason as an “influencer” within the software the news and social media modules will tie his various posts to the profile — completely integrated. In my view, these are good starts for understanding Jason, as a blogger, and working on that relationship component that is so important, as you've noted.

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Thanks, Frank, for clarifying how Vocus users can further extend that tool. Sounds like it does add a lot to the process!

  • http://twitter.com/JeffKryger Jeff Kryger

    When starting off a blog, what is the reaction from current bloggers if you wish to tie their content into your blog (through RSS or whatever), while you work to build your own content?

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Speaking for myself, Jeff, I would be happy if you referenced one of my posts in a post of your own, but I'd be pretty upset if you copied all of a post and reposted it to your site, even if you attributed it to me. I think a common standard (maybe even a legal standard) is that you can use 100 words of someone else's post as an excerpt or to help enhance/further describe your post. Does that help?

      • http://twitter.com/JeffKryger Jeff Kryger

        It does. Thanks for the reply :)

  • B_webb

    This is a great article Stephanie. I blog about healthy living, lifestyle and LGBT and I get pitches from people who want me to blog about cancer fundraisers or kids activities – If I posted something like that on my blog my followers would think it was odd. Bloggers – just because you're pitched something from a PR company or anyone for that matter, doesn't mean you have to follow-thru. Stay true to yourself and your blog.

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Hear, hear! Stay true, B_webb!

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  • denikasrel

    As a former full-time journalist, now communications consultant and blogger, I'd say that most of your points fall under good PR pitching in general. They would not just apply when approaching bloggers.

    However, one exception would be the suggestion that bloggers expect to be compensated. Which is something I did not know about. I am wondering what is considered a reasonable compensation and what is the appropriate way to approach the offer of compensation.

    • http://mom-101.com Mom101

      Great post Stephanie! As always.

      Denikasrel, I would clarify that many *personal bloggers* require some sort of compensation, either for the post itself, or to conduct a giveaway, post a widget, upload a brand video, and so on. Blogs that function more like online magazines and post about brand news or shopping may simply be looking for relevant content for their readers.

      That's why, as Stephanie writes, you have to read the blog. The good ones will note a posting or advertising policy. But a general rule of thumb: If it's editorial and you have no say over the content, you shouldn't have to pay for it. The second you dictate terms, keywords, copy points…it becomes advertorial or advertising.

      • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

        Thanks, Liz/Mom101 for the clarification – Denikasrel, what she said! :-) Agreed that these *should* be good PR pitching concepts as well, though I've known great PR people who are lousy blogger outreach people – they seem to think it's a different breed therefore different rules. Above all, it seems to me that listening, courtesy and humility work well for both, right?

  • M_ttr

    I find a lot of articles about bad pitches and what to do and what not to do when pitching a blogger, but in the end, is the PR person really the bad guy? Yes they want a marketing push, but they're also sending out free product and providing something to write a post around. I understand it must be frustrating to receive e-mails labeled “hey blogger” and getting pitched products that do not relate to your blog whatsoever. I wouldn't approach a blogger that way, but I think it might be fun to be on the other side of it sometimes, receiving the products to review. I hope this isn't coming across in a negative way, I'm just trying to better understand the mindset of the blogger.

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      I'd love to hear from more bloggers in response to this, but from what I've heard, it is fun to get products and interesting pitches – up to a point. Most personal bloggers (see what Mom101 writes below) are writing in their spare time (alongside a job, and/or alongside being the primary caregiver for their family) – so getting dozens of unrelated or “dear mommyblogger” pitches means that they either delete them all, possibly missing some good ones (like yours?) or have to wade through them one-by-one, potentially eating up valuable writing time. As bloggers increase in visibility, this problem intensifies. I know many a mom blogger who would love to be making enough money from their blogs to be able to afford childcare so they can write more….but it's tough to do that, because you have to have the time to write and to court brands to be able to get to that level of success, so you're sneaking the time away from family and other responsibilities – a catch 22 for many bloggers.

  • http://inseansopinion.com Sean Bailey

    Great post Stephanie! I completely agree with tailoring your pitch to the blogger's needs as much as possible.

    I'd like to hear your thoughts on reaching out to bloggers who appear to be open to writing about products/services but don't have any contact info listed in their page. As a PR person with a personal blog, I've posted as many ways for people to contact me as possible because I know how frustrating it can be. Looking forward to your thoughts.

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Excellent question, Sean! I've worked with a number of bloggers on this topic and have presented at blogger conferences on the subject of how bloggers can “pitch” PR people – and having a good contact page is the first key to being a good target for brands. More bloggers have to realize that! I'd say, though, that Twitter is a great way to contact bloggers if nothing else is available – an @mention will almost always get a response, then you can take it to DM or email from there.

  • MrsStrick

    Another great post, Stephanie! This further illustrates the point that we should forget the “social” part of “social media.” Being social is about building relationships and trust. The only way to do that is to be genuine and authentic, just as you say.

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  • http://twitter.com/christieburgner christieburgner

    Great tips Stephanie…much appreciated! I'd also like to add to follow bloggers on Twitter as part of the research process. In fact, I get most of my daily news on Twitter! In developing relationships, you can simply DM them with a question or idea and they'll get back to you pretty quick. But keep it relevant…no need to inundate them with silly questions! I personally enjoy working with bloggers – whether they're mommy, foodie or tech bloggers!

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Duh! Yes, follow them on Twitter! You're totally right, I do that, of course. Thanks for adding!

  • http://thelocalcook.com/ Wendy (The Local Cook)

    Great article! As a food/health/green blogger I love when I get a “good” pitch. What does that mean? One that is targeted to my blog and asks for my input on how I would be interested in working with them and different story angle ideas. Do I expect payment for reviews? If it's a simple product review or giveaway, I just want an actual item to review. Although, product reviews are a dime a dozen so it has to be really good and really targeted. (Oh, and including your contact info helps! I have had things appear at my doorstep with no cover letter and I can't find an email about it so I have no idea where it came from or what to do with it). When brands want posts or series of posts, that's when I expect payment, because that to me crosses the line between journalism and advertising.

  • http://twitter.com/GeorgiaCanning Georgia Canning

    As a Blogger ( http://www.happilystylish.com ) I find that when fashion PR's send me a pitch about a brand and I happen to write about it, they then send ANOTHER straight away because they thing there on a winning streak or something. A little frustrating. It's almost like, sorry was one follow through this week not good enough? But besides that there are some companies out there doing a great job of personalising pitches, emails. There the ones I tend to take seriously :)

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      I think they figure that while they have your attention….but wouldn't it be nice if they asked if you were interested in future pitches from them, instead? Maybe they'll learn….

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  • http://www.howtolaunchastartup.com Akshay

    Thanks for sharing this Stephanie. As an entrepreneur looking for the best way to “reach out” to the blogosphere, this article couldn't have come at a more opportune time. Definitely makes intuitive sense that taking genuine interest is the best approach/”pitch”!

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      So glad to be helpful! Good luck with your outreach.

  • Gerardo

    Tottaly agree with you, I think some marketing guys often forgot to make some relations withe the bloggers, they only wait to have been shown on a blog just like that. Iam takin notes from here.

  • Michelle

    Thanks Stephanie— I have been sitting in the intern boat for a couple months now, scratching my head over what is the right way to pitch for the company I work for. I am at the crossroads where I really need to prove my salt by getting that coverage! I have been doing a lot of research and everything you posted above reaffirms what makes a good pitch from a bad one. Thanks again!

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  • http://twitter.com/greatonthejob Jodi Glickman

    Stephanie, thank you so much for this post!! My book is being published in May 2011 and I'm working on reaching out to bloggers and news outlets for coverage. I thought I was doing a pretty good job building my list, thinking though ways to be helpful to them and being strategic in my approach, but you really highlighted some great points I hadn't thought of, so I'm going to go off and add in some new categories to the excel spreadsheet of mine. Thank you thank you. best, jodi

  • http://twitter.com/mombizcoach Lara Galloway

    Stephanie, I always enjoy reading what you write. What I love most about this post is how you highlight the difference between “building a list” which we hear so much hype and buzz about in the internet marketing world, and “building relationships” which is the fuel of new media. Thanks for doing such a great job of clearly explaining the difference and why it's important to consider a blogger's perspective. Bottom line: If you're going to pitch and market to the blogging world, you need to participate in this world and build relationships that create a win for everyone involved.

  • Angela Jeffrey

    Stephanie – I am in the middle of doing exactly the research you suggest – complete with spreadsheet – and you're right; it's a ton of work. I so appreciated your article, so I'll be better prepared for the next steps. Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/uinteractive Teo Tsalmpouris

    Thanks a lot for the great article, gave me food for thought. Im currently building a web startup and although i actually know it's a great idea and well executed, im getting terrified by what you are describing in your article, getting ignored by the bad pitch. A little (and a bit irrelevant) question: do you think that a professional writing service/freelancer, might be useful for someone trying to communicate their new site/product/etc clearly (e.g press releases, direct 'marketing' emails.. ?

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  • Dindy

    Hi Stephanie. Great recommendations for pitching bloggers, this also works well for journalists in print, television or radio as well. PR practitioners would be much more successful if they followed your advice. I receive blind pitches daily. Don’t get me started on the typos, lack of contact information and other vital stats. Recently received a “dear journalist” letter – highly impersonal and the publicist had the nerve to ask who I write for and what I write about. Has PR so lost its raison d’etre that practitioners have lost the trail and critical thinking skills. I repeatedly get addressed as Dear Mr. Yokel. A simple Google of my name will bring up my photo in so many places that instead of irritating me one could address me properly. What happened to the high value placed on research and critical thinking skills? It seems to have gone the way of building real relationships and picking up the phone. Publicists often wonder how to cut through the clutter to get our attention. It is simple. Find out who the person really is, read or listen to what they cover more than once, use the inverted pyramid process for crafting intelligent well-written materials and make it specific to the person being targeted. Relevance is critical. When I started out in PR in the mid-80s we kept information about journalists on index cards and included everything we could find out by reading what they wrote and paying attention. Everything from shoe size, to children and spouse’s names, birthdays, favorite ice cream, favorite drink, preferred method of contact and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Knowledge is power and must be used wisely. Sorry for the rant but this issue is vital to the success of a business and so often overlooked or not taught to junior staff.

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  • http://twitter.com/YetAStudio YetAnotherStudio

    Most often, we get the best answers when we make the pitch personal and relevant. That said, it is not possible to always meet a blogger in person (especially one that comes from the other end of the world)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/antoinedb Antoine De Brabant

    Identify the blogger…. Stephanie Schwab!

    Wait, what’s step 2 again ???

  • Monique Dinor

    Stephanie, this is a very helpful article, and the detailed pitch list is a great idea, I agree with you 100%

  • http://www.99launch.es MatchLites

    Yes, I totally agree! Be personal, be genuine, be real 100% of the time.  

  • Adriana Dakin

    Hey! This post was helpful while planning some blogger pitching for a campaign, especially “If you take the time to craft a a handful of well-researched, informed,
    and well-matched pitches, you will likely get a much, much higher return
    than if you sent out a boilerplate “Dear Blogger” pitch to a list of
    100 blogs.  In the end, the time you spend upfront could very well
    justify itself vs. the time you have to take to follow-up incessantly
    with the hundreds of bloggers who are ignoring your bad pitch.” THANKS.

  • http://benjaminlang.com Ben Lang

    Amazing post!

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  • http://www.theuniuni.com/ cheap bras

    Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

  • http://loveablehomebody.blogspot.com/ Ashley

    All PR students should have to read this! You emphasize the importance of not only building relationships with bloggers, but building them with you target audience. 

    I work in PR and I also have a personal blog. I just can’t fathom why anyone in PR thinks ridiculous pitches will actually accomplish any kind of business objective. I’m not sure why so many PR people use such illogical tactics in their blogger relations.

    I wrote a sarcastic rant about ridiculous pitches I have received, if you’re interested. Ironically, it actually generated another bad pitch from a person who thought I was serious! This shows how out-of-touch so many of these people are. http://loveablehomebody.blogspot.ca/2012/02/pitching-to-bloggers.html

    Thanks for the great ideas to organize and approach target audiences! I will surely use these in my PR career.

  • http://twitter.com/MeilaniKieu Meilani Kieu

    As a new PR student, this post was very helpful. I am still learning the ins and outs of pitching, so having a blogger standpoint on how to properly pitch is great. Thanks for being informative and direct. Great read!

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  • http://rossanavanoni.com Rossana Vanoni

    Stephanie, even after so much time has passed your article still rings true. As a blogger it is not easy to find collaborating PR companies (Even when I have 57K Twitter, 15K Facebook, 4K Instagram followers as of July 2014). And some of those that pitch either pitch to the wrong niche – “I have an App I think would be great for your next fashion blog post”. Say what?
    PR companies know their clients. Just do a bit of research and you will find the right blog for your client.

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