In the past I’ve written about blogger relations offering tips on how marketers or PR professionals ought to present their story ideas to bloggers. Pitching bloggers and print journalists are somewhat similar, but in the end, they can be very different things.
Here are a few “what you should not do” tips based on the 3-5 pitches per day we get at Online Marketing Blog:
- It should go without saying not to pitch irrelevant stories, but all those PR interns out there hacking away make it so. Please don’t.
- Don’t send a copy and paste email with salutations like, “Dear Nameoftheblog” or some other equivalent to “Hey you” or “Hey Guy”. If you can’t bother to find out the name of the blogger, then your message isn’t really that important.
- Don’t send blanket solicitations to bloggers in the same general industry. For example, we get pitches from PR firms about major brands running new viral or social media campaigns. That’s great, but what does it have to do with search marketing? We don’t review advertising campaigns here and never have. That’s what AdRants is for.
- Don’t embargo an announcement for more than a few days. Bloggers are on the move, writing about what comes to mind on a daily basis. Expecting a blogger to keep under wraps news for several weeks is ridiculous. There is no editorial calendar or story board in place with 99% of blogs. Give them something they can act on now.
- Don’t demand to be covered as if you’re gods gift to the blogosphere. An “assumptive close” might work with phone pitching to print story editors, but not with bloggers.
- Don’t insult the blogger, even as a joke, especially if you don’t know them. Would you condescendingly ask a stranger for a favor and honestly expect them to do it? Offend a blogger this way and they’ll likely post your sorry ass pitch online for all to see.
- Don’t lie or make promises you can’t keep. It’s sad but true. Just like tip #1.
- Don’t send story ideas that are about as exciting as mall music. This is true with regular media relations, so why do it with bloggers?
- Make sure you have a “do not pitch to” list. For example, a list of competitors that run blogs in your client’s industry. In our case, I can understand because Online Marketing Blog has become pretty popular, but it’s highly unlikely we’re going to run a story about another SEO firm’s recent client win or office expansion.
- Don’t send a regular pitch with a press release to a blogger. Bloggers don’t typically scan press releases and write stories. They point to press releases hosted elsewhere, or better yet, point to stories other people have written based on a press release.
- Don’t use traditional media relations tactics with bloggers, but rather, make an effort to connect with them individually. Make relevant comments and offer something of value. Ask them what they want and provide personalized pitches and story ideas that clearly indicate you’ve made an effort to understand what they write about.
- If you’re going to pre-write the blog post for the blogger, keep in mind their writing style. Don’t overdo it. It’s a risk to take the effort to pre-write a post, but the easier you make it for the blogger, the more likely they may copy and paste what you’ve written and add a few comments. Just provide a nice concise summary of your news with the foresight that the blogger may just copy what you give them. Sandwich that summary with a personalized message and you may just get somewhere.
- Don’t play bloggers like a numbers game. True, most PR firms count “hits”, so the more blogs that cover the story the more successful the campaign is labeled. However, as there are tier one, two, three etc print publications, the same goes with influence in the blogosphere. I’ll take one story on Boing Boing over 50 unknown blogger mentions any day.
- Don’t be rude and not thank the blogger for covering your news. If don’t, chances are they’ll just ignore future pitches. If you do send a thank you, there’s a very good chance they’ll be open to future stories. Don’t over do it though. Keep it small, relevant and personal.
What are some of your blogger relations and pitching “not to do’s”?
Jason Falls says
Great list. I’m only sorry you posted it before I could interview you for my “how you like to be pitched” series. I’ll be citing this tomorrow! Excellent food for thought for us PR hacks out there. Kudos!
Lee Odden says
This is amazing. After making this post I received not one, but TWO pitches that fall under the “do not do” suggestions in this post. I guess they don’t read the blog before pitching:
This is Marcus contacting you from ———. I am writing to you regarding your blog. We would like you to make a blog post about our Affiliate Program and Web Directory. In return, we will offer you either 5,000 free header banner impressions at ——— or we can give you a free listing at ——— Web Directory for one year.
If you are interested in my offer; please contact me via ——— help page. Be sure to set the subject as: attn Marcus – This will connect you directly to me and we can continue the discussion further.
I look forward to hearing from you.
No Marcus, we aren’t going to write about your affiliate program and no we are interested in trading advertorial for banner advertising.
And here’s the next:
I came across your blog and thought you might have some interest in a campaign we’ve just finished up for eco-conscious aluminum bottle manufacturer, —- Switzerland. About a month ago, my company, ——, ran a design contest with —- to find the next green conscious design for their bottles. Overall the campaign went incredibly well! I was hoping you would be interested in taking a look. If you have any questions, feel free to let me know, and if you’re interested I hope you can share this information with your readers.
Let us know what you think, and I could send you the case study
No Erica, we are not interested in writing about your ad campaign. We do not write about ad campaigns and likely never will. You might try AdRants.com instead.
Sigh. I guess we need to update our contact form to be more descriptive!
Jason Falls says
Wow! You’d think people would be smarter than that. Ugh.
Jason Billingsley says
This is a great topic Lee. We ran an outreach campaign recently for a viral video (well, we wanted it to go viral thus some very targeted outreach). In order to break through the clutter of the ’email black-hole’ we constructed personalized videos to pitch the video campaign. Get it?
The crew at SEOmoz actually covered our pitch strategy in post: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/youtube-email-marketing-youve-got-our-attention
If you read the thread, there are details on how we did the blogger outreach campaign.
Terry Reeves says
Unfortunately, as long as colleges continue to pump out enthusiastic college grads who eagerly do as they are told, this situation is very likely to continue.
I receive dozens of scripted link requests daily all promising the tremendous benefits achieved from reciprocal linking despite the abundance of information available today touting the dangers of excessive linking from Google’s point of view.
Makes me wonder if some people ever think for themselves.
Erica Forrette says
Lee – is offering some schwag (like a t-shirt or tchotchkie) to a blogger frowned-upon? I’ve not offered this but have seen it done… what are your thoughts?
Erica Forrette says
p.s. I forgot to add that I really liked your suggestion of compiling a list of “do not pitch” blogs of competitors!
Bloggers run your news for free if your news are interesting.
Lee Odden says
Hey Erica, I don’t think schwag is a problem myself. Particularly if the blogger is clearly a fan of the company/product/service/brand.
Am glad you liked the “do not pitch” suggestion. 🙂
Sean Polay says
In a couple of recent outreach efforts, I was having a hard time finding the blogger’s name and/or e-mail address. Do recommend any second-tier tactics in these cases, or should we diregard them entirely?
Lee Odden says
Hey Sean, the places I look for the owner’s name of a blog include:
– Post detail page, next to date or tags
– “About” page
– Backlink anchor text to the blog. Use Yahoo Site Explorer
– Whois lookup of the domain name owner
– Look up the blog in Technorati, sometimes the profile shows the blog owner’s real name
– Search Google, Google blog search or Technorati for the blog name or url. Sometimes other blogs will mention the blog owner’s name.
If that doesn’t work, I leave a comment asking if it’s ok to send story ideas. They almost always email me back.
Kelly Rusk says
I find it really funny because I’m a PR hack turned blogger… When I used to do media relations I was very meticulous about getting to know the reporter and tailoring a pitch, and it’s really not that much work.
So imagine my surprise when I got pitched for the first time–not only was it was generic, it was sent to our [email protected] address and didn’t even have my name on it, despite my old blog having a box in the top left corner that had my name and all my personal contact info.
I mean come on, if you can’t take five seconds to dig up my contact info, why would I spend any time covering your story?
Li Evans says
Lee – I think you were walking in my brain today, I was going to post something similar to this on SMG! Seriously, within the last few days I’ve gotten the same women emailing all my writers to the same email box, not only that she got my lianaevans.com email too.
*shakes head*…. some people’s childen.
I might just add one or two more of my own and link into this post 🙂
Lee Odden says
Hey Li, great minds think alike!
It seems to me the PR industry has a huge opportunity for education on this front. It’s probably something we should cover more in depth at mediarelationsblog.com.
Tom Pick says
Lee — excellent list. As someone who’s on both sides of this (I write a blog and “pitch” bloggers on behalf of clients) I appreciate you providing this guidance to the world.
I routinely get pitches that:
– Aren’t relevant to my readers
– Show that the “pitcher” hasn’t read my blog, and
– Don’t even include my name in the salutation – tho it is posted prominently at the top of my blog.
When I pitch (in addition to not violating the rules above) I always tell the blogger succinctly:
– Why my pitch is relevant (which also shows that I’ve read the blog)
– Why the blogger might care (i.e. beyond “here’s yet another product that does x,y and z” – what’s the interesting angle on this product or company?)
– Why the blog’s readers might care (saves them money, more functionality, lets them do something they couldn’t before, etc.)
Keep up the great stuff,
Rachel North says
One item I would add to this great list is, “Don’t pitch without including after 9 to 5 contact info; most bloggers also have day jobs and may have questions when you’ve left the office. Give them a way to contact you in a timely way. The hotter your news, the more important this contact info is.”
I’ve had a number of comments from journalists and bloggers saying that it is refreshing to find my home/cell contact info on my pitches.
margie simon says
Great stuff for both novices and veterans!
Shel Horowitz says
Excellent list, Lee. I’m a PR copywriter as well as a blogger, and this is just common sense. I’m also very much a believer in marketing through *real* relationships (I spend quite a bit of time on that in my sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First)–and long before blogging existed I was building my business by establishing relationships with e-zine publishers and participating actively on discussion lists.
Shel Horowitz, copywriter and award-winning author of five marketing books – http://www.frugalmarketing.com
Blogging at http://www.principledprofit.com/good-business-blog/ (intersection of ethics, marketing, sustainability, and politics)
http://frugalmarketing.com/newsletters (monthly frugal fun, frugal marketing, ethical business, and book marketing newsletters)
Lee Odden says
Hi Shel, A lot of old hands in the PR game say it’s common sense, but why do PR firms continue to break more than half of these rules DAILY with pitches to our own blog?
Perhaps it is as they say, “Common sense is the least common thing of all.”
I’ve replied with links to articles on blogger relations to these flaks only to get ANOTHER impersonal, irrelevant pitch.
I appreciate your emphasis on relationship building as a PR practitioner as well as the fact that you’ve written numerous books. The gratuitous link drops in the comment are a bit over the top though.
Please have a look at our blog comment policy about “signatures”.
I’m not a PR pro by any means (haven’t even graduated yet), however I was wondering if you had any etiquette advice on how to approach a specific blogger on a topic in the first place. Is it worthwhile to mention where we discovered said blogger, i.e. through an associate or reference list? Or is this step alltogether unnecessary?
Wesleyan University ’08
Lee Odden says
Making useful comments is a good first step. Also, most blogs offer other methods of making contact that you could use when making a story suggestion.
I don’t think it can hurt to tell the blogger how you found them as it gives them some context to the nature of your query. The main thing is to be relevant, personal and bring something of value.
Ruby Web says
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