The online PR world is a mystery to many and I'm often called upon to help organisations and their teams understand what tools are available and how to use them. Exploring the value that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other such platforms offer is regularly part of that but whichever ones are used, fundamentally the key to a successful PR campaign is not just the dissemination of messages but engagement. This means reaching out to those that matter, listening to what they have to say and responding accordingly.
One of the groups that business people are often most fearful of dealing with is bloggers - they might know which blogs play an important role within their industry, but struggle to know how best to approach those writing them. As bloggers can be hugely influential in determining what customers think about a brand, getting it right is pretty important. Here are a few handy tips to make the process somewhat easier from start to finish.
- First off, shortlist the blogs that you want to target. Your customers can tell you which they read and trust to help make purchasing decisions but there are also resources such as www.technorati.com or www.google.com/blogsearch that collate relevant information into lists and allow you to search by topic. For example, type in food and a raft of related sites will pop up for you to check out.
- Next up is to list the blogs in order of importance because you don't want to waste time targeting those with few readers or no credibility. Sites like www.alexa.com and Google's page ranking facility can provide internet traffic statistics and much more. Remember it's quality not quantity you're after but be realistic about what you're offering - do you really have a product or service of interest to a blog read by millions across the world? Find the blogs read by your key customers. Although targeting the most relevant / popular may take a lot of effort due to the volume of information the authors receive, the dividends will be greater if you succeed in generating coverage.
- Before making an approach, read the blog and get to know what type of stories it covers. Comment on them to make yourself known to the author. This is more important than you realise - you want to show why you're interested and demonstrate expertise to get on their radar. It also means when you send them information, they don't feel you're expecting something for nothing. They want their blog to be the best so add value. As Rob Brown says in his book Public Relations and the Social Web: 'have a conversation with them very simply online just by adding a post or comment...Remember this is a conversation in public and most will talk back.'
- When finally getting ready to pitch, check out any guidance given on the site - often bloggers will clearly state how they like to receive new stories. Tailor information rather than send everything you are issuing generally and add press releases only to provide context. The idea is that you're providing something new.
- Once you've secured interest, give the blogger everything they need to generate a blog post, which might include low resolution imagery, product spec details and anything they request. Whether or not you're successful, stay in touch - you never know when you might have something relevant to that person's needs and their blog is likely to be a useful source of industry information anyway.
There's no escaping that blogger engagement is a time-consuming exercise but with the majority of consumers now turning online before making a purchase, you need to ensure your product or service is front of mind with the most influential in your sector. Endorsements are one of the most powerful ways to increase sales so ultimately it's time well spent if it makes a difference to your bottom line. Good luck!