Unlike a few years ago, today everyone at least pays lip service to reaching out to bloggers, the same way that PR people have always reached out to mainstream media. That’s what my company, Gerris digtial, does and lots of other companies try to do it, too. But I am still surprised that many companies don’t do blogger outreach, even today. My conclusion is that what is holding them back is fear. Simply put, blogger outreach is scary.
And it’s not a completely irrational fear. It is true that bloggers are unpredictable and we all know, thanks to posts by the Consumerist and the Bad Pitch Blog, that one false move and you’re public mincemeat. Publicly shamed, drawn, quartered and, finally, drummed out of the corps.
We all know this, except that it isn’t so. The biggest faux pas that most agencies commit when they test the waters with blogger outreach has less to do with the natural meanness of the bloggers and more to do with the behavior of the agencies. In many cases, the bad experiences that many agencies blame on the rudeness of the blogger is square on the agency’s shoulders.
It is a case of the abuser blaming the victim, the blogger.
In truth, the blogger often has no context for a PR outreach, has never been part of the publicity machine, and often doesn’t know what’s expected, what proper and improper behavior is, and most often is just behaving naturally and not part of some insidious cabal aimed at defaming you or your brand or your personal reputation.
What’s happening is that a blogger has been blogging for a while, and eventually assumes that nobody’s really reading or paying attention at all. At that point that blogger drops the affectation that this blog is actually for mainstream consumption, develops a small coterie of passionate readers, they become an ad hoc community (maybe a few blogs are part of this evolving tightly-knit emergent family), and then, uninvited, someone who is not part of this close-knit family elbows in and makes a big fuss.
This, often coming across to the bloggers, as “Do you know who I am?” is very rarely taken well, especially after that blogger probably has had to fight insidious attacks from trackback and comment spam only to receive an email that is poorly-targeted, insensitive, lies about the nature of the reason why he is emailing (“I love your blog and have been reading you for a long time,” when obviously that is not true because the blogger knows everyone who reads his blog), or he even just gets the name wrong, which means that the person who’s doing the outreach isn’t taking the time or attention required to at least give a good college try.
It’s not that the blogger is out to shame and embarrass PR agencies. Most vindictive bloggers are already in the top of the blogosphere and receive hundreds of bad pitches a week. No, the typical blogger would really love to help. It really took a great heap of combined insult to get your client’s and agency’s shame and ineptitude raised up the flag pole for everyone to salute.
Blogger outreach can be scary, but only if you aren’t thinking about it from the blogger’s point of view. If you stop and consider how to make good use of the blogger’s time, you might get what you are looking for with nothing to fear.
About Chris Abraham
A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and advisor to the industries' leading firms. He specializes in Web 2.0 technologies, including content syndication; organize search engine optimization (SEO), online reputation management (ORM), content marketing, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.