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I just wrote an article, Blogger outreach is earned media PR, isn’t it?, wherein I suggested that some bloggers are kinda jerks because they lead any blogger outreach with “here’s my advertising packet.” This sort of feels like “talk to the hand” to me because they never buy me a drink first, they just whip it out and suggest that I either have to pay a printed fee for a sponsorship, advertisement, or link; or, I have to bugger off.

Man, I was feeling a little ornery about it but Brian quickly commented on the post with words that melted my heart and made me feel ashamed:

Though many organizations have come to appreciate the role bloggers and social influencers play in generating positive branding, far too many refuse to elevate them to the level of traditional/mainstream media, and in an ego-driven world, that is a costly mistake (insofar as you do care about getting “earned media” from bloggers).

The mistake of belittling bloggers and hoping they’ll jump at any opportunity to interview someone from your company or give away a small gift to their audience is rampant, and it occurs even within successful PR firms that were launched after the “social era” had already begun.

And even bigger than that, the question PR teams need to ask when approaching blogs is how the content they wish to share will add value to THE BLOG rather than THE BRAND! A blogger might love a brand and want to do all he can to promote it, but at the end of the day, his top priority is gaining traffic and credibility for his website. Helping him do that is the best way to win him over and get your content shared.

Bloggers, in fact, are the victims and we digital and PR agencies are the perps.

These bloggers are a lot like us single people in our late 30s and 40s who have so much emotional baggage from our 20s and early 30s that we’re almost impossible to date.  We’ve seen it all and we don’t like what we’ve seen so most of our romantic notions of what it is to be a lover and be loved, to be in a relationship and to even get married have been dashed: our expectations are dashed and we’ve generally armored ourselves in such a way that nobody can really ever get through to us. We’ve been chewed up and spit out and not given the kindness and respect — the personal dignity — that we (or thought we) well deserved. If you’re in your mid- to late-30s — or even 40s, gah! — and are not married yet, what’s wrong with you!?

Same thing for these bloggers: they’ve been around for a long time. In blogger years they’re pushing 40 and they’ve never been married.  They’ve been hurt in bruising one-night stands with PR firms and agencies, only to be used and pushed aside. They’ve never merited the mythical business-class flights to tony hotels that big brands are supposed to offer to bloggers in order to curry favor — the wining, dining, and endless martinis and cosmos that those top bloggers (and the Klouterati) cannot schedule fast enough.

“Why them and not me,” you ask. I get it; “what do they have that I don’t,” you wonder. Totally!

I feel that way all the time, too — believe me.  Both in my personal and professional life (yeah, I know, TMI).

Thing is, you’ll never make it there.  The best suitors don’t “pay for it.”  We do pay, but we can’t pay in the way you want. Why? Because that’s not the campaign we’re doing (I do PR and PR is pretty much always earned media) or it’s not the kind of coverage my clients are looking for (they generally have it in their mind that the only want the Romantics, they only want the Passion-Players — they want something more innocent and pure — an earned post, an organic(ish) mention.

So, what happens is we, they, our clients, whomever, end up only reaching out to either just the bona-fide celebrities and A-listers (all of whom we already do know and have worked with before and meet up with at SXSW and Burning Man and in SF or NY or even a Podcamp) or we reach out to the A-listers, give them the real exclusives, wait until they post, and then reach out to everyone else — reaching out as deeply into the content- and topic-specific blogger lists as needed until we make our numbers.

We reach out to you lonely hearts who lead with “so what do you do (code for how much do you make)” and then get judged for not choosing a good enough restaurant or for how we’re dressed — but when we’re told nothing outside, “I take Visa” in the form of leading with the rate card, we move on to folks who are still young, passionate, curious, playful, hopeful, excited, Romantic, and still passionate about citizen journalism, social media sharing, tweeting, their new Facebook Page — and if not totally psyched about their blog, at least still super passionate, child-like, excitable, earnest, and enthusiastic about what it is they’re blogging, tweeting, Tumbling, Facebooking, or Google Plussing about.  We love that and we embrace that.

And when it comes down to it,. everyone runs away from an entitled attitude because everyone’s paid their own dues.  I don’t expect anyone to blog at all on behalf of me or my clients — I am still completely amazed that anyone does — and for “free” — but I am always excited, I am always surprised, and I am always grateful.  And if you’re not totally excited to be working with me, with my agency, with my client or their brand — really excited to be tapped or recognized at all — we’ll check you off as a “miss” and, depending on how angry you are at being bothered, we’ll either remove you from that particular campaign or, if you’re livid and really hate on us, we’ll put you into the Black Hole — the universal Do Not Contact (DNC) list, and you’ll never, ever, hear from us again.

It’s sort of better for both of us that way.

That said, these bloggers are the victims.  In many cases, outside of our friends the A-listers, we’re reaching out cold and asking quite a lot.  We’re asking for a post, really; we’re asking for a tweet, a pin, or a Facebook post, we’re asking to take time out of your day to read our pitch, to respond, to agree, to receive our news or review copy or book or coupon or whatever, then you’re willing to actually do what you said you’d do and write it up, add photos and graphics, maybe embed a video, and then stand by it as it come up on the front page of your “home” — your blog.  That is asking a lot — and for what?  I don’t know. Bragging rights? Review copies of cool stuff? Giveaways and coupons — content — for your readers?  That you’ve been selected by X or Y company?  That all of this writing into the void and vacuum of space resulted in getting noticed?

For many bloggers, blogging is like sending SETI radio signals out into space and getting their first professional, PR pitch from us and our clients is a little like getting a radio reply from intelligent life from space.  You don’t know how many times there have been long-tail, lower-ranked blogs that have never, ever, been kissed by any sort of agency or brand.  It is really awesome to make the day of someone who’s been convinced that nobody but mom and a couple cousins have been reading them after writing post-after-post, day-after day.  It is very rewarding.

That said, I know that this article’s a bit — a lot — snarky, but I had fun writing it so I am going to let it lie as it and I look forward to continuing the discussion down in the comments.  Thanks in advance.

 


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Chris Abraham

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.

8 replies to this post
  1. Chris,

    I’ll also put three of my other blog sites here to lend perspective to my following comments. You see, I blog on multiple topics in a variety of industries and am frequently the contacted blogger you write about.

    http://bostonfoodfan.com
    http://followthetour.com
    http://jeffcutler.com/jeff

    Now, I’d like to get your take on an outreach attempt that occurred in support of an upcoming campaign in Boston. You see, I write about food and technology and events – a lot. I do this writing as a professional journalist AND also as a professional blogger.

    What qualifies me to put the word professional in front of the words journalist and blogger is the fact I make my living by selling my words. So, it’s counter-productive of me to hand over my product for free…IN MOST INSTANCES.

    But the pitch from a local PR agency the other day made me think about one hand washing the other. I was thinking about what’s in it for me in the longterm. And I was weighing the benefits of exposure with that agency and their audiences.

    In this case, they’re a big group. They play in an arena where I like to have my bread buttered (the food and restaurant industry). And I suspect they’ll be instrumental going forward in providing media access to food events in the region.

    If none of that were true, I’d have refused the ‘opportunity’ to blog for them. I’d have asked them for media credentials to cover their event instead of promote it. And I’d have put them on the growing list of PR flacks with whom I won’t converse.

    But this process is different for everyone. We all know the beginning journalist who will write for free for weekly papers just to get a byline. We know people who take great photos, but give them away for a credit line on a Website. And we know the people who will intern for a company with the hope of landing a ‘real’ job later on in their career.

    You hit it on the head, though, when you talked about the chewed up and spit out masses. Some folks – the C- and D-listers – want attention and exposure in the hopes they’ll move up the ladder. Unfortunately, until these folks take themselves as seriously as those of us who are professionals, they won’t get the respect and access they so dearly desire.

    Would I say yes to you guys if you called? Depends if your campaign/product/event would further both our interests. Otherwise, you’re just asking me to be a prostitute for your clients and that makes everyone feel a little dirty.

    Good post!

    Jeff

    • I really appreciate your comment, Jeff. I guess at the end of the day, we do our very best in order to make sure the match is a match made in heaven — because we’re not at all the one with the leverage — we’re the one coming in with hat in hand. Nobody needs to message on my — on our — behalf. And yet, in the last outreach we did, we garnered 169 earned media mentions for our client in only 10 days. Earned media. Such amazing coverage! But it’s not always that good (and we are only half-way through the campaign) but we’re representing a very popular and cool client — a client that knows how to be generous and is offering a quality narrative and story with an insanely high content quality — top-level ad folks and their creatives participated. So, it was easy for us — but every one of the folks we reach out to can and might either ignore us or say no. So, the onus is always on us. We have never had a feeling of entitlement, even though some bloggers will never ever feel that way — because so many agencies act like they’re entitled. The truth is sobering.

  2. When we approach bloggers we always consider what’s in it for them, not just what’s in it for us or our clients.

    What “gift” can we offer that will forward the goals they pursue? Just as when PR people pitch reporters it has to be with news they would want to publish or air. If it is only good for the brand, they too will tell you to take a walk down the hall to the ad department. And quite rightly so.

    The majority of bloggers may not yet be regarded as mainstream media, but they are considered earned media. And they are influential and trusted sources. Unless you are willing to offer them compelling content, or a valid reason to work with you that benefits them in some real way, best you don’t reach out.

    Bloggers don’t exist for our benefit. They are in no way obliged to cover our pitch. Our job as PR folk is to provide them with interesting, newsworthy, useful, shareable content that helps to build their audience and positions them as someone in the know.

    When you do that you get bloggers who are delighted to work with you. We’ve just done a campaign for a client where we reached out to 85 A-list bloggers in a niche. About 50 agreed to participate – it was totally their choice whether or not to do so. They have all been a joy to work with and I have had nothing but positive emails, posts and tweets from them.

    Sal

  3. Even though my post was a little snarky, I am really enjoying the conversation. Yes, we have no entitlement to a post, especially for free — and yet it happens all the time, routinely, because we at Social Ally are really good at offering value for value. Nobody goes away hungry, hopefully — and most often.

  4. Chris – snarky or not, you know I’m a fan and this is a heckuva post. My take is – think about what bloggers want. (At some point it’s money, yes, but indirectly.) What bloggers want is traffic – not just any traffic, but high-quality, relevant traffic. What produces that? Two things – quality content, and social promotion. Offer a blogger those two things and their blog is your canvas. And you can ask them for favors down the road – retweet this, G+ this etc. and there is a good chance you’ll get a positive response. The flipside is – ask a blogger for their most precious resource (time) and then don’t even bother retweeting their post – that is a sure way to poison any relationship that may have developed.

  5. Outstanding analysis/ yes, we do tend to stratify Bloggers the same way we used to do with the Mainstream Media — “give it to the Times or Journal first…” How often PR clients used to dictate these exclusives. Today, it’s tough to offer exclusives, yet it’s still a way of life for PR people. Ask any Mashable or TechCrunch blogger, and they’ll tell you “we have to have the exclusive on this…..”

  6. I often see bloggers as a bigger challenge when it comes to influencer relations because they just need more reasons to write. You can’t assume they’ll jump at anything because they don’t have any kind of news hole to fill. If they don’t feel like posting on any particular day they don’t have to. They need something that speaks to them. That’s the real challenge.

    That said, I’ve found the parent-blogger set to be a particularly tough bunch to work with. In general it feels like many are in it for the free stuff from big brands and aren’t interested in learning about interesting concepts from startups and smaller companies.

  7. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog Chris and all of the comments lefts by everyone.
    In the first instance what’s great to read and feel in this entire conversation is the level of understanding you all seem to have for each other’s points of view. I myself have been working within internet, online, social, etc since 2000 after wanting to escape the traditional (read: limited, linear) media and their sometimes fixed ideas. Then, as a traditional media professional I was getting fed up at the lack of innovation which is present in tv and radio. So there comes the year 200 and the blogging boom gives way to new and creative ways of communicating with a large audiences whilst recognising the importance of measurability. Something else also happens – amateur writers now have a podium to showcase their talent. A great development.

    Its only since the last 2 years that traditional PR professionals have begun to see the value of bloggers and integrate it into PR strategy. The point however is that many PR professionals understand the need to approach bloggers, have ‘heard’ that they need to get online PR, how unmissable it is… how everyone first checks out products/brands on the internet, etc. blah, blah but rarely do they understand the dynamic or think about what’s important to the blogger themselves. So no, you ‘generally’ won’t find a PR firm who has thought about what bloggers want in terms of producing great rich media content, with a mega share factor. By the way, I don’t think you should have to ask G+ 1 it, that should happen naturally if the brand is worthy of it and this will depend on what types of content have been made available to the the blogger.

    At the same time I’ve recognised that its not always an unwilligness from the PR pro’s but more a lack of knowledge and insight. Seriously, if you think about it, PR people generally shout out ‘Don’t you think this is great?, you should write about it’ Instead of ‘We love this product, would it contribute to your site and audience?’ With such an approach you take the blogger that bit more seriously and give them an opportunity to think with you so that the advantages are on both sides.

    A few years ago I started up a online women’s magazine. It’s pretty big now. We receive literally hundreds of press releases a day of which 99% go straight in the bin. I won’t even describe the quality of the pitch or if there was any pitch at all, but what frustrated my editor in chief the most was the fact that no personal attempt had been made to contact her of any of our bloggers/writers to discuss if it would at all be interesting for our magazine, if it fit within our editorial planning. Indeed the expectation was that we would obviously want to feature their brand because they’re a brand!!! But still I swear this way is simply ignorance and nothing more than that. Should we educate PR pro’s in this or continue being selective?

    We of course became extremly picky and because of this a separate online PR company was born, which I now run with a simple mission: Take your bloggers as seriously as you take your brand, help each other, work together and then you’ll build a match made in heaven!

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