I’ve been doing earned media blogger outreach as a profession since 2006 and a lot has changed. To be frank, there are a lot of bloggers with their hands out looking for pay to play these days that it can feel a little daunting. The secret to my success has been to be a lot more selective in the clients I’m willing to work with. It’s not because I’m a snob but because some things work with earned media — bloggers blogging about things that are relevant enough to the blogger that she is willing to not only engage with me but also to carry my client’s message through to their social circles on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, and even on their blogs and Tumblrs.
Part of the issue is that blogger and influencer outreach is no longer new, unique, human, or novel; another part is that there are a lot more people doing it so bloggers are getting deluged; and, post 2008, things have been very bleak out there, economy-wise; finally, there’s a lot of money in blogger outreach. My former business partner and current best friend, Mark Harrison, used to throw out insane hourly rates or salaries to headhunters instead of saying no to them. His rationalization was that no means no but a crazy-high salary demand probably means no but might mean yes if they accept that 2x-10x fee (depending on how loathsome the job would be), and getting paid a lot more than you’re used to actually makes the most appalling job palatable — at least for a while. So, dropping a rate card is the smart blogger’s way of saying “no . . . unless.”
Honestly, I had almost given up hope until I have been able to align myself with clients who really get what influencer outreach is. It’s not SEO, though that could be a secondary effect. It’s not command and control, because nobody is obligated to do anything for me unless they want to. Blogger outreach isn’t remotely sales or marketing, either, because the entire analog of blogger outreach is the PR pitch not the cold call. Blogger and influencer outreach should only be done in the framework of public relations because what you’re doing, literally, is reaching out to publishers. Influential tweeters, facebookers, pinners, linkedinners, plussers, redditors, tumblrs, and bloggers are publishers to be pitched and not sold. If you make any assumptions about what they will and won’t cover, then you really will be rebuffed — or you’ll receive a quick price sheet for their pay-per-post, pay-per-mention, pay-per-tweet, and pay-per-review services.
Currently, I am having a lot of fun and success pitching infographics for my friends at FoodInsight to moms and parents. Yeah, infographics! Earned media. The reason why I am having so much fun is because IFIC is really happy to just meet and greet and engage these bloggers. Don’t get me wrong, they would love every blogger to share and reshare, blog and reblog their cool infographics about caffeine, backpack-durable food (it’s back to school season), and purse snacks for mom and the kids (it needs to endure being jostled and outside of the fridge for days, possibly). They have the long game in mind. They’re smart enough to know that each time they engage someone who has never heard about them, their organization, or their mission, then they’ve met someone new and that relationship, even if it doesn’t result in a tweet or a post, might very well flower or bear fruit down the road.
Influencer outreach is like any other sales cycle, right? It can oftentimes take seven or more touches before converting. So, every three or four weeks, we’ll start a new campaign with a new infographic, a new cross section of bloggers to collect, and three outreaches, one initial outreach, and two follow-ups (nobody responds to a single email, nobody, unless you’re already a known entity). So, over time, since we often reach out to 1,000-3,000 influencers over the course of a campaign, there will probably be quite a few instances where we pitch the same influencer over the course of the year. As that blogger becomes more familiar with my friends at Food Insight they will soon respond to the first outreach because it won’t be the first, and it won’t be the only — there will be quite a lot of familiarity there. In the case of these outreaches, the emails are released into the world not as me, Chris Abraham, but as them, in their voice. So, they’re building brand with a very influential and interested community of food bloggers, health bloggers, and influencers in the world of nutrition and dietitian science. There is zero downside to saying hello to this community on a regular basis and leading with simple, friendly, and informative infographics in a friendly “here, this is for you, I hope you enjoy it” seems to work, especially since each outreach also offers access to all the smart nutritionists and dietitians that work there for QAs and interviews, etc. Very cool. I’m fortunate.
The same thing is happening right now as I reach out to the tippy top of the social media marketing influencer world on behalf of SOCi, a social media marketing platform that’s pretty new on the scene. In this case, I have an infinite number of 90-day demo accounts I can offer an infinite number of SEM influencers. And It’s been a wild success. I am not even done with the first series of outreaches and 75 folks have accepted accounts with another 158 emails I haven’t yet responded to waiting for me in my inbox. Why is it working? Well, I could say kismet but it probably has more to do with my having over 12-years of experience in online marketing and being, myself, part of the social media marketing infuencer class myself. That’s typical PR, right? Who’s in your Rolodex. I have done earned media blogger outreach on behalf of quite a few apps and online services and this isn’t commonplace any more. People are super-busy and there are a million versions of everything already out there.
The success we’re having right now probably is partially due to my name recognition in this space but it also probably has to do with the generosity of the client in offering full-access, unrestricted, accounts for 90 days without asking for anything in return. I mean, SOCi and I surely want social media mentions and blog and press coverage, but I don’t think that anyone can do an accurate review without some real experience behind the wheel. So, this campaign will be a little different. I will need to escort everyone who receives an account all the way through day 90 in order to gently encourage use of the product, shepherd very busy marketing gods away from pressing business and into yet another SMM app, and then, at the end of the day, to make sure the entire experience has been painless, useful, interesting, pleasant, and productive enough that it’s worth their time, attention, and selflessness to do a write up or tweet about @meetsoci or Like SOCi on Facebook, including including SOCi in future social media marketing tool reviews alongside HootSuite, Sprout Social, Buffer, and the like. And I think I can. People seem pretty interested and excited.
So, at the end of the day, it seems to come down to knowing what best will work with earned media and what won’t; and, to make sure that you use your best judgement to make that call, letting your client know that it’s might be essential to put aside $10,000 or so in order to cover all the bloggers who you’ll need to pay to play. But you might not need to if you’re willing to accept blogger outreach and influencer engagement to be more public relations and publicity and less advertising and SEO link-building.
I hope this has been useful to you. Now it’s your turn! Go git ’em, Tiger!