Sunday, March 04, 2007

[Transparency] Blogger Relations 101 - Suggestions, please?

Hello all

Sam suggested I post this here. Here's the story...

I found out about a panel discussion on pitching to bloggers. Fine. I usually see emails like this--panels of bloggers and marketing people 'teaching' marketers how to target us for...well...whatever.

What struck me about this panel was it consisted entirely of corporate or sponsored bloggers and I didn't see any hobbyists/independents on it. I sent them a note asking about this and, well, you know what happened next. I'm on the panel, the only one really representing those of us who aren't paid by an organisation to put forth a corporate line.

I was told that there wouldn't be any hand-outs and all they want me for is to sit for a couple of hours and talk about blogger relations. I've come up with a quick list for myself, based on the *lovely* emails I get, but I'm wondering if there are other points that I've missed or should keep in mind. I have seen some posts here
, along with Elise's post on the subject, and I think I've captured similar sentiments.

The event is Wednesday 7 March, so any pointers you can give me is very much appreciated, including if I'm out to lunch on any of it...Here's my list thus far:
  • Bloggers should be approached similarly to journalists:
    - Your pitch should be akin to a media release: 5Ws, contact information etc.
    - The blogger decides what to do with the info, including how to present it.
    - If we're interested, we'll contact you. If we contact you for more information, get the back to us quickly.
  • Personalise the approach
    - Most bloggers have a name or a screen name. Use it in your salutation, instead of just "hi" or "Hello Confessions of a Cardamom Addict"
    - We can tell if you've just read one post...or half of one post...
  • Do your research
    - Just because we mentioned your product or company once doesn't actually mean that we *like* your company/product/client. Find out what was said about you before you send the email.
    - Many bloggers are specialised (food, knitting, cars, etc): make sure you are pitching something that's in keeping with the blog...
    - Many bloggers have a policy that outlines what they will and will not do...
  • Blogging Events
    - Know how blogging events work before you agree to do one; ask questions and get all the facts first.
    - If you decide you want to do an event, chances are you will need to provide items free of charge to participants
  • Watch your tone, mister
    - Don't presume because you've sent us an email (or worse, left us a comment), we'll fall all over ourselves to make you happy...we're nice, but not that nice.
    - Leave the arrogance and pompousness out of your communications...many of us can smell smarmy marketing copy a mile away...and we don't like it at all.
    - Don't leave comments that plug your product or your site.
  • Things not to ask for:
    - Email addresses of readers or blogging contacts
    - Blog roll links
    - Don't assume that we'll do reciprocal links (for free) for a commercial or corporate blog...
    - Don't ask us to do your research for you

  • We're human beings
    - Many of us have day jobs or are in school or lives, so although it's nice to be invited to a product launch that takes place Wednesday at 2pm, chances are we won't be able to take time off of work to attend. Be prepared to send media kits or supplemental info to people who can't attend.
    - We hate spam. We aren't thrilled with being inundated with bad asks and pitches. We don't think much of being put on mailing lists without being asked.
    - We talk amongst ourselves.
  • Product Issues
    - If you want to send us something. Just send it, no strings attached.
    - If we think it's worth blogging about we will. Don't tell us what to say or how to say it. Once you do that, you are in advertising territory.
    - Not all bloggers are American, or North American. Make sure the product you're pitching is normally available in the blogger's home country.
  • Really big no-nos
    - If you ask for links, buttons, or text blocks that link back to your email or web page, you are asking for advertising. Be prepared to pay for this.
    - Don't use our content without our permission. This includes photographs, animation, text and anything else we've come up with on our own...many of us check to see who's stolen what.

When I'm done, I'll probably have a Blogger Relations 101 post on Cardamom Addict...Thanks so much in advance.

This Post was written by jasmine from Confessions of a Cardamom Addict


Kalyn said...

Nice job. Looks like a good list to me.

FJK said...

Impressive and well done. I'd add one thing -- No, you can not see or approve what I write before it is posted.

If I think of anything else I'll let you know.

Kelli said...

Looks like a good list to me. I think your point about making sure the PR agent knows a little about the blog they are requesting from is key. It's just like sending products to magazines for review - different blogs specialize in different topics, and write for different types of people/markets. It seems like most companies forget the basis of blogging is sharing genuine, personal experiences with things. Just like bloggers can smell wierd marketing pitches, so can blog readers! Have fun on the panel...

lucette said...

I love the polite threat of "We talk amongst ourselves."

Rachael said...

OMG, this makes me laugh!

And laugh.

And giggle a little bit and then start laughing again.

I'm sorry.

cybele said...

Great list - something I plan to make use of!

Another comment about dealing with these marketing/publicist folks - when talking to them let them know what the communication will be ... are you going to email them when you post or let them know that you're not going to post.

I usually send a note to them when I make my post (if they don't find it first, sometimes they're really on top of things and will send me a note within an hour of posting something).

Other times I've gotten emails asking me what I thought and when I'm going to mention their product. There have been times where I've given them feedback via email and never written about it on the blog.

Kirsten said...

As a blogger...but a full time PR and Marketing professional, I can totally relate to this post.

Like podcasts or any tech-related tool, PR and marketing people are being preached at to "Listen to Bloggers!!" or jump on other trends, but with little reality check or context.

Basically, your list is great.

What makes a PR person and the NY Times or Wash Post form a relationship is exactly what make a PR person and a blogger form a relationship.

For PR people, know your audience, know the publication (online or not), know the editorial focus, know the deadline and understand that PR is genuine 2-way communication between a product/service/company and its public and advertising is a paid message.

So, 2-way communication could mean a product/service/issue/organization says something, and the public/media/audience says something back, or vice versa. Good, bad, ugly, indifferent, etc. That's PR.

Simple. Blog or no blog, the rules are all the same.

Thanks for bringing up a great topic!

Kirsten said...

Sorry, more of my thoughts.

I forgot to address how I view blogs when I have my work (PR) "hat" on.

Yes, I read blogs all the time, and as the PR/Marketing manager for a college, you better believe there are MANY blog posts (not to mention myspace and facebook profiles) talking (good and bad) about our college.

But, in this framework, I actually do NOT view bloggers as journalists, but rather as customers publicly participating in that ever-discussed 2-way communication that you learn about PR in college.

So...I can send bloggers info, inform them by email, etc. (which I do not unless info is specifically requested or clarification is neccessary), but unlike journalists whose jobs may be to discover what is new, newsworthy or noteworthy, timely or prominent, costly or sensational, bloggers by nature can write about whatver the heck they want.

Like the old photocopied angry neighbor/customer letter stuffed under the doors of a neighborhood, blogs are the modern day grassroots marketing/social communication piece.

So not really news media in the traditional sense, but deserving of the same respectful treatment and probably more so as many of these people do it as a passion and for free.

Mimi said...

Kirsten adds some good points to an already thorough list.

About tone: For me, a flag goes up instantly when someone tells me I will "want to feature this fabulous product/idea etc." in my column/blog.

Want to? I make that decision.

Knowing the blogger you are trying to persuade is crucial. Knowing the blog is crucial.

Unrelated to blogs, yesterday, I got a phone call at home from a PR person looking for someone who would agree to be interviewed for a story they were pitching for the local newspaper.

I write for that newspaper. We're a small town. The PR person should do her research.

Jasmine said...

Hi all

Thanks so much for your suggestions. The event went positive comments from people who were interested in the nuts and bolts of dealing with us. Hopefully it will make a difference.