Blogger outreach. Long considered an effective means of getting your key messages out to a wider audience through a number of useful, influential folk to help spread your campaign. Outreach to bloggers (or other opinion leading individuals or communities) is generally a winner.
But in my experience, it can often be ill thought-through, rushed or just not done in the most sustainable, effective way to foster long term relationships. Bloggers (or those active online and able to share information through their own networks and channels) are a unique kind of person. And they usually only require a modicum of information to get your point across on your behalf.
Here are my 11 top tips for getting involved in an outreach campaign:
Don’t just repurpose a press release to send out to your outreach contacts
I’ve seen this done time and time again and it turns people off. Blogger outreach is a skill in itself. It takes time to craft the right kind of communication to bloggers that sends out the right message a) about the overarching campaign or promotion you want to get out; but also b) about you too. Your contact needs to be convinced (if they haven’t been already) that you’re someone worth speaking to. Don’t over-formalise your approach either. Cut out the ‘Dear Sirs and Madams.’
Don’t reinvent the reaching out wheel
You know you’re onto a good thing when you make contact with your target and they respond with a positive message. But you don’t need to keep doing it over and over. Maintain contact with your key influencers on a more informal level so you don’t have to keep introducing yourself on different projects. Approach informally with a bit of context setting and they will respond better.
Take the time to look at what your contact has been up to recently
Get familiar with the way they like to do things, the language, the tone, any opinions they have and any key content that they have shown an interest in is important. Talk about their blog or website, so that they know you have actually read it and that you have something to say about it.
Know your material
The blogger is going to want to come back to you, possibly with questions. You need to be all over your subject matter so that you can keep them on message and make them feel like an advocate or ambassador for your message.
If someone responds to you (even if they cant help) don’t ignore them
Always respond with a note to say “thank you for your help” or “thank you for getting back to me”. There’s no substitute for a bit of kindness and goodwill.
Capture as much data about your contact as possible
Nurture your relationship; understand the patterns of your contact’s behaviour and how these might change over time. Above all, keep a record of their movements and how they have been receptive (or otherwise) to you in the past. Keep a record of your key conversations, the highlights, the lowlights, what makes people tick and turns them off. And linked to that…
…. find somewhere sensible to house your data, knowledge and insights on your contacts
This could be a Customer relationship management database, which would be a great way of storing and updating your data in an easy to use way. But it doesn’t have to be a CRM. A simple Excel spreadsheet is just as good but only if it’s updated regularly and kept comprehensive, well structured and well maintained.
Make it easy for them
Show an appreciation of the blogger’s time and skill. In my experience, bloggers in particular are time-poor and when contacted (just like a journalist) they want to have all the key information and ideally, content to hand. Not reams of text for them to horde through. And some of them are (quite rightly) a bit opinionated so it’s worth making the effort to keep them happy.
Involve and incentivise
This might be something light-touch, but some kind of incentivsation, whether monetised or not usually helps. I once got quite a long way with giving out some (*unnamed brand*) memory sticks, which usually helps as a sweetener and shows goodwill. Another idea could be to invite them along collectively to a group discussion on how to move things along with your project. Making them feel important and part of what’s going on is crucial.
How do you know if you’ve been successful?
How many helpful people do you need involved to make a difference? Set some targets, KPIs, measurables, ‘Objectives and Key Results’, call them what you want. Set some.
Consider a live newsroom approach, or just a ‘media page’
There are plenty of tools out there that can help you achieve the aim of getting the right information to the right contact (and therefore increasing engagement between you and your most important end audiences) and without the need for the mayhem of email attachment overload. Key assets, messages, images, social media feeds, video and branding can be neatly appended to a well-structured media page (e.g. a simple to set up Google site) or even a live newsroom that your contact can be directed to. Influencers can then start following your ‘newsroom’ and become part of your network.