Blogger Outreach Complete Guide for PR Experts

Blogger Outreach campaigns have gained popularity lately. And while most resources out there are for newcomers, a PR expert needs a slightly different guide in order to handle them together with the day to day media relations. And here it is: all the useful information about blogger outreach campaigns a PR expert needs.

So it seems bloggers are climbing their way up to the top of important content producers. But what hasn’t changed is that reaching out and tactfully forming relationships with these modern influencers who can cause action over awareness is something PR professionals have been doing for years. 

Because of this, PR pros have an advantage over some of the brands who are jumping on the blogger outreach train. They understand the importance of nurturing relationships, having a two sided relationship and recognizing advocacy—key components of blogger outreach.” said Kristen Matthews, Content Marketer at GroupHigh, on this SocialMediaToday article.

blogger outreach popularity

 

However, even if blogger outreach campaigns seem to be easier to be taken care of by PR experts, they should be treated with care as they sometimes fall on the thin line between earned and paid media. This article will therefore focus on the real PR work behind blogger outreach campaigns, and not on the marketing side of it (that includes paid referral links, paid posts etc.)

How can blogger outreach campaigns help a PR expert?

Although a PR role should cover all sorts of media relations, the most attention goes to journalists. However, bloggers have found their ways to the eyes and years of customers at a scale that should put them on PR pro’s high priority already.

Here is a hint: bloggers have a higher influence on consumer purchases than online magazines and news sites, according to Technorati 2013 Digital Influence Report. As it seems, blogs have a 31% influence over consumer purchases, while online magazines have 20% influence and news sites have 7% influence.

blogs influence on purchases

Bloggers have two main advantages over journalists:

  • Bloggers are usually very focused on niches. Hence it is easier to reach specific groups of people with specific interests through them. Although the reach is smaller through blogs than through traditional media, the segmentation possibilities can lead to great campaign results.
  • Bloggers usually have very engaged communities of readers. Hence their influence is not to be underestimated. The relationship between the writer and its readers is way higher when it comes to bloggers than when it comes to journalists.

But there is also one main disadvantage in comparing the two: bloggers don’t have the skills of journalists, and sometimes not even the same ethics. Bloggers can write following no journalism rules. Sometimes they are not familiar with handling relationships with brands and PR experts. And since they are not paid for their work by a media house, they might want to monetize their efforts in helping brands grow. But hey, more blogger outreach campaigns done right can only educate them and the future might get quite interesting.

bloggers dislikes about being approached by brands

Most common uses of blogger outreach campaigns are about:

1) Having bloggers write about a brand or campaign

Some notable examples of successful blogger outreach campaigns (of pure PR work, not paid ones) were:

  • In February 2013, Ford gave away 100 Ford Fiesta for 6 months to 100 bloggers and social media influencers in return of their documented experience shared with the world. (read more)
  • In May 2013, Ariel Brazil sent design items covered in stains and a sample of Ariel stain remover to influential fashion bloggers. (read more)
  • In July 2013, Marriott hotel in Florida invited 13 top travel bloggers to their locations, giving them personalized holiday packages to experiment. (read more)
  • In December 2011, Orange Spain prepared the launch of its service ON Voicefeed by inviting the local top tech influencers to meet the team behind and to be beta testers for the app for a month. (read more)
  • In late 2010, Vodafone gave Vodafone VIP to one passionate fashion blogger that was not a top blogger yet, which granted him access to London Fashion Week AW11, an event sponsored by the company. (read more)

2) Inviting bloggers to events to cover launches, interview speakers and experience products and services

As some conferences invite bloggers to be Official Bloggers, brands jump in to give them interesting content or products and services. For example, during Next Conference that took place in Berlin 2012, Airbnb offered free accommodation to the Official Bloggers. (read more)

How to choose who to target for blogger outreach campaigns?

Sometimes you can target bloggers just like journalists, by the industry and topics covered. Sometimes, you can target bloggers just like celebrities, by the lifestyle they promote (and if it fits the brand image).

Then the research should dive into their potential reach. With bloggers, it is very unlikely that they mention the size of their audience, as opposed to other media. And as a matter of fact, you shouldn’t even care about it. Look into bloggers that have very engaged communities in their niche, by assessing the blog comments and social media interactions.

And finally, you might want to check if they are open to any approaches by brands. Check if they have previously covered any brand products or campaigns and how. Check if they covered competitors and from what perspective. And check if they have any published info about their position towards blogger outreach campaigns and the like. And especially if they expect any remuneration (as you don’t want that in PR).

As for tools to make the search easier, we recommend: Google Blog Search, Scraper Chrome Extension (free) and typing “site:examplewebsite.com [at] [dot]” in google searches in order to find email addresses.

How to approach bloggers for a blogger outreach campaign?

As a PR expert, you are used to the fact that journalists don’t want to be treated as lists, and surprise surprise neither do bloggers. Hence the targeting research is very important to filter them because each blogger will require your time to build a relationship.

PR agencies need to be billing their clients to develop relationships with bloggers too on a retainer basis, so that they will be approachable whenever necessary.

Then you might also need to know what motivates bloggers to join campaigns – the most attractive ones are not paid:

branding initiatives

Before any approach, you might want to consider building a Blogger Outreach Code of Ethics that can be a reference for the bloggers. Ogilvy has a simple and short one that you can use as inspiration. One part it covers is the monetization issue that might arise when dealing with bloggers (as stated previously):

“If we reach out to you with news about a product, campaign or issue, we will not provide monetary compensation, because we believe it is unethical to “buy” favorable reviews and not want to appear as if we are.

If you have advertising opportunities on your blog, we will counsel our clients to consider purchasing advertising as a way to reach your readers. We will make it clear, however, that paying for advertising does not mean that you will post about the campaign or that, if you do, you will do so in a way that is favorable to them.

If we ask you to review a product and, therefore, provide you with the product to enable you to “experience” it, we will ask that you be transparent and reveal that you have been given the product temporarily, or permanently.

If we engage you as an advisor on a specific project, we will consider providing you with compensation (agreed upon at the start of the project). This compensation will solely be for your time as an advisor and will not include an expectation that you will write about the project – favorably or unfavorably.”

For a first reach out (preferably after already reading and commenting on their blogs), here are 9 examples of blogger outreach approaches and their analysis.

To simplify these email approaches, you can use Gmail Canned Responses that allows for setting a template email and just adding some info for personalizing them. Canned Responses are to be turned on in Gmail from Settings / Labs, then you need to write the template as a new email and save it as a Canned Response from Options (at the top right of the Send button). Each time you approach a new blogger, you can start from the template including the greetings, campaign and brand info and then add the bloggers name, blog name, links to its articles, personalized reason for approach etc.

gmail canned responses

 

Also, you might want to use Signals to get notifications on who opened your email and when. The tool is free to use for up to 200 notifications per month. In most cases, if a blogger opens an email and doesn’t reply, he/she is probably not interested. You can try following up, but you might just let it go. For all those who didn’t open, definitely follow-up.

 

Then once the relationship is established, add the bloggers into your media database by using Mustr. Like this you can share the list with the project team or with the client, you can save notes and you can send them the campaign details with high resolution images and other attachments.

mustr

 

How to measure the results of a blogger outreach campaign?

You can check the brand’s website traffic brought by the bloggers by using Google Analytics (free tool that most websites have in place). There are two ways to track the effects:

  • Use URL Builder to set up links with tracking codes to give to the bloggers that accepted participating in the campaign. Then Google Analytics will display the aggregated traffic from all bloggers, as well as traffic from different set segments.
  • Use Google Analytics Segments to setup a segment for a specific source (in this case, a specific blog). In case people don’t convert on the spot, in the first visit to the website (like in the case of cars, for example), this tracking way allows to know what traffic came for the first time ever from a blogger, even if afterwards they come directly to the website.

Also, you might want to use a backlink checker tool and google alerts to be notified of any brand mentions and links to the website.

We wish you all the best with your next blogger outreach campaign! And please, do share your experience and learning.




  • http://techbrew.be/ Andrew Matheson

    Great article, Raf. Blogger outreach is definitely a growing trend and is disrupting the typical ways of reaching people.

    However, I will admit to being a bit torn after reading the piece. While on the one hand, I understand the ethical dilemma for PR firms ‘buying’ reviews, I also see the other side of the blogger trying to monetize the audience that has been generated. Companies or PR firms may provide a blogger with a free product or service, but that still doesn’t pay the bills. And frankly, accepting a free product or service is still compensation (and taxable: http://traveljunkette.com/taxes-travel-bloggers/).

    I think what is missing is an assessment of a blogger’s honesty. Even if the blogger is compensated, are the reviews still honest? I won’t use the word unbiased because I think by receiving something free (or compensation) there is bias. However, it is worth considering if that person (or persons) can look at it objectively. Maybe this means a blogger should post a code of ethics? I would argue that’s a good idea and part of the reason my wife and I joined the Professional Travel Blogger’s Association (http://travelbloggersassociation.com/).

    • http://getmustr.com/ Raf Weverbergh

      Thanks for your comment, Andrew, and you touch a very thorny point in blogger relations.

      Posting a code of ethics might be useful, if only because of the big differences between different blogs. Some blogs are closer to legacy media and are very strict about accepting anything at all. Other bloggers will ask for “pay to play” in exchange for a positive review or article about your products or services.

      I think transparency is key, but I think long term, I think bloggers should be aware that having a reputation that you accept “payola” is not the best way to build a brand.

  • http://GreenGlobalTravel.com/ Green Global Travel

    One problem I’ve seen is that PR people doing blogger outreach do not tend to do much in the way f research. Very often they’ll look at a random list of the Top 40 ___ Bloggers and then just go down the list, essentially throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks (our site, Green Global Travel, is in the Top 30 Travel Blogs, so we get a lot of these emails).

    Unfortunately, the “Top” blogs in terms of traffic or Klout score or whatever measurement you choose to use aren’t always the BEST blogs. Some have never worked with PR before, which is where you hear PR people complaining about unprofessional behavior. Some are only in it for the freebies, which is where you see terribly written “advertorial” that any reader with half a brain will see is paid for by the sponsor. Even within the Professional Travel Bloggers Association (of which we’re also members), you see questionable behavior that makes bloggers look bad.

    Ultimately, the answer is for PR people to spend a LOT more time vetting the blogs they work with, or working with vetted blogger collectives such as iAmbassador, Navigate Media or EcoAdventure Media (which, in the interest of full disclosure, we co-founded). There is a lot of shady stuff in this business– from SEO-scamming advertisers and PR people who don’t care whether a blogger is unbiased to bloggers who only write about things they’re paid to cover.

    It’s going to take significant effort on BOTH sides of the blogger-brand playing field to find the sort of respectable, profitable relationships that benefit everyone… including (and especially) the reader/consumer.

    • http://getmustr.com/ Raf Weverbergh

      Good point about the SEO spam. I’m also the editor of a fairly big international blog, and the amount of mails I get from people with obviously fake and very bland (ungoogleable) names is huge. They’re always offering to write “unique content for my readers”, and they’e very obviously SEO spam.

      I also agree that PR people should do their homework better – which is also why we created Mustr: to allow teams to easily share knowledge about bloggers and journalists, so that you don’t bother the wrong journalists or bloggers with your outreach.

      I’ll make sure to check out the blogger collectives you mention.

  • Pointsandtravel

    Great article! I also find that sometime the PR or DMO people do not give me the tools I need (ie internet and free time) for me to get the word out through my social media channels so that I can help them with their brand or products while I am with them on a press trip, as they keep me either too busy (8am-midnight,sometimes) or I have no access to wifi during the day. I have, since discovering this, went to my own international cellular plan or had mifi backup, but I had to learn this the hard way. Many times as well, i find they don’t really give us a direction on what the campaign or motivation for having us work with them on press trips is and I, personally, prefer to have an idea of what they think a successful campaign is BEFORE I begin my work with them.

    • Raf Weverbergh

      I noticed when I was a journalist that indeed, press trips can be quite hectic. I guess the schedule is indeed more geared towards “old school print” media – with the journalist first doing the trip, then writing an article. I guess a lot of PR people aren’t used yet to the realtime news cycle :)

      Thanks for the insights into your workflow, I’m sure this is good stuff for all the PR people out there.

  • Chris Backe

    A couple of thoughts here:

    The bloggers you want to work with will do two things with their e-mail address: make it easy for people to find, and make a spammer’s life more difficult. Mine, for example, is (my e-mail address) AT gmail DOT com. Not myemailaddress@gmail.com. That cute little trick to find the @ wouldn’t help you. Now if you went to the About page, the Contact page, or the Advertising page, you’d find it without much effort.

    Bloggers also think ‘win-win-win’ – what’s good for my readers, your company, and myself. I’m not about sell my blog out and lose the trust of my readers for a few hundred bucks. Anyone that takes their blog seriously would scoff at that sort of offer – unless they believe their readers will genuinely benefit from it.

    Finally, this quote: “bloggers don’t have the skills of journalists, and sometimes not even the same ethics.”

    Yep – we often have *better* researching skills and *more* ethics. We’ve seen how badly produced stories or inaccurate stories can bite us in the bum. Just yesterday, I saw several mainstream, respected publications skillfully and ethically report on a recycled five-year-old story found on a blog. Journalists can be as far from neutral as blogger can, and may well be as unethical in terms of quotes or spin.

    • Raf Weverbergh

      Thanks for the insights, Chris. I agree that bloggers are often better informed than journalists. On the other hand, I find it helpful to remind myself that everyone is trying to do the best job he or she can – legacy media or blog. Maybe that’s because I’ve been both a reporter at a magazine and a blogger :)

  • http://myitchytravelfeet.com Donna Hull

    You raise some valuable and interesting points. But I would caution about using blog comments as a sign of engagement. The reader who will buy your client’s product, book, services does not typically comment on blogs. They may read them, interact with the blog’s social media pages but not necessarily comment on the blog itself. I find that most blogging comments come from others in the blogging community.

    One beef I have with PR, is when a rep emails me to promote a company’s contest or special offer on social media. To me, that’s more of a marketing function and I deserve to be paid for my efforts. Sending me on a trip to learn about a destination for story research is not something that requires extra pay, unless the content that results is copy for your client’s website.

    I would also add that there are many legitimate bloggers who are excellent writers, storytellers and engagers but, for whatever reason, choose not to belong to any professional organizations or vetted blogger collectives. Please don’t overlook them.