How to Woo a Blogger (and get coverage)

by on 12/15/2009 • 49 Comments | Blogging

blogger coverageNot unlike many others in my line of work, I get a lot of pitches. Lots of emails from people who think it would be AWESOME if I covered their new product release, their new tool, the birth of their first child, or maybe even mention their stagnant blog. Trouble is that most of the pitches hitting my inbox are completely random. They’re coming from marketers and businesses who have thrown the net far and wide instead of narrow and deep.

And by doing that, they’re skimming right over the real connections and interactions. They’re playing the numbers game instead of the quality game. Essentially, they’re alienating ‘the right someone’ in their mission to hit everyone. “Everyone” has never been who you’re looking to target.

As a blogger, here’s how I wish people would pitch me:

outspoken2Before you make contact…

Show an interest before you pitch: We’re not dating. I don’t expect months of courting and Twitter flirting before you make contact, but creating a relationship with me BEFORE you need something helps separate you from everyone else in my inbox. If we’ve chatted on Twitter, swapped blog comments, or had an IRL conversation during a networking event, it changes the response you’re going to get from me. You go from ‘stranger’ to ‘friend’. If we’ve never met, then you’re starting from the bottom of the hill. That’s a long walk to make up in one email.

Know my name: Seriously. Ever notice that you get better service from a waiter or waitress when you address them by their name instead of “hey you” or, as my Dad prefers, “sweetheart”? People respond to you better when you treat them human because it means you cared enough to figure it out. Same reason I don’t address holiday cards, “Dear Colleague” or “To The Person With Whom I Grew Up”. Because I’m not a robot and the people I’m talking with have feelings.

Woman looking with binocularsKnow my niche: You may have released the SEO tool to beat all SEO tools but if I blog about birds, I really don’t care. More importantly, neither does my audience. The best way to piss off a blogger, burn bridges, and get yourself labeled a spammer is to email someone about a topic that has absolutely no relevance to their community’s interest. Do your homework. Before you contact me, go through my last 15 or so posts to get a feel for what I’m about. Just because I have ONE post ranking in the SERPs for the keyword you searched, doesn’t mean I’m your target market. Know who you’re contacting and make sure we match up.

Don’t pitch the entire press list: It never fails. Two weeks before a conference my inbox is filled to the brim with pitch spam. Every company exhibiting decides to “invite me” to “an exclusive sit down” with their CEO/marketing rep because they’ve “heard I’m attending [insert conference]”. Let me share something you may or may not know – an email like that is sent directly to the trash. Not only do I not read it, I don’t even open it. I wince. Because if that’s what you’re sending me, I know you didn’t do your research. You’re just pitching everyone hoping some idiot will bite. I’m not an idiot. Oh, and if you are going to pitch the whole list – for the love of God, BCC the emails. I will kill you.

Only pitch when it deserves it: Your company turned 10! You’re releasing a product that’s a blatant rip off of someone else’s! You did something that no one will care about tomorrow! Consider skipping the media blitz this time around, eh? Because we’re pitched so many times, bloggers are pretty good at spotting the crap. It’s impossible to have something NEW and EXCITING to pitch every week because it takes more than a week to create something worth talking about. Don’t be the marketer who cried wolf. Save the pitch for when the content really warrants it. Otherwise bloggers will grow to ignore and hate you. [If you do build Amazing on a weekly basis, make sure you create a big enough content promotion network that you’re not calling on the same people every time.]

outspoken2In The Email…

Tell me who you are: As in any relationship, part of establishing contact means introducing yourself. I want to know right off the bat who you are, who you work for (are you the business or a marketer?), and how I can get a hold of you outside of this email. It establishes trust and it’s just good manners. Once I know who you are, we can get to the meat of the relationship. Oh, and don’t misrepresent yourself. I, too, have access to the Google. I will hunt you down and then send my little blogger friends to all write about how you lied to me.

Snuggle me a little: You know you’re sending the same email to 20 people. I know you’re sending the same email to 20 people. But sometimes you’ve gotta fake it to make me feel special and pretty. After you’re done introducing yourself, talk to me for a bit. Woo me. Mention the post I wrote that makes you think this pitch is relevant to me. Talk about how you grew up in the same home town (only if you really did). Comment on a post I wrote that gave you a bad case of the giggles or how you think my Twitter feed should come with an NC-17 rating. Once you’re done schmoozing, you can get into what you want and why we’re both here. I’ll be a lot more receptive once you’ve stroked my ego.

Lay out the benefit to my readers: I know you think we’re all a bunch of soulless shills and mommybloggers, but the truth is, we really do care about our audiences. We want to bring them value and give them content that they’re going to love. So if you have something that’s going to make them laugh, make their day easier, make them more productive, give me that. That’s what I’m interested in hearing.

ignoreSkip the press release: Be original. If you’re just going to send me the press release then you’re not telling me anything I can’t find out on my own. You’re not inviting me into your story; you’re beating me with it. If you want to include the press release below the pitch, go for it. However, I shouldn’t have to read the whole thing to figure out what you’re pitching. You should be able to craft me a little note that explains it. Press releases are for keywords and a free link. Most bloggers won’t read them. We actually resent them.

Keep it brief: We all have lives. Be concise. Tell a story. Give me the benefit. Get out.

Sound interested (and like a person): If you don’t sound amped about whatever you’re pitching, then I’m probably not going to be excited enough to write about it either. Again, I really like my audience and I don’t want to feed them news that will bore them. Dazzle me with not only how awesome your product is but why YOU’RE so excited about it. Passion is like giggles – it’s contagious. Spread it around.

Don’t tell me something I can’t blog: If I can’t blog it, don’t tell me about it. There’s nothing more irritating than a REALLY interesting back story to a mediocre pitch that I’m not allowed to share. If you’re giving bloggers something juicy, realize it’s going to get out. Either because it was just TOO GOOD not to share or because we accidentally missed the part where you said ‘please keep this to yourself’ (sometimes we skim things). Bloggers aren’t good at keeping things to themselves. It’s kind of like, their job to share. Keep it in mind.

Keep it casual: The difference between most bloggers and “real media” is that bloggers tend to prefer to leave the formalities at the door. It gets in the way of that “relationship” and “authenticity” thing. Save the marketing talk for your CEO and the MBA words for your mother. Talk to us like we’re having a secret dish session at bar on the corner. Do your best to match the voice and tone we use when talking to our readers.

fistDon’t embargo me forever: Secrets are fun. They’re sexy. They’re what keep us up at night all jittery and running around the room. I will totally keep your secret…for a week. And then you have to let me tell my whole entire world! As a blogger, I understand your need for an embargo so that you can coordinate your launch and get things in place. However, avoid feeding me a great story that I have to sit on for three weeks. I’m going to move on to something new by then and the pain of having to keep a secret from my audience for that long may actually kill me. I’m pretty sure there have been studies.

Don’t insult me: This includes, but is not limited to, talking to me like an idiot, promising me FREE TOYS(!) for blogging about you, asking how much coverage costs, telling me all my friends will be writing about you, claiming I’m getting an exclusive when I’m not, etc.  Try to hide your distaste for and ignorance about what we do.

outspoken2After making contact…

Send a reminder…once: We all get busy and lose track of emails. If you sent me an email about something you legitimately thought I’d be interested in, drop me a reminder in a week if you haven’t heard from me. But only send me one. If you send me two emails and I’m still not biting…take the hint.

Get the hint: Similar to above, if you’ve send me several pitches and I haven’t responded to either of them, take the hint that I probably don’t think we’re a match. Nothing personal. Well, unless you tried to spam me with your wide net. Then it may be personal.

It sounds like a bunch of unicorns, but pitching bloggers means not actually pitching them at all. It means demonstrating that you know who they are, what they cover and outlining the ways you can benefit their audience. It’s really that simple. Create a relationship.

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About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter

49 thoughts on “How to Woo a Blogger (and get coverage)

  1. LISA (See, I double checked and made sure I knew who was posting this time),

    Good, common sense stuff here. It’s just like engaging anyone in a good conversation. If you can’t get their attention up front, they’re not going to give you the time of day in terms of giving you a link. Show them you know what you’re talking about, that you bring something to the table, and chances are that you won’t even have to ask for the link.

    For a good example of how someone might react if you take the wrong approach, see: http://rogersikes.wordpress.com/2009/02/11/being-professional/

  2. I liked the Kenny Hyder modified retweet. This post will become a template for one I’m long overdue to write, blind pitches from marketers in my field that have taken no time to find out who I am or what I do. Appreciate you putting this together in an organized fashion.

    • Glad to help! And if I don’t remember to say this by the end of the year, thanks SO much for being such a great Outspoken commenter this year. You’re always one of the first to hit a post and it means a lot that you continually take the time to hang out with us! It’s nice seeing your smiling avatar in the comment section. :)

  3. Some really great tips here! I know I’ve been guilty of maybe emailing a time or two too many. I have, however, contacted old prospects that may have given me the “take the hint” response and have converted them into great clients. While I don’t think you should follow-up every week, I still think you should hang on to them and contact them at a much later time to see if things have changed. Again, really good stuff to take away here!

    • I wouldn’t try to load all of that into the initial email. If I open something up from an email address I don’t know and it’s packed with screen shots and pages of text, I may not even be willing to invest the time in figuring out what you’re about. Get my attention, make me follow up, and then go into detail.

      As for the suggested copy – you’re absolutely going to want some type of a template to help you stay on track and get to the point, but be careful it doesn’t read too boilerplate. Add some customization before it like mentioned above.

  4. I wrote about this exact same thing a few weeks ago. It’s the sad truth, Lisa, that most people have no idea how to pitch – PR people included. Most people’s ignorance I can overlook, but for the PR ‘pro’ who won’t take the time to play by the rules, I often think they’re just being selfish. “I’m such a busy PR person I can’t take the time to bother to connect.” Guess what, lady? We’re ALL just as busy (for the most part – I think Lisa & Rae are perhaps a bit more busy than me).

  5. Excellent common sense stuff. The only problem is that I’m guessing most of the people who’ll read this are other bloggers, not the PR fiends who spam people with dodgy pitches all the time. Oh well… personally, I’m going to have to be doing some fiendish PR work soon, so this will come in handy. Thanks!

  6. Great post Lisa, fantastic advice – as a PR peep who reaches out to bloggers I agree with you 100%. That being said, I’ll never be able to follow it all. Why? Those damn clients. I tell them to be effective I need to create a one on one relationship with bloggers like you and other influential bloggers. I give them a list of five bloggers and tell them I’ll be wooing them over the next few months. Then I hand them my bill (telling them I can’t promise them any coverage as I hand it over) and watch them laugh. Soon my list of five blogs turns into a list of 586 blogs, not that my client actually believes working with these individual bloggers will have an impact, all they really care about is getting coverage from the New York Times because…well, you know why. Whose fault is this? Mine. Totally, absolutely mine. You see, I can’t convince the client that you’re the end-all-be-all, because you’re not. As much as I’d like to focus all my efforts on getting to know you and your industry, I’ve got five other clients in five other industries whose blogs I’m also trying to cozy up with. So whose fault is that? Mine again! How could I possibly serve all these industries at once – we’re talking thousands of contacts, each wanting (and deserving) a one-on-one relationship? Honestly, I can’t. But that’s what every agency promises yet very few deliver. At this point my response is degenerating into rambling as I know I – and other PR peeps like me – struggle with this issue daily even if we don’t say it. We read posts like yours and bite our tongues. You see, we want to work with you, we really do. It’s just not humanly possible given what’s on our plate. So what is my answer? Work smarter, work harder and try to be as honest with ourselves and our clients (and our news) as we can. Next time my client tells me to pitch 600 bloggers armed only with fluff, I’ll tell them NO. Or tell them “I can do it but you won’t be happy with the results and neither will they” and see if that doesn’t lead us down a more acceptable path. I just wanted you to know, some of us PR folk ARE listening. (Even if what we’re hearing makes our ears bleed and our bowels clutch…)

    • Okay, okay, breathe for a moment. :)

      I can certainly understand your situation. Are you doing traditional PR for clients or more Internet-focused? Because if it’s the former, then perhaps you’re going to have a hard time selling the blogger side of it. But what’s listed above really is no different than traditional PR. You have to identify the bloggers and blogs who ARE the end-all-be-all for you and then go after them. You can woo the New York Times all you want but you’re prob not going to get coverage there every day. You’re probably not going to get a link from there every day. It’s about identifying your linkerati. I think the post linked to there does a really good job of breaking down HOW to use bloggers in a way that makes sense for businesses and in a way that a client would understand the investment. I know we’ve helped our clients to understand it.

      I’m not telling you that bloggers need to be part of your campaigns. I think they probably should be but if you can’t sell it, then its not profitable for you. However, if you ARE going to be reaching out, you’re going to get a far better response simply talking to them like people than an unnamed mass. I don’t think it takes much more time to talk to someone like a person than to hit them with a cold mailing. It will, however, produce WAY better results. If you’re taking “months” to woo five bloggers…we have a major problem. That or I’d seriously like to be one of your five. :)

      • The lines between “traditional” PR and “online PR” are blurry at best, so I do both as part of my catch-all PR work. I personally see more value in online because in addition to that great third-party referrals that happen when all goes according to plan, I also have science on my side – the magic of SEO really helps word get out when all does not go according to plan. I agree that taking months to research five blogs would be a bit extreme – I might be a tad bit dramatic at times. ;)

  7. Great tips and a little sad that they have to be said, as many (especially in PR) should already know this!

    Further to it, I also think that these rules could and should be applied to ALL media.

  8. “Do your best to match the voice and tone we use when talking to our readers” Gotcha, more profanity in my pitches from now on :)

    Seriously though, it’s amazing the difference it makes when you treat someone like an actual person. Even knowing, and using, their name goes a long way. Great post.

  9. As usual Lisa your article is very on point and full of valuable information for anyone who has the job of making the pitch and closing the deal.

    The repeating thread in many of your posts, however, has to to with establishing a relationship. I know it’s beating a dead horse, but that’s what it is all about. And as you point out, sometimes it doesn’t take too much to establish a relationship on the internet. But it’s a step that can’t be left out, not if you expect to have success in “wooing a blogger”.

    Happy Holidays!

  10. There is a lot of solid advice here; I hope that people realize that it doesn’t just apply to pitching bloggers. It works for just about every contact you make where your ulterior motive is to get a relative stranger to help your business cause. VCs, suppliers, distribution partners, clients….show them that you are the type who is willing to put in some extra hours when your product or service is at stake. It should pique their interest about the product itself. Or maybe not, but at least you know that you did everything you could.

  11. Seems fair enough, Lisa. Thanks for the great tips.

    One question: “IRL” conversation? Does that stand for “In Real Life”, or is it some social media app I’ve missed out on?

    Help a brotha out.

  12. Lisa,

    I am new to following your blog so I am not sure if I am in your regular audience. However, I have to say that I am SO GLAD that you decided to put this out there. Nothing annoys me more than someone sending a bunch of emails asking for a pitch and filling my comment box on my blog with the same nonsense. It takes time for me to go through and delete all the “spammy” comments so that there is only meat on the site! I hope everyone who reads this opens their eyes a little. Thanks for keeping it real! It is very refreshing!

    Kat

  13. I run a small foundation. You might not believe it, but people pull this same lame maneuver when seeking funding . I can’t waste my time writing back to the clueless, but I often wonder: DOES THIS EVER WORK? DO STRANGERS SEND YOU MONEY BASED ON A RANDOM FORM LETTER?
    Lisa, your rules would be applicable to grantseekers.
    Hey, everybody, tell your favorite nonprofit to read this post.

  14. I will hunt you down and then send my little blogger friends to all write about how you lied to me

    I’m little bit scared of you Lisa. You’ll rip off those person who are liar. You get a strong hold on web. I was thinking to pitch you but now after reading this post i’ll be doing my homework and think not once but twice whether you’ll wince or read. One thing I understand that never “MESS with Woman”.

    I’m reading your blog each and everyday but never wrote a comment coz you never leave anything behind for us. I don’t know how I’m writing so much but I think its the time to stand up and raise my voice.

    One of the great post in recent times!

  15. Wow Lisa,

    For the first post I’ve ever read from Outspoken Media, you’ve definitely shown your colours! The points you make are perfectly valid, but I think the problem lies in how a newbie (who may not already have relationships or no plenty of powerful bloggers) is supposed to promote their site when bloggers defences go up like this.

    Perhaps it’s a little discouraging to some; but why not show a “mini case study” of someone who has ‘pitched’ and someone who has ‘nurtured a relationship with you’ and show the difference. In the end, that’s all they care about.

    Incidentally, I find forums great places for ‘getting to know new people’ in an industry (forums are mostly niche specific – great!); you’re right about ‘knowing who you’re talking to’.

    I always have a good read through someone’s website and ‘About Me’ page before interviewing someone.

    What do you do?

  16. Great post! I like how blunt you are, and you should be… helps people listen better! Yeah, unfortunately people do this type of thing in the masses and personalization is most always lacking, and personalization is what would work better. When approaching bloggers, spend time with quality instead of quantity.

  17. Really enjoyed your post, Lisa. I happen to be one of those “marketer” people, and it was refreshing to read all these points you’ve laid out – I’ve strived to practice what you preach for the past year or so that I’ve been in this biz (at 23, I’m still a bit of a newbie, but I like to think I catch on quickly). I kind of treat it like an adaptation of the Golden Rule… “pitch how you would like to be pitched.”

  18. This post couldn’t have come at a better time for us. I’ve spent the past year learning about social media promotion and have been impressed with how much you add to this community.

    As we get are campaigns together for the new show I have been watching you and Tim Ferriss and observing a lot of similarities. Both of you produce great actionable content that can be used by the non-IM crowd. Keep this stuff coming, it’s awesome.

    Nothing to pitch, just wanted to jump in and say thanks.

  19. These are some great tips for gaining coverage on different blogs and media outlets, I appreciate the post! I’ll have to try this with my new project Blogger Den and see if I can get any coverage on some blogs

  20. Excellent post. I’d like to add one point. I’m also not a fan of getting different angles on the same product from a person I’ve recently worked with.

    For example, let’s say I get a pitch for the Chia Pet and how they make wonderful wives. So, I do a post about a Chia Pet and how I married it. Then a month later, same PR person, thinks it would be great if I discussed Chia Pets being wonderful weapons. ENOUGH! Did the Chia Pet thing already. Give me some breathing room.

    FYI- The Chia Pet and I are splitting up. We rushed into things but remain friends.

  21. Thanks, Lisa, for the post. I heard about it from a guy who promoted it on another website in the comments (<a href="http://www.viperchill.com/guest-blogging/&quot;. I’m quite a newbie to blogging, so this information is very helpful.

    I agree that writers need to establish relationships with the people behind the medium they’re publishing in. When I was in college, I took a creative writing course. The professor gave me my first unique introduction to this type of “wooing” with a really neat example.

    She was explaining the process of submitting an article to a magazine and she showed us her article, something about using cardamon in a recipe for a cooking magazine. She said she could just send in the article and hope it does well; she could just let the writing speak for itself.

    Or, she could also go a little further and do something the person she was pitching would really take notice of and remember. She actually sent, along with the article, the cookies (or whatever it was) with the cardamon wafting as soon as the person opened the package. The article talked about how much more delicious the cardamom made the cookies and used a tangible example. Of course, her article was published. And we got to eat some really tasty cookies in class. :)

    Making and sending cookies is relatively inexpensive compared to sending products that cost more than $200-300 a pop, which is very risky to us if they choose not to review the item, so I’ve always pitched them first.

    I’m not saying this is something everyone needs to do all the time, but that it was a really creative way to go. How do you think bloggers generally take to this type of pitching? Would they welcome it or would they think it was a lame attempt at getting their attention? Would it just depend on the niche?

    **Shameless Plugs**
    <a href="http://beadthatway.blogspot.com/&quot;
    <a href="http://www.truckchamp.com/&quot;

  22. “Only pitch when it deserves it” is so huge, but maybe second to “Know my niche”.

    I pity the companies that pay a PR firm to pitch non-news to bloggers in a niche that has no relevance to them.

  23. I think the advice is great and makes a lot of sense for those full time pitchers, my only prob is for a small biz to have the time/$ to invest can be hard.

    Yes the more u put in the more likely your get something out of it but sadly without a 100 hrs in a day and a load of $ its not always the best that getz blogged.

    Niches make a massive difference, i love how “most” of the seo community works and imho its very unlike most niches.

  24. Thanks Lisa! You make some interesting points in your post. There are only a handful blogs out there that are keeping my interest and thousands who copy content from authorities or who auto post.

    Sticking to your niche it’s valuable advice; don’t just post about everything that happens out there. About PR? Really? Who does that?!

  25. Thanks Lisa. I am getting my ducks in a row to start a blog and found your info really helpful. I appreciate your putting it out there!

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