How to Woo a Blogger (and get coverage)

December 15, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Content Strategy

Not 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:

Before 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.

Know 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.]

In 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.

Skip 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.

Don’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.

After 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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