Notes for Pitching to Bloggers
Alice Marshall, founded Presto Vivace, Inc. in 1998 and started publishing Technoflak in February of 2004.
Think of the Godspeed returning to England after its maiden voyage to Jamestown in 1607. Imagine that crew describing the new world to their English friends. That is how much we know about blogosphere. We have sailed a few miles up the James River, found a beach, perhaps walked a few miles inland and that is all. So you should see this presentation, indeed this conference, as the story so far.
My late mother used to say “reporters work for their editors”
Bloggers have no editors. This is an opportunity more than a problem. How many here have had the situation where a reporter was intrigued with your client’s story, but the editor decided it wasn’t news? If a blogger is interested in your story, the blogger will simply run with it.
On the other hand, bloggers are not as philosophical about PR people as reporters. Reporters are supposed to write objective stories about the news of the day. They are not allowed to write rants about the horrible press releases that they receive. Bloggers seem to delight in such posts. I’ve read one on Tech Dirt and even one on Dan Gillmor’s Silicon Valley blog. Dan Gillmor had a Dear PR People letter where he had some kind words for us-
“In summary, I appreciate how difficult the PR job can be, especially dealing with demanding people like reporters.”
Rarely are bloggers as generous as Gillmor. I solicited comments on my blog Technoflak, and these are the ones I received-
Tom Biro of the Media Drop said...
Alice - first off, congrats on getting involved in this session - should be a good thing, for sure.
I'm finding that PR folks are getting a bit better in the last 2-3 months than they were 6-8 months ago with regard to pitching stories. Most of what I receive are just "heads up" emails about articles that might fall under my coverage area, which is great - because there's so much news and information, that I can't possibly read it all, or even find it all, no matter how many Google Alerts I have. I enjoy these, as long as they truly are under what I cover. That said, I have found that replying to messages with pitches that are a step or two away from what TMD covers generally gets a good response, but not always.
In my "hall of shame" are two PR firms who insist on emailing me restaurant openings and other sorts of things completely and totally unrelated to media. That said, I do periodically take part in a hyperlocal blog about a certain town, but these pitches have NOTHING to do with that area. Kind of embarrassing, if you ask me. And to boot, I've tried to get off the list with no result.
I don't have a problem with pitches, as long as they're smart and not too pushy. If you're going to pitch bloggers, you're going to have to respond to them in the same manner that journalists would, as long as they treat you with the same level of respect that a journalist should. It's not just free pub and another clipping.
The top failing among PR agencies and vendor marketing/PR pitching my site (Tekrati Industry Analyst Reporter) has been in sending me items that are clearly outside my editorial scope. It's particularly annoying to get a personalized email from someone who clearly never looked at the site. I do not reply to or acknowledge those emails.
Given the sudden rise of directories of blogs, I fully expect to end up on many more PR distribution lists compiled without validation.
The number 2 failing is in not trying to convince me to cover their client's research initiatives, which are outside my editorial beat but very closely related. No one has tried to engage me in a conversation about the value of covering analyst reports or teleconferences sponsored by their vendor clients. So, of course, I continue not to cover them. This situation amuses me, because their clients pay big bucks for integrating the analysts into marketing collateral and lead generation. What other editorial coverage will they get? I guess I would label this as a missed opportunity -- perhaps a lack of understanding of the more fluid and inspiration-based approach to editorial in new Web media.
On the more pleasant side, the winning tactics are used by people like you: a concise, personal (as opposed to personalized) email that describes the proposed content in a way that enables me to see immediately why the item is of interest to me. I give these people my direct email address and encourage them to send submissions at any time. And, I assume two things: these people are validating their blog/new media outreach lists carefully; and these people understand that being less formal is not the same thing as being less professional, when contacting publishers.
On a related note, I'm preparing to convert one of my standard news columns, "AR Scene", to a true blog, and am looking forward to learning from you and the others at Blog U. This will be the first content area of the site that I open to reader comments -- a touchy feature when you cover industry analyst research -- and to my own comments.
Greg Hoffman, CMO said...
I just started my search engine optimization program and I've found pretty good success in pitching my main blog. The USA Today link from Jan. 3 took about a month to come around. Others I'm seeing about a 7-day turn around.
I hope you enjoy my yahoo group for Small Shop PR Agencies. Even though I don't have a small shop, I did for five years and the group gave me great mentors.
TechnoFlak is looking for feedback on the subject of pitching stories to bloggers. Not just relevant for PR people, really, but for any link-pimping blogger in search of traffic. My rules are the same on my blog as they are in my paid jobs: know what I write about, pitch me relevant stuff, understand that I'm busy, think less about what I can do for you than what you can do for me.
Once Gillmor received what one trusts is the low point in PR pitches to bloggers-
I just got an e-mail PR pitch for a company that's monitoring online discussions on behalf of corporate clients. Here's part of the pitch:
"(PR client) is a market intelligence and media analysis services firm. (PR client) is working with F1000 companies who are using our services to Manage and Monitor Digital Influencers (such as blogs, message boards, user groups, complaint sites, etc.) as an intelligence and threat awareness tool. (Person's name), CEO could talk to you about 'What F1000 Companies are doing to take action against bloggers' and 'How companies are taking steps to protect their corporate reputations from bloggers/digital influencers.'"
This is a remarkably myopic view of the blogosphere, but it reflects what I frequently hear from PR folks. The new world isn't about managing bloggers. It's about working with them, having a conversation with them.
Meanwhile, Washington Post columnist William Raspberry longs for the olden days when we journalists were the gatekeepers of news. What he sees as a dreadful problem looks more to me like a chance for professionals to do a better job.
No doubt, what's happening is messy. That makes everyone uncomfortable, especially those of us who grew up in a relatively centralized, top-down media environment. But complaining about it won't work. Dealing with it -- not as a threat but an opportunity -- is the only rational answer.
News flash, do not send anti-blogger news releases to bloggers. More particularly, read their blogs and get a feel for what they like to write about.
The first pitch I received was from Keith O’Brien of PRWeek, who very gingerly asked if I would be interested in linking to one of their stories. I said almost certainly, although I would have to see the story first. I linked to it and was very flattered to have been asked. But I am a flack; other bloggers may not feel flattered.
Instead of pitching to the high profile bloggers, notice who they link to and try to pitch to a blogger further down the food chain. Even more than newspapers, once one blogger thinks something is worth posting about, other bloggers will be more likely to link to it.
Lets say you want to promote an event for .Net developers in Washington, DC. You could send the announcement to .Net Banana -
who would almost certainly run such an item. Then you can send the link to the post to Scobleizer. Should Scoble use the item, you can use that to persuade the Washington Post they should send someone to cover the event.
I encourage you to join email discussion lists in your clients’ industry. For example, I am on the Northern Virginia Java Users Group discussion list. Once, I sent out a request asking which blogs they liked to read; no surprise, the Sun Systems blogs were everybody’s favorite. That is the kind of market research you can do to find out which blogs you should be watching.
Start your own blog if you have not done so; that will give you empathy for other bloggers. I also recommend you do some original reporting. That will give you empathy for reporters.
The most important thing to do is to read blogs. Find out which blogs your clients’ customers read. Those are the blogs you need to follow. And find out which blogs those bloggers link to. That way you can place your clients’ stories in the blogs their prospects are most likely to read.
Tom Foremski's review.
Morgan McLintic’s review.
Anita Campbell's review.
Lois Ambash's review.
Elisa Camahort's review.
Renee Blodgett comments.
Larry Borsato comments.
Alice Marshall responds to Paul Graham -
Paul Graham's Submarine
In defense of the trade press
PR Studies comments on Paul Graham's piece.