Way back in the day, when a PR person was charged with getting media coverage for their client, that typically meant securing editorial in one of three mediums: print, radio or TV. In the past decade, our media coverage goals have evolved, as enewsletters, online news sites, blogs, podcasts, and videos became part of consumers’ regular content consumption habits. The best pitch in the world won’t matter if you’re not sending it to the right contact at the right outlet.
When we develop and implement blogger outreach campaigns, I always tell clients that success is based on a solid foundation of research. We have to spend the time upfront to thoroughly research and develop a highly targeted contact list. We’ve all heard bloggers express frustration at the number of terrible, off-topic pitches they receive from PR people who clearly didn’t take the time to build a solid list. So, in an attempt to help all of us do better, I’m sharing the process we use at Geben Communication. The next time you want to work with bloggers, follow these steps and you’ll be off to a good start.
5 Steps to Building a Better Blogger List
Overview: The key to building a successful blogger outreach media list is personalization, both when you build a list and when you reach out.
- List building: Just because someone else names a blog the best in a certain space, doesn’t mean they are the best for what you’re looking for: you decide which blogs are best for your list. As a general rule: no two blogger lists should ever be the same.
- Outreach: Bloggers look for relationships, not just one-time pitches. The more you show you know about them, the more likely they’ll respond to your request.
The length of a list will depend on the category you’re searching, aiming for 30 targeted bloggers is a good starting point. If the list becomes too large, you’re less likely to customize each and every pitch. That said, when you’re building a list in a more popular space (mommy bloggers, technology, or foodies, for example), it’s sometimes helpful to split your list in tiers.
A Step-by-step Guide:
- Start with a basic keyword search (ex: top mommy bloggers, top career bloggers, etc.) in both Google and Google Blogs to see what’s out there in the space you’re searching. This will generally get you access to 5-10 “top blogger” lists, which should provide you with a good base of options to start your media list. NOTE: Just because a blog is named to one or all of these lists doesn’t mean they automatically deserve to be on your list. This search is just a starting point, so you’ll still need to research each blog to make sure they fit your criteria.
- To catch blogs you missed on Google, run a similar search on blog directories, such as Technorati, Blogged.com, Best of the Web, Alltop, etc.
- Browse through the “Blog Rolls” listed by the bloggers you’ve already put on your media list. Generally speaking, a blogger won’t include just anyone on these lists, rather they’ll feature only the blogs they read and respect. And this means there’s a good chance these bloggers also deserve to be on your list.
- Look through the Twitter and Facebook accounts of the bloggers you’ve added so far. In certain online communities, moms especially, this is a helpful way to identify other quality bloggers who may not have shown up on previous searches. With Facebook, see what other bloggers/pages they’re tagging/commenting on. On Twitter, scroll through the Twitter lists that include the bloggers you plan to target, as well as the hashtags they’re often using.
- Use your company’s paid media database – Cision, Blogdash, etc. – as a catch all to make sure you haven’t missed anyone. Paid tools are especially helpful if you need to search by location, because most free search tools don’t include this feature.
Factors to Look For When Selecting Bloggers
- When is the last time the blogger posted? How often does the blogger post? As a general rule, if a blogger hasn’t posted in a while, they’re probably not going to post again anytime soon, so either the blog is defunct, or they’re not worth your time. The frequency at which a blogger posts is generally a good indication of their commitment to the subject they’re blogging about. If the posts are too sporadic (only one or two each month), the blogger may not be a good fit for your project. On the other hand, if the blogger is posting too often, your message might not gain much traction.
- Does the blogger’s content fit what you’re looking for? Within each blogging community, you’ll typically find sub-communities, so you’ll need to make sure the blogger’s content fits the space you’re looking for. For example, not all mommy bloggers write reviews, or accept guest posts, so if that’s what you’re looking for, make sure the bloggers you’re targeting include these in their content.
- How much “Klout” does the blogger carry? Websites like Compete.com and Quantcast.com will give you a rough estimate of how many people are viewing the blog each month. Furthermore, you can also check a blogger’s Klout score or Google/Alexa Page Rank to check their authority. (Note: while these websites provide a general idea of the bloggers influence, there are multiple factors that could be skewed so the tools shouldn’t be used alone, but part of an overall evaluation process.)
- Does the blogger receive, and respond to, comments on their posts? Does the blogger interact with their readers, and build a community, or simply use their blog to broadcast messages? In most cases, you’ll want to weed out the “broadcasters,” and focus on the “interacters.” This generally provides a good indication for how they’ll treat your product too, and remember blogger outreach is about building relationships.
- Is the blogger active on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks? Again, interaction is key when building a blogger list. Facebook and Twitter are great ways to monitor a blogger’s community-building skills. Plus, you’ll get a sneak peak of how your blog post will be publicized (Do they share the post once, or mention it multiple times? Will they drive additional viewers to your social media outlets through tagging and @replies?)
- Does the content/style align with your brand? Does the blogger share the same values as your brand? And do they communicate those values through their blog? If you’re promoting a family-friendly product, you may want to think twice about working with bloggers who swear excessively or share their late-night escapades.
- Based on previous posts, what are some connection points you can make with the blogger? Back to relationships, it’s always a good practice to keep a section of “Notes” in your media list, where you can track possible opportunities for a blogger relationship. These little gems of information help separate your message from the rest of the pack when you pitch.
If part of our responsibility as PR people involves education, then use this process. Bookmark it. Share it. Help our industry prove to bloggers that PR people aren’t lazy flacks, blasting pitch after pitch in hopes that something sticks. By the way, if you’re a smart media relations pro, you already know the most effective pitches are the ones customized for specific reporter. When you take a more targeted approach, your outcomes will significantly improve. That’s a tried-and-true best practice. That same general rule — with a few twists — applies to blogger outreach. Now, if that’s not a reason to innovate best practices, I don’t know what is!
And, once you have your list built, read these posts to improve your pitches:
- The 5 Cs of Blogger Outreach
- 7 Tips to Improve Pitches to Bloggers
- HOW TO: Pitch Mashable
- HOW TO: Pitch Group/Collaborative Blogs
- Pitching Video Bloggers isn’t Like Pitching Journalists
Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to the blog or email Heather (heather [at] gebencommunication.com) if your company needs help incorporating blogger outreach into your PR strategy.