PR people: do your homework BEFORE you reach out to bloggers
As we've seen this week alone, from the Camp Baby blogstorm and other incidents (like inviting Jewish moms to Disney over Passover), it is painfully apparent that many PR firms and reps reaching out to bloggers don't do their homework. This is probably the root cause of the most egregious blogger relations SNAFUs. A poorly written pitch makes you chuckle. A poorly targeted one pisses you off.
Some of you may recall my 4Ps of social media:
- Then and only then Pitch or Publish.
Companies and agencies spend far more time analyzing every word to create the perfect pitch and putting together spectacular events designed to wow bloggers and customers, than they do on the research -- on getting to know bloggers, reading the blogs, figuring out who would be most interested in a particular product or program.
They still play the numbers game -- build as big a list as possible, focus on the "top" blogs and bloggers, blast the pitch and see what falls out. I, on the other hand, am convinced that if you spend the time to narrow your list and reach out to a smaller number of bloggers who will be very interested, you'll get better results.
I'll give you an example. I created a small program for HP last year for the launch of the HP Photo Books. I've written about it here before, and we'll be presenting a case study that includes it at BlogHer Business in April. I'll publish the full case study here after the presentation, but for now, I want to focus on how we decided who to reach out to with the Photographic Memories component of the program.
You could make an assumption that most moms take pictures of their kids. Pretty safe bet. But the Photographic Memories project involved a time intensive component of writing interviews with the moms for HP.com. We also had a limited supply of the compact photo printers we were offering to make it easier for the moms to try out the books.
Twenty interviews. Something in that vicinity felt right. With 20, we felt we'd have a nice cross section of women from all over the US with different personal and professional backgrounds. We also wanted moms who were really into their photos, but that didn't just mean women who were actively engaged with it as a hobby. We wanted a mix of moms that simply liked to take and share snapshots, dedicated hobbyists and professional photographers. Why? Because when other women came to read the interviews, we wanted everyone to be able to find someone they could identify with.
Homework time. I combed through my blogroll of mommy blogs. And trust me, that is a lot of mommy blogs. Looking for moms who wrote about their pictures, often included pictures in posts, and had a Flickr badge on their home page or a special photo album for family pics. I also contacted a friend who is a professional photographer and blogger for her recommendations.
In the end, I had a balanced list of 40 mommy bloggers. Some of them have lots of readers, but most are in what has been termed the "magic middle" - blogs with 20-1000 other people linking to them.
Only 40? I can hear you all now. That's not a lot. Well no, it isn't. And that's the point. If you do your preparation properly, you don't have to cast a wide wide net. Twenty-two --22 -- from that initial list of 40 participated in the project. Even math-challenged me can do that math -- more than 50 percent.
Do your homework. Build relationships. Develop programs that offer strong value to both sides. Narrow cast. As narrow as possible. Your program will benefit, and by the way, your selection criteria are much more defensible. One of the things J&J got tagged with this week was reaction from the many mommy bloggers who weren't invited. The more focus you have, the better off you will be.
Friend and colleague David Wescott of APCO Worldwide has been working on a project for the past year or so with the Council of PR Firms to understand the perspectives of both PR agencies and bloggers. There's a lot of good information in the study, as well as an opportunity to contribute to future research, so I urge you to check it out. What I found the most interesting was that it clearly proves the biggest disconnect between agencies and bloggers. Agencies think they are doing a good job identifying the interests of bloggers and sending them relevant information. Bloggers resoundingly disagree.
(source: The State of Blog Relations)
Uhmm. Yeah. That would be my experience. And that of many bloggers I know.
We have got to get this right, folks. Bloggers are your customers. How do you want to talk with your customers? Think about it, and think hard.
I've said it before, and I guess I'll say it until we get it right. Bloggers are your customers. It's about the relationship over time, not overnight. Do you want a one night stand or a commitment?
If you want a commitment, figure out what matters to your customers.
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