Almost Live from New York, BlogHer Business
I'm still catching up after a whirlwind 3 days in New York City at BlogHer Business, where I caught up with old friends, made some new ones and didn't get nearly enough sleep.
As promised, I will be posting the HP Case Study as well as some observations from the Improve this Pitch panel -- look for the posts mid-week -- but in the meantime, please check out the posts from the BlogHer live bloggers.
I was also interviewed by the Screengrab team from Weber Shandwick. They were doing a series of short interviews with participants. Here I am, almost live from New York, talking blogger relations:
Blogger relations is customer relations
Recently, I was explaining to someone why I wanted to shift the mix of my consulting business to include more blogger relations projects, both hands-on projects and strategic consulting to companies executing their projects themselves.
It's simple. Nearly every organization, regardless of size, is going to have to engage in blogger relations. Because blogger relations is the evolution of customer relations.
I hear the objection ... "But isn't blogger relations just PR campaigns aimed at bloggers to get them to write about products and services? How can that be customer relations?"
Outbound blogger relations, or blogger outreach, is only one part of blogger relations. It's also more, or at least should be more, than "just PR." Remember: the blogger is the customer. When companies engage with bloggers, they are strengthening, or weakening, their relationships with their customers.
For the moment, though, let's step away from the outreach discussion and remember that an interaction can be initiated by either party in a relationship.
It is equally likely that a blogger -- the customer -- will effectively reach out to a company by offering an unsolicited opinion about the firm or its products on her blog. How a company handles this blogger-initiated interaction, whether it be kudos or complaint, is equally blogger relations.
In my personal experience, companies rarely engage with bloggers under these circumstances. I've mentioned a number of different companies here, both positively and negatively, over the past three years. So far, only one company has left a comment on the relevant post. Other bloggers report similar results. The question is, why?
Are the companies not paying attention, or do they just not know what to say?
It's probably a bit of both. That's the opportunity for companies willing to step up and really start talking with their customers. Wherever the conversation may be.
It starts with monitoring what people are saying about the company -- on blogs, microblogs like Twitter, social networks like Facebook, Forums, your customer service or support lines -- wherever customers talk about you, whatever else comes along. But it can't end there, or even with solid outreach programs that offer relevant information to the appropriate people.
You have got to be willing to respond. To answer the question, acknowledge the comment, accept the compliment and address the concerns. Publicly.
That's the challenge for blogger relations. Engaging with your customers on their terms as well as yours, on their turf as well as yours. Consistently and for mutual benefit.
Ready, set, go.
I'm off to BlogHer Business tomorrow morning, so blogging will be light for the rest of the week, although I will be on Twitter. I will try to get my posts up about the sessions on the train ride home Saturday. While you are waiting, check out:
- SciFi Sunday on Snapshot Chronicles, a review of the Stargate SG-1 direct-to-DVD film The Ark of Truth, and an action figure giveaway. I've got some extra SG-1 figures and rather than mess around with E-bay, I'm going to give them away on Snapshot Chronicles.
- Coaching Tips from the Simon Cowell School of Professional Development from client Caras Training's blog For the Face of Your Business.
Can this pitch be saved?
Next week, Liz Gumbinner (Mom-101 and CoolMomPicks), Mir Kamin (Woulda Coulda Shoulda and WantNot.net), Maria Niles (ConsumerPop and BlogHer Contributing Editor) and I will be presenting a session called Improve This Pitch, first as a teleseminar for the Women Who Tech telesummit on Monday afternoon at 4 pm EDT and then as a panel at BlogHer Business in NYC on Friday afternoon at 1:15 pm.
As the title implies, we will be talking blogger relations, and specifically what marketers should do to improve their pitches. I'll do a more comprehensive write-up of the session after we've given it at BlogHer -- after all, the attendees should get first look at our collective brilliance -- but I decided to share a few thoughts as a sort of sneak preview.
Some pitches cannot be saved. There is so much wrong with them that the only kind thing to do is put them out of their misery. There's no good reason to send a 900-word email pitch about breakfast cereal. Or a pitch that talks down to the blogger.We'll share a few specific examples and tell you what we would have advised the company.
Some products just shouldn't be pitched to bloggers. That doesn't mean the company can't reach out to bloggers. Or that the blogger might not buy the product. It does mean that the company has to find some other connection point with the blogger. We'll share some ideas on what marketing people can do if they are tasked with reaching out to bloggers about products like bleach and bathroom cleanser.
Read the blog and address the blogger by name. You've read that here before, and you will again. This does not mean "personalize" the email by mail-merging the names of a mom blogger and her children into a generic pitch. Added demerits if the pitch is bad as well.
Another tip I've mentioned here before is to give bloggers exclusive access to information. But it has to be exclusive access to something that the blogger will find interesting. Odds are, that's not going to be a scripted conference call with a company exec. There are a few general exceptions to this rule, including highly anticipated product launches and extending access to financial results calls to the public, not just the financial media and analysts, but not many. We'll talk about what sort of exclusives do appeal to bloggers, and how you should go about inviting participants. Generic email blasts addressed to BLOGGERS are not it.
If you will be attending Women Who Tech or BlogHer Business and have an example you'd like us to discuss, either yours or one you received, we encourage you to share it. You can send it in advance to me at email@example.com and I'll forward to my co-panelists, or just bring it with you for the Q&A.
UPDATED, 3/31/08: PDF version of my Custom Scoop article: Some Advice for Reaching out to Mommybloggers.
I am woman, hear me speak
“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” - Rabbi Hillel
Diversity at business, and especially social media, conferences. Still a concept more than a reality, and quite frankly, it feels like we've been pushing this rock uphill forever. This week, Lena West started the ball rolling again over at Lipsticking, and Jeremiah Owyang and Elisa Camahort both joined the fray. And now me.
As we all have before. More times than any of us wishes.
Read their posts. Read the comments. There are so many people speaking eloquently on this subject... again ... that I don't have much to add.
Except the following: VOTE WITH YOUR FEET.
Stop going to conferences that do not embrace diversity. And not just gender. A conference full of white faces, whether they are male or female, does not embrace our population. Online or off.
Tell the organizers why you won't attend ... sponsor ... exhibit.
It will not change if we do not stop talking about it and start doing something.
For all these reasons, and many more, I embraced BlogHer from the beginning and am so proud to be part of that community. Man or woman, I urge you to attend BlogHer Business this April in NYC and BlogHer in San Francisco in July.
One of the sessions I'm part of at BlogHer Business is a panel on "Improve this Pitch." We will be focusing on pitches to bloggers that are ok but could stand some improvement. No worries though, we promise to share some really bad pitches for your enjoyment as well. Including the crappiest pitch ever. Really.
I'm also doing a case study with Victoria Naffier from HP and Liz Gumbinner, Mom-101, about the blogger outreach programs for HP Photo Books last fall.
Another conference I urge you to check out is New Comm Forum in Santa Rosa, California at the end of April. I'll be moderating the luncheon keynote on the first day, a panel of alumni from the conference coming back to share how they used the knowledge gained at the conference in their organizations. Planning to come to New Comm? Next year, it could be you.
Cleaning out the cupboards
I really do have some awesome posts planned, just no time to write this week. So instead, I thought I'd clean out my virtual cupboards of some goodies for you. Don't look for a theme, these truly are "small pieces very loosely joined" (nod to David Weinberger.)
First, some science fiction. Torchwood begins its second season on 1/26 on BBC America, and a few more trailers have surfaced. Official trailer. Two scenes from the first episode. Warning: As Twitter pal Dave Parmet and I discussed yesterday, Torchwood is DoctorWho with the naughty bits (his words) and without the most annoying David Tennant (mine). In other words, expect to see some adult relationships of all sorts in the show. And on these clips.
Battlestar Galactica is (finally) due back in April, and spoilery bits are starting to surface on YouTube. Here's the latest one.
Now, unfortunately, I will not be able to watch Torchwood on the 26th because I will be at the Sundance Film Festival. Tough break, huh. I'll have more information for you on Monday, but the short version is, I have a new client who is premiering a film during the Festival and I will be going out for the launch party on January 25th.
Speaking of Sundance, be sure to check out HP's Backstage At Sundance blog. Longtime readers will recall that I helped develop this blog two years ago. Last year, they started featuring videos of impromptu performances by musicians attending the festival, a tradition I believe they plan to continue this year.
BlogHer Business and New Comm Forum are both fast approaching. At BlogHer, I will be speaking, including a case study from a client project. More on that when the agenda is published. At New Comm Forum, I will be moderating an "Alumni" Panel during lunch on the first day. We are inviting attendees from previous years to share a social media/ new communications project or campaign that applied the knowledge they acquired at New Comm Forum. The criteria are pretty simple:
- you attended a previous New Comm Forum;
- your project was done sometime in the past 18 months and you are free to share information about it;
- you've never spoken at a previous New Comm Forum.
If this sounds like you, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/sgetgood.
Finally, colleague and friend Kami Watson Huyse has a great post today -- an interview with John "Pat" Philbin, the senior communications person who took the heat for FEMA's fake press conference last fall. You can read it on her blog or listen to the full interview at For Immediate Release.
My virtual cupboard is now pretty bare. Meatier posts next week. Promise!
On BlogHer and the Do's and Don'ts of marketing to bloggers
Well, better late than never I suppose. I cannot believe it has taken me more than a week to sit down to collect my thoughts on BlogHer Business last month.
Bottom line: the inaugural BlogHer Business was a worthy conference sister to the main BlogHer Conference (number 3 is this July), and I was honored to be a part of it. <Steps on soapbox> All those "all white boy, all the time" conference organizers who shake their heads woefully and say, "but we don't know any women to ask to speak at our conference," or "but women didn't submit any sessions," or whatever other lame excuse, could do well by getting a hold of the conference program and noting the great women who spoke at this conference. And don't stop there. Any of the women who attended could do a better job than some of the lame stuff I've seen in my career. <Steps off>
Highlights? Everything. It was great to see so many of the women I've gotten to know through BlogHer over the past few years. Elisa Camahort. Jory Des Jardins. Lisa Stone. Maria Niles. Yvonne DeVita. Toby Bloomberg. Amy Gahran. Marianne Richmond. Lena West. Elana Centor. My co-panelists in the blogger relations panel Elise Bauer and Michelle Madhok. The effervescent Shirley Frazier who I interviewed for the small business case study. New friend Julie Crabill from SHIFT PR who did a noble job in the "press release must die" session. And so many more. And of course distaff regulars Chris Carfi and Jeremy Pepper (pink shirt and all). The boys in the band??
As part of our session, Elise, Michelle and I developed The Do’s and Don’ts of Marketing to Bloggers. If you think of any others we should add, please let us know.
- Create a targeted list of bloggers. Read the blogs regularly.
- Know the blogs you are approaching. Address the blogger by name.
- Be relevant to the blogger’s interests.Make sure your outreach includes a benefit for the blogger – a product she’d like to review, exclusive information, access to company principals, etc.
- Treat the blogger with the same respect you would a professional journalist.
- Be open to constructive feedback from bloggers. Ask for it.
- Offer to send product with no strings attached.
- Ask bloggers what they need from you.(suggested by an attendee at the panel.)
- Do not send obvious form letters.
- Do not ask for links, unless you are willing to pay for them.
- Do not leave blog comments plugging your products.
- Do not come on too strong.
- Do not put the blogger on your mailing list without permission.
My husband and son joined me Friday night and we spent the weekend in NYC. On our way to see Tarzan on Broadway on Saturday, we ran into Rachel Clarke and the Kleenex "let it out" campaign in Times Square. Rachel works for JWT and this is one of her projects. She took some great pictures of us on the Blue Couch (we're the first three in the set.)
And then we saw Tarzan, which was much better than I expected. March is Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS month, in which all the shows (nationwide) raise money for charity. At Tarzan, we had plenty of opportunities to part with our cash, but I could not resist having my son's picture with Tarzan, proceeds to charity.
Forget about Twitter, Let's talk BlogHer and Battlestar
Well, I've been twittering for the last week or so, and I am going to put this one squarely in the "different strokes for different folks" category. It just doesn't consume me the way it clearly has so many others.
I don't blog in bursts. My posts tend to be longer, essay-type posts, rather than short newsy commentary. So, Twitter couldn't be a replacement for my blog. That said, I do see two benefits to a Twitter network of reasonable size. First, it should tend to cut down on the one-two line emails, either to one individual or a group of friends, and the one-two line back-and-forth comments that sometimes occur on blogs. Instead, just "twit it." Second, if you are looking for a source or a reference, and just can't find what you need, Twitter allows you to tap into the collective mind more quickly than other tools. So I'll keep "twitting" once or twice a day and watch where it goes. More thoughts from Elisa Camahort, Jeneane Sessum, Phil Gomes.
Enough about Twitter. BlogHer Business is this Thursday and Friday in NYC. Registration closes tonight at midnight. Lots of great sessions, including one on the social media press release. It will be interesting to see if this panel can answer my question about how the proposed new formats help us deliver better content.
And finally, my fellow Battlestar fans -- has it rocked this month or what? Reminds me of the show I initially fell in love with more than it has in a while, although I have not disliked this season as much as others have :-) I am of course totally spoiled for the last episode. Email me if you want to know <evil grin>
New Comm Forum and BlogHer
As I've mentioned, I am speaking at New Communications Forum and BlogHer Business next month. Both conferences encourage their speakers to share discount codes for the conference with friends and colleagues.
New Comm Forum, March 7-9, Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas.
$200 discount. Use code 612SHN. Register at www.newcommforum.com
BlogHer Business, March 22-23, Affinia Hotel, New York City
$100 discount off the $699 registration fee for the full 2-day conference. Use code BHBAC-DSC. Register at http://www.acteva.com/go/blogher
Hope to see you at one or both conferences!
Sundance, New Communications Forum and BlogHer
Whew. The holidays are over, so we can get back to work. And sanity. I still have some thoughts to share on the "Microsoft Vista-Edelman-bloggers get PCs" brouhaha of last week, but haven't had time to pull it all together the way I'd like as a commentary, so stay tuned for that.
However, I realized this morning that I have a bit of blog housekeeping to do. A few events that I am involved with are approaching, some faster than others, and I haven't said much about them. Until today.
First, the Sundance Film Festival is coming up later this month, and once again I am helping HP with the Backstage at Sundance blog. The blog is just getting restarted with previews of the Festival and should be in full swing by the time Sundance starts on January 18th.
In March, I am speaking at two conferences. First, on March 8th, I'll be leading a session on Viral Marketing at the New Communications Forum in Las Vegas (March 7-9 at the Venetian). We still need case studies, good and bad, for the discussion, so if you are planning to attend, and have a project to share, there is plenty of room for one or two people to join us in the hot seats. Just email or call me.
Then at the end of March, I am doing a couple of things at BlogHer Business in New York City. On Thursday March 22, I'll be doing a blog case study interview with small business blogger Shirley Frazier and on Friday March 23, I'll be part of a session on blogger relations. And there is a whole lot more going on at the conference, so I urge you to check it out before early bird registration ends this month.