As a blogger and a PR consultant, I’m in an interesting position. I can see how useful it is for companies to have relevant and targeted bloggers writing about their company and products. At the same time as a blogger, it’s really great to receive interesting information from PRs that will help me to write posts that add real value for my readers.
But like David Meerman Scott over at MarcomProfessional I’m a big believer that blogger relations has to be done well to work effectively. Bloggers aren’t like journalists – we are a lot more independent, don’t have set deadlines, write about what ever we like and importantly, we don’t all have a lot of resources.
As a PR professional then, what should you be doing to work effectively with bloggers. Does the standard press release work?
What about as a small business owner, how can you work with bloggers to drive a little traffic to your site, or build a little coverage, interest or awareness of something newsworthy you’ve been doing?
Step 1 – get to know your blogs.
This may seem an obvious point, but it’s strange how many people miss this step. For example, I write about marketing, blogging and web 2.0 stuff mostly, but last year I was approached by a company wanting me to trial a mobile phone and write about it on my blog. First of all, I doubt I’m reaching the right audience and secondly, when are you going to take the phone back, it’s been on my desk for almost 5 months. Had the PR read my blog, they would see that technology reviews are not really my specialism and saved themselves some time and effort. I haven’t even taken the phone out of the box.
On the other hand, a chap from Microsoft sent me some stats about the value of advertising on AdCentre versus Google AdWords which I will be writing about soon. Weloveloval also sent me the results of some research they conducted recently about the value for small businesses of advertising online vs in print. Again, perfect for me and my audience – expect to see that published soon as well.
Step 2 – identify and prioritise
Once you’ve found a handful of blogs writing on your subject area, start to prioritise those which are likely to add the most value to your PR campaign. How do you do that? have a think about:
> PageRank – this is Google’s own score for the importance / relevance of a website. It looks at a number of factors including how many other websites link to the blog – the more of these there are the more likely it will be a valuable blog. The score is available in the Google Tool Bar and goes from 0 to 10 – although there are very few sites on 10.
> Alexa Rank – this is a score that ranks roughly how much traffic websites attract. The lower the Alexa score the more traffic. As an example the BBC has an Alexa Rank of 64 which means it is the 64th most popular website on the (Google comes in at number 38). You can see then that the lower the score the more likely it is the blog gets a lot of traffic. More traffic generally equals more influence.
> Technorati – head to Technorati and search for a blog by name. You will then be able to find a score for the blogs authority – another measure of how many backlinks a blog has, again the higher the score the better.
> Participation - actually head to the site and start to look through the content. Look out for the number and quality of comments the blog receives and how engaged the blogger is with the comments. Consider whether the writing is generally positive or critical and identify if there are adverts on the site other than Google AdWords? Is there a RSS feed published and if so how many people have subscribed?
All of these factors will give you clues as to how popular and influential the blog is.
For some more ideas, head over to Brendan Cooper’s blog and read his excellent post on quick and dirty blog analysis.
Step 3 – participate
Bloggers write to air their opinions, express their feelings and often to make money. The lifeblood of a good blog is the content and the participation it drives with readers.
Once you have identified your top 10 or 20 blogs to work with, start to actually read the content. Add some comments, sign up to the blogs RSS feed, look for flickr streams and twitter feeds from the blogger and start to understand what drives them to write. This will give you a real helping hand for the next step.
Step 4 – engagement
Contact the blogger, have a conversation with them, identify if they are interested in receiving information from you and if so in what format. This doesn’t have to be particularly onerous, a quick email would probably be a good place to start, something like..
Hi Dave / Jessica [insert blogger name],
I just read your post about the use of chocolate for making a good chilli. I had no idea you could use chocolate in such a way.
I’m working with Cadbury’s and would be really interested in hearing some more about your ideas for using chocolate in innovative recipes. Would you be happy to have a chat at some stage? I would really like to keep you up to date with the latest chocolate ingredients we’re making..?
Or something along those lines…
If you are a small business, you might even offer to write a couple of posts for the blog. This is of course a little more than PR, but I for one would be happy to add a couple of guest writers to my blog every now and again.
And there you have it, a really simple explanation of how to manage blog PR / outreach programmes. Remember, the most popular blogs may not always be the easiest to influence. You really should consider reaching out to a mix of blogs, perhaps tiering them based on the factors above. Given that people read blogs in different ways to journals, newspapers or other print materials, you don’t necessarily have to reach out to the biggest blogs to make a difference. TechCrunch would be great, but a handful of other smaller blogs may make an equally impressive impact.
Of course, if you need a more robust programme, have some budget and tougher targets to reach, you could always engage a new media PR professional. Check out Grapevine Consulting or Shiny Red.