An Epic Guide: Pitching to Bloggers for PR
Your business could seriously benefit from positive blogger PR, but the key is in the pitching.
WHY YOU SHOULD WORK WITH BLOGGERS
Harnessing the publicity of popular bloggers can be an relatively inexpensive, and potentially hugely successful, Public Relations activity. As long as you do the correct research, and pitch your opportunity to them in the right way, you could be on to a winning relationship.
Bloggers can have hundreds of thousands of website visitors per month, and can have large RSS and email subscriber bases, as well as big social media followings. They are on the stage, talking to huge audiences with very specific interests.
Bloggers are also usually pretty digital-marketing savvy. They know how to use social media and other online avenues to gain maximum exposure for their blog, and can use those skills to gain exposure for your company too. They also usually have a good idea of exactly who their audience is - including demographics, behaviours and other insights.
There are several ways your business can work with bloggers...
WAYS TO WORK WITH BLOGGERS
- Advertise on their blog (in the sidebar, or in-post)
This was originally the main way bloggers made money - sidebar advertisements. You can use a tool like Passionfruit ads to set up an advert on a blog you like, or contact a blogger directly. Be aware though that sidebar ads are steadily going out of fashion, so be prepared to be told that they aren't being offered any more.
- Advertise in their social media channels
For a price, some bloggers will advertise your company to their social media following. These types of adverts are usually only effective with bloggers with very large social followings, and may not be the best way to gain exposure.
- Advertise in their email marketing campaigns
This can be more effective than social media advertising depending on how many other adverts the email contains, and the authority of the blogger who is sending it.
- Send them a free product, or give them a complimentary service to review
This is the most common option that comes into my inbox, and something that many small/medium bloggers will accept, as long as the product is relevant to their audience. Be aware that if the blogger dislikes the product or service, they may not write anything at all, or may write a luke-warm review.
- Pay for a sponsored blog post
Bigger bloggers might require payment for a review post, or a sponsored post in which the blogger will talk about the company positively. Be aware that as a legal requirement, all bloggers must specify when a blog post is sponsored, with a disclaimer.
- Pay for a sponsored email
Similar to a sponsored blog post, but in an email newsletter format. I have never seen one of these but I know people do offer them.
- Provide affiliate links
Encourage bloggers to shout about your product or service by offering them an affiliate link, whereby for each purchase made through that link, the blogger receive a percentage of the sale. This provides a great incentive and can be very successful, particularly with fashion and parent bloggers.
- Create a competition or giveaway together
This may require you to give one product/service to the blogger to review, and another one to give away to the competition winner. Both parties can benefit from this by collecting email data from entrants, and getting entrants to follow social channels as a form of entry too. It's another great way to gain exposure as well.
- Collaborate on an event or project together
This is a less-used technique for working with bloggers, but something many would be open to I'm sure. Share the responsibility and cost of creating an event in return for your company's name on the front, or work together on creating a line of products. This synergy uses both of your audiences, experience, finance and knowledge.
These are all great examples of strategies you can use for your company's PR. However, the success of these depend on your preparation and pitching techniques...
Bad pitching techniques
I get several emails each week from Outreach consultancies, asking to feature their clients' products or services on my lifestyle blog. However, I turn 9 out of 10 of them down. Why?
Because of several issues with their pitch, for example...
- They don't give me enough information about the product or company
"Would you be interested in featuring content about my client on your blog?" isn't specific at all, and isn't ever going to get a 'Yes!' reply.
- They haven't considered my blog's audience at all
I recently got a pitch from an automotive manufacturer, but my blog's audience clearly wouldn't be interested in that sort of thing at all. This is bad for both my blog and said company, because neither of us will see any kind of result from it.
- They haven't researched basic details...like my name!
If you don't use my name in an email, I will assume you are sending a blanket email to several hundred others. If you use my name incorrectly (ie. Hannah, instead of Anna), then I will assume you do not value me or my blog enough.
- They are often actually quite rude
Many bloggers complain that companies assume they will work for free, and post content on their site with no benefit or compensation to them whatsoever. I've had an email that went a step beyond that:
Please add this to your website (attached).
My immediate thought was 'Oh, hi, nice to meet you. Sorry I didn't realise I worked for you'. NOT a good first impression from this company.
A poorly thought out pitch, or a pitch that comes across as rude, can totally ruin any prospect of a relationship with the bloggers you are contacting. It can even damage a relationship, and lead to negative PR if you have insulted someone influential (but as a rule, don't insult anyone, even if they're not influential!).
how to pitch the right way (10 steps)
1 // Know exactly what your pitch is
This is obvious, but from some of the emails I've had in past, it can seems as though the company doesn't actually know what they're offering. Ask yourself what your objectives are from this PR activity, and what you hope to achieve at the end. Create a budget and a plan of action for when you get a response, and most importantly for your pitch, understand how it will benefit the blogger.
2 // Research bloggers in the right niche
Don't just look for bloggers with the biggest following and pick them. If your product or service isn't relevant to their audience, their PR won't benefit either of you. Search for bloggers who might share the same audience as you're looking for.
3 // Make a list of relevant bloggers, including details
Create a spreadsheet like the one below in which to capture the data of said bloggers. Include the name of their blog, their blog URL, their email address and first name as a minimum (if you can, include their full name and their country, city or town too). You can also include details like 'Number of Facebook fans' or 'Average comments per post'.
I've created a template for this spreadsheet below. To download, just click and you'll be taken to Google Docs. If you want to edit your own version, go to File > Make a Copy.
4 // Make sure that said bloggers offer what you're looking for
On their About of Contact page, you can often find information about how bloggers will work with companies, even if it's just a line saying that they are open to sponsored posts. Some might even have a downloadable media pack (or on request), which will contain information about their website views, subscribers, and social followings. You don't want to pitch a sidebar ad to a blogger who isn't offering them, as it's a waste of time for both of you.
5 // Follow them on social media, read & comment on their blogs
This is a step that rarely gets done, but I think it's very important. Not only does this help to show that you have a genuine interest in them and their blog, and help you start building a relationship with them, it also allows you to see the success of any previous sponsored work they may have done.
6 // Don't assume anything
So you've found that a blogger only has 200 Twitter followers, or that their monthly views are significantly less than the others on your list. DO NOT assume that they will therefore offer you advertising or sponsored posts for free, or even for cheaper. You may insult them if you assume, but you also may not see the bigger picture. Sure, their audience might be smaller, but it also might be 5 times more engaged and proactive than the bigger audiences, and are therefore more valuable. This is quite often the case for blogs in very specific niches.
7 // Send them a polite, friendly introduction and pitch
Use the blogger's name, explain how you found their blog and why you like it, and then introduce yourself and your company. Then, discuss your idea and what you hope to achieve, and why you think they are the best fit to help you achieve it. DO NOT forget to include what's in it for them, and of course, finish off with a polite 'Looking forward to hearing from you'.
8 // Send a follow up email in 2 weeks
Contrary to some very wrong beliefs, most bloggers are actually quite busy. Many bloggers also tend to use separate email accounts than their personal ones (just like your company might), and so can forget to sign in and check for emails. If you haven't heard back, it is always worth sending a polite follow up emails to check that they received the original one, and ask if they'd had any thoughts about the opportunity.
BONUS! Free Download
Get 4 email pitch templates to use when contacting bloggers sent straight to your inbox!
9 // Tweet or Facebook message them after 3 weeks if you still haven't heard
I have to admit, some bloggers can be difficult to track down. Bigger bloggers are often so heavily bombarded with emails that they simply can't ever get around to replying. In this case, once a week has past since your second email, I would recommend sending them a tweet or Facebook message to check if they've received anything, but nothing too intrusive.
10 // Know when to give up, and revisit your pitch
Do not pester. If you haven't heard anything even after all of the above, give up. Either they have received your messages and aren't able to work with you (and don't have time to reply), or you can assume that it probably won't be easy to communicate with them if you do work together, so you're better of leaving it. If all else fails, revisit your pitch and get someone to look over it and give you feedback, and try again with different bloggers.
Things to consider
- Double check names!
Please, just do it. You can ruin a perfectly good conversation by getting this wrong.
- Be aware of inflated numbers
I have never heard of this being an issue, but it's good to understand that bloggers could potentially make up numbers like website views and bounce rates if they wanted to. If someone with less than 100 followers on each social platform says they get 200k views per month, you should question that and also ask whether those views are good quality.
- Make sure the writing style and tone fits your company
Bloggers have their own style of writing, and some can be quite sarky and liberal with their language. I personally love reading those kinds of blogs, but it may not be what you want for your product review.
- Success with previous companies
If you've had a look at their blog and can see they've done sponsored posts and advertising before, you could research into the success of that. Ask the blogger, or the other company, to get a reference.
- Go the extra mile to say thank you
If you've worked with a blogger and have found success from that relationship (congrats!), why not go the extra mile and send them a thank you card or email to let them know what their work has done for your business. It's a great way to strengthen your relationship, puts your company in an even more positive light, AND it's a great reference for them.
I hope these insights and information is useful for you if you're thinking of gaining more exposure for your company through the blogger/PR avenue!