Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Communication 2.0: Bloggers Speak Out on the Dos and Don'ts of Pitching

By Shannon Nelson, Publicist and Chief Blogger, Pierce Mattie Public Relations

PR has long misused and misunderstood pitching to bloggers. While it has long been the status quo of PR to send blanket impersonal press release type pitches to media outlets, blogs and social media are reshaping the way we pitch. Unlike print publications, blogs do not have advertisers to answer to and their blog is, in essence, their brand. PR has to invest the time to peel back the layers and research who they are, what they talk about and who their audience is before sending a pitch—or take the chance of their pitch hitting the spam folder (or worse, appearing as a slam on their blog).

There is no doubt that the social media scene is not going away. In fact, it continues to grow and become more influential. While print publications still lead the way as a client's preferred method of securing coverage, blogs and social media outlets tend to offer instant results with measurable ROI. While the initial results of a blog writing about your client may be fleeting, eventually that write up gets indexed and lives online in the search engines. In print, once you've had your moment in the spotlight, the next month it turns to someone else and that mention is long forgotten by the consumer.

As advocates for our clients, it is in our best interest to come to understand and navigate this often slippery slope of the blogosphere where one minute you may hit a homerun and in the next, strike out. In the new world of Communication 2.0, if PR hopes to find any success in securing publicity for their client on the web, then they need to devote themselves to reshaping the way they cast their net.

As a blogger myself, I invited other bloggers (including Erin Kotecki Vest, Elizabeth Thielke and Jenn Satterwhite) to give me their input on the dos and don'ts of pitching blogs. Here's a synopsis of their responses:

Blog Pitching Best Practices

• Reading the blog you want to pitch—more than just the front page.
• Interacting with the blogger in their comments section with valuable input (not client peddling).
• Personalizing your pitch using their first name (Hi Mommy Blogger, Hi Beauty Blogger, etc. will get your email quickly deleted).
• Answering questions when the blogger asks them.
• Following up once you've sent a product to find out how the blogger felt about the product.
• Showing respect.
• Reading the blogger's "About" page for clear direction on how they want to be approached.
• Noting any advertising networks on their blog that may have a policy that conflicts with your pitch.
• Expressing what you are looking for (expectations) so there is no miscommunication or misunderstandings.
• Finding out if it's OK to keep the blogger on your mailing list.

Blog Pitching Worst Practices

• Sending a blanket one–pitch–fits–all email.
• Saying you are offering an exclusive when you are pitching several other blogs with the same info.
• Posting press releases in the comments section.
• Expecting the blogger will write about your client's product because you offered it for free.
• Randomly inserting the blog's name throughout the pitch in an attempt to make it sound more relevant.
• Taking it personally if a blogger declines to write about your client.
• Offering a giveaway and expecting the blogger to front the costs of shipping to the winner.
• Dishing insincere flattery
• Badgering bloggers with repeated follow up emails—once is enough.

If PR can come to understand the informal rules of the blogosphere, then I believe that not only will bloggers be more welcoming to our pitches, but we will become more successful in delivering them. In the end, this benefits our clients and is a win–win for everyone involved.

Shannon Nelson is a publicist and the chief blogger for Pierce Mattie Public Relations, a luxury lifestyle public relations firm with offices in New York and Los Angeles.

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