How PR professionals should pitch bloggers

At BlogHer07 there was a bit of a dustup from bloggers critisizing the PR industry, David Wescott was at the start of it.

I really like what the folks at Ogilvy are doing in the Social Media space, John Bell, Rohit, and others have been very proactive in the social media space and are showing a lot of thought leadership. I’ve even worked with them, as we share some common clients.

Ogilvy is building some rules of engagement, read The Ogilvy Blogger Outreach Code of Ethics . It’s a good effort in building an effective way for all parties to share information.

I get pitched by PR folks very frequently, and it’s likely to dramatically increase in coming months. I get a lot of emails, and now facebook messages from PR professionals. Here’s a few tips on how to get me to get interested in your clients work. Don’t pitch me. Instead, get to know me, and build a relationship, leave comments on my blog, join the conversation. Find out what I’m interested in. Read my blog, examine the keywords, read the about page, my focus is on Web Strategy, find out what that means! I usually ignore the generic press release, it gets deleted quickly, consider a personal message. Consider not pitching a press release or announcement at all, why not point me to relevant blog posts from the client (non marketing ones) that I’d be willing to add to my blog. Always remember that I’m thinking of my readers first, so if the content is not going to help them, I’m not going to point to it –think backwards.

I have a lot of friends in the PR industry, and at one point, was even considering joining a PR firm to help lead their social media programs. I have a lot more respect for this industry as I started to get more involved. So you know, I will glance at all of your emails, won’t respond to 99% of them, but will always treat you with respect.

  • http://itsnotalecture.blogspot.com David Wescott

    Thanks very much for picking up this discussion. (I also appreciate the tweet.)

    I agree that John Bell (a good guy) and his team deserve some credit, but I think the real kudos should go to the bloggers themselves who are speaking up.

    I’m truly disappointed that our industry has to re-state what I hope are the ethical norms in ALL communications – even the values that I hope guide our lives: things like transparency, respect, relevance, honesty.

    That’s not meant to be a slam on Ogilvy, who is at least trying to share where they stand. It’s actually a statement of how our professional mandates – namely, crank out as many online pitches possible in the least amount of time for the least amount of budget – have compelled us to compromise our values. (Either that or some of us are just lazy.)

    PR folks can’t do what you’re calling for – building relationships – on the cheap. No one can.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Oh, I agree David. It’s about building relationships. Savvy PR firms will hire, or encourage existing employees to find an area of focus in the industry they cover and really start to build long term relationships.

    This makes the PR relationship to journalists, bloggers, analysts, and media a valuable partnership, these influencers will also rely on trusted PR pros to deliver new information. Everyone can win.

  • http://www.quintura.com Yakov

    I have never used a PR firm to pitch bloggers. The company itself should develop the relationships by continious communication with the bloggers and product innovation.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Yakov, that’s a dang great point!

    Some companies don’t have the expertise, ability, or resources to pitch bloggers, hence their reliance on PR firms.

    In your experience, please share with us how you were able to do this? Did you have a team in-house that did this? Was there a formal education process? What type of role would develop this relationship? Product managers?

    Do tell!

  • http://www.quintura.com Yakov

    Being CEO of a US/Russian startup, I simply spend a significant amount of my time communicating to bloggers and started doing this. For example, I flew in from Moscow to London to join a pub tour with Uk bloggers and personally meet with Robert Scoble and Hugh MacLeod who led the tour(http://www.gapingvoid.com/Moveable_Type/archives/003581.html). I joined FOWA last February to demo our new user interface to Michael Arrington of TechCrunch who agreed to exclusively review it when launch a few days later. I am also keen on sharing news regarding an Internet ventures in Russia.

  • http://mickeleh.blogspot.com Michael Markman

    Did you have to say “thought leadership”? What’s wrong with “leadership”? Thought leadership is only captures brain sheep. It’s one of the creepiest terms to come out of the PR industry. I’m waiting for the PR agency who will help lead us away from such idiotic jargon.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Thanks Yakov, you’re doing it right.

    Michael,

    I get your point, but I stand by that description, here’s why:

    Thought leadership is the pre-cursor to Practice, which leads to Practice Leadership.

    This means they’re thinking of it, will do it, then do it correctly.

    I don’t think it came out of the PR industry, I’ve heard that term in corporate for many years.

    So, back to you, which PR agency do you predict will lead the way?

  • http://itsnotalecture.blogspot.com David Wescott

    I think it’s extraordinarily hard to predict which agency will lead the way when relationships are the key to doing it right. I suspect there will be people within firms who do it well for particular online communities. Leadership will occur on a case-by-case basis.

    Interesting that you mentioned that good PR firms will direct people to build relationships with bloggers in the fields that interest them. That’s EXACTLY what I encourage the people at my firm to do – read blogs about the topics that interest them and actively participate in the discussions taking place there without having to worry about pitching them anything.

    First, it’s just the right thing to do – you’re sincere, credible, and you have a personal stake in the discussion without having to sell something. Second, it helps motivate the people who work with you – work is always more fun when you can pursue personal interests. Finally, it’s great for clients – we’re more efficient and effective because we have relationships with the people who are driving the discussions.

    For example, there’s a young woman in a west coast office of my firm who is interested in science and technology, so I directed her to a bunch of science blogs and she’s out exploring. She’s having a blast, building relationshps, and developing an area of expertise for herself that will help her advance and succeed professionally. We may never need to pitch science blogs, though I expect we will, at some point, and guess who will develop the outreach strategy?

  • http://www.piratelog.blogspot.com Jason Mical

    Jeremiah, I think the agency (or companies, to Yakov’s point – I’ve been on both sides of this myself) that will lead the way is the one that ultimately abandons traditional, process-driven PR outreach for individual social interaction, and social interaction within more specific communities. The “blogger = reporter” thing is going to kill us if we keep it up.

    http://piratelog.blogspot.com/2007/09/value-of-engagement-part-two.html

  • http://getgood.typepad.com Susan Getgood

    Absolutely, research and relationship are critical to successful blogger outreach. But the real key, and where so many efforts continue to miss, is relating to the blogger based on his/her passion, not yours.

    A company’s product is its passion, and it is really hard to sit back and say, sure that’s MY passion, but how does it, how can it relate to the passion of my customer the blogger. Sometimes it will absolutely be features and break through technology. More often, it will be from making the effort to understand, to get to know, not just the blog, but also the person. And reaching out with something that will excite the blogger’s passion.

    That’s way harder than writing a press release or even an individualized email. Which is why so few do it.

  • http://www.getelastic.com Jason Billingsley

    We created a video pitch targeted at a dozen or so bloggers. Each one was customized and addressed the blogger by name and showed them we were familiar with their content (we actually were, so that helps).

    We were pitching relevant content to their topic areas: a tongue-in-cheek video parody series on ‘what if we treated real-world shoppers like we do online’.

    We didn’t want our pitch to be lost in the email black hole. The video really helped.

    The crew at SEOmoz actually covered our pitch strategy in post: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/youtube-email-marketing-youve-got-our-attention

    If you read the thread, there are details on how we did the blogger outreach campaign.

    The bottom line – put time into something, make it relevant, and make sure it adds value to the audience of the blogger.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Jason

    This IS creative, personal, and interesting

    http://www.seomoz.org/blog/youtube-email-marketing-youve-got-our-attention

  • http://www.quintura.com Yakov

    We believe that any company has to focus on adding value to bloggers and their blogs and not just pitching their products. That what we are creating for Blognation http://uk.blognation.com/2007/07/21/quintura-preview-search-engine-cloud-for-blogs/
    as well as for many other popular blogs.

  • http://www.livedigitally.com Jeremy Toeman

    Jeremiah – good post. I actually put together a “Top 10″ for PR people and bloggers a few months back that seems to have a lot of similar mindshare:

    http://www.livedigitally.com/for-pr-people-10-thoughts-on-improving-blogger-relations-1253/

    and

    http://www.livedigitally.com/for-bloggers-10-thoughts-on-working-with-pr-firms-1257/

  • http://marshallk.com Marshall Kirkpatrick

    Not super up to date, but I’ve been keeping a list of posts related to pitching bloggers at this URL for some time http://del.icio.us/marshallkirkpatrick/pitchingbloggers

  • http://www.catchupblog.typepad.com Kaitlyn

    Jeremiah, thanks for the post on the Ogilvy Code and pitching blogs. I’ve been following all this conversation and will make sure that thoughts and ideas articulated here are included when we sit back down in two weeks to revise our code and blogger outreach objectives. I hope you all continue to follow the evolution of the code and sound off – these are valuable insights.

    As a blogger myself I have had my fair share of bad pitches. And while I agree with David that we really shouldn’t need to reiterate what SHOULD be common sense when it comes to “pitching”, there are enough people out there doing it badly (REALLY badly) that it undermines all of our credibility – and that warrants as much discussion and clarification as it takes until we, as an industry, get it right. Hopefully this buzz is sparking some good conversations among the right people – both online and off.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Kaitlyn

    Thanks for engaging in the conversation, I’m confident Ogilvy will demonstrate best practices.

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  • http://jellyfishsquish.com Nancy Hamson

    I’m going to be perfectly up front. I have NO IDEA how to do this. I’m from the “old school” of advertising but am ready to become a convert to get this new product the exposure it deserves. Would greatly appreciate you checking out the website and getting back to me with thoughts on how best to do this. I don’t think there are jellyfish bloggers!

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  • http://twitter.com/DonCarlitos Charlie McHenry

    Great post. I'm a disciple, former PR counsel at Miller Comms, and now a partner in a new gaming venture. So these tips will be immediately tested, informed by my more traditional background & experience.

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