Six Steps to Running a Successful Blogger Outreach by Monica O’Brien

Monica O'BrienBut… but… blogger outreach doesn’t work anymore, right?

Actually, like most things in life, it depends on how you do it. The landscape for social media and blogging is constantly changing, and due to the popularity of blogger outreach tactics, most bloggers have received a mass email or press release that was completely off topic.

It doesn’t have to be that way though. Here’s the six step process I use for blogger outreach that gives me astronomically higher success than the outreaches that most PR firms will run for you. You can get great blogger outreach results (I’ll share mine at the end) in 3 months or less using these steps:

Step 1 – Planning Your Targets and Criteria (12 weeks out)

Before you start a blogger outreach, you want to plan what bloggers you will target based on a set of success criteria. For example, if you sell college recruiting web software to high school students, you may want to target any blogs that talk about:

  • college recruiting
  • college sports
  • web software
  • teen athletes (from a parenting perspective)
  • youth coaches

and you may only want to consider blogs that:

  • have 1000 or more subscribers
  • have 1000 or more Twitter followers
  • receive 10 or more comments per post on average (I like engaging bloggers)

The types of bloggers you target and the criteria you come up with can be more or less detailed than this example, based on your business and your goals. For example, if you want to find 100 blogs that cover college sports recruiting, you should probably aim lower on your subscriber and comment numbers.

It’s also useful to consider different keywords that people who write the aforementioned blogs might use in their blog posts. You can create a short list for each blog category using the visual search engine Quintura; for example, when I type in “college recruiting” I see that “recruiting process” and “college coaches” are two highly associated keyword phrases.

Step 2 – Find blogs that match your criteria (12 weeks out)

This is the data part, so get out your spreadsheets! Label the columns with important information, like blog topic, main contact, main contact’s email address, blog address, subscriber count, twitter handle, etc. Include any information that you think you will need throughout the process (trust me, you don’t want to go back to flush out an extra column later). As you find blogs that would make good targets, add them to your spreadsheet.

To find blogs, input the blog categories and the keyword phrases that you found in Step 1 with the following resources:

You’ll have to vet each blog you find against the criteria you laid out in Step 1. The process of finding 100 blogs using steps 1 & 2 takes about a week.

Step 3 – Get your foot in the door (11 weeks out)

The first thing I do is add all these blogs to a feed reader like Bloglines. I have separate accounts for each brand I work with. You’ll want to process your feed reader at least once a day for 7-8 weeks. (Note: That may seem like a long time, but it’s soooo worth it. It only takes 20-30 minutes a day, so it is not as large a commitment as you think!)

Any blog posts that you think are relevant to your own audience should be tweeted (include the handle of the writer of the blog post so you get their attention), pushed out through the Facebook fan page (add their page to your favorites also), or linked to in a blog post from your own site. You can also create an account for your brand on StumbleUpon and submit the post there.

If you can think of something interesting to say about the post, make sure you leave a comment with a link back to your site! Many bloggers notice comments over most other forms of communication.

You can also add the blog feeds to a custom Google search engine. Offer the search engine as a resource to your community and search the engine for interesting posts. You can schedule the posts as tweets using an automated tool like HootSuite or SocialOomph.

Ex: “Browsing the archives of @collegerec and found this awesome article about making the soccer team http://a.link.here”

Finally, try to connect with the blogger on other platforms – a Facebook fan page or group, LinkedIn, and more. The first thing someone does when they get a message from you is to Google you, so it helps to have several connections to the person beforehand!

One last tip: when getting your foot in the door, make sure you have one contact with a name and a photo (not your company logo) connecting with the blogger on these various platforms. People want to see a face, not a company mask. Relationships are key, so think long term for success!

Step 4 – Reach out to bloggers (3-4 weeks out)

Hopefully the bloggers you are targeting have noticed and replied to your efforts to reach out to them via social media. Now that you’ve spent nearly two months networking with specific bloggers in your niche, you’re ready to reach out to them via email.

As She Walks
Your first email doesn’t need to be long; simply send a nice note reminding the person you are a fan of theirs and complimenting their work. Then tell them about your product and why it’s relevant and interesting to them.

Now comes the tricky part – you must offer the person a sweet deal they can’t say no to. For example, Alice.com gives new customers a $10 gift card towards household products just for signing up and placing a first order. Make sure your offer is compelling – you’ve worked so hard to network with bloggers and it would be a shame to mess this portion up.

Make it clear that you are making the offer to them so they can write about it on their blog, but that a review is not necessary unless they find the product or service compelling. Also, it’s important to stress that a positive review is not a requirement either. Finally, thank them for their consideration!

The entire message need not be more than 5 sentences long. No, I’m serious! If you need more room than that to pitch your product, include a link to your blog where they can find more details about the promotion if they are interested. But really, 5 sentences is plenty. In fact, it’s kind of fun to see if you can do it in that short of an email. Watch:

Stephanie,

I’ve really enjoyed your recent work on your blog, especially the post about why high school athletes should utilize their school counselors to land interviews with college coaches! I’m writing because we are launching a new web software tool called CRecruit and we are looking for bloggers who want to break the news on May 5, 2010.

We’re willing to offer 50 free sign-up codes (valued at $27 each) to your readers during the week of our launch. We’d like to offer you a sneak peek so you can see how the product helps high school athletes and decide if you’re interested in helping us get the word out.

Thank you for your consideration; we look forward to your reply!

Best,

Monica O’Brien, CRecruit CEO

See, wasn’t that fun?

Step 5 – Fulfill and follow-up (2-3 weeks out)

If the blogger agrees, congratulations! Make sure you respond quickly and give them all the materials they need to trial your product or service. You may want to put together a press package on your website beforehand where they can download canned information about your product and images or screenshots that will make writing a blog post easier.

Follow-up with any bloggers who did not respond, but with whom you have a strong relationship. Life gets in the way of blogging, and it’s possible that the blogger missed or forgot about your message. Don’t take it personally!

Step 6 – Remind bloggers (3-5 days out)

Right before your big launch, you want to remind bloggers to write a review your product or service on their blog. Tell them you will be doing a round-up of all reviews for your blog and your newsletter to provide extra incentive to post on the day of your launch.

Follow up with any reviews you receive by commenting and sharing the link on your various social networking accounts as well!

By planning a little in advance and building relationships before the pitch, you can get a 60%+ response rate and built lasting relationships that will continue to benefit the brand long after the PR push is over.

If you don’t do it this way, you’ll probably get about a 5% response rate. Which will you choose?

About the author: Monica O’Brien is the author of Social Pollination: Escape the Hype of Social Media and Join the Companies Winning At It. She also serves as the Director of Digital at Fizz, a word of mouth marketing agency. You can also read Monica’s blog, Social Pollination and follow her on Twitter @MonicaOBrien.

Creative Commons License photo credit: D.Munoz-Santos

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  1. says

    Nice post. One thing I’d add to the list building section…I find it valuable to split the list into Tier 1 and tier 2. With tier 1 bloggers, I import their full feed into my feed reader and try to skim every post…these are people who are so important that I want to read everything that they write (knowing that I’m going to end up reading some things that are totally irrelevant). For tier 2, rather than pulling their full feed into my reader, I generate a Google search that looks specifically at their blogs for mentions of the phrases I care about. I then save this search as an RSS feed and pull it into my reader. By only searching for the keywords for tier 2 bloggers, I can avoid the firehose (which allows me to broaden my list).

    • says

      Paul,

      That’s an awesome, time-saving tip for the readers! I agree that Google alerts or Google search could be much more efficient than using the full feed in a blog reader. It sounds like that one extra step would help filter a great deal of content. Thanks for sharing your tip with everyone!

    • says

      Glad to hear it helped you! This definitely works for your personal brand too. You can use it to land guest posts or, even if you aren’t doing an outreach, you can just take the bulk of the tips and network like crazy with other bloggers!

      Thanks for the comment :)

  2. says

    I’m very poor in searching, but this thing will not exist more after this post, tried many ways to reach the desired blog but not successful. Your research is truly strong.

  3. says

    Fabulous article Monica! And timely for me in particular.
    Just out of interest, what do you use to aggregate your RSS feeds? The readers I’m using are sapping my will to live!

    • says

      Thanks Keir! I use Bloglines. I use Google Reader for my personal account, and since Gmail only lets you log in to one account per browser at a time, it’s a pain to switch.

  4. says

    There’s the lazy/quick way to do it, and then there’s the right way to do it — this is much more time-consuming but I can imagine the much better, more positive response you get when you’ve taken the time to really engage.

    Awesome post. :)

  5. says

    Great tips here.

    One method that I’ve learned that I think could fit in nicely is to break down the blogs your’e reaching out to into groups. More popular- Middle- Least… For every big popular blog you reach out to, reach out to 5 “middle” range blogs. For every middle range blog, reach out to 5 less popular blogs. This way, if you don’t land the big ones, you’re well covered.

    I have to get you to try Scribnia next time you’re looking for writers 😉

    David

    • says

      Thanks for the tips David! That’s an interesting system – do you do it that way so that you get a certain amount of reach? For example, do you feel that one high profile blog post is worth approximately 25 small blog guest posts?

      Also, thank you for suggesting Scribnia for the list! It seems like a good resource for PR professionals and bloggers who want to network.

  6. says

    Thanks for this great and very practical post.

    We’ve build an application for blogger/influencer outreach very aligned to the process you described and I think we could save you days …

    We bring in some productivity in building lists:
    Step 1 and 2:
    – using our algorithm, we usually build up a list of 500-1000 in 4-5 hours. (Here is our top 500 for Social Media Marketing).
    – We also propose lists like ( 3000 top Mommy bloggers, 4000 top Food, 1000-1500 for Travel, PErs Finances) and have mapped 42 High Tech Communities like Cloud Computing (top 500), IT Security, Storage … …
    – we automatically rank the blog per influence.

    Step3:
    – we consolidate the feed real time (can be extended to twitter, youtube, facebook pages and anything with an RSS) and give you capability to dive in the river of conversation and spot/trend/discover topics of interest.
    – we also provide “maps” to visualize as an example, who are the mommy bloggers talking about the “wii” versus who are the one that don’t.

    Step 5,6
    – we automatically grab the Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter profile of the blogger and enable you to store email, phone # information
    – we also keep track of each and every conversation that you participate in as part of your campaign and who you’ve already contacted.

    Step 7 :-)
    Measure.
    – we provide capabilities to measure your impact over the overall community.

    Here is a link to our top 500 Social media marketing blogs: http://blog.ecairn.com/2010/03/11/1970/

    and here is a list to a report we built in Cloud Computing that shows the depth of our capabilities: http://ecairn.com/images/pdf/amazonReport.pdf

    I would love to do you a demo :-) !

  7. says

    Love love love this post Monica, it is really great

    One question though, say you’re trying to reach out to bloggers to build links to a subpage on your site (say you’re an ecomm site and you want links to a product page); how would you communicate that to bloggers?
    .-= Searchologie´s most recent blog post …SEO Is Dead? Are You Smoking Crack? =-.

  8. says

    Absolutely perfect post. I’m writing on the same topic on Mashable, and found you. Glad I did. You’re reminded me the importance of starting far in advance (something clients don’t get…they want it NOW NOW NOW) so I’ll be making more efforts to plan ahead. Got some good tools from your post (and comments) too.
    .-= Susan Payton´s most recent blog post …Eco Monday: Green Marketing 101 =-.

  9. John Atkinson says

    Excellent post. As you indicate, blogger outreach, like any good marketing program, is a deliberate process.

    Bookmarked!

  10. says

    These are six great tips. I also like how practical and simple they are. They are actually things that I can do to make my product do better. thanks.

  11. says

    As a blogger, I appreciate your approach to outreach. You are right, I am slammed with many e-mails from companies who want to either a) get me to talk about their product by sending me a link to “check out their product online” or b) try to engage me in a greater campaign, but miss the mark by not personalizing their outreach or understanding my niche and readership.

    Very few e-mails catch my attention, most end up in the trash. If more people followed your tips, they would certainly have better returns with bloggers. Thanks!
    .-= Missy @ The Marketing Mama´s most recent blog post …Life Lesson: three things =-.

  12. tddupree says

    Great perspective on how to approach bloggers. They are a group of reporters I’ve felt were just outside of my reach because of the nature of their reporting – too much coming at them all the time and because I didn’t jump 100% feet in the water wrt social media in the “early years” I wasn’t confident I’d ever be able to build relationships there. With this plan as an example, I’m shy no longer. Thanks for sharing!

  13. says

    I really don’t know that I am doing a blogger outreach since I read your post. What I am doing is I am emailing some bloggers out there and asking them if they allow some guest post to be published at their blogs. Some say yes, some say no and some say it depends. But honestly, this kind of reaching out is really a good way to keep in touch and getting to know more each other within the blogosphere.

  14. says

    This is a really useful post. I learned so much re blogger relations. I’ll definitely try this out and hopefully I get to connect to more bloggers better and build relationships faster.

  15. says

    Excellent thoughts regarding blog outreach. It’s great to see a well thought out roadmap and plan. Working with other bloggers and networking is surely an excellent way to increase your blog readership.

  16. JonTuckerUSA says

    Hi Danny- the timeline breakdown here was great. I stumbled upon this article while putting together a few tactics of my own. What are you using to manage the communication process and keep track for your clients (i.e. buzzstream, other CRM, etc.).?

  17. says

    Hi Monica,

    Very informative post. I have just added one more point to the same:
    Keep Track Of Numbers – There are certain numbers you should keep track of to measure the success of your blogger outreach campaign:
     Dedicated traffic through the blog.
    Number of comments – Also do participate in the discussion to establish a better understanding with the potential customers.
    Number of likes, tweets, re-pins and linkedin shares etc. This numbers will let you know how viral the content is.
    Back-linking.
    Having your feedback would be great.
    Thanks,
    Divya
    http://digifire.in/

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