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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Danny Brown
Co-author Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing. #1 marketing blog in world as per HubSpot. Husband. Father. Optimist. Pragmatist. Never says no to a good single malt. You can find me on Twitter - Google+ - LinkedIn.

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