Alexandra Kirsch and the Perfect Blogger Pitch

Alexandra Kirsch of Planned Televison ArtsYesterday I shared two posts I thought you should read over at the Spin Sucks blog.

One of them was by Gini Dietrich and looked at how the PR industry is letting itself down when it comes to blogger outreach programs.

This post in particular has sparked a great debate in the comments section on good PR, poor PR and more. It’s a great read and well worth checking out.

Today, I want to share an example of a great blogger outreach program – perhaps one of the best I’ve seen. Why is it so good? Read on.

Knowing the Blogger

Last week I received an email from Alexandra Kirsch, Social Media Coordinator for Planned Television Arts. Alexandra was reaching out to bloggers about the upcoming Greg Verdino book, microMARKETING: Get Big Results by Acting and Thinking Small.

A little side-note here. I used to review books on this blog but I stopped last year, after getting tired of the same old copy/paste press releases and books that weren’t right for this blog’s readers.

Alexandra changed my mind.

Her email was personal and it was clear that she knew each blogger she was reaching out to (Greg’s book is being reviewed by various bloggers, a chapter at a time – you can find out more here).

A couple of examples from Alexandra’s email:

Hi Danny,

I’m working with Aaron Strout and Greg Verdino from Powered, Inc. on Greg’s new book, microMARKETING: Get Big Results by Thinking and Acting Small, and they thought that you would be a perfect fit to do one of the chapter-by-chapter reviews.

Because of your experience using the Internet and new media to raise money, in addition to your work with large companies like IBM, FedEX, and RIM, Chapter 7, “From Reach to Relationships: Activating the Many by Resonating with the Right Few,” seemed like it would resonate well with your audience.

Why do I like this? Simple.

From the off, it’s personal and a clear explanation of why Alexandra is contacting me. Additionally, whether Alexandra follows my blog or not, she’s taken the time to do the research and find out about me and my readers.

She then ties that into a personalized approach, which is a huge breath of fresh air from the standard mass mailing one.

Connecting the Story

If you look at the opening paragraph of Alexandra’s email above, you’ll see reference to “chapter-by-chapter reviews”. This is a pretty cool approach by Greg and Planned Television Arts.

By reaching out to bloggers who are relevant for the different parts of the book, it offers a far better chance of getting a review from someone who knows what they’re talking about.

Additionally, the readers of that blogger are already interested in the review, since that’s what they’ve been reading about for however long they’ve been reading that blog. In Alexandra’s own words:

In essence, the chapter-by-chapter review process is a way for us to offer experts in each area the opportunity to review chapters that correlate directly with their area(s) of expertise and interest. We’re also taking this approach to avoid having several bloggers reviewing the book in a general way all at once. We know that is no fun for you. Hopefully this approach gives you a little exclusive room to flex your expertise.

So, not only is it a personalized approach, but the blogger outreach team really want to connect with the right audience and make it a win-win for everyone involved.

Continuing the Relationship

A few days after the original email, Alexandra realized that there was an error in the editorial calendar and needed to reach back out to the bloggers to confirm the chapter review dates.

The quickest way to do this was to send a mass email. Which, as we all know, can sometimes be impersonal depending on how it comes across.

Yet again, Alexandra quelled this with her own words:

Hi everyone,

So sorry for the mass e-mail, it’s usually not my mode of operation, but I made a small error on the calendar PDF. Attached, find a corrected calendar. Thanks so much. Hope you enjoy the book.

The first sentence immediately shows Alexandra isn’t a fan of mass emailing either, and the reason for it here is just to update everyone effectively.

Again, it’s a very personalized touch that enhances the relationship that’s been building from the initial contact.

Lessons to Learn

Bloggers are becoming an ever-important part of any promotional campaign, whether it be PR, marketing, advertising, product or book launches and more. Yet for some reason, many PR agencies and professionals don’t see bloggers as anything more than a second-class media outlet.

Alexandra Kirsch and Planned Television Arts know this isn’t the case. Their highly personalized approach has already won them fans (both Lucretia Pruitt and Ari Herzog have already praised them), and shows that, when done well, bloggers and PR folks can be a great team.

If you’re a PR person reading this now, think about how you want to share your client. Think about how the smallest difference in approach can be a huge one. Think about how it’s not all about the influence of the blogger, but the influence of that blogger’s community.

PR gets a hard time from a lot of areas. Sometimes it’s deserved; others not. Sometimes it brings it on itself.

But as Alexandra Kirsch proves, sometimes it can do everything right and more. And that’s all anyone can ask for, isn’t it?

Note: My chapter review will be published next Tuesday, September 28.

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  1. johnhaydon says

    Danny – This is an excellent example of why doing homework about a blogger’s topic / community is critical. This heavy lifting only needs to be done once if the PR person is committed to a long-term relationship with the blogger.

    It’s like dating and then getting engaged and married. At the beginning, you have to ask “What kind of music do you like?” and “Are you a vegetarian?”. As the relationship continues, you should be able to remember the “basics”.

    On the other hand, if PR folk think of bloggers as “a second-class media outlet”, they every time they have a campaign, they have to start from scratch. Not a good use of anyone’s time.

  2. 3HatsComm says

    Danny, Great tale of how PR and bloggers can work so well together. I really respect Ms. Kirsch’s approach to pitching you and think the chapter-by-chapter review is smart strategy. She did it right, which you say is “all anyone can ask for?” True, yet a tiny part of me wants to ask, “isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?” IDK.. just being a fuddy-duddy.

    Yesterday Gini Dietrich posted about how some “professionals” get it wrong; I like that you’re showcasing a positive tale of someone getting it right. You noticed and appreciated that she personalized the pitch, made an effort to research your blog, then target her pitch and “your chapter” accordingly. I agree with you, that’s the way it should be done.

    As for taking this back to clients, John’s comment about doing homework and relationship building is spot-on. It’s showing the client the value, the ROI of the time, talent it takes to research blogs, develop relationship vs. shotgun blast generic pitches. Thanks for sharing this story, nice to have a good example to share. FWIW.

    • says

      @3HatsComm It’s kind of sad that we have to show the great examples to counter the poor ones, huh, Davina? Funnily enough, a little after this post went live I received a standard press release copy/paste job with no intro or explanation.

      I sent him a link to this post. 😉

    • 3HatsComm says

      @DannyBrown Well played Danny. If ever I start getting bad pitches, I may have to try that… send them to your blog to set them straight. 😉 There is a lot of value in showing both good and bad examples, hopefully some pros will take note. I know I’m always learning something. Thanks.

  3. says

    Huh. That’s beyond “small world”, as I believe I know Alexandra. We both attended Michigan State University as Professional Writing majors.

    It’s amazing the things you can find in your RSS reeder.

    Anyway, excellent post. Definitely a great story and I’m inclined to agree with you about the more personal communications being more effective.
    Great read.

    • says

      @matthileo Since posting, I’ve heard from a few people about Alexandra and how they’re not surprised to see her do her job so well. Bodes well for any company lucky enough to have her. :)

  4. arikhanson says

    Funny how easy the good pitches stand out, isn’t it? I received one recently from the Social Media Club that was very similar to the pitch you received here. Personalized, relevant and full of information I am definitely interested in. It was easily the best pitch I’ve received in some time (not that I get that many, mind you).

    • arikhanson says

      @DannyBrown Just based on my personal experience and what I’ve heard from others, yes, I think that’s exactly the case. Just look at some of the comments in Gini’s post the other day.

    • LucretiaMaddenPruitt says

      @DannyBrown @arikhanson – absolutely the reason the good pitches stand out – they are notable amongst a sea of mediocrity.

  5. Robcairns says

    This pitch really stands out. It was personal and she took the time. Being personal always means a lot to me as a customer and a writer. It shows it was well thought out.

    Recently I received a well thought out personal email in response to a blog entry I wrote about the CNE in Toronto. What it showed me is that they cared about what I had to say and why I was saying it.

    Alexandra, well done for being personal. It shows that you really do care about what you are pitching and who you are pitching too,

    • says

      @Robcairns Here’s the thing, Rob. Even if it was from a template, and all that changed was the relevant information and background of the blogger, it would still stand ahead of so many others because that alone shows interest and personalization.

      Sounds like Alexandra and CNE are leading the way when it comes to relationship building between audience and content.

  6. LucretiaMaddenPruitt says

    I thought I had already weighed in here – but I was really tired when I read this! :)
    Alexandra really hit a right note with her pitch. She followed the rules I keep encouraging people to use: brevity, clarity, rationale, and value to the person being pitched.

    It was solid enough to get me to do my first book review in over a year! Great team they have on this.

    • says

      @LucretiaMaddenPruitt Ha, likewise Lucretia – I was actually reinvigorated about social media books with the pitch and premise. It was great to see the chapter I read lived up to what came before.

  7. ssmirnov says

    Excellent post, Danny, and kudos to Alexandra. I agree with other commenters that her approach should be considered the norm, not the exception, and that’s a shame. I have a thought on why this is the case, though, and it comes down to scale and resources. Scale as in, how do you find the time to research and personalize *every* single blogger pitch when your client is a huge mass brand hoping to reach a significant slice of a particular blogging universe? When you’re a full-service PR agency as we are at DeVries, chances are the account staff doing blogger outreach are handling traditional media as well. (We like it that way, btw, since we feel blogger outreach shouldn’t be silo’d or farmed to “specialist” teams elsewhere in the agency.) But there are only so many hours in the day. I wonder if the question is, how do we make choices to ensure the right bloggers get the right pitch, go for the 80/20 rule (the 20% of the blogger list that’ll deliver 80% of the impact) and eliminate “mass” pitches altogether?

    • says

      @ssmirnov These are great points, and valid questions. I’m sure Alexandra (and others) can offer how they approach it.

      For myself, I always look to work with a core group per topic. This could mean 2-3 bloggers; it could mean 50-60. It’s dependent on the brand and the promotion.

      I use a few tools (Meltwater Buzz is excellent for the kind of information you need regarding bloggers, blogs, topics, engagement, etc), as well as Technorati, BackType, Social Mention and some more.

      I then nurture that into manageable approaches to the bloggers I feel most suited to that campaign. I keep using the same bloggers, and look for new based on the tools and recommendations, and solidify these relationships as opposed to just using once and saying goodbye.

      It becomes a trusted relationship both ways then.

      To your point about the new media and traditional media account manager being the same person, I guess this depends on your resources. Would it be more effective to split the duties to two people?

      The 80/20 rule can definitely work; as long as the right people are part of the equation. 😉

      Either way, go for passion and influence of community over pure influence – at least that’s my take. Passion remains while influence alone can fade.

      Hope that helps :)