The Clear and Continuing Need for Blogger Outreach Specialists at PR Agencies

Last week, I received an email pitch from a PR agency looking to feature their client on my blog. The pitch was friendly enough, but had one glaring error. Here’s the pitch:

Hi Danny,

Thanks to social giant Klout, Badgeville gamification customers can now associate a numeric score with social interactions.

Bottom line: companies will find it a whole lot easier to influence the behaviors of their customers.

Badgeville will leverage Klout’s influence-ranking technology to help enterprise leaders increase online engagement. The partnership will allow businesses to pinpoint which customer/employee carries the most influence and provide key analytics to score social influence.

I’d be more than happy to put you in touch with Badgeville and/or Klout to discuss what this means for social business. Please let me know if you are interested.

Thanks and Happy Friday!

Like I said, the pitch is friendly enough and offers a quick, punchy overview of why I might be interested, which is always a bonus. It sure as hell beats some of the pitches I receive!

But, as I also said, there’s one glaring error – the sender of the email clearly isn’t aware that there’s no chance in hell I’ll write about Klout in any way that promotes them.

As I’ve mentioned a few times, my opinion of Klout is that they’re unethical, they ignore user concerns, and issue pat responses to criticism. Simply put, I think Klout is a joke.

Unfortunately, the fact I was sent the pitch demonstrates another example of how pitching needs to adapt, and PR agencies would do well to have either a blogger or someone that truly understands blogger outreach as a core promotional outlet versus just another medium.

Bloggers Aren’t Special, Just Different

It used to be really easy to promote a client’s story. Grab some quotes, some images, meld into a news release, and send out to the wires. Newspapers and trade publications would run features, and clients would be happy with the exposure.

NB: For my friend Gini, I know there’s a lot more to PR than news releases and publicity – I’m just using as an example here.

Then along came bloggers, and their taking over of the media as the perfect news channel. Since they weren’t (usually) limited by editorial, nor were they necessarily baised to brands or products, they offered a great alternative to traditional print media.

They also offered excellent SEO juice, as well as a captive and trusting audience in the blogger’s community of readers and subscribers. The problem was, the strengths and attraction of a blog were also its sore points, at least as far as PR agencies were concerned.

Because of the trust and non-bias bloggers could offer, they had to be approached differently.

Instead of blind pitching to a publication, where there were scores of journalists a pitch could be dispersed to, blogs are very often solo-driven. Sure, you have your Techcrunch’s and your Mashable’s but more often than not it’s individual bloggers with engaged communities that are approached.

And they need to be approached very differently.

Blogger Outreach – It’s Not That Hard, People

The difference in approach is exactly why you’ll hear good PR agencies (and marketers, and strategic advisors) talk about blogger outreach programs, and how they tailor their approaches and make sure the blogger is a fit for the client.

The reason for this is simple: a blogger’s key currency is their audience, and there’s no way a good blogger will ever risk that for a story that doesn’t fit and is clearly promotional.

If I suddenly started writing great things about Klout based on the pitch I received, my readers would call me out for double-standards, and rightly so. The same goes for any blogger, and emphasizes the point about the outreach hitting the right targets, which this one missed.

The thing is, blogger outreach is actually pretty easy – if you let it be:

Take the time to research the blogger.

Seriously. That’s all it takes. (Okay, it takes a wee bit more to build a great blogger program, and these six blogger outreach pointers from Monica O’Brien are great guidelines to help you with this.)

But as an example of knowing your target, all it would have taken was for the PR person that emailed me to use the search box in my sidebar, and type in Klout.

That would have shown my opinion of Klout and that I wouldn’t be interested, which would save the agency time and negate the need to tell the client why they didn’t get editorial placement on certain blogs.

Because, ironically enough, bloggers (mostly) do want to help PR agencies share their clients – especially if it helps benefit their community and let the blogger share early news about an awesome and relevant product or service in their niche.

So, PR folks. It’s simple. If you don’t have a blogger outreach specialist as part of your make-up, it’s becoming increasingly important that you do.

Blogs aren’t going away any time fast – but your clients might if the coverage isn’t there because your outreach wasn’t researched…

image: bamalibrarylady

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