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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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83 Comments on "The Clear and Continuing Need for Blogger Outreach Specialists at PR Agencies"


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theseasidebaker
2 years 22 days ago

Whitney_Bond DannyBrown what a great read!

JayB2B
3 years 1 month ago

Great article Danny. As someone who lives and breathes Blogger Outreach, I’m consistently alarmed at how little attention some companies give towards this process. I’m in talks right now with a large, well funded startup whose entire sales model will be built on top of their Blogger network, and it’s truly alarming to see the lack of knowledge by the “execs” they have brought in to design it.

Danny Brown
3 years 1 month ago

Maybe Klout put the agency up to it for shits and giggles… 😉

Sean McGinnis
3 years 1 month ago

Hahaha. That’s just awesome. I remember a conversation with the amazing Tom Martin where we concluded there’s a shit ton of money to be made by the person or people that finally solves this problem. Lots of ways to tackle it and yet nobody seems to be able to move the needle.

SLoahSiegel
3 years 1 month ago

Danny,
I am a junior college student who has just started following blogs this semester as part of a social media class and I have found the topic of Klout and this post interesting and informative. I know that before making any request or interviewing for a position, research is the best way to prepare and will lead to the greatest success.  Understanding your audience is key and research achieves this understanding.  Because it is so simple to find your opinions on Klout, the situation is quite ironic and humorous, but people make mistakes. I’ve enjoyed your blog, thanks. – Noah

SLoahSiegel
3 years 1 month ago

Danny,
I am a junior college student who has just started following blogs this semester as part of a social media class and I have found the topic of Klout and this post interesting and informative. I know that before making any request or interviewing for a position, research is the best way to prepare and will lead to the greatest success.  Understanding your audience is key and research achieves this understanding.  Because you’re opinion on Klout is so far from the request, the situation is pretty ironic and humorous, but people make mistakes. I’ve enjoyed your blog, thanks.

DannyBrown
3 years 2 months ago

@SnglPrntRetreat Cheers Jacqui, glad you enjoyed :)

Claire Dunford
3 years 2 months ago

It frustrates me no end when people struggle with blogger outreach. As you say it’s not rocket science, it’s common sense: put yourself in the recipient’s shoes.

How often does some junk mail land on your door mat for you to crumple it up and toss it in the bin without a second glance? A targeted piece of mail is more likely to get a relevant response – and bloggers often provide you with a window into their lives, with a depth of information for you to explore, readily accessible on the internet. Use it.

DannyBrown
3 years 2 months ago

I once read an article (can’t recall where, unfortunately) where an ad company researched a section of a town based on demographics from the previous census. Based on that information, they sent out specially-tailored flyers to 300 homes, each flyer targeting the age and sex of that household.

The result? 92% success rate. Yes, it cost more than a standard flyer campaign – but it just goes to show that, with the right research and mindset, the return can be enormous.

Cheers, Claire!

rainbowclaire
3 years 2 months ago

@DannyBrown Shame you can’t remember where you read that stat Danny – sounds like a really useful one!

rainbowclaire
3 years 2 months ago

@DannyBrown Cheers Danny. Much appreciated.

DannyBrown
3 years 2 months ago

@rainbowclaire If I recall, I’ll ping the link your way. :)

Adam
3 years 2 months ago

Danny,

It’s hard to argue with “you should know who you are pitching to,” and there were a lot of great comments supporting it, so I guess I will play Devil’s Advocate and ask this: how much research is reasonable before pitching?

I can see someone quickly googling you and not finding out your opinions on Klout. Of course, we all know them and despite them, have still learned a lot about sheep from your expertise :), but seriously, is there a balance at all between quantity and quality in this process? What level of due diligence does a pitch require?

Perhaps it depends on the goals of the pitch and whether the PR is trying to establish a relationship with a blogger. But I always think about how a rule applies to small businesses, where is the balance for a two person agency who can’t afford a blogger outreach specialist?

DannyBrown
3 years 2 months ago

Hi there mate,

I guess it depends on the agency and client requirements. Whenever I do blogger outreach, for example, I never use a list of more than 100 bloggers (often less, so it can be more targeted and researched).

From that list I’ll drill down based on interaction with readers; presence and use of other networks; potential conflict of interest due to competitor ads; authority of subject, etc., and then approach the bloggers that are left after these filters.

Yes, it’s a lot more work, but trust me – they know I’ve done my homework when I do reach out. And they’re a lot more receptive to help me with my needs then. :)

As for the small business, think of the time spent researching things that would benefit your business. Do you to to trade shows; do you spend ads in the local press; do you try get news articles about you; do you spend time researching new products to sell in your store, etc?

Now, switch that around – how much research, “ad space”, trade shows your blogger could report from on your behalf, etc, could you afford in place of the physical cost?

It might surprise you how much more effective a blogger or two can be as part of your armoury, regardless of business size.

Cheers, mate!

Nikki Little
3 years 2 months ago

Even though it’s oftentimes warranted, I appreciate that you take the diplomatic and educational route to remind PR pros (I cringe every time someone in my industry still needs reminding) that doing the proper research before contacting any blogger or reporter is so, so, so important.

Yes, some are totally rude and lazy and deserve to be publicly outed. However, I hope your and other bloggers’ educational approach gets through to those “doing it wrong” just the same.

3 years 2 months ago

Hi there Nikki,

Thanks, miss. I admit, it’s very tempting to “out” bad pitches – and I have in the past, I’ll admit. But like you say, often it’s more effective to hopefully help improve the next one. Hopefully… 😉

Cheers!

Nikki Little
3 years 2 months ago

I don’t hold it against you for calling people/companies out by name because you’re also making an effort to educate them. I have a problem with the ones who rant and complain, yet make zero effort to explain how to do outreach the right way. Sure, anyone can do a quick Google search and find plenty of content on the topic, but I’m of the belief that you shouldn’t throw a fit if you’re doing nothing to help make it right.

Howie the InterGalactic Traveler
3 years 2 months ago

Sigh

I would say some blanket statement here but it would piss off many of my PR friends that are really smart.

When I interviewed 6 PR people to help my Ice Cream Sandwich client only 1 Googled my client to see what PR/Publicity we had achieved so far. Ahem…what I achieved! Then 2 of the pitches were so far from what my client was about I felt they used a form pitch.

The question is who is teaching these people Danny?

3 years 2 months ago

As I mentioned to Gini in my response to her, mate, perahps the PRSA should put less emphasis on crowdsourcing how PR should be defined, and more on actually training their members better…

Ryan Hanley
3 years 2 months ago

Danny,

This really comes down to the understanding that bloggers are still people. Yes, many bloggers especially bloggers of your ilk have built very nice businesses for themselves with their blog in addition to the others thing that they do… But still people.

Still a person with a reputation not a Corporate Board trying to leverage an asset (audience) for more black numbers…

Plus if you had written about Klout would your Audience necessarily be the right audience for that Article?

Probably not… Most of your readers probably feel the same way you do.

Thanks for bringing up a great topic.

Ryan H.

3 years 2 months ago

Hi mate,

The one thing I always used to drill into clients was that every blogger was as important as the other. Sure, there may be the difference in subscribers or visits, but at the end of the day, a “small” blogger with a truly engaged readership is far more preferable than an “influencer” with a small interaction ration.

Always make sure you get the balance right, because you never know when the new blogger will become the established one.

Cheers, mate!

Keith Davis
3 years 2 months ago

Hi Danny
“Badgeville will leverage Klout’s influence-ranking technology to help enterprise leaders increase online engagement.”

Ooops!

You couldn’t make it up.
You didn’t make it up… did you?

3 years 2 months ago

I reread the email four times, mate, and I still don’t know what the actual gist of it is… 😉

Jeff Esposito
3 years 2 months ago

I got the same pitch… guess I am not special…

3 years 2 months ago

I recommended you…

Jeff Esposito
3 years 2 months ago

I knew it

Rachel Kay
3 years 2 months ago

Danny – This is a great post and I agree wholeheartedly with all the suggestions you’ve made, particularly about researching the blogger (or journalist) you are pitching first. One thing I’d like to push back on however is the inference that PR used to be as easy as sending out a press release and watching newspapers pick it up. I know you alluded to Gini’s perspective and acknowledged that maybe that wasn’t completely true, but I can assure you that newspaper journalists are not biased towards products and don’t just repurpose news releases – they have some pretty serious rules against that activity. The most intricate and developed stories I’ve assisted on included broadcast and print, and I encourage anyone who thinks it’s easy to try to get a feature story in the New York Times and let me know how it goes. I don’t think agencies need a special group to tackle the specific nuances of bloggers as all pitching results in far greater coverage when your tips apply across any medium. Every outlet, every blogger and every story type has different needs and expectations and all practitioners need to be strategic in order to meet those needs.

3 years 2 months ago

Hi Rach,

Great points all round (no surprise there, miss!), and completely agree – I was just being flippant a little too much, I guess, or maybe the mere mention of Klout raised my sarcasm levels. 😉

Having said that, I’ve seen a lot of publications (local ones more than national, agreed) that often throw ethics to the wind just to grab a story. And I’ve seen PR agencies happy to provide that.

I guess there will always be examples like that, as much as we don’t want them to exist (morally or legally), and thankfully there ill always be folks like you to counter.

Cheers, miss!

Lisa Gerber
3 years 2 months ago

Clay beat me to it, so I echo his point exactly.

Blogging is a medium and therefore blogger relations is no different than media relations. PR needs to understand the target, their audience and their needs which will determine how they are pitched.
It’s not complicated, but it does take a lot of time and effort.

3 years 2 months ago

Speaking as someone who’s seeing how Arment Dietrich approach blogger outreach, Lisa, I wish more people would learn from folks like you. Make everyone’s job a helluva lot easier.

Andrea Hypno
3 years 2 months ago

Klout, well, will probably disappear soon as it’s not such an important thing. Every year something disappears from the net because it’s either useless or unreliable, sometimes both.

For the rest you’re surely right, readers are the currency of bloggers and blogs are becoming every day more important to hear an unbiased point of view, beside those blogs promoting only affiliate products I mean. So blogging is going to stay as it’s easier to find reliable information or news on a blog than somwhere else. A blogger usually has to answer only to himelf and not to whom pays his salary.

Very interesting article Danny, even if I wonder what your Klout score is. 😀

3 years 2 months ago

Hi Andrea,

It’s funny. Every year I read so many “Blogging is dead” articles, and every year blogs continue to thrive. Maybe it’s time for these folks to change the record…

Oh, and my Klout score is now officially a dog. :)

http://klout.com/dannybrown

Lindsay Bell
3 years 2 months ago

Research. Research. Research. And then, god dammit, research some more!! That really is Journalism/PR/Marketing/Communications/Producing 101. Doesn’t matter who or what you are pitching. It pains me how it seems to have become ‘the lost art’. Fab post Danny, cheers. Lindsay

Howie the InterGalactic Traveler
3 years 2 months ago

research adds costs and overhead. So your idea is denied. 8)

Lindsay Bell
3 years 2 months ago

HA! So true, and so sad. p.s. See the above. :)

3 years 2 months ago

The sad thing is, Lindsay, that little bit of extra research can lead to so much more gain in the long term.

Hey ho.

Lindsay Bell
3 years 2 months ago

Exactly. I mean, you can research, and still make an error – we’re all human (except for Howie) – but sheesh, at least make the effort! 😉

Marshall Davis
3 years 2 months ago

Goog points, Lindsay. Just goes to show that people are really lazy, especially when the Internet makes the whole research part a whole heck of a lot easier than it once was.

Like Danny said, all the PR hack had to do was do a quick site search. I guess that extra 30 seconds is something they just didn’t want to wast…

Lindsay Bell
3 years 2 months ago

Reminds of the classic “Let me Google that for you” response – Google ‘Danny Brown’ and ‘Klout’ and surely you would find that he’s not your man. Just amazes me that people can’t even take that step. Ugh. (Now I sound like a 90 year old grandma!! haha)

Trace Cohen
3 years 2 months ago

To me a “journalist” and a “blogger” are one in the same. They have a piece of online real estate that I want occupied by my client. It seems you have a clear distinction in your mind, would you mind elaborating on what that is?

Regardless of the definition, I almost always make them aware of myself by commenting on their blog, RT etc, so that when I do email them my name will stand out. It is definitely time consuming to research each and every writer (because there are so many now!), so I am definitely guilty of sending out mass “customized” emails because it’s more efficient and what the client expects. While it logically makes sense that a personalized email works better, it’s hard to prove but I still agree with your main point.

3 years 2 months ago

Hi Trace,

The main difference for me is editorial and research. Journalists have editors to approve their stuff; bloggers don’t always have that luxury.

That can mean the difference between a lazy post and a factual expose – big difference. :)

Trace Cohen
3 years 2 months ago

So does that mean you don’t research your articles or read it over before posting? And does being a Journalist mean you formally studied writing in school or that you write for a major publication and by default you are a journalist?

I must wholeheartedly disagree regardless. Maybe in the past but I think you are giving way to much credit to some of these “publications” that they have enough lead time to write well researched stories that their “editors” will thoroughly look through. I have worked with to many writers/journalists/columnists to know that they are rushed and don’t have any luxuries.

Just like some PR professionals don’t do enough research or write personalized emails, the same can be said for many writers these days who have to post 3-5 articles a day. And it’s not their fault, it’s their companies fault with their broken business models that have created this situation. I know bloggers who can write better than a lot of Journalists – you for example.

3 years 2 months ago

The key phrasing was “bloggers don’t always have that luxury”, Trace.

As I mentioned, journalists have editors. If facts aren’t checked and the journalists has an editor, that fault lies with them, not the writer.

It’s true, sadly, that many don’t have that luxury. However, can that time be found by demoting something else to less of your constraints?

I know it’s not an easy answer; I just feel/believe that the effort needed to do this is worth putting off the potential for legal action down the line.

Cheers for the thoughtful comment, sir.

Mark Longbottom
3 years 2 months ago

Reminds me of being approached by professional beggers or chuggers [charity people who sign you up on the streets]. They don’t understsnd why I am running away from them – quickly.

Business people not just PR people really need to get their head around talking to people. Just because their mouth opens doesn’t imediately make my response positive.

As you say research helps and therefore thinking too. Business people are not all like this but too many spoil the show. They really do need to work on how to communicate and talk, rather be so inept and then not understand the sound of someone running away from them.

3 years 2 months ago

Hi mate,

Funny you mention the chuggers. I saw one in Toronto a few weeks ago, doing the rounds, and then just last week I saw them driving a 2010 top of the line Lincoln SUV. Go figure…

Mark Longbottom
3 years 2 months ago

If there was only one in each UK town, there are multiples of them on every town/city centre street.

Enough of that, another fantastic post and responses to show the wealth of the discussion.

Sue Grimm
3 years 2 months ago

New here and a little bit late. This is classic. So close but yet so far. Even I know about your position on Klout and I’ve never commented here. By close I mean he used your name. I’m only new to blogging, but not PR, and I am very concerned about the issue of pitches. Today, press releases are used for SEO and it’s great that you can deliver your own news. I can see that. But I often wonder how many people realize the importance of the personal pitch to get others to pay attention and if they understand a press release is not a pitch these days. Thanks for sharing this. I love when I see Danny Brown and Klout together! Made my day. Sue

3 years 2 months ago

It does seem that a lot less thought goes into pitches today, Sue – or maybe we’re just signed up on the bad lists… 😉

But yeah, come on – Klout, of all companies? Come on!!

Owais@work from home
3 years 2 months ago

You are right Bro. I agree with you.But Didn’t you feel that picking up something right takes so much time that you will have to end it.Being a blogger and social media entrepreneur i still feel a lot of problems sometimes.Focus and determination is the secret to success .But most of us didn’t realize the importance of these two words unconsciously .

3 years 2 months ago

The way I always look at iy is you’ll have all the time you need if you keep making mistakes, and your company goes bust… 😉

Vicki Day
3 years 2 months ago

I agree 100% – this is so spot today on especially as my first email today was “Dear Older Woman Blogger” – just because my blog is aimed at the 40+ woman market I don’t need the new title.

Someday’s I feel like a unicorn because people just don’t understand the power of blogging or why people write and read blogs ….

3 years 2 months ago

Oh wow, what a great way to introduce themselves to you – hopefully you replied with “Dear clueless idiot”…

Gini Dietrich
3 years 2 months ago

Isn’t it sad that we did an entire presentation around this last year and it STILL isn’t sinking in?

While I’ve never done much in the media relations department, throughout my career, I remember very vividly staying up all night to send Ocean Spray juice to 200 reporters. We painstakingly went through the list to prioritize who got the juice. We were extremely careful about the media kit that accompanied it. Not one single story was written about it. You know why? No one told their 25 year old team they should actually call the reporters FIRST. Had we done that, we would have saved a ton of money and time.

I relate that story because the big firms aren’t doing the proper training. They’re looking at things as they’ve always been done. To Lu’s point, they’re sending 200 bottles of juice to say they did it…not for the results.

It makes me nuts.

P.S. Thanks for the caveat in the blog post. :)

Howie the InterGalactic Traveler
3 years 2 months ago

This is upper management’s fault. When my sister worked for NY Family Planning Associates she ran the email program. She had horrible open rates. So she just gave her boss total emails sent. I don’t blame her. She hated having this role. And guess what? The boss didn’t question and ask open rates!

This is an upper management issue big time!

3 years 2 months ago

It’s crazy, isn’t it? Here’s the PRSA trying to define what the industry is all about and coming up with more confusing definitions than before.

How about taking the energy spent on that exercise and teach members how to actually do their jobs..?

Jeff Esposito
3 years 2 months ago

@Gini the problem is that everyone is looking for the volume and thud sound from clip books. It is spray and pray as opposed to relationship building. I have done both in my career and after realizing that building the relationship yielded more results for less work, well lets say I switched. In terms of blogger outreach it was key to build the relationships and always filled out a contact form saying hey here is what I have in mind, would you be interested in talking more? Because spam is spam.

ginidietrich
3 years 2 months ago

@gini I can’t believe that’s still the case. Clip books, in my experience, went out of style in 2000. Why is it so hard to build relationships? It’s 100% effective!

Bob Reed
3 years 2 months ago

Relevant targeting is another part of the puzzle. We represent a global contract research organization, with many, many moving parts and vertical interest groups. We successfully built traffic and increased revenue for a very small, but trending product offering by researching those professionals who would interested in it. What worked was us asking the right questions and collaborating with the client to understand what would and wouldn’t work to reach that audience.

To Gini’s point, every client situation is different, and off-the-shelf solutions don’t work.

Shelley Pringle
3 years 2 months ago

Hi Jeff, I couldn’t agree more. But it’s not only agencies who want a big ‘thud’ from a large clipping book. I’m trying very hard in my practice to get my clients to work with me to develop more effective more metrics. But the entire effort is moving ahead very, very slowly.

ClayMorgan
3 years 2 months ago

 @ginidietrich As someone who was recently operating  a small PR consultancy, I understand the desire for the “big thud”. I also understand first-hand the difficulty of obtaining and keeping clients in today’s tough economic climate and therefore it may be difficult to “fire” clients these days. I salute you Gini for trying to have only clients that recognize the “better” way.

ginidietrich
3 years 2 months ago

I agree, Shelley. We finally had to stop working with clients who measured results that way. We slowly “fired” them during three years.

Lucretia Pruitt
3 years 2 months ago

Ooooh! Can I write a follow up piece on what a blogger outreach person actually does and doesn’t do, why they ‘cost so much for what can’t be more than a couple of emails or phone calls’, how they aren’t going to simply hand over a list of name, blog, contact information, and any other thing you think will make it so that you think you can stick this step next time.
I promise to include the bit about real relationships not being acquired via a couple of emails and a post. I promise to include the part where your client is your client and not mine, my clients are the ones you are reaching out to. When we hammer out points? I’m *supposed* to be arguing on their side, not yours – even though you’ll be the one to pay me. Because arguing on their behalf gets the specs and scope and process agreed to in a mutually beneficial manner – which means they might work with your PR agency again…

I could go on – should I? Nah. No one wants to believe it’s hard work to do right.

3 years 2 months ago

Haha, I hear you, miss. It’s the reason I linked to Monica’s piece, which gives a solid overview of what really goes into a blogger outreach when done properly.

Cheers!