B2b marketers and PR pros know that getting coverage in an industry-specific blog is highly beneficial. Blog links are valuable for SEO. Relevant blogs can drive targeted direct traffic from the blogger’s social media sphere of influence. And coverage from independent bloggers enhances a company’s reputation and credibility.
Numerous bloggers have written about how to pitch blogs, such as B.L. Ochman, Christina Kerley, Cece Salomon-Lee and Laura Moncur. Such posts often take the form of “do’s” and “don’ts” for successful blogger outreach. Best practice recommendations generally say that you should:
- • Personalize pitches with the blogger’s name, blog title, and some indication that you’ve read the blog;
- • Explain why your topic is important to the blog’s readers;
- • Keep pitches short and compelling;
- • Include links to related media (video, photos, screen shots);
- • Offer an interview with a company executive;
- • Explain how you’ll promote the blogger’s coverage, if you get it; and
- • Follow up after 3-4 days if you haven’t heard back.
These posts also frequently include guidance on practices to avoid when pitching bloggers. For example, don’t:
- • Send out an impersonal mass mailing;
- • Send only a press release, or a release with just a brief introductory note, and expect coverage;
- • Take a “shotgun” approach, sending irrelevant announcements to a large number of bloggers; and don’t
- • Ever, ever, EVER include a press release as an attachment (many bloggers will automatically delete unsolicited messages containing attachments).
All of this advice is as relevant today as it was two years ago. The problem is that it’s no longer enough.
As more PR firms have discovered the value of getting coverage in blogs for their clients, the practice of blogger outreach has spread exponentially and the volume of pitches has exploded. Based on anecdotal evidence and personal experience, as little as two years ago the “hit rate” for blog pitches was fairly respectable, at least among B-list and C-list bloggers, because these writers received few pitches and many were flattered by the attention suddenly being paid to them by PR firms. But in 2009, the volume of pitches began to rise dramatically. Today, it’s not unusual for a C-list blogger to receive several pitches per week, and B-list bloggers to get 10 or more per day. I can only speculate on how many pitches an A-list blogger like Chris Brogan, Brian Solis or Erick Schonfeld must receive.
The vast majority of bloggers write part-time, and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to even respond to each pitch, much less write about each. Consequently, as the volume of outreach has risen, the hit rate has declined. What to do about this if you’re in PR, or a client seeking coverage in industry blogs?
First, recognize that the advice given above is focused on “cold” outreach, that is, where you or your client has had no previous contact with the blogger. The first step in increasing effectiveness is to shift to “warm” outreach, where you establish a relationship prior to pitching. This requires more time and effort, but can pay off in more coverage.
Follow your targeted bloggers on Twitter. Retweet some of their posts. Provide relevant and helpful comments on some of their blog posts. Help them promote their content through Twitter and other social media tools. Join the same LinkedIn groups they belong to. This will get their attention and establish a social, online relationship with them. Once you’ve done this, a well-crafted pitch, following the rules laid out above, will have a greater chance of cutting through the inbox clutter.
The most effective means to coverage, however, is to offer a guest post. Even TechCrunch accepts guest posts, though that isn’t the place to start. Begin by approaching C-list bloggers, the easiest place to get coverage. Provide true thought-leadership content (not thinly-disguised marketing collateral) that establishes your expertise in your industry. Use your presence on these blogs to build credibility with B-list bloggers, then move to the A-list.
Guest posts turn the idea of blog pitching on its head. Instead of asking a blogger to take time out of their busy schedule to write about your company, product or service, you’re offering to save them time by providing valuable, relevant content for the blog that he or she doesn’t have to write. It’s a win-win-win; you get your name and link on blogs, readers get a helpful and interesting post, and the blog authors get useful content plus a day off.
As the social media landscape continues to evolve, interactive PR practices must evolve along with it. Smart PR firms, and their clients, will focus less on “cold” pitches and more on establishing relationships and creating thoughtful content.