It’s not exactly a new topic (see similar suggestions from Ryan Block, Lee Odden, Guy Kawasaki, Mike Arrington, Brian Solis, Tom Foremski, or Ken Yarmosh), but it’s one that I seem to get asked about a lot, so I figured I’d do my own
diggbaiting Top Ten List on the topic.
Also, this is one of two articles on the topic, the other is for the bloggers: 10 Thoughts on Working With PR Firms.
- Read the blog. You don’t have to subscribe and read all the time, but take 2 minutes to scan even the last week’s worth of posts before approaching a blogger. Whether we admit it or not,
mostsome amount of blogging is ego-driven, so showing us that you read the content we write can make a huge difference in the response you’ll get.
- Have a goal. Not every blogger is the same in the content they’ll write. For example, I enjoy hands-on work with products but rarely just cover a product announcement, whereas other blogs prefer the opposite. So if you want a review, make sure the blogger you are approaching actually writes reviews!
- Approach bloggers by name. I rarely, if ever, respond to “Dear Editor” or unaddressed emails. “Dear Jeremy” tends to get my attention over 90% of the time. If you have the time to add me to your mailing list, you should have the time to add my name to it.
- Augment the press release. The PR people who get my attention are the ones who add a few sentences or a paragraph to the body of the email in advance of the copy-and-pasted PR text. The best ones take the time to tell me why they are sending me the release, especially if it’s in context to something I’ve covered before. Many bloggers don’t like the conventional press release, so if you want to target them, you need to stay conscientious of this.
- Be ready for follow-up. You have to be ready for us to respond to you and ask questions. More importantly, you must have review units ready for bloggers. I can’t stress this one enough – if you send me a release about a new product and don’t respond to my email asking for a review unit, I never cover it. Even worse is when a firm sends me a product announcement, I respond with interest, and the rep asks me to tell them more about my blog! My recommendation here is if you aren’t going to let bloggers have review units/samples/freebies, then you probably shouldn’t bother them with your announcement. Insert your own “cake and eat it too” metaphor.
- Categorize the blog. Not all tech bloggers are the same. Got a cool new digital camera? You probably should approach Thomas Hawk before Dave Zatz or Mike Arrington. Got a new Web service? Hit up Mike, not the others. New DVR or other home convergence device? Dave is your guy. Sure there are a lot of “tech generalists” out there too, but even they have their home turfs. I, for example, do cover some Web services, but tend to focus more on consumer electronics and gadgetry.
- Build relationships. PR firms tend to emphasize their strong relationships with key journalists such as Gary Krakow, David Pogue, Ed Baig, etc. These are relationships built over time and are key to the longevity of the firms and the individuals working there. You should put the same energy into your blogger relationships, or else not bother at all. Another important point here – if you’ve established an embargo on a topic, and you lift it early, it’s your responsibility to notify the bloggers too!
- Do your homework. Most blogs have an ‘about’ page, in which you’ll discover the blogger’s full-time job (assuming it isn’t blogging), region of the country/world where they live, topics they prefer to cover, how they’d like to be contacted (bonus tip: IM or email is almost always the answer, not the phone), etc. Read this and understand it. Furthermore, doing a little background research will quickly tell you whether or not the blogger is good at keeping secrets/embargos (some do, some don’t – learn the difference).
- Understand their influence and influencers. Something I tell all of my clients is to get to know the domino effects of bloggers and their circles. I’ll use my blog as an example again: on a relative scale my readership is low in quantity, but extremely high in qualiy. Nothing in PR is guaranteed, but it’s probably a lot cheaper, faster, and easier to get me to read something than the “top” bloggers out there (regardless of whether or not there is an A-list), and it’ll probably catch their attention faster to see me write about it than for you to inundate them with story requests. The really good news is there’s lots of other influential, mid-tier bloggers like me out there to approach!
- Manage your stories. If you want to send me something, great, but let me know in advance what your expectations are. Do you want the unit back? If so, when? Also, am I going to need anything to get the product working? If so, what, and did you send me that too? When I was at Sling Media, we made sure that we know about someone’s home network and TV setup before we sent them a unit! For example, anyone who follows my blog knows I do not personally own an iPod, and probably should ask me how I’ll review an iPod accessory before they send me one! Furthermore, stay in touch with us after you’ve sent something – is it working for us? Do we like it? Also, as Ben from EngadgetHD reminds me, it’s fairly likely we aren’t working on “some” deadline, bloggers are typically in “I need this now” mode, so keep that in the back of your head!
If you’ve managed to read all the way through here, you’ve probably noticed a recurring theme around being involved with the blogger you are targetting. We don’t have news bureaus scanning the wire. We (typically) don’t have assistants to help us manage our time. We probably have other jobs that are time-consuming. More than anything else, my central theme is this: if you want to target a blogger, you must treat them with respect. I’m not talking about butt-kissing here, I’m talking simple respect.