It all started with this: Gina Trapani of Lifehacker , apparently tired of getting news releases sent to her personal email address, created a wiki page that allows bloggers to automatically filter any domain listed on the wiki page as spam in Gmail (if you look at the bottom of the page, she explains in detail why she created the list). Matt Haughey explains his and Gina’s feelings about “PR Spam” in his personal blog, saying that he rarely receives anything useful from public relations practitioners in his inbox.
The public relations community, especially those that are passionate about using social media as a part of public relations, was quick to respond. In response to a post by Kelli Matthews on PR Open Mic, Robert French argues that while “blast emailing” news releases worked a long time ago, it is both unprofessional and doesn’t have the same effect as it did back in the day. Rick at Blog World believes that part of being a blogger is press releases sent to blogger’s inboxes and responding accordingly. Brian Solis at PR 2.0 emphasizes that practitioners cannot cut corners when it comes to pitching by mass emailing and offers some insight on how we should look at pitching to bloggers:
The honest answer is that if you’re looking at the process of shifting from automated outreach to one-on-one pitching, then the road from here to there may seem endless and improbable. If you start on the path and decide that 1/2 way is sufficient, then you may want to glance ahead and realize that the right way to do things is just ahead of you. That’s where you need to be.
Long story short: Blogger relations is still a relatively new and evolving area in public relations. And while firms such as SHIFT Communications have made leaps in bounds in the area of blogger relations, I think there is still plenty of room for progress to be made.
This is what I think needs to change in order to successfully build relationships with bloggers:
- Stop sending out traditional press releases: Traditional press releases are boring. I know this is a cliché in the PR sphere, but this should be a no-brainer when talking to bloggers. A lot of the complaints made by Gina and Matt are that their personal inboxes are being spammed by practitioners, and I can only assume through what they’ve written that they’ve been receiving nothing but traditional press releases. Try this: Small, 200 word emails with a link to a website that hosts a social media release.
- Don’t rely on email to pitch: …at least to an extent. Again, small pitches containing a link with more information is going to be more helpful to bloggers. One of the ideas behind Web 2.0 is that consumers choose what sort of media they want to see (pull media) instead of media being pushed on consumers(push media). Mass emailing using services such as Bacon and Cision go against the the push media mantra by forcing bloggers to either read the email or delete it.
- Establish a strong web presence: If you want to coerce bloggers to write about what you’re pitching and are looking to rely less and less on email, a well established blog or website is essential. I personally think that both a blog and a website are necessary. Blogs are excellent for generating rapport and websites can host a social media releases. In addition, you can use the blog to point to your social media release.
- Read and comment: Relationships are built through authentic conversation; reading and responding to blogs will help you achieve both. Follow the blogs that you are looking to generate coverage from. Comment on anything you find interesting.
- Follow up on pitches: The bloggers who are complaining about press release spam feel as if the practitioners they are dealing with are making no attempt to establish a relationship with them. Matt Haughey wrote in a later post that he would appreciate a follow up email or phone call asking if the press release was relevant or not.
- Go with what works and trash what doesn’t: Because blogger relations is still evolving, there is much room for experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to discard any methods that don’t work, even if they fall under the umbrella of traditional media relations.
Any other thoughts on what works and what doesn’t work?