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Why PR Still Doesn’t Get Bloggers

Riddle me this: It’s been at least four years since blogging burst into the mainstream to become a new and viable way to generate and consume content. Many of the world’s most popular online destinations are blogs.

So why is it that some PR firms still have no clue how to approach bloggers? I have noticed a strange inability to recognize that bloggers have particular interests, different approaches and particular styles – just like traditional media.

Here’s a classic example of how not to approach a blogger – an e-mail I received from someone who works for a large PR firm.

Hi there –

Please see below for the release from XXX announcing the newest addition to their XXX family of products, the XXX. The XXX is one of the thinnest and lightest ultraportable laptops available; it is ideal for the on-the-go entrepreneurs who are looking for durability, security and functionality in a package that will turn heads. The XXX is available today on XXX.ca, starting at $449.

If have any questions about this, or any product in XXX’s line-up, or you would like to speak with someone about this release, please let us know.

Thank you.

First mistake: A lack of personalization. How difficult could it be to write “Hi, Mark”.

Second mistake: I don’t write about laptops so sending me a press release about a new one suggests you haven’t done your homework.

Third mistake: Even if I did write about laptops, what’s the angle other than this particular model is new? Why would I be interested in learning more?

As they say in baseball, three strikes and you’re out.

What puzzles me is many PR firms have “rap sheets” about reporters – their likes, dislikes, when they like to be contacted, how they like to be contacted, etc. Why wouldn’t they do the same for bloggers? Are bloggers still not seen as equivalent to reporters so not worthy of the same love and attention?

Let’s be clear, there are many PR firms that are excellent at bloggers relations. But when you have a major PR firm sending press releases to bloggers that are unpersonalized press release, there’s something not quite right.

The reality is as traditional newsrooms shrink, there will be fewer reports. As a result, bloggers will become more important. Now is the time to start implementing best practices for blogger relations as opposed to dropping the proverbial ball.

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  • http://www.mommygaga.com Deanna U

    Here’s my favorite:

    Dear Blogger…

    Really, so you basically copied and pasted the same crap you sent to 1,000 other bloggers and took no time to even figure out my name (which, btw is all over my blog)? Talk about grounds for immediate refusal.

    Also, sending a pitch about Viagra sales in the UK is not really relevant to a mom blogger in the US… true story

    – Deanna/Mommygaga.com

  • http://www.robertlendvai.com Robert Lendvai

    Hi there – (sorry, meant to type Hi Mark).

    MIght it have something to do with the traditional outreach model employed by larger PR agencies? Pitching reporters and bloggers is generally punted to the most junior person on the account. Sadly, common sense isn’t in the curriculum at PR school so the concept of actually using a reporter or bloggers name in a email pitch or spending five minutes to review previous post escapes them.

  • http://erinbury.com Erin Bury

    Hey Mark,

    Good points on all three strikes.

    The first thing that turns me off a pitch is any sort of non-personalized greeting. If you’re sending these e-mails out one by one, which you should be since they’re personalized, there’s no reason you can’t add my name.

    In my case I don’t really have a particular area of focus on my blog, so I can forgive someone sending through random pitches. But I always pay more attention to pitches that have personalization beyond just the name. Edelman did a great job with this lately – they sent me a pitch about Mint.com’s Canadian launch, citing the fact that I recently mentioned Aaron Patzer is my favourite entrepreneur.

    Not only was I blown away by their research, I was so excited to get the chance to interview him – they were right on the money. Hopefully more people take cues from them!

    Cheers,
    Erin

  • http://www.ketchum.com Geoff Rowan

    Hi Mark,
    The frustration on seeing this post is that what you say about approaching bloggers was/is equally true about approaching any journalist, or really any person for any reason (unless maybe you’re offering a free ice cream cone.) Human communication needs to be personal and relevant to the receiver, and as an industry we in PR need to do a better job of ingraining that into our culture. As annoying as the pointless pitches must be, thanks for taking a moment to share helpful feedback.
    Geoff

  • http://fusecommunications.ca Annie Boucher

    This is a direct result of the big firms trying to cut corners and make more profits.

    They’ll promise their client “blogger relations” but all this means is that a blanket email is sent out to everyone and that research is limited to finding the blogger’s email address. Clients need to ask their firms exactly what approach they will be taking and ensure that their news is pitched appropriately. It’s not enough to say the pitch was sent to 50 bloggers – the question should be to which bloggers and why. How anyone could have thought you were an influential laptop/hardware blogger is beyond me. That client probably wasted $5000 on this campaign. Such a shame and really gives a blackeye to the whole profession.

  • http://www.echo-communications.com Jodi Echakowitz

    Hey Mark,

    As someone who has been in the PR industry for more than 20 years (I think I just significantly aged myself by saying that!), it still blows my mind that an agency – in particular a large firm – would take this approach with outreach to bloggers.

    It makes me wonder if:
    - they truly value their client. How hard is it to do the leg work required to ensure that any pitches they send are highly targeted and relevant?
    - it was a junior on the job who has not been given training by someone who is familiar with blogger outreach
    - the agency still believes that spray and pray is the way to go with blogger outreach

    The worst part of this type of pitch is that it makes the rest of us look bad. The PR industry has so many reputation issues, and this simply adds to it.

    Mark, one recommendation I would have for you is to politely respond to the person who sent it to you to let them know that this is not how blogger outreach is done. If you don’t let them know, they will never learn and do the same thing all over again to another blogger. Perhaps you could even suggest that you go in and train their team on best practices ;-)

    Cheers,
    Jodi

  • http://blog.newswire.ca Amanda Laird

    Mark,

    I’m willing to bet that an agency using these lame blogger relations techniques are doing the same for reporters and “traditional” media. The best practices you outlined here also ring true when pitching a reporter or editor. PR folks need to employ personalized, targeted pitches no matter who is on the receiving end.

    Cheers,

    Amanda Laird