Blogs are now a recognized and important PR channel. Depending on your niche, blogger outreach may be as important as or even more important than media relations. Most consumers view blogs as trustworthy sources for product research; most communications pros recognize that popular bloggers can improve consumer awareness of a brand and boost its reputation. In addition, backlinks from the right blogs improve your website’s SEO by conferring powerful “link juice.”
However, bloggers are not journalists. Blogger outreach involves substantial differences from media relations.
Public relations professionals can do a better job reaching out to bloggers. It’s not uncommon for PR reps to contact blogs that are dormant, email requests for product reviews to bloggers who don’t cover their business, or mass mail cookie-cutter pitches to bloggers.
Blogger outreach experts urge PR pros to avoid these faux pas when trying to build relationships with bloggers.
Blogger Outreach Blunders
Targeting inappropriate bloggers. Being unfamiliar with a blog’s area of interest and content is probably the primary PR sin. A shopping blogger might receive a PR pitch from CRM software for enterprise brands. A mommy blogger with a Canadian audience might receive a pitch for a product available only in the US.
Besides wasting time, those kinds of pitches can embarrass the PR agency or corporate PR department. Bloggers may write about the badly targeted pitches on their blogs or other social media platforms. If they have a large following, you’ll get exposure – but not the kind you want.
Pitching to dormant blogs. Sending requests to dormant blogs wastes time and resources. Bloggers can stop posting frequently or abandon their blogs due to employment, family reasons or other causes. A few bloggers become so popular they find jobs as journalists and stop blogging. Staying abreast of blogs’ most recent activity is critical.
Sending canned pitches. Pitches that lack any customization are unlikely to receive friendly responses. Even worse, boilerplate messages that begin with “Dear Blogger” look like spam and may be quickly deleted or mocked. Read the blog’s “About Us” section to find something to personalize your message. A few minutes of research upfront can pay off.
Sending mass emails. If you send an email to a large number of bloggers at once as “undisclosed recipients,” those recipients may believe the email is spam and promptly delete it. Instead, merge the emails with an Excel spreadsheet to send an individual email separately to each blogger.
Forwarding press releases. PR pros should not treat bloggers the same as journalists. Don’t forward bloggers a press release in the same way you’d send one to a reporter. If you do send a press release, include a few short introductory paragraphs to explain why the announcement is relevant to the blogger.
Blogger Outreach Best Practices
Establish best practices. To avoid these kinds of mistakes, sharp PR teams create best practices for blogger outreach. The written policy should include the suggested steps for researching, evaluating and reaching out to independent bloggers:
- The minimum number of blog posts to read before reaching out to a blogger.
- The importance of personalizing every pitch.
- Questions that should be answered about bloggers before they’re included in the outreach program.
Analyze SEO metrics. SEO tools such as Ahrefs or Moz can report domain authority, page rank and other SEO metrics of blogs. Those metrics allow you to prioritize blogs in your outreach campaign. After you obtain a backlink from a leading blog in your niche, SEO metrics can prove the value of blogger outreach to clients and corporate superiors.
Send free products. Send free merchandise to bloggers with no strings attached, advises Kristen Matthews, marketing manager at GroupHigh. The blogger may not mention the product but if they do, it will be authentic, she writes in an article for Social Media Examiner. Find if the blogger likes your product before you jump into a relationship. This will garner more sincere and ongoing mentions. Some companies can offer bloggers a free subscription or a free service.
Host events. Consider holding an exclusive, event for bloggers where they can learn about your brand firsthand. Whether in-person or virtual, these events strengthen relationships with bloggers. Remember that most bloggers don’t make a living from blogging and have lives outside their blogs. When you host an event, let them bring a spouse and children.
Send content. But make sure the content is compelling and relevant. Follow best practices for submitting guest posts, including finding the blog’s policy on backlinks. Also make sure the content is relevant to the time of year, as seasonality is a major factor for bloggers. In addition to articles, content can include infographics, images and videos.
Beware of buying links. Some bloggers request payment for publishing backlinks. Keep in mind that FTC guidelines require bloggers to disclose sponsored posts and paid links. Bloggers and companies that don’t disclose remuneration could face FTC fines. Google’s guidelines also urge bloggers to disclose the advertising relationship and to include the no-follow tag in sponsored links. Google has issued manual penalties against websites for violating that guidance and has demanded the sites either remove or add no-follow tags to the offending links. Many bloggers and guest post submitters believe Google won’t notice paid links if the context seems natural. But companies, and especially larger brands, risk significant reputational damage in addition to Google penalties and FTC penalties if they are exposed.
Measure results. A media monitoring service, combined with web analytics, can gauge the effectiveness of your blogger outreach campaigns. Ultimately, measuring the effectiveness of PR activity depends on having solid PR objectives and KPIs agreed to by all stakeholders at the beginning of the campaign. To have the greatest impact on business results, PR measurement must determine its return on efforts and investment.
Bottom Line: Blogger outreach deserves an important role in public relations strategies. Popular bloggers can influence brand reputation and purchase decisions through product reviews and endorsements. In addition, backlinks from blogs improve website rankings.
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This article was first published on Jan. 26, 2015, and updated on June 29, 2020.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.