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April 18, 2007
The myth of "cultivating bloggers"
A communications expert is quoted in the paper advising companies to "cultivate popular bloggers in much
the same way they traditionally have sought to make contact with reporters for
newspapers, TV and other media."
No, no. Please do not do that. Reporters at newspapers, TV and other media are inundated with bad PR pitches every day.
Bloggers are not traditional media, so the last thing a PR person should do is create another column on a spreadsheet that includes bloggers in future email blasts.
PR companies could actually become more strategic service providers by helping their clients cultivate relationships with existing, well-connected customers. Appeal to the people who already love your clients and foster those relationships.
Cultivating bloggers like traditional media is an old-school view of people as message receptacles. But involving customers in a strategic communications plan is a better form of message management, especially if it's not about pitching them. It recognizes that people are the message. They'll spread the word if it's worth spreading. If it spreads far enough, then the popular bloggers will pick up on the grassroots phenomenon.
Save your client some money: stop pitching bloggers you don't know.
Update: The last sentence may have been too subtle. Its implication is: Get to know bloggers before pitching them. Build a relationship before a pitch. Introduce yourself to a blogger with an email or phone call. Explain your work and your clients. Ask if the blogger if future news about your industry or clients is of interest to them. Seek permission. Relationship-building goes a long way. To me, the lack of relationship-building with those whom they seek to influence is the primary sin of PR.
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Bravo! Ben, it does my heart good to see something written on this topic so clearly, concisely, and directly on the mark. I've been advising clients who have discussed this type of strategy to retreat as quickly as possible; nothing good can come from this.
While I think it makes very good sense to be engaged with bloggers, trying to seed ideas to them in the hopes that they'll "cover" you seems like an invitation to be covered in all the wrong ways.
Engaging loyal and excited customers is, without a doubt, a much smarter strategy.
I've read this and your follow-up post "How not to pitch a blogger". I'm curious if you could clarify on two things:
1. On "Cultivating Bloggers"
How do you feel about PR (or otherwise) cultivating relationships through honest long-term, engaging conversations online. Such as, creating relevant commentary on the blogger's post, responding to the blog via one's owns blog post and so forth? As in, engage and cultivate by essentially being a blogger, too?
2. On "Appeal to the people who already love your clients and foster those relationships."
I assume that you're saying that by fostering close relationship with clients, you'll make them evangelizers and in turn this will eliminate the idea of the traditional "PR Pitch" as we know it. And I completely understand that aspect.
But, what do you recommend for new companies that have little if no brand recognition?
And I do think there are cases when bloggers do need to be reached out to. How, I'm still trying to grasps and I'm sure everyone else is too.
2. On "How not to pitch bloggers"
I noticed that all of the pitches you mentioned are direct from PR companies. I can understand how annoying that gets. I get those too.
Personally, I'm more likely to respond when I know its someone in the company that initiates the conversation, like the VP or CO-level person - someone who can really act on whatever feedback I give. Do you feel the same way?
In essence, PR should help the client know how to communicate and develop relationships on its own (at least for the online blogging world), instead of the more traditional relationships that PR agencies have between the client and the media.
On my own side, I've been wrestling the issue and I've actually started to compile at least my initial thoughts on the whole thing at a wiki I've set up here: http://www.emergence-media.com/2007/04/blog-outreach-how-to-pitch-bloggers/
I agree. But spamming bloggers fits in with spamming reporters and analysts (like me) so they'll keep doing it.
When I addressed this in my blog I said "use your brain instead." A smart PR person I know said "We all know that." If you do then why do you keep send us irrelevant meaningless pitches?
Here's the "use your brain" post:
And here's one about what happens when you don't -- some jarringly bad results from not using your brain:
CK has a really great post on her blog about how PR individuals can be more successful at reaching bloggers. It starts with a relationship. http://www.ck-blog.com/cks_blog/2007/04/pitch_policy_le.html
Great stuff, Ben!