The majority of the PR industry continues to log behind in the blogosphere, seemingly unconvinced that the influential new medium is worth learning about.
Those who are looking at blogs are also pitching them, and from what I've seen their approach is disastrous. But not surprising. (Sigh.)
Here's a sample email PR agency pitch (with names changed to protect the guilty) that a blogger associate of mine got the other day. It began like this:
Time to kick off with online advergame specialist [Joe's] latest game for [phone company]. See if you can connect up and down field for a few TDs with QB [John Doe].
It pointed to a URL where the game could be played and went on to give the usual formulaic PR detritus about the company. To its credit, it was short and it had no attachments.
However, this is exactly the kind of pitch traditional journalists complain about. So why, oh why, would bloggers, who tend to be snarky and often downright rude about PR, want to see this pitch?
Certainly, some bloggers fall for press releases and even gush about new products described in them. But influential bloggers are more likely to ridicule PR people than run their pitch. Mike Massick in TechDirt recently ran a headline that railed Sneaky PR People Discover Blogs.
You think he likes PR people?
Bloggers Ripe for Pitching
Lest publicists think blogs are a mere blip in the PR landscape, consider this: a growing number of influential blogs have a huge number of readers and offer many opportunities for promoting clients. (Boing Boing, for example, has in excess of 350,000 unique readers per month.)
Like other journalists, bloggers need to attract readers. Because writing about anything on a daily basis is actually a lot of work, many blogs have faded away. But some writers bloomed and eventually turned their blogs into a lively form of journalism that continues to evolve.
Bloggers delight in scooping traditional media outlets with news, rumors and opinions. PR people have the opportunity to become sources, but not by spewing out the same kind of tired pitches they have been sending to traditional media for years. Examples of bloggers making fun of PR pitches abound, so be aware that your clueless pitch may backfire.
While original blog content is still fairly rare, many bloggers are experts in their disciplines and bring perspective from the trenches of business, law, education, programming, design and other fields that traditional journalists observe rather than practice. They don't want to be blasted with press releases. Show me a blogger (or a traditional journalist) who swears s/he never reads press releases or PR pitches and I'll show you one who's lying.
So it's worth your while to learn to pitch bloggers who are often closely followed by traditional journalists and opinion leaders.
The much-blogged-about case of the Dr. Pepper “Raging Cow” campaign is another example of a PR firm that blew its pitch to bloggers by being overly commercial. It is one of many that have bloggers tittering about the cluelessness of PR people.
Tips for Effective PR Pitching
Pitching to bloggers (or any journalist) requires a short, smart, striking email. Nobody wants to get a pitch that everyone and his dog has also received. And no journalist wants to be sold.
Here are some keys to a great pitch:
- Address the blogger by his/her name, or just say “hi.” Never say “dear editor” or “dear sir/madam.” (Honest, I get pitches addressed that way.)
- Don't tell anyone they “must” or “should” write a story or book a guest. Instead, explain why the topic is of interest and why this person is an expert worth knowing. Don't be cute.
- Reporters and bloggers follow headlines. Explain how the idea or person you are pitching ties into a current news item or trend.
- Let the blogger know you've at least looked at the publication, and see if you can find something to praise. But please, please don't say, “Loved your great post the other day,” unless you read it and you mean it. People who look at dozens of releases and pitches a day can pick up the scent of baloney faster than a hungry hound.
- If you don't get coverage, don't whine by saying you “can't believe” the blogger didn't include, won't write about, hasn't heard of XYZ company.
- Bloggers aim to provide a personal view of the news. They write in conversational style as an antidote to the canned news of traditional media. Why would you send a canned PR-speak pitch? So don't.
- Run your content through Bullfighter or similar software to be sure it is free of jargon before you send it out.
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