At the beginning of my PR career the debate between bloggers vs. journalists was a hot topic and bloggers were vying to be taken more seriously. It was an exciting time to think anyone could make their voice heard as a blogger. As a PR pro, the opportunities to pitch bloggers and get in front of their audience was a game changer. Where the odds of being “ghosted” like that last Match.com date you went on seemed more and more likely in your pitches to mainstream media too, bloggers swooped in as the Tinder app we’d all been waiting for. Bloggers were more approachable, more willing to share your client’s content (I mean you of course still needed a good story) and they were quick to share it across their social channels – giving your story more legs and exposure. Even better, the online media hit was trackable. It may have taken some time for bloggers to be taken seriously but in my opinion, that’s a thing of the past.
But as bloggers were taken more seriously as a media voice over the years, there’s been a noticeable shift in both the response rate and the response itself. As I was working with non-profit clients like Oxfam America, UN Refugee Agency’s Blue Key Campaign and the American Physical Therapy Association’s Move Forward campaign, promoting causes and initiatives that seemed like a slam dunk, I began noticing not only what seemed like a decrease in response rate but also more and more bloggers asking for money in exchange for blog posts.
At first I noticed this trend from what is categorized as “mom bloggers” (even though I’m indifferent about that term but that’s another topic). As a PR person pitching bloggers for noble causes and campaigns that really spoke to mothers, at first this surprised me. But now as a mother myself, I understand the flip side. While she doesn’t personally accept sponsored posts on her blog, Sherry from Young House Love recently shared the debate among her blogging peers with me, “many believe, if they are going to take valuable time away from their kids and family to write a post for someone, it should be compensated.”
And I get it. Bloggers aren’t paid like freelance writers or media when they’re running their own blog. At some point, a blog that began as a passion begins to require more and more time and money and in order to grow you have to find revenue streams. But taking off the pay for play paid media hat and putting on my PR focused earned media cap, much of whether a blogger even opens your email or decides to write about your client begins with your pitch. Sending a personal email and making sure you’re speaking to a specific bloggers interest and positioning it carefully, takes a lot of work on the front end but it offers a much better return.
As much as we PR pros can share tips from our own experience, I figured the best advice is learned from the recipient themselves. So recently I decided to ask a few influential bloggers I admire what advice they wish PR people knew before pitching bloggers.
Here’s 4 tips every PR person should consider before writing a pitch that’s doomed before you press send.
Spit it out: Every blogger I asked mentioned their inbox was busting at the seems. Think about your own email inbox and which emails you read. When you open that long email you don’t have time to even figure out the ask so you save it for later and it gets buried (unless it’s from your boss). With a public email and a community following, an influential bloggers inbox is flooded.
Tip from Gina Homolka, best selling author and blogger of Skinnytaste.com:
“Keep the email short and to the point. I get so many emails it’s hard to keep up, so if an email is too long, and doesn’t get to the point I usually skip and move on to the next one. Being specific in the subject is also helpful as you did here!”
Say my name: Destiny’s Child said it first but hey, that doesn’t mean people remember (I mean I’m still shocked this seems like a no brainer people, don’t waste your time or a blogger’s with your impersonal mass emails!). And since one of my favorite bloggers made it a ground rule for even getting an email reply from them, it must be worth mentioning. But overall, do your research PR peeps. You can pretty much google anyone’s favorite cocktail, Starbucks order or dog’s name these days, use it to your advantage.
Tip from Sherry and John Petersik, best selling author, blogger and podcaster of YoungHouseLove.com:
“Sometimes we wake up to 100 new emails in our inbox every day. We always answer our emails personally because it’s important to us, but we had to make a few ground rules in order to keep up with such high volume. We generally don’t answer emails that don’t address us by name. It took us years to get to that point, but we figure if someone hasn’t taken the time to simply find out our names when emailing us for a favor or a request, then it’s probably not worth staying up all night in an attempt to get back to them. We also have an auto response that can help a lot when it comes to cutting down on emails that we have to respond to. Also, if you’re looking to get a reply from anyone with a busy inbox, it helps to get right to the point in a short paragraph as opposed to a long drawn out email.”
Can we be friends?: It’s redundant AF to even say the word relationship, but then again maybe not since so many people aren’t actually taking the time to say hello or buy someone a coffee before just getting straight to business. You know the whole give before you take advice that helped you make friends since kindergarten when you shared that coveted snack with the new kid ( by the way is still one of your best friend’s to this day)? Yep, it still works friends.
Who are you more likely to help, the colleague in another office who you’ve never met or the one who went out of their way on your first day to email you, welcome you and tell you how they’re from Hawaii too (true story, Ligaya Malones did this on my first day at a former agency we both worked at and look at us now…reunited at mix+shine and it feels so good!).
Tip from John Corcoran, entrepreneur and author at SmartBusinessRevolution.com:
“I have been getting an increasing number of PR pitches. I’d say A) try to build a relationship FIRST before sending a blind pitch. It can be very simple – just send a couple of emails before you need to send an email pitch with a compliment, a resources, or a question and you’re going to be doing what 99% of PR pros do not do. Secondly, (B) send only relevant pitches. I see a lot of lazy PR pros who just blindly send pitches that are not relevant to me and that damages their credibility because I can tell they didn’t do their homework.”
Don’t serve a Vegan wings:
Let’s avoid that awkward moment, ya know when your best friend’s new girlfriend comes over for dinner and you feed her wings….all because you didn’t take the time to find out she’s a vegan. The same goes for making a good impression with media. Figure out what makes them tick, what they like to write about, what you have in common so you can strike up a conversation that’s pleasant for both of you as opposed to an awkward forced blind date that makes you want to crawl out of your own skin and take tequila to the face.
Tip from Lauree Ostrofsky, Professional Certified Coach and author of Simply Leap:
My biggest tip – both as a blogger and as someone who has pitched a lot of them – is to have a conversation. If you have time, develop a rapport with bloggers and journalists before you “need” them. Read their stories, tell them which you like and why. Treat them like real people! When someone asks me questions, seems genuinely interested and aware of what I write about, it goes a long long way.
I also strongly recommend you go a step further and do your homework. Before contacting a blogger/influencer ask around and look at LinkedIn. Do you have any connections in common? Did they work with a college friend of yours two years ago? It makes a big difference. I got myself on the cover of my local paper all because I had a mutual friend introduce me to the reporter. In fact, he’s now written about me three times and helped me pitch other stories. All from one introduction.
What tips would you add for successfully pitching bloggers in 2017? What trends have you seen or challenges have you faced? Share in the comments!