Image Credit: kpwerker
On Twitter last week, I received a DM asking for any tips I had on how to pitch bloggers. Since I’m sure this is a topic more and more sports PR practitioners have to deal with, I wanted to discuss my response in depth on SPRB.
I e-mailed popular sports bloggers about PR professionals reaching out to bloggers and you can read what they had to say in an earlier post today. They said that they receive 3-75 press releases and/or PR e-mail pitches a day depending on the blog. That number doesn’t even account the number of e-mails they receive from readers and fellow bloggers. It’s safe to say that many sports bloggers are bombarded with pitches so to be effective, your pitch or release needs to be targeted, relevant, and unique to attract the attention of a sports blogger.
1. Be transparent.
Be upfront with who you are and who you work for. Lying will only make it seem like you’re trying to hide something. But in doing so, be brief. Don’t ramble on about who you are, but certainly don’t try to disguise it.
Do not tell bloggers to keep your relationship quiet, but encourage them to be transparent. If money is exchanged, this is particularly a big no-no (they need to mention this relationship then). As you need to be transparent while pitching, it’s important for the blogger to be transparent with their readers. If he or she opts to keep something quiet (when money or an exchange of products is not involved), that’s up to the blogger but it is not your place to require that.
2. Show that you’ve read the blog.
Don’t send out a mass e-mail to a bunch of sports bloggers because it likely won’t fit them all. One blogger may focus on statistical analysis regarding Detroit Tigers baseball while another blog talks Tigers news. The differences may seem subtle to you, but it means mass blanket pitches won’t work.
Scott Monty of The Social Media Marketing Blog further explains:
First of all, the reason I say a bad pitch is inevitable is simple: blogger outreach is not immediately scalable, so mass emailing is commonplace. But every blogger is different and needs to be personally courted. I’m not talking about a deep and abiding romance, but rather a simple relationship that is forged between PR executive and blogger, through genuine engagement and conversation between the two. It’s a matter of establishing a 1:1 relationship – of showing the blogger you understand his writing or that you care enough to respond to one of her posts.
And this is difficult to do when a PR professional – who, let’s face it, is used to mass mail-merging press releases and pitches – is trying to contact maybe 100 different bloggers. To spend a couple of weeks of lead time following, reading and responding is a major commitment. But I think it’s crucial.
Cater your pitch to that individual blogger after doing some research. Find a way to make a connection to them based on what you’ve read of their blog (and don’t just read the top two posts — go back awhile). A comment showing that you know what their blog is all about will help the blogger believe that your pitch may actually be a good fit for them.
3. Keep it relevant.
If you’re trying to reach a hockey blogger, don’t pitch them a food product for example (unless it’s sponsored by an athlete they would care about). They are not going to write about it and you are just wasting your time and the blogger’s. That would seem obvious, but I get so many pitches on fantasy baseball, food, and other non-related products that it amazes me that the PR pros pitching me just sent out the e-mail to a general sports blog list. And then they wonder why no one responds to their e-mail.
I also run a popular Detroit Red Wings blog and the pitches that are most effective are the ones that actually have to do with hockey and the Red Wings. Seems incredibly logical, no? But it’s amazing how many press releases and pitches I get that are on some other topic.
4. Write a strong e-mail subject.
Some of the bloggers I talked to said that they would decide whether to open the pitch e-mail or not based on the subject of the e-mail. While catchy headers are always nice to grab someone’s attention, make sure you do it in a way that clearly states why it’s important and relevant for the blogger to open and read the e-mail.
Let’s say you’re trying to pitch a Miami Dolphins football blogger. In the subject, try to work in something that would get their attention like football, NFL, Miami, or dolphins. Make it obvious to them that they want to open this e-mail because of what it offers them.
5. Offer the blogger something of value.
Any of the tactics listed below will demonstrate that you can provide something of benefit for the blogger and his/her readers. Not every tactic will be appropriate for your situation so pick accordingly.
a) Provide them an exclusive. It can be a story, video, photograph, interview, or chance to attend an event. Bloggers love it when they can write about something that no one else has or knows about. Everyone wants to provide unique and valuable content for their blog and an exclusive will let them do just that.
b) Give them a chance to conduct an interview. If you are trying to pitch a sports blogger for your book, ask them if they would like to interview the author of a book. It gives the blogger unique content, but also means you’ll get a plug on their blog. If you work for a sports team, offer them the chance to interview your equipment manager or operations manager for the arena. Start small if you’ve never worked with the blogger before. If you feel comfortable, you can let them interview a player, coach, or someone in management.
c) Send them a product. If you’re with a sports team, send the blogger a pair of tickets, a t-shirt, or autographed item to give away to their readers. Contests help generate interest for their blog and free items to give away are perfect for blog contests. If you can form a partnership with a popular blogger covering your team, you’ll go a long way generating positive coverage and opinion of your organization.
The Detroit Pistons developed a relationship with one of the bloggers covering their team, Natalie at Need4Sheed. They even gave her a suite for a game so she asked readers to send in their favorite Rasheed Wallace moment. She chose her favorite 11 contest entries and the winners got to attend the selected Pistons game from the suite level. You don’t need to go to that extreme to be effective, but it certainly helped improve my opinion of the Pistons as a fan when I learned of what they had done. If you’ve read her wrap-up post after the big event, you’ll see why.
d) Ask them to review your book. If you work for a publishing company, you will want to generate sales for new sports books. A favorable review of your book by a popular blogger can obviously help you in that regard by reaching your target market. Some sports teams release their own publications (e.g. book detailing a championship run or honoring a popular player) so team PR practitioners could even have reason to ask for a blogger review.
It’s important to note that if you ask a blogger to write a review on your book, don’t expect them to go out and buy the book. There’s a chance they would have already wanted to read your book and may even already have it, but you can’t ask them to review it and then not offer to send them a copy of the book. The blogger may not want a book copy because that’s a personal policy of their’s, but you have to make the offer. I have personally reviewed numerous books for my Red Wings blog (yes, I always indicate that I received a free copy of the book in the review post), but only because I was sent the book.
e) Send an early copy of an article. Sports Illustrated started reaching out to hockey bloggers this year. Every time there is an article or poll about the Red Wings in the upcoming issue of SI, I get a copy of the full article or image of the poll at least a day in advance. It’s great for the blogger because they can offer their readers a sneak preview and it’s a good idea for SI because they can generate interest and hopefully get some of the blog’s readers to purchase a copy of this week’s issue.
f) Pass along a link. This tactic is really overused by PR pros and marketers, but if done right it can be beneficial for both sides. Let’s say you work for a team. If you’ve come across a great feature article in the local paper or a national publication that you have yet to see the blogger mention, feel free to send along a quick link saying that you thought of them when you came across this article and wanted to pass along the link. That helps foster a relationship because it looks like you want to help them and shows you’re not always trying to get them to promote your own stuff. You can also e-mail links to a video or article on your own website. However, it can come off poorly if not done correctly so be careful with how you do that.
6. Humanize the pitch.
One of the key problems with mass e-mail pitches and press releases is that the e-mail is not personalized. Just because the blogger’s name is at the top of the e-mail, it doesn’t mean that the e-mail won’t come off as a mass pitch. While you don’t want to act like you’re the blogger’s best friend (because you’re obviously not), you want to come off as personable so that the e-mail reads like it was sent to only that blogger.
7. Get their name right.
Along the same line as No. 6, you want to make sure that you send your pitch or release to the correct blogger. Mention the correct name and blog title in the e-mail. You may send the perfect personalized pitch, but address the incorrect blogger and it’s all for naught.
8. Send your pitch to the correct e-mail address.
You may think that you have the right e-mail address for a blogger; afterall, you got it from a database or your boss passed it along to you. It may very well be an e-mail address for the blogger you want to contact. However, it may not be the e-mail address that he or she wants you to contact them at.
Many blogs have a Contact page or even a Media/Press page. If they do, visit both of those pages. Not only will these pages provide you with their contact info, but it may also tell you that they do not want to receive pitches. If that’s the case, don’t risk angering the blogger or wasting your time.
Use the e-mail address they prefer you to contact them at as stated on the page. Bloggers may have one e-mail address for reader comments and another for tips, advertisers, or media (you’ll want to use that one). Don’t use their personal e-mail address unless that is the only one you can find. Some bloggers have stated that they will automatically delete any pitch or press release that is sent to the incorrect address (if they have multiple) and you don’t want to miss your opportunity for such a simple error.
9. Keep it brief.
It’s going to be challenging enough trying to get a blogger to read your pitch, but it will be impossible if you send them an essay. Limit the pitch to 2-3 short paragraphs (ideally 1-2 paragraphs). If they like what they see and ask you for more information, you can then provide them with more details. As ProBlogger writes, bloggers will either save the e-mail for later if it’s too long (and then forget to do so) or will just delete it because it doesn’t get to the point quick enough.
10. Remember nothing is off-the-record.
Don’t say anything in your e-mail that you would not want the blogger to mention on his or her blog. Reporters may respect embargoes or when you request that something stays off-the-record, but you can’t trust every blogger to do likewise (either accidentally or on purpose). As a result, it’s smartest to limit your comments to only things that are on-the-record.
11. Develop a relationship.
A pitch will be more effective when the blogger knows who he or she is dealing with. For example, let’s say another blogger drops me a link to one of their recent posts. If I don’t know that blogger, I might view it as spam and/or decide not to mention it on my blog. However if I have a relationship with the blogger, I’ll be more inclined to link to their post. If I decide it’s not a good fit, I’ll be sure to send them an e-mail explaining why. The same can be said for PR pros and bloggers. A blogger will be more receptive and willing to trust a pitch if they know the source.
How can you develop a relationship? I’ll explain this concept later in the series, but you can start by leaving comments on their blog (even when you don’t have something you want to pitch them) or sending links of other interesting articles/blog posts. Basically, you want to show that you can be a valuable resource for them and that you are not the enemy. Opening a line of communication will go a long way in building a relationship.
If you were able to successfully pitch the blogger and garner coverage, congrats! But don’t stop there. Keep in touch with the blogger to maintain that relationship. Yes, do that even if you don’t have anything to pitch them in the near future. It reflects poorly on you if you ditch the blogger right after you get what you want from them plus you never know when you might want to pitch them again.
12. Create a blogger outreach policy or code of ethics.
Ogilvy PR did a great job putting together a blogger outreach code of ethics for their employees. I have yet to see the final version, but you can read their second version here. The document basically outlines how the company will go about pitching bloggers — what they will and will not do in the process. You don’t have to agree with every point in their policy, but you’ll probably want to create your own policy so that everyone in your department is on the same page. Personally, I think it’s a pretty good set of guidelines to abide by.
13. Make it easy for them to contact you.
Don’t take the time to craft the perfect pitch or release and then forget to leave your contact information. If the news is timely, they may want to call you back for more information and they can’t do it if you don’t provide them with a phone number. If you want, provide ways that the blogger could contact you via phone, e-mail, Twitter, etc. That way the blogger can contact you in the manner most convenient and comfortable for them.
14. Respond to their e-mails promptly.
Don’t send the blogger a pitch or release and then disappear. Make sure you can respond to their request within 24 hours or less if the situation dictates that you need to. A slow response will only frustrate the blogger and you want to make this as pleasant of an experience as possible for the blogger. If the pitch or release came in the morning and I responded soon thereafter, I would expect the PR person to get back to me during that business day. Bloggers aren’t unreasonable people so we understand that you have a life and can’t respond to us quickly after we e-mail you after business hours.
If you have to send out a pitch or release to a blogger and you won’t be available in the 48 hours following the e-mail, provide contact information for a colleague who will be available. That way you still get the information out that you needed to, but the blogger will be able to follow up with someone should he or she have any questions.
What tips do you have to help PR professionals pitch bloggers, specifically sports bloggers? Have you ever been pitched for your blog? What did they do right or wrong? Let us know in the comment section.