Does Blogger Outreach Really Require Engagement?

By: Guest | November 11, 2010 | 

Guest post by David Spinks, co-founder of BlogDash.

Creating highly targeted, personalized pitches is more important than how “engaged” you are with influencers when conducting blogger outreach.

Any knowledgeable social media professional you speak to will tell you that it’s important to engage with influencers (bloggers, tweeters, etc.) before you pitch them.

I have two questions:

1)     While it’s definitely helpful to have a relationship, is it absolutely necessary?

2)     Is building relationships really a practical and timely blogger outreach strategy?

What if you don’t have the relationships? What if the journalists and bloggers that you want to reach have no idea who you are? What do you do then?

You rely on thorough research and the quality of the story you’re pitching.

Choosing the right blogger or journalist for the story, with the right subject line and the most efficient approach, will get you coverage regardless of your “relationship” with the writer.

The effort to retweet, comment, and engage with bloggers takes a lot of time. With the most popular bloggers, it probably won’t do anything for you. They glaze over retweets and probably don’t remember names from most comments.

Building relationships to the point where it would actually be helpful in your blogger outreach takes a lonnnng time. It has to be an ongoing thing, not something you do for two weeks in the middle of your “outreach campaign.”

Sure there are people who you can shoot an email and they’ll write whatever you want, because they’re your friend. But think about how long it took for you to build the relationship to that point.

Bloggers and journalists aren’t looking for PR people to be their friend. They’re looking for those PR people who can consistently bring value to their work.

They’re looking for a reliable asset.

I think in a campaign, instead of spending two weeks “engaging,” take another hour to do research. Use that extra time to learn everything you can about the blogger, their audience, and their writing.

Creating a highly educated and targeted pitch will go a lot further than hoping that they recognize your name when the pitch shows up in their inbox.

Keep engaging, but don’t think that a two-week relationship is more important than the quality of your research and pitch approach.

David Spinks is co-founder of BlogDash, the blogger outreach tool, and GM of Scribnia, a social blog reading community. You can read his poorly filtered thoughts at his blog.

  • HowieSPM

    Very nicely done David. Too often the standard operating procedure is a one size fits all write up expecting everyone you send it too to read it and use it for your benefit.

    And very good insight on reach out. It’s no different than what I tell businesses trying to reach consumers via social media. Everyone wants to engage so what will make you special to get noticed in a positive way. The easier you make it for the target journalist or blogger the better. Personalization made to fit the way they blog/report, with content they feel worthy of using will make it easier for them to take your content and use it. It is a two way street. You want them to help you get information out on your behalf, and they want quality content tailored to their style, image, and reputation to reinforce/enhance the value their readers come for.

  • DavidSpinks

    @HowieSPM Well said. Engaging will definitely help your chances of getting coverage but it’s not the most important thing in the short term.

  • We’re all busy, every day. Sometimes I feel bad when I neglect my Twitter relationships, but I usually end up being more productive on those days. In the end, bloggers and journalists will write the story that will bring in the views and help their site and company. It makes more sense to spend the time making a well informed pitch rather than trying to be their friend. Thanks for the post!

  • Good points, mate, and coming from you, ones that both sides should read and take on board.

    One thing I would say – doing your homework and researching the blogger *is* relationship-building. It may not be the same as talking to someone every day; but it’s definitely building trust and an interest beforehand because you’re getting to know the person.

    Still relationship building, just a different way of pronouncing it 😉

  • DavidSpinks

    @dannybrown Relationships on the web seem to be different in general, not just in blogger outreach. You can really get to know a lot about a person these days without even having to meet them first.

    I know when I get an email from someone who seems to know a lot about me, it definitely makes it more likely that I listen, and respond.

    Thanks for chiming in big guy (=

  • @davidspinks Agreed. For example, by your tweets on moleskins I know your shoe size, and your blogging on boas I know your style likes. Awesome! ;o)

  • DavidSpinks

    @jennalanger Right. Of course, you should try to build relationships with a blogger over time. Including a 2 week “engagement” phase to your blogger outreach strategy will increase your odds of getting coverage, but it’s not absolutely necessary and it does take a long time.

    Thanks Jenna (=

  • DavidSpinks

    @dannybrown are you saying I wear moleskin shoes and boas? Are you spying on me??

  • caitlinmc

    I agree. Having played around with both the ‘relationship’ outreach and the ‘really good pitch’ outreach I’ve found that as long as you have taken the actual time to research the bloggers you’re asking something from and it makes sense for them to work with you – it turns out pretty well.

  • smcitizens

    Interesting points made. However I think the long term relationship is quite important, if you have “hot news” to spread around the network I agree that you don’t need any relationship to do that, but if you want some consistent coverage about your service or product it definitely helps to have some friends.

  • @davidspinks Your missus posts pics on a private Facebook Group…

  • DavidSpinks

    @smcitizens Thanks for challenging my points (=

    You’re absolutely right that a long term relationship can be really important.

    I don’t think you need “hot news” to get a blogger to write about you though. It just needs to be something that’s useful to them and their readers. Having hot news is more important in mainstream journalism and even then, matching up your company with a popular trend can do wonders regardless of specific company news.

    I think it’s easy to say “develop long term relationships”. In reality, that’s something that can take months or years. That’s a time frame that’s just not possible for many companies (ie. agencies with clients in all different markets). It’s not something you can necessarily force or strategize either. Over time you’ll develop relationships through your interactions with bloggers.

    It’s never too early to start building those relationships so yes, start doing that now. The point behind this post however, is for a specific campaign, assuming you don’t already have those long term relationships, what is the best way to approach your outreach campaign?

  • @davidspinks @smcitizens Hot news is also relevant-dependent. Is news about Paris Hilton relevant to me? No. Is it hot to lifestyle and fashion bloggers? Probably.

    You could be my best friend and I’m never going to promote Paris Hilton, because that’s not what my readers are about.

    Check my archives; check my About page; read some of my posts and the type of comments that are on them; use my Search bar to type in keywords similar to your needs. If results came up and I wrote about your topic before, you’re already a step closer than if it’s a first-time approach.

  • smcitizens

    @davidspinks David, I wasn’t really chalenging your points – I think they are great! I just think we can’t easily write off relationship building, I think it depends from the client and from the campaign smth what works for one might not work for another, so really adapting the same strategy for everyone might be risky. But I definitely agree with the point that you don’t have to have these “special relationship” to get your word around for every camapign, esspecialy if you have adding value news for your target market (“hot news”)

  • DavidSpinks

    @smcitizens damnit. I like it when people challenge me.

    I guess we’ll just have to agree then (=

  • smcitizens

    @davidspinks I guess so:)

  • Really great topic, David!

    In an ideal world, everyone would build relationships with a reporter or blogger before reaching out with a story idea. Realistically though, I don’t think this is feasible.

    I completely agree that reporters and bloggers are looking for PR people to bring value to their work. And whether they know you or have never received an email from you, if what you are sending is valuable and relevant to their readers and the content they create, then it’s likely you’ll get a response.

    If you know you’re planning to reach out to certain reporters or bloggers in the future for a client, it definitely doesn’t hurt to start following them on Twitter or commenting on articles/posts. But I think you’ll earn the biggest bang for your buck if you put most of your effort into sharing awesome story ideas.

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  • ginidietrich

    I was lying in bed thinking about this this morning. As a blogger and a communication professional, I can tell you how we handle things, on both sides of the coin. If someone pitches me, I want to know they’ve at least read a few blog posts and know what it is I write about. I also want them to know that we have guest bloggers once a day and they shouldn’t send their pitch to David Spinks at my email address. That happens…and it really makes me angry.

    On the flip side, I agree with @Nikki_Stephan that it’s impossible to build a relationship with every blogger, but there are ways to make them feel like you’re not blind pitching them. We should do this for any pitch, not just bloggers.

    Now…how will BlogDash help us with this?!

  • @GiniDietrich I definitely agree, Gini – PR pros should educate themselves enough to make it clear that they aren’t completely winging it. And reading the past few articles/posts the reporter or blogger has written is a great way to do that!

  • ElissaFreeman

    I think you raise a good point here, David…something that much of the industry has been struggling with in response to blogger backlash. While MSM is used to being part of widespread distribution for a press release, bloggers don’t want to have any part of that…thus raising the question: “well, just how well do we need to know a blogger before we pitch them?”

    For some of us more seasoned (okay, “older”) PR pros, we’ve been raised on creating the relationship with journalists…and yes, it takes time. But do we really have that time to create deep blogger realtionships when internal stakeholders/clients who want you to reach out to bloggers NOW?

    By researching a bloggers’ POV, we are in effect creating a ‘connection’ of respect and understanding…which should be enough to pave the way for a targeted pitch.

  • DavidSpinks

    @GiniDietrich I think we’re on the same page here. The last thing you want to do is send a blind, canned pitch. What can you do to ensure a pitch isn’t blind? You pretty much have two options: Research them and/or build a relationship with them.

    Research is something you can do quickly. The relationship part isn’t. Both will help you get a better response to your outreach.

    That thinking is a major part of why we built BlogDash. The tool is made to help you do all of that research on the spot, in a matter of minutes. Getting to know who the blogger is shouldn’t take you hours. Then if you want to build a relationship with the blogger, we will provide you with the tools to engage with them, and track the relationship *over time*.

    @Nikki_Stephan You got it. There’s a lot more you should know about a blogger though if you want to be sure you’re approaching it correctly. Things like, where they live, their age, what kinds of blog posts they write (reviews?), who their readers are, where else they’re active online etc….

    The more you know, the better you can target your pitch to the right bloggers.

  • DavidSpinks

    @Nikki_Stephan Well said! I’d also add that most bloggers excluding maybe the big A-listers, will still be really pumped to receive free products, vip invitations, free service subscriptions etc. They’ll like the free stuff and it will reinsure them that their blogging actually has value. It’s a good feeling.

    So once you understand who the blogger is, give them a great story and/or provide them with something of clear value.

  • @davidspinks @Nikki_Stephan Never been a fan of the term “A-lister’. That suggests the blogger is an awesome resource for everyone, whereas the truth is closer that they’re only relevant to the audience who needs them.

    Is Chris Brogan or Darren Rowse an A-lister to Johnny Sheep Farmer? Maybe (though more than likely not). But someone who blogs about dyes to use, shearing tips, etc, would be.

    We have to remember A-list doesn’t stand for All List.

  • @dannybrown @davidspinks “A-list doesn’t stand for All List” – love that because it’s so true. And just because a blogger gets a handful of comments per post versus hundreds doesn’t mean he/she is any less of an “influencer.” I won’t even get on my soapbox about the influence topic because that’s going in a whole new direction! 😉

  • HeatherWhaling

    Late to the party on this one, but solid point, @davidspinks . I recently gave a blogger outreach presentation and the idea of “you must have a pre-existing ‘relationship’ with a blogger ” was one of the myths I tried to debunk. Sure, in some situations, it can help, but a solid pitch is better than a lukewarm relationship any day of the week.

    As PR people, I think we need to understand the the blogger’s goals. Are they blogging to expand their network, to make money, to position themselves/their company as thought leaders? Or, are they blogging to share information, as a hobby or a creative outlet? Whatever the goal, we need to know it and position our pitch in a way that shows the blogger how we can help them achieve thier goals. If we can be a resource to the blogger — a means to helping them work toward their goals — we’re in a far better position to be successful.


  • DavidSpinks

    @dannybrown Well…every niche has it’s A-listers. Of course, an a-lister to one group means nothing to another.

  • 3HatsComm

    Late to the party along with Heather, but I have to agree with you David. Research and a strong, useful pitch are important. Like you said, it’s not about making friends but getting the job done, adding value. Engagement matters, but targeted pitching and helping ideas via research will matter more. FWIW if I had spent time building a relationship with someone, and then they sent me a wildly off-topic pitch, that’d be more detrimental to the relationship (sorta like emailing you at Gini’s address) than an interesting pitch tailored to my audience from someone I didn’t know.

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