A blogger outreach campaign can be an opportunity to spread the word about your brand across numerous sites — or a chance to irritate a whole bunch of influential people.
Over the past couple of years, more than one company watched a poorly run campaign net them the worst press possible. Bloggers like Danny Brown have blasted poor outreach messages and picked up hundreds of tweets, comments and likes along the way. In the example above, Brown was kind enough to blur out the name of the company in question (though not the agency rep), but not all bloggers are so considerate.
So how can brands avoid this fate? Let’s dive in.
Know your goal
Blogger outreach campaigns are hard to measure. Even if you can get a good idea of the size of the audiences you will be able to tap into, few bloggers will be willing to hand over an analytics report. But you still need to set some goals; it’s the key to everything else that you do.
I led a recent project for a client looking for coverage of a crowd-funding campaign that would fund and launch a new product. While coverage was a priority, the real metric of success was whether the crowdfunding campaign could raise enough money to make the product available. While it may be tempting to go after vanity metrics — like getting posts on a certain number of sites — this is the kind of realities you have to keep in mind when setting goals.
Target the right audience
That goal directly determined the audience we needed to reach: people who would actually invest money. In blogger outreach campaigns, your goals will almost always dictate your audience — far more than the actual brand you’re trying to build buzz around.
Simply put, you need to go after the audiences that are likely to take action. For a crowdfunding campaign, you want bloggers who have promoted successful Kickstarters and other campaigns in the past, whether they cover technology, media or some other topic. After all, if you’re selling a gadget, it might appeal to the audiences that follow tech bloggers, but you may also be able to pitch it to productivity bloggers as a time-saver, finance bloggers as a money-saver, and parent bloggers as a way to distract kids. It’s just a question of finding a story that will appeal to each niche.
Find a hook
Finding a story that will appeal to multiple bloggers in the same niche (and that has enough angles to ensure that they can all cover it without sounding repetitive) is perhaps the hardest part of a blogger outreach campaign. It’s tempting to brainstorm what you can offer them directly when you’re planning your first campaign, like exclusive parties, affiliate deals, or exclusive interviews.
But none of those ideas is a hook that a blogger can hang a story on — at least not one that’s going to appeal to their readers. They’re more bribes than anything else, which can be a problem. That same crowdfunding awareness campaign initially offered bloggers free items for every backer who clicked through an affiliate link — and were surprised when bloggers turned down the offer (some because they had no use for the products being offered). The bloggers they were approaching didn’t want to sell out the audiences they had carefully built; they wanted to provide value to their readers.
Plus, some of those offers can lead directly to negative responses. I’ve seen campaigns get emails back pointing out that not all bloggers happen to live in New York (a major problem for that party idea).
You need to dig deep into the brand to find the stories that someone else will find blog-worthy. Look for the reasons the founders or inventors created the project, unusual case studies from customers already using it, and even cool ways that the product was developed. Finding that unique storytelling angle is key.
Before you send a single email to a particular blogger, you should know if you have a story that would fit perfectly with everything else on his or her site. One of bloggers’ biggest pet peeves is that even emails that have clearly been customized a bit — a name pasted in at the top and a mention of the blogger’s most recent post added in somewhere — are still bland and generic. Cut-and-paste campaigns are not effective, because not every blogger responds to the same hooks.
Instead, let bloggers bring their own partnership ideas of their own to the table. Dana Forman, a fashion blogger, went so far as to specifically mention that she gets far more excited about brands that give her the freedom to come up her own ideas while still providing the support necessary to pull off those ideas.
A blogger who only shares products for which she can get coupon codes won’t write up a crowdfunding campaign; an influencer who only mentions products incidentally won’t write a full review on one brand. That’s fine — in either case, you can still find bloggers who will fit your brand and provide the coverage you want, as long as you’re prepared to dig deeper. A blogger outreach campaign is only effective if you can spend more than thirty seconds on each site and if you’re writing outreach emails that show why you’ve targeted a particular site.
There are plenty of pitfalls that can can pull down a blogger outreach campaign, but only when someone’s asking a blogger to cover something that’s clearly wrong for his site. Most bloggers welcome new topics and stories, provided they’re presented in a personal and appealing manner.
What’s the deal with the Content Strategist? At Contently, storytelling is the only marketing we do, and it works wonders. It could for you, too. Learn more.