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It’s a Blog, Blog World: How to Successfully Pitch Bloggers

December 18th, 2003

Full Frontal PR Report
Arjan Timmermans, Special to RLM’s Full Frontal PR Report

In ancient Greece, message couriers were used to send news from one part of the country to the other. In fact, the word marathon is inspired by a Greek legend about a soldier named Pheidippides who ran 25 miles from the town of Marathon to Athens to tell officials that Athenians had saved Greece from the Persian forces.

In our modern times, we have found more timely ways to disseminate news. The role of the messenger also has become more sophisticated. Online journalists and web loggers (or bloggers) are becoming increasingly important in distributing information and generating serious buzz.

The number of Web logs is growing at an unprecedented rate. MarketingWonk.com (the creation of Tig Tillinghast) recently reported that a new blog is created every 11 seconds, adding up to over 8,000 new blogs every day on top of the 1.2 million online journals that already exist.

Blogs are revolutionizing how news is reported and communicated. With the speed of a mouse click, individuals can write up eyewitness reports of news as it happens.

There are as many different blogs as there are topics to write about. Blog themes range from people writing about celebrity gossip (www.gawker.com) to discussing new technology (slashdot.org) and from sharing Tivo hacks (www.pvrblog.com) to talking about global warming (www.climateark.org/blog).

Considering the wide range of blogs, it is no wonder they are becoming a cornerstone in many integrated grassroots publicity campaigns. Blogs are a terrific medium for unleashing buzz with their elusive, underground quality and highly involved (read “interested”) readership.

In his best-selling book The Tipping Point, writer Malcolm Gladwell argues in detail how new ideas, information, rumors and other news can potentially spread like viruses. He claims that the messenger plays an important role in initiating contagious word-to-mouth epidemics.

There are plenty of recent examples of how blogs have been used to spread news and awareness. The momentum for Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, the interest in Puma’s new line of sneakers, and the popularity of Outkast’s latest record are some examples that show how influential bloggers are in spreading real buzz.

Understanding the nature of these 21st century messengers is critical to making your pitches successful. From my observations, all bloggers share a few important characteristics:

Bloggers Are Mavens
Bloggers are news mavens. They carefully browse web sites, newspapers, online forums and other sources to hunt for anything newsworthy as it relates to their blog. Since they are so in tune with the news media, bloggers easily recognize misplaced hype.

Bloggers Are Autonomous
Bloggers often work alone, which explains why they hold a slightly, shall we say, geeky pride and vanity in their work.

Bloggers Compete
There is often a slight degree of friendly competition among bloggers. They will try to stand out by posting unique stories or photographs. This increases their readership and site traffic, which will ultimately position these bloggers as an authority.

Working with blog writers poses a new challenge for PR professionals. Bloggers are a unique breed of reporters who are immune to typical publicity spin that is often successful in other media.

Getting your stories noticed by blog writers, however, will give you exposure to an extremely targeted group of readers (who are not bloggers).

Now these simple steps to remember when pitching anything to bloggers:

Step 1: Target Wisely
There are millions of online journals in the blog-sphere. Choose the right target blog by researching which ones are available. Use a blogdirectory such as DayPop or Popdex to see which blogs are relevant to your pitch.

Step 2: Respect the Blog
Once you’ve identified your target blog get to know its writer to feel out his or her style, choice of topics and posting frequency. These details are extremely important in fine-tuning your pitch and triggering the blogger’s interest.

Step 3: Map That Network
A blog is often part of a sophisticated network of other blogs that discuss similar topics. All of these blogs are potential targets. Map the blog’s network by looking at its links and referrals. Some blogs also provide trackback information and XML feeds, which identifies where a blog is syndicated or linked to.

Step 4: Gain Some Credibility
Bloggers are often turned off by out-of-the-blue email pitches. To make yours successful the blogger needs to become familiar with you before accepting the validity of you/your idea. Show your involvement by posting comments to the blogger’s news postings. This will strike his interest and boost the blogger’s ego. There is no greater reward for a blogger than receiving feedback from a reader. (Journalists like this too.)

Step 5: Make The Pitch
When you have established a level of credibility with a blogger make your pitch—direct and with conviction. Remember you’re dealing with a news junkie who will appreciate relevant information—something that is happening now. You might want to consider offering a story to him on an exclusive basis (“just for you”).

6. Don’t Leave!
Stay involved with the blog and continue to make comments to the writer’s postings. This will provide a platform for making future pitches. If you run away, well, you’re out…

Blogs will undoubtedly grow in importance in the years to come. Microsoft has announced they will provide blog functionality in Office and MSN, and Google has acquired a blogging tool called, naturally, Blogger to get their own piece of this emerging and evolving online boondoggle.

Key in making a successful pitch to a blogger-writer is to understand what drives these 21st century messengers and to develop your pitch strategies accordingly.

Don’t shoot the messenger, or in the end you could hit yourself right in the foot.

Next Month’s Column: Paris Hilton and Beyond: How Blogs Concoct Stories

Arjan Timmermans is a full-time marketing and PR professional in Atlanta for a global software company. He can be reached at atimmermans@yahoo.com.