Chris Abraham recently published a case study on the “art of writing the perfect blogger pitch.” There’s a lot to like here. For one, the time and thought Chris and his team devote to this esoterica are rare. For another, spilling your trade secrets takes guts.
Why you should host one, and how to do it
Bloggers’ roundtables have been around for a while. They’re especially popular for book clubs, with the Department of Defense, and among politicians. (One wag asked John McCain if he knew the difference between YouTube and MySpace.)
Yet roundtables never took off as a form of outreach. That’s too bad, because as a vehicle to engage many stakeholders at once, roundtables can be as effective, if not more so, than their headline-grabbing cousins, Twitter and Facebook.
Mention the phrase “blogger engagement” to today’s marketer, and you’re likely to get an eager response, followed by self-professed ignorance. “We’d love to do that—we just don’t know how.”
To some, this scenario spells new business. (In part, this explains why many agencies separate their “digital” practice from their traditional ones.) Yet an honest blogger whisperer will let you in on a secret: If you can pitch a reporter, producer, or booker, you can pitch a blogger. After all, bloggers are just people—susceptible to the same relationship-cultivating techniques that every PR pro performs every day.
Indeed, the best way to understand bloggers is to view them as members of the media. Think of blogger engagement as public relations, albeit a new kind. Neither straight reporter nor pure pundit, the blogger is a hybrid creature who observes his own rules.
In one e-mail, Mercurio offered to help write and place an op-ed if the recipient, blogger Chris Soghoian, would lend his name to it. The savvy Soghoian asked who was bankrolling the campaign, and when Mercurio declined to say, Soghoian made the e-mails public.
What makes this incident interesting is that on one hand, Mercurio did many things right. He used a descriptive subject line: “Op-Ed Opportunity: Google Quietly Launches Sweeping Violation of User Privacy.” His first sentence succinctly and directly summarized the ask. He provided a list of talking points, each supported by a link to an independent sources. And his offer was tantalizing: Who in DC wouldn’t want a byline in the Washington Post?
In my first op-ed in a while, I answer this question today at PRWeek. Here’s the text:
Clients often ask, What is new media? To answer this, I like to step back and ask, What is public relations?
Public relations is the practice of improving public perception. In a word, it’s promotion. A corollary of this is strategizing: What media should you use to get your message out?
New media is simply one of these outlets; specifically—and appropriately—it’s the newest outlet. But instead of developing relationships with producers on TV and radio shows, or editors and reporters at newspapers and magazines, we new media folk work with online sources: bloggers, podcasters, Web masters, news aggregators.
Our old media colleagues spend their days on the phone with journalists, meeting them for coffee, drafting press releases, crafting pitches, and compiling media lists. In essence, we do the same thing, but with a different vocabulary and under different rules.
The response, a couple weeks later, came from the blog’s founder and co-editor, Michael Arrington: “We’re a blog. We don’t do prints, let alone reprints.”
Oops. Or as former Qorvis staffer Jesse Thomas puts it, “Selling digital PR and not knowing that TechCrunch is a blog is definitely an embarrassment.”