Andy Sernovitz‘s blog’s name says it all, and definitely reflects my response to reading this: Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That!, especially in his post Instant Word of Mouth for Restaurants. From our experience doing blogger outreach and blogger gift-giving, this is on-the-money advice you should all consider:
Give every lunch customer 6 desserts to take back to the office.
Give them one desert and they will eat it.
Give them 6 and they will to announce to everyone that they just ate at your restaurant and you gave them snacks to share.
Lesson: One free sample is interesting. Lots of samples turn customers into evangelists.
Firstly, while we at Abraham Harrison do online publicity and blogger outreach exclusively, this advice rings true. First, let me define what we mean by “free samples” and “gifts” in our context.
Gifts don’t have to be free stuff — like books or iPods — gifts can be in the form of knowledge, intellectual property, insider access, or blogger exclusives; gifts can be informational, gifts can solve a community problem, or customer service issues.
What a gift needs to be is super-valuable to the recipient — the value of a gift is based on perception. You need to be willing to give the gift that the blogger wants and not the gift you are prepared or want to give.
What is not cool is half measures or crappy, throw-away gifts, the Internet version of key rings and a bowl of candy. Offering throttled, limited or restricted demos (without access to the full version when it is released); offering a single book chapter (without the whole book being an option); or granting “exclusive” access to something that is already released is just plain lame and will result in severe negative consequences.
It is pretty bad to not give a gift when you reach out to bloggers just because you feel entitled or represent a fancy client but it is worse to be stingy about the gift you do give. Make sure the gift is generous — give until it hurts.
For example, with Survivor Corps, not only did we make lots of full-chapters available for download and sharing, but we are making paper hardcover copies available to anyone and everyone who wants one — and the offer is transferable.
While the wide selection of chapters may be generous, offering only a partial book would easily be considered to be stingy and cheap if we were not willing and able to drop-ship complete copies of the book at a moment’s notice without ever demanding a quid pro quo.
Most of the bloggers might very readily blog about I Will Not Be Broken were I to only send a smattering of chapters; even so, the risk associated with not making copies freely available would be intense and is not worth it.
The cost of a hundred books sent to important niche online influencers who have promised to blog about Survivor Corps, whether they ever do is negligible compared to being pegged as cheap and ungrateful.
Even a blogger who has an advertising rate sheet and who would never consider doing a review without being sponsored or paid are often willing to blog on behalf of our clients — when we get the right balance between influencer-targeting, message-modeling, gift-giving, blogger activation, and following-up.
It works because this is relationship and conversation marketing. There are real people behind those blogs who are sick and tired of not being treated like people and if you can get the mixture right, magic happens.
When we do blogger public relations (often called blogger relations or BR), blogger messaging, or online outreach, it is essential to do everything possible to make sure that the blogger’s free spirit is appreciated and also realize that the blogger is under zero responsibility to blog about your client at all; and, for the same reason that bloggers are pursued by us PR and marketing professionals — their influence, platform, and voice — bloggers are fully capable of turning against you and your client.
Luckily, bloggers are people, marketers are people, even PR professionals are people; therefore, even if something goes wrong during an aggressive messaging and PR compaign, which they often do if you’re being aggressive and passionate, a human touch and human engagement usually does the trick to smooth feathers, clear the air, and make things nice.
Even when clearing the air isn’t possible, it is important to be brave and a little shameless: when you’re in this sort of business, 1% or more of all recipients will have a cow and there is nothing you can do about it, no matter how much attention, love, adoration, and mea culpas you’re willing or able to invest.
For the Survivor Corps campaign, we have been pretty aggressive. Even before we have delivered our first copy of I Will Not Be Broken to a single blogger, we have received almost 50 blog mentions and posts. Even if we had suffered a couple negative posts as a tithe for the 50 positive mentions, I believe it would still have been worth it.
If you need more proof you can read the mentions that bloggers have written so far about Jerry White’s book, I Will Not Be Broken, collected well before any actual books arrived via Fedex to the bloggers’ door, you will see that Blogger PR is well worth all of the time and trouble required to make it work right.
Let me know if you have any questions about what we do or how we do it. I would be very happy to tell you more if you contact me at Abraham Harrison.