I put together a case study and exploration of blogger outreach for a webinar I put on for a company yesterday and I thought I would share it here. I might go from calling it Long Tail Blogger Outreach to Deep Blogger Outreach or Deep Content Marketing. Anyway, it was meant to be spoken through so I will do that as well but for now check it out and let me know what you think. You can also find it over on SlideShare, Long Tail Blogger Outreach Webinar.
I talked about how blogger outreach is scary, and I talked about why this fear exists for most people before they start talking to bloggers. In great measure, these fears exist because of the horror stories that have resulted from wrong-headed approaches.
In the five years that we’ve been reaching out to bloggers, we’ve learned just as much about how NOT to pitch as we’ve learned about the right ways. The main thing to keep in mind is how you feel when you are on the receiving end of a misguided PR pitch. If you just stick with that mindset, you’ll avoid the lion’s share of pitching mistakes.
Now, I have been getting pitches for my blog, Because the Medium is the Message, since 2004 or so. Now, Marketing Conversation gets loads of pitches as well. Some of the insulting things that abuse me to no end include sending your pitch to “Dear Blogger,” or to “Abraham” when my name is Chris Abraham.
I can generally tell when a compliment is hollow: they’re either too general or way too recent and specific. It is very easy for even the least sophisticated of my fellow bloggers to sense sucking up or kissing up, especially if you haven’t done any homework or any research at all.
Also, if you don’t have your formatting sorted and it looks like you obviously copied and pasted back and forth and I can make out weird spacing and a strange mixture of fonts and sizes, I can tell you’re probably cutting corners and doing things carelessly and without concern for how I will perceive it–as though half-assed is all I am worth since I am not a Mashable or TechCrunch. People don’t like it when they can obviously tell that you’re going through the motions until something else better comes along. Bloggers will always call you out if they sense you’re just calling it in.
No, I also don’t blame the agents too much. They’re often understaffed, juggling too many balls, have insufficient experience, or lack technological skills and are just doing their best. The agencies are why these agents are oftentimes coming up short. And, at the end of the day, many agencies have given up on earned media because earned media can be risky and it can oftentimes be an all or nothing venture. Outreach failure is easily possible when there is very little cultural awareness and understanding of how best to appeal to these thousands and thousands of very real people who wield very real power and influence over popular consensus and perception.
Perhaps the only thing you’ve come away from this article is that you need to hire me in order to get some of that white-hat link-farming SEO love. So, let me warn you: it doesn’t work unless you spend a lot of time, money, energy, and creativity to actually put together a plausible and meaningful PR campaign.
Bloggers did not fall of a turnip truck. If they don’t see the value in the pitch, they won’t post; if they fancy that you’re just asking them to post because you want to vampire bat on their Google juice, then you’re likely to be in a whole lot of #fail and possibly a whole lot of pain. The white-hat link-farm organic SEO pwn effect is only secondary if you are, the entire way along, a total Mensch and have amazing assets, viral-quality video, a great pitch, an accurate target, and a gentle, kind, and generous follow-through.
It is sort of like dating. You need to remain present during the entire date and not even get angry or resentful–or hostile–if you are not invited upstairs for a night cap. If you’re caught just calling it in and going through the motions, just being on the date because you’re hoping to get lucky at the end of the night, you’re likely to end up either hurting someone else’s feelings or destroying your reputation. Enjoy the company, enjoy the date, enjoy the diversion, enjoy the desert, enjoy the wine, enjoy the walk in the park, enjoy the play, enjoy the coffee, and then be surprised and appreciative when and if you’re invited upstairs for a night cap.
If you are truly present in blogger outreach, and what you do is driven by what’s good for the blogger as well as what’s good for you, you might be pleased with the results.
You can’t ignore the power that search holds for your business. If you’re a serious business person whose business isn’t digital, you’re probably too busy making money to fool around on social media. Social media’s stupid, right? Just baby pictures, workout check-ins, adorable kittens and the self-indulgent ramblings of under-employed folks too far to either the left or the right to amount to much.
Just because you’re old-fashioned doesn’t mean what you’re doing isn’t working.
Big business has adopted many of the tools of the digital age, but it hasn’t gone native — because it doesn’t need to. Big money doesn’t need digital to do big business. It’s just cream — an additional channel for additional revenue.
There’s a lot of business being done and a lot of money being made using ’50s-era technology: phone calls, meetings, conference calls, lunches, dinners and hours at the club or the golf course. The Internet has not usurped the traditional, it has merely enriched it; however, there’s also no barrier to entry so this party isn’t exclusive but it’s super-saturated with powerful influencers and new media gods. So, please beware.
Yes, I know: you’re too busy for all of this rubbish. But the truth is, you cannot afford to let another day pass without sending in your social media and search insurance premium.
While I appreciate how valuable your time is, you’re playing a very dangerous game of Russian Roulette. The reason you’re so accomplished is because you are a shrewd judge of the landscape — and the landscape has changed and it includes not just what’s said by your communications team, your press releases, the New York Times, the Financial Times, or even MarketWatch.
Folks are already talking about you online — or soon will, gladly and badly.
The social media lunatics have taken over the Internet asylum, and unless your very own personal voice, face, story, narrative, history, resume, wins and losses are fed into the Googlesphere, you’re vulnerable to whatever anyone cares to say about you, no matter who. No doors, gates or private security will insulate you from attack, insult and slander.
A bulletproof vest won’t help if you’re not wearing pants
There is no armor available to protect you besides the active armor that is your own version of yourself online in the form of your biography, personal history and content, content and more content. You need to get in front of the storm that’s sure to come. You need to develop and populate your own personal Whitmanesque song of yourself onto the Internet, into search-optimized text, links, images and photos — and you need to do it well in advance of any problems you might potentially ever have, no matter how discrete and low-profile you might fancy yourself.
Back in the day, the Internet witch hunt was for politicians, then it became bankers, now it’s evolving toward anyone and everyone who’s thriving in free enterprise and pursuing the American dream, especially as it relates to what’s going on in Washington and the elections. There’s never been a worse time to take your ball and go home. So, it’s better to take some time, get together with your lawyer or business partner, and approve reams of text and start speaking for yourself, your life, your choices and your accomplishments instead of letting someone else speak for you (they’re never nearly as charming as you and your colleagues are, that’s for sure).
“But where?” you ask. Well, you first need to build out any sites you already have, including all your companies, foundations and boards. Next, you should become a blogger — or at least develop a process to produce blog content since Google adores blogs and seriously understands the architecture and framework of most blog platforms. Finally, you should start populating every social network service, social bookmarking site and social news site. Here’s an incomplete though comprehensive list for you to start on:
43 Things, Badoo, Bebo, Blog.com, Blogetry, Blogger, Blogster, CafeMom, Cyworld, delicious, deviantART, Diaspora, Digg , Diigo , douban, eToro, Facebook, Flickr, Flixster, folkd , Foursquare, Friendster, Google+, GovLoop, hi5, italki.com, iWiW, Jaiku, LinkedIn , LiveJournal, Meetup, mixi, Mubi, Myspace, Netlog, Newsvine , Ning, Open Diary, Orkut, Pinboard , Pinterest, Plaxo, Plurk, Posterous, Reddit , Squidoo , StumbleUpon, tribe.net, Tumblr, Twitter, TypePad, Virb, Vox, WordPress.com, Xanga, XING
Share more than you might want to
Do exactly the opposite of what you’d like: Reveal ’til it hurts.
You need to reveal yourself completely — as much as you, your spouse and lawyer agree to, anyway (forget your kids, they’ll be embarrassed, of course) — and you need to give ’til it hurts and well past your normal tendency toward discretion and your obsession with privacy. That Sea-Dweller on your wrist isn’t pretension, it’s because you’ve been a world class Submariner for yours — but you need to come up for air from now on, otherwise, you’re sure to be sunk.
Feel free to own the yacht but hire a crew if you’re not yet seaworthy. If you get my drift and want to adopt the yachting lifestyle yourself but either don’t have the mad sailing skills yourself, don’t yet posses a world-class crew, and don’t know yet where to go, then you should give me a call or reach out me by email — so I can help you pilot your vessel now, in the tranquil blue-green shallows of the Caribbean, as well as in the roughest seas and into — as well as out of — the storm.
Whichever way you go, please start. You can keep it simple and slow, but start today. You can task your Summer Intern (whatever times’ left), you can push it on your PR or communications team, or you can do it yourself — but do it.
It’s essential that you start feeding your best self online before you’re brought down by just about anyone with a device and a connection to the Internet — and you won’t be able to sue your way out of this one, I promise you.
I know you. You’re spending all of your social media marketing budget on promoting your brand, products, and services; that’s fine except you’ve either forgotten — or never knew — that social media is a two-way street. It is.
And, something you also didn’t know: social media is two-thirds defense and monitoring — listening — and only one-third promotion and publicity — speaking. Most marketing folks not only don’t get PR but they revile it; sadly, this is what social media is, no matter what you call it: public relations, all aspects of it: publicity, of course, but also crisis management!
A social media crisis almost always begins as a customer support call and generally escalates slowly and then exponentially, generally because a customer doesn’t feel heard, doesn’t feel responded to, doesn’t feel appreciate, or doesn’t feel respected. And the truth generally has nothing to do with any of those things (at first) though both sides can easily become very heated.
The truth most often has more to do with “not hearing the knock at the door,” “not hearing the phone ring,” — not noticing they’re there. And that Mr. Nobody, that real nowhere man, need not be a sniping, paranoid, lonely, nebbish, either. That person may very well be Chris-Frigging-Brogen himself!
Yesterday morning, Chris Brogan reported his terrible experience with NMTW Community Credit Union. Though now resolved, let me summarize: Chris lost track of an account at NMTW, one of his many bank accounts, which had drained and been empty or negative for only a couple weeks. NMTW automatically closes account after 15 days. Chris was a 20-year veteran of this bank and reached out via the info@ email and then took to Facebook.
You lost a 20-year member today. I emailed your info@ email address to forward the reason why to your president. Wishing you better in the future.
Long and short of it, he received a form mail:
NMTW takes pride in its member service and we strive to add value to everyone’s day. We regret that in your situation we were unable to assist you any further at the time of your branch visit. NMTW would like to thank you for bringing this to our attention and in doing so will prevent similar events in the future.
At first, Chris sent an email to the company using the only email he could find; then he reached out, gently, using the only other point of contact he had with his favorite community credit union, NMTW, because it mattered to him. Finally, a response! But not a response to his terse Facebook wall post, a copy-and-paste form response (rule one, never copy-and-paste responses, ever).
I didn’t ask Chris but I bet you he was pretty bemused by everything up to this point, though indignation has probably been building. What got him was the fact that the Facebook response was out of sync with what Chris wrote on Facebook — was completely deaf to his comment — but that he was shut down. That his comment reached a dead end.
What Chris expected — demanded — (and what I demand as well) is that Chris’ and my ping via email, form, Facebook, or Twitter actually goes somewhere. And, in this case, Chris was completely explicit as to where, “forward the reason why to your president.” He expected, rightly, that there was a direct path — a stovepipe — that runs from the social media dashboard that NMTW uses in their Social Media Command Center directly all the way up to El Presidente. Rightfully so.
Everyone who consumes social media expects that. We have been trained to. We don’t expect that when we call an 800 customer support line, but we do expect satisfaction when there — or can be — witnesses. On a phone, tarring-and-feathering and stocks in the village square aren’t even worth it, but on Facebook and Twitter, there’s nothing to lose. Every altercation can be a bona fide “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” moment!
So, if you’re going to dance with devil — with social media, naked and covered with tar and feather in stocks at the very center of the village square, you had better spend at least two-thirds of your time, resources, and respect making sure you’re not missing very important conversations — listening — while you’re spending way too much of your time pitching, selling, marketing, promoting, hawking — speaking — like some itinerant peddler.
You’re better than that. Right?
Good blog writing isn’t about how many words or sentences you use. Nor is it about making your language as fancy and flowery as possible. It’s about the quality of your writing and being clear and straight to the point with your message.
“The rub is that good writing must be concise without being shallow,” Berkun notes.
I agree. The key to successfully communicating a message to an audience is stating the facts or telling the story simply as it is. It can be a challenge to find that good balance, but when in doubt keep it simple.
In our modern fast-paced generation, everything is on-the-go with content overload filling up our Facebook and Twitter feeds and with new sources of information crowding the web. We’ll never experience a shortage of information online. That’s for sure.
Due to the high volume of sources in news streams today, people need to read articles and posts quickly and easily so that they may go on to the next.
- Self-publishing: Author Scott Berkun shares his experiences (writerway.com)
- Scott Berkun: Free download ebook (postadaychallenge2011.com)
- Scott Berkun’s “Mindfire” eBook Free Until November 3rd (readwriteweb.com)
- Scott Berkun’s “Mindfire” eBook Free Until November 3rd (q-ontech.blogspot.com)
- Can you say much in 500 Words? Essays vs. Blogs (scottberkun.com)