Pitching Bloggers

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I sometimes get emails from companies who want me to review their product on on my blog. I gues that means that my readers (that means you) are either pretty smart and valuable or the companies doing the pitching are pretty stupid. Let’s go with the former.

The problem is, these pitches invariably are aimed at someone other than me. They have my name on them, but they’re usually targeted at a PR guy instead of at a blogger.

Adam,

My name is Shelley Orenstein and I am a co-founder of Viapoint Corporation. I know you provide reviews of products that are useful to you and your readers and I invite you to download the product at www.viapoint.com/downloads.viapointsetup.exe and use the offer code ######.

I would also love the opportunity to provide you with a 5-15 minute briefing on how (as well as case studies of some of our customers) the organized and unified desktop is going to help. Please let me know if there is a convenient time to set that up. Thank you.

At least she got my name right.

If you’re trying to get bloggers to try your product and review it, you need to give them a reason to. Unlike a magazine, bloggers aren’t sitting around looking for story ideas. We don’t read press releases looking for something newsworthy. Our blogs are our passions — we write about things we’re interested in. Sometimes that means we’ll go several days or weeks without writing anything. In other words, we don’t have a quota to fill, so you have to make me interested in you or your product in order for me to write about it.

That email failed to do this. From that email, I had no real idea what your product does or why I’d be interested in it. It led with the download link without even giving me a clue what I’d be downloading, how big the file is, or what I’d need in order to use it. I assume from the file extension it’s Windows-based. I’m on a Mac, a fact that the pitcher might have picked up if she’d been following my blog. I’ve never mentioned it directly, but I’ve been talking about a lot of Mac-based software lately.

If you want to pitch bloggers, you have to build relationships with us. Not only are we not going to respond well to “please download this and review it” but we’re likely to be annoyed by that approach. What’s in it for me? Why would I have any interest at all in trying your product, let alone telling my readers about it? Instead of pitching to me, talk to me. Tell me who you are, why you found my site, why you think I’d be interested in your product.

Start by building a little foundation for the relationship. Before you ever contact me, leave a few comments on my blog. Don’t pitch your product, or even mention it, just join in the conversation. Then after week or so of that, send me a short email. Something like “I’ve been enjoying your blog. If you’ve got some time, check out the product we make for organizing your documents, email, etc. You can grab it at [url]. Let me know if you want to chat about it on the phone or if you’d like a [free, discounted, evaluation, developer, whatever] license.”

Show me you care by following up a few days later with something that would interest me. Ask me a question about something I’ve written lately. Send me a link that I’d find interesting. Point out how your product could solve a problem for me. Notice I said “for me.” Don’t just tout the benefits of your product, tailor your benefits to something you know about me from reading my blog. If you can’t think of some way your product would personally benefit me, I’m likely to never try it, use it, or write about it. Remember, my blog is all about me and what I like.

A good example of how to pitch bloggers is found in Buzz Bruggeman from Activewords (see http://kalsey.com/2003/06/activewords/). He sent me a short email with some commentary about something I’d written. At the end of the email was a low-key offer to give me a copy of his product for free and some links to the product and some third-party articles about it. After that initial email, I received emails and phone calls from Buzz regularly, but never once did he push his product. Each time he contacted me, it was to help me out with something. Sometimes he had an idea for using his software to solve a problem I’d blogged about. Sometimes it was just to point me to something he knew I’d be interested. This continued long after I’d already written a favorable review of the product. Buzz was more interested in the relationship than the review.

Learn to stop talking like a PR pitchman. We don’t want “product briefings” but we’d be happy to talk to you over the phone about what your product does. We don’t “provide reviews for our readers” we blog about interesting products. Case studies aren’t interesting, but stories about real people getting real benefits are.

Forget what you learned in your PR classes. Start acting like a human instead of a marketer, and the humans behind the blogs will respond. Heck, if you want to really do it right, hire a blogger.

Nathanael
November 4, 2005 5:18 PM

I think the approach of building relationships rather than the used car salesperson method is a better option all round, not just for the situation you described. Problem is it's time consuming and sales people sometimes can't see the value in spending time on one lead when they could be saturating the prospect field. But it does work - you get a much better success rate. But why are they approaching you? Because you're a high visibility site or because you might be interested in their product? Doesn't seem like the latter is likely. Just think of a future where billboards are semi-organic lifeforms that control themselves. If you want your ad on a billboard you have to ask nicely, and give it a good reason for displaying your ad. Perhaps these people just see you as a billboard?

Cully
November 30, 2005 2:11 PM

Adam, I have to admit, what you've written here obviously makes sense to many, but what Nathaniel writes is the reality for a lot of people, especially one-person shows. I own a website that i'm trying to promote, just like probably most people who mention a product when blogging. I have an MBA in Market Strategy and International Business, and know what needs to be done, but don't have the time or cash on hand to do it. Filling out blogs are a time-consuming activity, but obviously an important one. Besides time management, what would you suggest? Especially for people that are new the to the blogging world? Cully Perlman President Degreedate.com

Calan
April 5, 2006 1:02 PM

Hi Adam, Nice post. Bloggers write about their interests. Select bloggers interested in your product and talk to them. Having a few well written posts on on-topic blogs from respected bloggers is extremely valuable and provides great product credibility. A mass approach at an unrelated blog is an insult.

Rachel Gross
July 19, 2006 3:51 PM

Hey, I am a PR professional and I just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed your blog. Thanks for the thoughts, I am going to pass this on to some of my peers.

mary
November 3, 2008 8:22 AM

Unfortunately, I got to learn this the hard way. In other words hundreds of emails to bloggers and other well ranking websites only to find the best responses are when you communicate in normal conversation...without expectations. Many marketers approach conversations as if they deserve something (mentality: big company, fat budget, and I've already contacted 300 other people) However, the best response will come when you treat the blogger, PR Rep., or webmaster like a person and ask for their input and advice. You will have a great opportunity to form a beneficial relationship. I have experienced numerous occasions that I was turned down from the pitch, I asked if they had any recommendations and ended up getting great advice and the deal. Excellent Post.

Brent
February 20, 2009 5:36 PM

Great post. I agree with Cully above. The reason most people don't develop a relationship is for the very fact that they don't WANT to take the time to get to know people. Humans are IMO inherently lazy and will take the fastest point from A to Z, even if that means losing out on some great opportunities.

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