As I have traveled around the country, no matter what topic I am speaking about, people always want to know, “How do I find and approach influential bloggers?”
“Blogger relations” continues to be a very hot subject, even though many in the social media bubble are somewhat tired of it and all of the drama that continues to play around it.
Many of my esteemed colleagues, who have proven track records of working with bloggers on behalf of clients, have done a great job of outlining tips and techniques for reaching out to the online community, and so I would like to submit that is time to move away from the one-dimensional discussion about how to “reach” bloggers.
Not that it isn't a good discussion.
Toby Bloomberg recently published the results of a poll that centered on just that discussion, and its results (while not statistically valid) gave some interesting insight into what brands should consider before starting any online outreach. (Toby's industry pulse survey Parts I, II and III)
In the end, the true goal of online engagement is building relationships. But the depth and breadth of those relationships will depend largely on what the person you are engaging with needs from the relationship.
I will also step out on a limb here and say that while the dialogue should be two-way, the “relationship” is not — certainly not right away. In the beginning, the brand wants to make contact more than the person being engaged. So, try not to be a stalker and think more of meeting someone at a party for the first time. Shake hands, offer information if it seems relevant and if appropriate, exchange information to get in touch later.
It's all about networking, not making the sale.
Goals of Online Activity
- Finding information
- Sharing information
- Networking or Socializing
- Seeking Entertainment
Underlying these goals are the purpose. While one person might be interested in learning about an industry or subject by deeply pursuing the subject experts, another might be doing a simple Google search for a very specific topic to finish a work product.
Many may have no interest in a long-term relationship, they just want to get what they need and go home.
I like Forrester's six categories of Social Technographic Profiles that force you to think in terms of purpose behind the goals, but you could just as easily use Malcolm Gladwell's three-part view of influencers as Mavens, Connectors and Salespersons in the Tipping Point.
The Value of Public Relations
Once you have an idea of who you are talking with, you can make the right decision in how to best approach them.
In a world where the content creator or social network participant is involved because they are passionate about an idea, or interested in sharing stuff with their friends, a direct pitch often comes across like the construction guys yelling “Hey baby” at a woman walking by, minding her own business.
Journalists have come to expect this kind of behavior from PR pros, but they don't like it. And most of the time they don't broadcast the details of the bad pickup line to the whole world, but not always.
The same rules do not apply in social media, and I have bookmarked about 12 posts that represent the debate, with some people, like Todd Defren, working hard to show value of public relations council in today's distributed media environment. And others like Jason Falls working to make it better by reaching out to his fellow professionals with education.
For public relations professionals that understand it is all about relationship building, there is a lot of great opportunity out there, and lots of people who recognize our value.
So perhaps a course in basic human etiquette is better than one in blogger relations? You tell me.