Pitching to a Blogger 101

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Chances are, you know someone who blogs. Just in my little social circle alone, I have friends that blog about their family and their kids, friends that blog about current events and hobbies, and friends that blog as a way to promote their businesses. In this huge world of 6.9 billion people, blogging has given previously unknown people a voice. Just ask The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond.

At the end of 2011, there were 181 million blogs in existence in the world according to NM Incite, a Nielsen/McKinsey company. CNET reports that two new blogs are created every second, meaning that number has grown exponentially in the last eight months. That doesn’t necessarily mean every single one of those blogs has something interesting to say. Out of that vast number, about a quarter update their blogs regularly and have a dedicated following. Those who have taken the time to carve out their niche in the blogosphere are often perceived to be a leading authority on whatever topic they choose to write on. In short, their readers listen to and value what they have to say.

Case in point, Thermador — a kitchen appliances manufacturer — teamed up with the author of one of my favorite cooking blogs. I have been following her blog, Steamy Kitchen, long enough to know that she doesn’t typically promote a product unless she has actually used it and genuinely thinks it’s worth purchasing. Her Thermador post intrigued me enough to do a search on the company. Perhaps one of her readers is contemplating building a house or remodeling a kitchen. That one post could influence a buying decision.

So how do you get a blogger to tell your story? Why, with a good old-fashioned pitch, of course. But pitching to a blogger is different than pitching a story to traditional media. It’s their blog and they don’t want to be told what to write about.

Below are a few guidelines to keep in mind when approaching a blogger:

  1. Become familiar with their blog. Subscribe to their feed and read their posts. Leave comments if you feel you have something to add to the conversation. This interaction will put you on their radar, but it is not the place to make your pitch. Leave a self-serving comment, and chances are it will be deleted and you will be written off.
  2. Personalize the pitch. Generic press releases will probably be sent straight to the recycle bin. Write a customized pitch in the same tone that the blog is written in. If there was a recent post you enjoyed, mention it. It shows you are paying attention. Don’t forget to include why you feel your story or product is relevant.
  3. Offer to send a freebie. Who doesn’t like free stuff? If your product is relevant to their audience, consider sending a free sample for them to try out or, even better, to hand out as a giveaway to one of their readers. Before you do this, however, be sure to read over the FTC guidelines regarding bloggers and product endorsements. Both parties must disclose the relationship within the post itself and in any social media promotions. If you fail to do this, both the blogger and your company could face hefty fines.
  4. Discuss beforehand what happens if the blogger tries your product and doesn’t like it. Will you and the blogger just agree to go your separate ways? Or will they write an honest review about the good, the bad and the ugly? There is not a lot you can do to prevent them from writing a bad review of your product, but at least you can be prepared.
  5. Offer traffic or referrals to their blog. All bloggers want more traffic, especially if your site is a highly trafficked area. For well-established bloggers, that translates into additional advertising dollars. For lesser-known bloggers, it gives them more visibility and higher page ranks. Again, be sure to disclose your relationship.
  6. Respond quickly. If a blogger is receptive to your pitch, be sure to respond to their interest sooner rather than later. You want to provide them with all the info they need while the topic is still fresh on their mind.
  7. Remember that everything you say is “on the record.” Even private communication can be used as content for a blog post. Before hitting that send button, make sure you are okay with the possibility of your words being shared with the World Wide Web.

Try to keep in mind that most bloggers don’t blog for a living — many have full-time jobs, busy schedules and maintain their blogs on their own time. If their site attracts a large audience, they may only have five minutes to wade through emails from fans and other pitches just like yours. Taking the extra time to establish a rapport in the beginning may just be the extra push you need to get your pitch noticed and establish a long and mutually beneficial relationship.