Courting Third-Party Blog Placements
Third-party “news and reviews” blogs are essential to most company’s marketing strategies. Think of these blogs as the online equivalent of magazine/newspaper articles and reviews; they function as an important information source for today’s Internet-savvy consumers.
Some of these sites are big, professional ones, staffed by professional writers. Others are smaller and less professional, run by hobbyists or just interested parties with opinions. Whatever the level of professionalism, you should consider these bloggers as part of the press, just as you do print writers; these bloggers function similarly in terms of informing the public, even if they don't necessarily share the same journalistic code as their print brethren.
Identifying Influential Blogs
What’s key about news and reviews blogs is that they write about developments in your industry, and as such become a regular source of information to interested consumers. In many instances, these blogs have supplanted traditional media in importance. This is why many companies have discovered that blogs send more traffic back to their sites than do traditional media.
Within any given industry or topic area, then, there are some blogs that are quite influential; they have a large readership that trusts the blogger's opinions. If such a blogger writes about your company or product, lots of trafficand, hopefully, salescan result.
What you need to do is determine which blogs your existing and potential customers read. That’s blogs, plural, because you’ll likely have to target several of them. There’s not one major blog that everyone in the country reads; it's more a network of small, focused blogs that are important to narrow groups of consumers. Your customers are apt to follow those blogs that concentrate on specific topics in which they're interested.
A mention in a well-known blog can have significant impactmore than you might think. That’s because bloggers are today’s power influencers. One kind word from a blogger about a given product functions as an endorsement and has a lot more impact than any advertisement you might target to that customer base. It's the ultimate in word-of-mouth promotion.
Why is this? It’s because regular followers of a blog come to know and trust the opinions of the person (or people) writing that blog. It's really a personal thing; the best bloggers become something like trusted friends.
For all these reasons, you need to develop and nurture a network of key contacts in the blogosphere and feed those contacts information that you want your customers and potential customers to hear. One good word from a major blogger can have a huge impact on your bottom line.
Giving Bloggers What They Need
You need to expend effort, then, to get in front of (and in the good graces of) the most influential bloggers. That means identifying these bloggers, of course, but also getting to know them, the same way your PR folks typically get to know the most important newspaper columnists or magazine reviewers. This sort of thing is done on a personal basis, not just by sending out press releases or their electronic equivalentalthough you still need to do that, of course, to hit the second- and third-tier bloggers. With the big guys, there's a lot of talking and cajoling involved; it's a relationship kind of thing.
As to what you send bloggers, a traditional printed press release or press kit won’t do the job. Instead, put together an electronic press kit, something you can send to bloggers via email. The email message itself should probably serve as the press release; use attachments to send product photos and other key items.
That email press release, by the way, should include a link back to whatever it is you're promoting. That could be your company's home page but more likely should be a dedicated landing page for this PR event. You want to send the blogger's followers to a web page that relates directly to whatever it is the blogger wrote; don't rely on generic links.
You should also include links to pictures and other media that the blogger can easily embed in his blog posts. Make it easy for bloggers to put together an informative post; don’t make them hunt for pictures and other information.
Naturally, you need to include your own contact information in the email, so the blogger can contact you directly for more information. Most bloggers want to personalize the information they present, which means you shouldn't expect exact regurgitation of your press releases. Instead, help bloggers turn your message into something unique to their blogs.
If you can get in front of these bloggers and get them to write about your products, you can then benefit from that implied endorsement. You can't always tell how many readers of a blog will act on the blogger's advice, but it's "free" placement that carries with it a legitimacy similar to true word-of-mouth marketing. Directing your PR efforts to these influential bloggers is every bit as important as cultivating traditional media contactsand perhaps more so. It's the kind of exposure you just can't get from paid media.