Indiscriminate pitching by literary reps, media and PR agencies, and wear-many-hats folk anxious for some attention for their companies is getting out of hand. It seems I can’t go a week without 2-3 pitches staring at me from my inbox, and I’d hardly call my business blog an absolute “must” in the digital marketing, branding, or content topic circuit (much as my ego might like the idea, there are bigger fish in the pond). Imagine what the content marketing managers handling editorial for large companies with heavily trafficked blogs have to contend with. <shudder>
I am not insensitive to the pitcher’s plight. We all have a job to do. Sometimes our jobs involve building momentum to tactically support an objective. Pitching bloggers has grown to an accepted practice in a time where people connect digitally around topics of common interest.
Building the foundation for a relationship with a blogger is a lot of work, but blogger outreach can be effective. Snaring a blogger’s mild interest could potentially lead to more exposure, organically creating access to an even higher-profile blogger. Maybe.
But what if those receiving the pitch aren’t responsive the first or second offer lobbed into their inbox? Does that suggest a misalignment of interests, a personal disdain for the pitch style, or an ineffective/irrelevant offer? Shouldn’t the people pitching bloggers re-think their tactics?
The important business question surrounding blogger outreach is What kind of results might these pitch partners garner if they’d taken a slower hand at attracting blogger attention by establishing a mutually beneficial and enduring relationships?
I think blogger outreach should be more like speed dating. Set aside the apparent contradiction of interests for a moment (the “speed” in speed dating doesn’t exactly call to mind visions of patience and nurturing). Here’s why more folks practicing blogger outreach should look at their efforts through a formalized matchmaking lens:
1. Start slow.
In speed dating, both sides want to put their best foot forward. Annoying habits are left at the door, sensitive topics are put on a shelf, and distasteful behaviors are curbed. This is a time for showing who you are when you care enough to tune into the person you’re speaking with, and filter out anything that might distract them from hearing what you have to say.
Tip: Find out if the blogger you wish to target is receptive to an overture about the product or service you’re pitching. Sure, that may mean sending them an email – but a one-sentence “Hey, could I talk with you about X because your tweets suggest you like XX?” is worlds apart from a smarmy, epic email where you vomit every detail known to man about product X right out of the gate.
2. Ask, don’t demand.
In speed dating, neither party has any expectation of the other. Because the parties have no prior knowledge of one another, there are no preconceived ideas of dinner, a movie, or drinks. It’s merely a meet & greet, an initial filter for determining basic appropriateness for further discovery.
Tip: I get that you might be the butt of some pitch jokes, and that maybe sometimes bloggers aren’t polite when they reply “No, thank you.” You may have reason to feel a little defensive as you perform your tasks. But if you enter into the pitch placing no expectation on the outcome, your pitch language will subtly shift. You’ll come across more approachable and maybe even respectful of my time. I like a softer, less overbearing approach.
3. Get on the same page with each other.
In speed dating, both parties share the same objective. One party may have little time in their schedule for cattle-call social scenes. Another may have more specific ideas for a good match and therefore like the efficiency a speed dating service offers. In any case, you can bet the men and women participating in a speed dating event all want the same thing – to uncover a prospective companion or two. They just want an opening.
Tip: My objective for my blog most definitely differs from the objective of your pitch. Please don’t presume to believe our needs are “a good fit,” “a perfect match, or even “aligned” without talking to me first. Obviously a lot of complex and variable things percolate with a blogger – a business – that never make it to the public domain, so even with a deft hand at research, you may never really know where my interests lay unless we have a disarming (see tips above) conversation (digital or other).
4. Learn more by watching (or reading).
In speed dating, both parties can observe the other in the wild. Much can be learned through a few stolen people-watching moments. A person’s carriage, their facial expressions, their hand gestures and attentiveness, their emotions and of course their physical appearance – these are all “tells” that factor into our subjective opinions, ultimately leading us to act on the data we compute. The restaurant or meeting call provides an equal opportunity to both parties.
Tip: Yes, you’re under a deadline and have 237 other bloggers on your Excel list. But take the time to read what I produce (on my blog and other properties I write for), check out my POV through Disqus comments, a history of some tweets, my Instagram pics and musings on my other “fun” blog. You’re more likely to see the whole me and have a more genuine place to start a dialogue from. And you’ll know right off whether you’re client’s hot new book about big data is the kind of thing I might want to hear more about.
Even with a lot of technology-based tools in the arsenal, blogger outreach remains an art—you need to have strong interpersonal skills, patience, generosity, and a view of the long-term reward offered to succeed in this new gift economy.
Heather Rast is Principal of Insights & Ingenuity, a brand-building Internet marketing firm. She helps clients earn brand preference through thoughtful positioning, useful content, and experience-centered online communities. Heather writes frequently for Social Media Explorer, MarketingProfs, Content Marketing Institute, 99designs, and Workshifting.
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