A blogger outreach campaign can be an opportunity to spread the word about your brand across numerous sites — or a chance to irritate a whole bunch of influential people.
Over the past couple of years, more than one company watched a poorly run campaign net them the worst press possible. Bloggers like Danny Brown have blasted poor outreach messages and picked up hundreds of tweets, comments and likes along the way. In the example above, Brown was kind enough to blur out the name of the company in question (though not the agency rep), but not all bloggers are so considerate.
So how can brands avoid this fate? Let’s dive in.
Know your goal
Blogger outreach campaigns are hard to measure. Even if you can get a good idea of the size of the audiences you will be able to tap into, few bloggers will be willing to hand over an analytics report. But you still need to set some goals; it’s the key to everything else that you do.
I led a recent project for a client looking for coverage of a crowd-funding campaign that would fund and launch a new product. While coverage was a priority, the real metric of success was whether the crowdfunding campaign could raise enough money to make the product available. While it may be tempting to go after vanity metrics — like getting posts on a certain number of sites — this is the kind of realities you have to keep in mind when setting goals.
Target the right audience
That goal directly determined the audience we needed to reach: people who would actually invest money. In blogger outreach campaigns, your goals will almost always dictate your audience — far more than the actual brand you’re trying to build buzz around.
Simply put, you need to go after the audiences that are likely to take action. For a crowdfunding campaign, you want bloggers who have promoted successful Kickstarters and other campaigns in the past, whether they cover technology, media or some other topic. After all, if you’re selling a gadget, it might appeal to the audiences that follow tech bloggers, but you may also be able to pitch it to productivity bloggers as a time-saver, finance bloggers as a money-saver, and parent bloggers as a way to distract kids. It’s just a question of finding a story that will appeal to each niche.
Find a hook
Finding a story that will appeal to multiple bloggers in the same niche (and that has enough angles to ensure that they can all cover it without sounding repetitive) is perhaps the hardest part of a blogger outreach campaign. It’s tempting to brainstorm what you can offer them directly when you’re planning your first campaign, like exclusive parties, affiliate deals, or exclusive interviews.
But none of those ideas is a hook that a blogger can hang a story on — at least not one that’s going to appeal to their readers. They’re more bribes than anything else, which can be a problem. That same crowdfunding awareness campaign initially offered bloggers free items for every backer who clicked through an affiliate link — and were surprised when bloggers turned down the offer (some because they had no use for the products being offered). The bloggers they were approaching didn’t want to sell out the audiences they had carefully built; they wanted to provide value to their readers.
Plus, some of those offers can lead directly to negative responses. I’ve seen campaigns get emails back pointing out that not all bloggers happen to live in New York (a major problem for that party idea).
You need to dig deep into the brand to find the stories that someone else will find blog-worthy. Look for the reasons the founders or inventors created the project, unusual case studies from customers already using it, and even cool ways that the product was developed. Finding that unique storytelling angle is key.
Before you send a single email to a particular blogger, you should know if you have a story that would fit perfectly with everything else on his or her site. One of bloggers’ biggest pet peeves is that even emails that have clearly been customized a bit — a name pasted in at the top and a mention of the blogger’s most recent post added in somewhere — are still bland and generic. Cut-and-paste campaigns are not effective, because not every blogger responds to the same hooks.
Instead, let bloggers bring their own partnership ideas of their own to the table. Dana Forman, a fashion blogger, went so far as to specifically mention that she gets far more excited about brands that give her the freedom to come up her own ideas while still providing the support necessary to pull off those ideas.
A blogger who only shares products for which she can get coupon codes won’t write up a crowdfunding campaign; an influencer who only mentions products incidentally won’t write a full review on one brand. That’s fine — in either case, you can still find bloggers who will fit your brand and provide the coverage you want, as long as you’re prepared to dig deeper. A blogger outreach campaign is only effective if you can spend more than thirty seconds on each site and if you’re writing outreach emails that show why you’ve targeted a particular site.
There are plenty of pitfalls that can can pull down a blogger outreach campaign, but only when someone’s asking a blogger to cover something that’s clearly wrong for his site. Most bloggers welcome new topics and stories, provided they’re presented in a personal and appealing manner.
What’s the deal with the Content Strategist? At Contently, storytelling is the only marketing we do, and it works wonders. It could for you, too. Learn more.Image by Roel Wijnants / Flickr.com
Blogging communities = untapped customer acquisition potential.
Consider the following:
- Blogs are ubiquitous: According to Nielsen Media, there are over 181 million blogs on the Internet with 6.7 million people publishing content on blog sites.
- Consumers trust blogs over advertising:BlogHer found that 81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs.
- Blogs influence customer decisions: 61% of online consumers admit to having made a purchase based on a blog’s recommendations. [Source]
Put these three points together, and the implications for customer acquisition become clear: If you’re selling something, and you want to acquire customers, you should reach out to bloggers in your niche.
Fundamentals for building a great blogger outreach campaign:
Maria Sipka, CEO of Linqia, has a few tips for building a great blogger outreach campaign, and Shout Out Studio has also compiled a list for the cash-strapped startup. Both are worth reading in detail, but distilled, a great blogger outreach campaign would:
1. Select the best personas for the campaign
If you’re trying to promote a relay race, for example, you don’t just target “running bloggers”. You’d target bloggers who would have a deep affinity for your campaign, like mom blogs who talked about getting in shape, or a beer blogger who talked about running to justify beer. On top of that, you’d target bloggers who already have a significant following.
2. Give their personas the VIP treatment
You want bloggers to be genuinely excited to talk about your brand – the energy will show in their writing. Other than giveaways or sponsorships, you can flatter them and promote their blogs as well. Naturally, you should give bloggers maximal license over their writing.
3. Have a clear and fun campaign.
The best campaigns have a clear and creative tactic in mind before they contact bloggers. They didn’t just reach out for a simple brand mention. Instead, they had bloggers write about a nostalgic memory a food product evoked, or got bloggers to create a vanity mood board.
To illustrate these abstract principles, we’ve put together a few examples of great blogger outreach campaigns.
1. ModCloth – Names dresses after featured bloggers
ModCloth’s “Blogger of the Moment” outreach strategy features fashion influencers on the ModCloth blog, and names a dress after each of them. In turn, Bloggers of the Moment suggest other ModCloth pieces to complement their namesake dresses, and name their favorite ModCloth pieces.
Because they’re so excited to star on the ModCloth blog, they also talk about “Blogger of the Moment” to their own communities – more publicity for ModCloth!
Recognizing and working with community leaders:
ModCloth’s PR Manager Alicia Barnes commented that “Modcloth wants to empower all women to feel that they have a voice in the fashion industry, and feel that collaborating with bloggers is a big part of that – they’re real women with unique senses of style, and we love seeing how they interpret ModCloth pieces.”
2. One Kings Lane – Invites bloggers to showcase their vanities
Bloggers reflect their own style.
One Kings Lane invited bloggers to create a mood board of their dream vanity with decorative accents, centered around one of their statement mirrors. The focus on “vanity” and a statement mirror is very clever – participants are immediately inclined to be indulgent and runaway with their ideas.
3. Method – Safe enough for babies
Perfect choice of brand advocate:
Since Method’s hand soaps are “safe for people and the planet“, there is no better way to verify it than through a mom and her child. Readers of Kacia’s blog are reeled in with cute pictures and gifs of her toddler Harlow toying with the soap herself. Not only does everyone get a major feels trip, the point that Method soaps are very safe is effectively made.
4. Birchbox – Anyone can join the Birchblogger club
Birchbox wants you:
As if the brand needed any more loyal followers. Already, beauty bloggers and vloggers talk about their “unboxing days” feverishly. But Birchbox also values its fanbase enough to let any blogger, established or aspiring, to enjoy all the perks of being a Birchblogger. From Birchbox’s open call – “Whether you have one million YouTube subscribers or the only person reading your blog is your mom (go moms!), we want YOU.” Just sign up and join the Birchbloggers Facebook group.
5. Uniqlo – Connecting bloggers to fashion icon
Organized a Google+ Hangout with Orla Kiely:
To celebrate the launch of the UNIQLO x Orla Kiely: HEATTECH collection, for which the Irish designer created a selection of brand new patterns, Uniqlo put together a Google+ Hangout that connected blogger fans with Kiely. Influential bloggers were invited to ask questions, and the Hangout was streamed live on Youtube. The event became the subject of over 30 online articles.
6. Wendy’s – Eat a Frosty cone, write about nostalgia
Sponsored mom bloggers to write about frosty cones:
The strategy was simple – find mom, lifestyle, and family bloggers; pay them to eat and write about nostalgia-inducing Frosty cones; watch their readers crave Frosty cones too.
It all boils down to affinity.
You start out with a clear and interesting premise for a campaign. And then you find influential profiles who are inclined to identify strongly with your campaign. You make them feel honored and excited to be a part of the campaign by rewarding their participation. Finally, you let them write, and let the strength of their communities work for your brand.
Read next: How To Get Word-of-Mouth: 40+ Examples To Learn From
Melissa Tsang is a writer and speaker on the social impact of ecommerce and technology. She's also a bit of an impulse shopper. (A bit.)