Blogger Relations

TechCrunch recently published a great post by Brian Solis of FutureWorks on PR Secrets for Startups that is a MUST-READ for all of you PR types that think sending unsolicited press releases to blog masters counts as “blogger relations”. (By the way, it doesn’t!)

Brian’s post offered up 12 secrets of PR 2.0 that you need to master if you’re going to be effective in today’s world where the web (regardless of what number you put after it) is your primary method of reaching a large audience. In this post, I’m going to explain how ten of these secrets apply to blogs in particular and, most importantly, how they apply to this blog. Without further ado, here are the secrets – and what you need to know!

  1. You’re not the only story in town!
        Bloggers ARE the busiest people you’re ever going to meet. And, as Brian points out, they’re interested only in what’s interesting and relevant. Generic over-the-top inbound emails, press releases, and copied stories from other publications aren’t going to get their interest – and they certainly don’t get mine.
        You send me an unsolicited press release as a “story idea”, and I write a new spam filter / auto-delete rule. It’s that simple. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I’m willing to write about any solution provider in the supply chain space that has a product and / or service offering that they are willing to openly discuss over a (web) demo – it’s what the blog lives for. (In the case of a service provider, a frank discussion of the methodology and how it was successfully applied to benefit a client combined with a brief conversation with the client for verification.) I’m interested in facts, not spin, and how purchasing / procurement / supply management / spend management practitioners can use your offering to improve their companies and themselves. Also, a PowerPoint presentation over a webex does not count as a demo. (If you have a PowerPoint presentation that you believe captures important background material about your offering, feel free to send it to me and I’ll be more than happy to review it before the demo.)
        Furthermore, your “priority” is not my “priority”. Any unsolicited e-mail from an unknown sender marked as a “priority message” also generates the creation of a new anti-spam / auto-delete rule in my mail reader.  My “priority” is generating informative and educational blog posts for my innovative readers.  Press releases do not fall into that category.
  2. Pick the Right Person to Handle Blogger Relations
        Bloggers are not your average journalists. They are typically consultants who are experts in their fields and they are going to want to talk to someone who knows what they are talking about and who is able to handle the difficult business AND technology questions. A PR person that doesn’t know more than what can be found on the corporate web-site and in the press-releases is not going to impress a blogger who is always short on time.
        the doctor holds a PhD in computer science (in multidimensional and spatial data structures and computational geometry) and has extensive technical expertise in algorithms, databases, modeling, optimization, analysis, software architecture, and the protocols on which the internet and the World Wide Web is built. In addition, the doctor has extensive expertise in sourcing, procurement, and supply chain processes, methodologies, and technologies. A PR person who thinks Java is what you drink when you wake up, IP only refers to intellectual property, C is the third letter of the alphabet, and that three-tier architecture refers to a three-story house is probably not the right person to be reaching out to the doctor, especially if this person also believes sourcing is done by sorcerers, three-way matching refers to insuring your blouse, skirt, and shoes all match, and drill-down is a command given by a foreman to an oil-rig worker.
  3. Interaction is the Key
        As Brian points out, you are equally important in the process. Whomever is handling blogger relations should start of with an introduction, offer to hold a conversation, and, most importantly, demonstrate an understanding of what the Blogger’s blog is all about.
        At the time of writing, there are over 850 posts consisting of over 579,000 words (which equates to over 1000 pages) on Sourcing Innovation – and if that’s not enough to give you a good idea what this blog is about, then I don’t know what is. Furthermore, there are a number of posts indexed on the right-hand sidebar that explain what the blog is all about.
  4. Identify the Right Blogs
        Not every blog is the right blog for you. Target the right ones for maximum effectiveness.
        This blog is about sourcing, procurement, and related supply chain issues and innovations. It’s not about 3PLs or RFID technology, for example.
  5. Don’t Launch on Mondays
        Everybody is busy Monday morning, and that’s when everyone else decides they need to get their story out too. Furthermore, bloggers do need time to prepare a good story. Sure most of us can get a decent length blog entry out in under an hour, but we’re not always able to type it up right away – and we do need time for reflection if we are to put our best blog forward.
        As a general rule, you should contact the doctor at least two weeks before you would like a story out there and be prepared to hold a conversation over a web-based demo at least a week before you’d like to see your story in print. Earlier is better, since the doctor makes his living as a consultant, and isn’t always available on short notice.
  6. No Two Bloggers are Created Equal
        Bloggers are not traditional paid-by-the-story up-and-coming news-room journalists that are easily replaced – they are unique individuals with their own expertise, focus, and audience.
        This goes double for the doctor – if you familiarize yourself with the space, you’ll realize that he is the only independent blogger with a significant following that has an extensive background as technologist. (Most bloggers are ex-marketing, public relations, and business consulting.)
  7. It’s all about Success!
        Traffic levels, especially those measured in hits, are meaningless. It’s how many unique eyeballs in your target market that read the blog – not how many times some yahoo interested in the gossip of the day reloads the page. Remember The Brain’s Lesson – you want the wheat, not the chaff.
  8. Make the Story Relevant to the Blogger
        Focus on an elevator pitch that is compelling, memorable, and relevant to what the blogger likes to blog about.
        For example, optimization and analysis are among the doctor‘s favorite topics, but the doctor is specifically interested in the application and capabilities. Thus, the fact that you just released version X.Y of your optimizer alone is of no interest to the doctor (of course it’s faster, why else would you have released it?) and regular readers of this blog will know that the doctor does not equate static spend reporting on a data warehouse with spend analysis, so if you’re representing one of the 28+ companies who does, don’t bother asking if I want to hear about the company’s latest “spend analysis” release.
  9. Identify the Spokesperson
        No matter how knowledgeable you are as a PR person, there’s going to come a point where the blogger is going to need to speak to someone at the solution provider you are representing. Make sure your client has someone designated as the lead contact who is both extremely knowledgeable about the products and/or service and who is a good communicator.
        Also make sure the individual is willing to have a discussion beyond what was said in the press release and / or posted on the web-site. I can read a lot faster than I can listen to you restate what I’ve already read. I can certainly understand a company’s desire to keep certain information semi-private / trade secret, but if you’re not willing to discuss how the black-box works, don’t expect me to believe that it does work.
  10. Follow the Blog and Join in the Conversation
        If you really want to understand what kind of news is going to interest the blogger in question, you need to follow the blog. And if you want to insure that the blogger takes your e-mails seriously, prove your worth by leaving a meaningful comment from time to time – and, when the opportunity arises, engage the blogger in a meaningful conversation about the issues, not just the story of the day.
        And don’t be afraid to have a contradictory opinion. You’re also free to think I’m stark raving mad, but if you disagree with me (and/or think I’m stark raving mad), be sure to explain why. After all, how am I to understand your point of view if you don’t explain it? And what are my readers going to learn? This blog is about education and self-improvement. If you remember nothing else from this post, remember that.
  11. And DON’T Ask for an NDA.
        the doctor has the same policy that all good analyst firms (including Gartner) and bloggers have when it comes to NDA’s, he just says “No”. The whole point of an interaction with a blogger is so that he or she can understand your company and your solution and write about it. Signing an NDA defeats that purpose … What’s covered? What’s Not? What can I blog about? No good blogger plays in that minefield. And as Vinnie Mirchandani clearly explains over on Deal Architect, if an average company did its homework, it would find that the biggest “leakers” of truly proprietary information tend to be employees – salespeople who take customer and price lists, engineers who take their intimate product details when they change jobs.
        the doctor only signs NDAs with clients, and only with respect to projects the doctor is working on, and only for the length of time that information related to the project needs to be confidential. After all, while the doctor understands that certain information needs to be “eyes only” for a very small group of individuals, there’s no reason that information needs to be shared during a demo or discussion of capabilities, and as Vinnie notes, just about everything else should be graded in terms of reality – is the information really, really confidential and not already already out there or such that it could not be deduced with little effort?