How to Get Leading Bloggers to Cover Your Startup or Product
Bloggers are a relatively newer but influential channel for a brand to reach its target audience. In this article, we will look at 1) the importance of bloggers, 2) steps to getting coverage from leading bloggers, and 3) examples of leading bloggers influence.
IMPORTANCE OF BLOGGERS
As the world of marketing, PR and media evolves, bloggers represent the important cross section where public relations and the consumer meet. Bloggers can be found within almost every industry, who have managed to build names and credibility for themselves. With this fame and credibility comes influence. And this is where these bloggers can be extremely beneficial to companies in terms of reaching their target audience efficiently and effectively. With more competition, consumers are faced with too many choices and often do not know who’s message to trust. In this situation, a blogger’s endorsement can act as an excellent referral mechanism that is trustworthy for the target audience.
According to research, as many as 71% of consumers will make a purchase after coming across a review from a trusted source via social media. Bloggers are among these trusted status and their influence stems directly from their audience. In 2013, Technorati released a Digital Influence Report that showed how consumers read blogs for an opinion about a product before deciding to go ahead and make a purchase. Blogs are listed as the third most influential digital resource, following retail and brand sites.
A public relations expert or someone looking to handle. Big or small, new or established, all types of businesses and organizations seek out brand ambassadors and endorsements. This new channel has many benefits that a savvy entrepreneur cannot afford to miss out on.
STEPS TO GETTING COVERAGE FROM LEADING BLOGGERS
As with any business relationship, nothing can be stepped into without adequate research, a plan of action and a clear expectations and goals. This is also true for forming lasting relationships with bloggers as part of your organization’s public relations strategy. Some key steps and important aspects of forming this relationship are discussed below.
Step #1: Identify the Right Bloggers
The first, and most important step is to research and locate the right and relevant bloggers to work with. You could pick an extremely popular one but without connection to the right industry, or you could pick the one most relevant to your product but not agree with their brand and image as a match for your brand. This is a task that requires time, patience and some detective work. Along with these, there needs to be a realistic expectation of what will emerge from the relationships. Top bloggers are also approached more frequently and will often have a backlog of messages to respond to as well as pending requests for reviews and endorsements.
A good idea then may be to identify some top tier bloggers and some that are just starting out but have a good mix of followers. This will allow you to get the conversation around your product started while more established bloggers are reached. Start with a strategy and a plan of action and outline what the key criteria are for blogger selection. Some things to look out for in the right blogger include:
- Does the blogger write well?
- Is the content thoughtful and engaging?
- How regularly does the blogger post? Is it at least once or twice a week?
- Are there positive mentions or link backs from other, more respected bloggers?
- Is it easy to contact the blogger and do they respond appropriately?
Some online tools can help find the right bloggers for your industry. These include:
- Klout – This service measures social media influence and covers both companies and individuals.
- Technorati – This is a blog directory that helps locate the most popular and influential blogs in an industry.
- Tomoson – This website matches bloggers with companies offering free samples for review.
- Page Rank Checker – Through this service, you can check any site’s Google PageRank, which identifies the site’s importance and position in search engine results.
Step #2: Know Their Audience before Sending a Pitch
As you select the bloggers that appear right for your product, brand and idea, you also need to consider if you work for their brand and image. Take some time to read through their blog and study the profile of their audience. Bloggers build up an audience based on their opinions about a particular area of interest. So if you approach the wrong blogger with your product, you may end up getting negative press. Maintain a database of each blogger you identify as a potential option and add in their handle, a profile of their audience, their areas of interest, blog address and where you are in forming a relationship with them.
Step #3: Consider Your Approach
Bloggers are generally open to communicating with new people. The nature of their chosen profession is public and they choose to openly write about their favorite topics, culture and industry. When approaching a blogger, look carefully through their website first. Most provide a brief message or policy statement about how they can be contacted and any dos and don’ts. Honoring their wishes helps establish the relationship on a positive note. Contact itself should be through a brief email, where you introduce yourself, establish why you contacted them, and make your intentions clear through a brief but effective pitch. Any supplementary information can be attached as well or provided on request. A good way to make your offer stand out from the crowd is to offer them something such as expert views on the industry, answer their questions or serve as an editorial resource.
Step #4: Promote Blog Content
When communication has been established and the blogger reviews your product or service, then it is up to you to share their post on your blog, website and social media. This helps give your business credibility and is the reason for approaching bloggers in the first place. It also gives the blogger airtime which is a positive for them, driving more traffic to their site and increasing their followers. Let the blogger know that their post has been shared and where they can access it.
Step #5: Build a Strong Relationship
A strong relationship needs to be built carefully from the ground up. This involves taking small but important steps and keeping up the effort till the relationship has been solidified. Even then, the work needed to continue to maintain this relationship is never over. A good way to begin is by engaging the blogger in question over social media. Reply to something they posted, retweet their post or comment on a new blog post. Start out small as a small blip on their radar. Start building this relationship before you actually need something in return. If you start out when a launch or an event is upcoming, then you are more likely to make desperate decisions or advances that are seen as pushy by the blogger. When introducing yourself, keep in mind how you can be of help to them and mention these options to them.
Step #6: Build a Long-Term Relationship
As with traditional media, it is good practice to keep in touch with an occasional email, call or message to make sure the relationship is built up over time. Relationships can even be maintained over social media by sharing and appreciating their posts or more in depth through coffee meetups to discuss opportunities. If you approach people without an agenda, they are more likely to entertain your requests without seeing any as selfish or one-sided.
Step #7: Build Friendships not Contacts
The best way to approach blogger relationships is to form a friendship and not a business contact. This means that your communication with them should be individual and personalized, never part of a mass email containing many other people. This also does not mean becoming overly familiar before a comfort level has developed. The fine line between personal and professional needs to be maintained initially, till both parties are at the right level and understand each other. As friends, you will have the benefit of having your communication immediately noticed by the blogger and for them to have an incentive to put you at the front of their cue without needing to push for this.
Step #8: Offer Exclusives
Often, to strengthen a relationship or even to build one, you may need to offer your blogger of choice an exclusive look and the option of reviewing a product before anyone else, often before it is launched in the market for mass consumers. Let the blogger know that they have exclusive access and they will most often be excited about coming on board. Bloggers want to be the influencer and though leaders in their community and this will help strengthen their position. Remember to let them make their own mind about the product. You may offer an exclusive but you cannot buy the content of their review. If the product is sound, I will stand for itself and the review will be positive adding credibility to the exchange.
Step #9: Follow-Up
The importance of strong follow-up cannot be minimized. This applies to the world of blogger relations as well. This does not mean that you send them a product and immediately start badgering for a response or a review. Give them adequate time to get around to your product, test it out and then ask if they require any further information or support from you to make their review process easier. This can help tie down a date for the review and helps make sure that the product does not slip through any cracks.
Step #10: Thank and Give Credit
This an obvious point but one that can be neglected because of being so obvious. People may forget to do so but thanking a blogger for their support and providing the right credit goes a long way towards establishing a positive relationship. Never forget common courtesy and remember to put in the same effort at the end of a transaction as you do at the beginning, when you are trying to secure their support.
EXAMPLES OF LEADING BLOGGERS INFLUENCE
Kristen Mathews, marketing and community manager at GroupHigh, a blogger identification and analysis platform writes about Australian brand Lorna Jane. She mentions how brands either work with blogger networks or agencies, or own their blogger relationships in-house.
Lorna Jane managed to create a blogger outreach program in the middle of these two approaches. The brand began in Australia and sells yoga and running clothes. It has been gathering success rapidly in the United States. A big part of this success is their focus on blogger outreach.
The company works hard to create ongoing and long term relationships with the right bloggers. The company uses a campaign approach to scale different products and messaging. The company makes sure that its blogger outreach strategy is aligned with its marketing strategy. The company maintains a network of bloggers, who are fans of the brand and continue to write about it on a continuing basis.
With each new store opening, the company reaches out to the brand fans in that city and they are invited to come visit the store, try on the products and take home a free item. This creates true word of mouth buzz about the store that is not manufactured or paid for.
When a specific area needs to be promoted, the company works out a scalable and scheduled campaign with its blogger network. Working with bloggers helps a brand achieve a network effect. This means that a group of people who have influence over their unique customer base post about a brand or product at a scheduled time. This means a positive outpour for the brand across social media channels by multiple influencing forces, leading to immediate brand awareness and buzz.
This online store was created by Australian Tram Tran in February 2013. The brand sells fashion items to women in the age range of 16 to 26. The company began when Tran was still in university and sold clothes on eBay. She eventually made the decision to make her own store to cut out the fees she needed to pay eBay and PayPal.
Once an online store was established, Tran realized the need to bring people into it. She used two strategies. The first was Google Adwords and the second was Blogger outreach. Says Tran, “I researched all the keywords and figured out which ones had the best success rate when it comes to conversions. We set a budget of how much we would spend a day. We started out with $20 a day. Now we’ve increased it to $40 a day.”
Apart from Adwords, Tran also realized the need to understand how her target market made purchase decisions. She began by looking at what the target market was reading. Since she was a big fan of fashion blogs herself, she decided to use this channel to market her brand. She identified bloggers and sent them sample products. These were mostly dresses and in 2013, she sent more than 40 dresses out to bloggers. Almost all of these bloggers featured the dress on their blog. With each feature, traffic to Tran’s site would increase as much as 5 times the normal amount as well as a substantial increase in sales revenue. Tran doesn’t pay a majority of the bloggers, so the cost of advertising is minimal. Where she does pay, usually to more popular bloggers, this is disclosed in the review or feature.
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