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How to Ask a Blogger for Help
This being the Internet Age, a whole lot of you have projects, businesses, charity efforts, sales, exhibits, and such going on. And naturally, you want to get the word out about them.
It's no secret that one great way to promote your project is to contact a lot of bloggers and ask them to blog about it.
In fact, I receive a lot of these requests every week. And for the most part, I don't mind. I do like learning about cool things going on in the craftosphere.
But you know what? Some of the pitches I receive, I read and respond to. And others I delete unread.
What's the difference? Well, there's a real art to asking a blogger for coverage. And there are some simple tactics that can make or break your email pitch. As a public service, I thought I'd share them.
First, make sure you're barking up the right tree.
This has happened more times than I can count: a guy with a movie-cataloguing website goes to Google and looks up "movies." He stumbles onto a post I wrote three years ago about Christmas movies to craft with. And he decides I'd be a good person to blog about his website.
Except, I'm not a movie blogger, I'm a craft blogger.
If you're planning to approach a blogger you've never met, at least do him or her the courtesy of reading the blog for a few weeks. Make sure that whatever you're promoting would actually be a good fit with the blog's readership.
...And be very specific here. Just because I write a craft blog and your project is craft-related doesn't necessarily mean we're a match made in heaven. If you read my blog for a while, you'd likely see that, while I do write about craft business conceptually, I rarely blog about specific craft businesses or online sellers. You might notice that I rarely blog about craft fairs going on in other parts of the country.
You don't have to be a big fan or even a regular reader of my blog to pitch me - but I appreciate knowing that you've at least done your research. I get fake-y pitch emails all the time that say, "I love your blog, CraftyPod. I particularly enjoyed your post about [yesterday's post topic]."
Heh - I'll bet you say that to all the bloggers.
Be brief and well-structured, and for pete's sake, ask.
Sometimes I get pitch emails, and I can't even tell what they're asking for. Some fledgling marketers feel so uncomfortable in that role, they'll send out vague, rambling emails that never really get to the point of asking for the coverage. This isn't effective.
I respect the fact that you have a project going on and you're excited about it. I'd like to hear about it. But I get dozens of pitches every week, so I'd be grateful if you'd respect my time by making your request succinctly. Make it clear why you think my blog is a good fit, send me the links to your project, and explain what you need from me.
Then, I can decide on a course of action much more efficiently. If your email is long, vague, and rambling, I'm probably going to set it aside - and I may not get back to it for weeks.
...But be personal!
Just to contradict myself, then, I'll mention that the worst possible way to ask a blogger for coverage is to send her a press release with no attached note.
The second worst way is to send an obvious form email addressed to "Dear Blogger."
I delete this kind of stuff unread all the time. If the marketer couldn't take the time to find my freaking name, then he obviously doesn't care all that much whether his project appears on my blog.
So, yes, it's very wise to address a blogger by name. And also, if you've had some contact with a blogger in the past, then mention it in your email. We all meet a lot of people online, and may need reminding that we chatted with you at last year at the Sock Summit. Plus, this personal touch gives your email a much better chance of being read.
(In fact, I could also make a case for putting some effort into building a relationship with a blogger long before you make your pitch. If you comment a few times on the blog, or strike up a conversation on Twitter or Facebook, this really can affect the way your pitch email is received. That is, as long as you're being genuine about it.)
Don't just hammer the popular blogs.
So many times, I've seen folks who want to spread the word about their product just make a list of what they see as the "biggest blogs," and then they send the same email pitch to all of them.
There's some old-school marketing thinking here - "let's reach as many eyeballs as we can."
But again, with this approach, it's clear that the marketer hasn't done his or her homework, and doesn't particularly care whether the project is a good fit with all these bloggers' readers. Trust me, bloggers can spot a pitch like this a mile away, and we rarely respond to them.
If you have something to promote, take the time to seek out bloggers who write regularly about the subject you're promoting. Even if their audiences are somewhat smaller, your message will land on much more interested ears, and have a much better chance of gaining exposure.
Remember, if you make the effort to send your pitch to the right places, it will be welcomed as a service, not ignored as just one more dang marketing email.
Make a reciprocal offer if you can.
Think of this: when you ask a blogger to write about your project, what are you really asking for? You're asking for publicity, yes, but you're also asking for access to the blogger's carefully cultivated audience. Every blogger with an audience has worked hard to earn its trust over time. So when you ask a blogger to write about you, you're really asking for a lot.
So, what can you offer in return? I am always amazed by the number of pitches I get that make no reciprocal offer at all - especially when I've never met the person making the pitch. Would you walk up to a stranger on the street and ask to borrow her house for the weekend?
And no, I am not suggesting you offer money in exchange for a blog post. But I'm guessing it's in your power to offer something. A review copy of your project, for example. A link. A giveaway prize. Or even, some content that's really useful to my audience.
If you think I'm being crass, wondering what's in it for me, well, consider this. In old school media, where you had publicists and advertisers and editors, much of the content happened because money changed hands.
In this new-school online media world, there's still currency changing hands - only it's not money, it's trust. I need to trust you if I'm going to blog about you. I need to see that you and your project are worthy of my time and attention.
Your reciprocal offer says a lot to me. It says that you respect the hard work I've put into building my audience, and you understand that your request for coverage is significant. It also says that you understand that the online community is built on relationships, and you're interested in forming one.
What it comes down to, then...
It's a fact of life that, when you're marketing your project, you will always care about it more than the people you're pitching to. This doesn't mean it's a cruel world. It just means that, when you reach out to a blogger to ask for coverage, it's wise to look at your project through his eyes. What would he find most interesting about it? How does it fit into his blog?
As with so many things in the online community, it's not about you. It's about them.