One of the challenges that many bloggers face once they become established and grow a profile in their niche is that they become the target of ‘pitches’ – or people emailing to ask them to do ‘stuff’.
These ‘pitches’ can be on any number of fronts including:
- announcing new products/services in the hope of being linked to or reviewed
- link exchanges
- asking for permission to use content
- exploring potential partnerships
- suggesting links to posts on other blogs
- story ideas
- asking for books to be reviewed
- asking for guest posts
- asking questions
- request for an interview
The list goes on. Some bloggers get ‘pitched to’ hundreds of times each week (some get hundreds per day!) and so if you’re looking to approach a blogger with some kind of pitch it is worth thinking carefully about how you do it.
Here are a number of things to consider when pitching to bloggers. Some will relate more to pitching around product releases, others are more relevant to those looking to suggest links/stories for other bloggers to look at:
1. Comment First Pitch Later
Become a genuine and active member of the blog that you are pitching to before you make personal contact. Yes this doesn’t help if you have something to pitch today – but I find bloggers are much more willing to interact with you if they can see that you’ve gone to the effort of interacting with the content that they’ve written. Be genuine in these interactions, add value to the conversation happening on the blog and show that you’re not just there to ‘take’ but to ‘give’. If a blogger has a genuine connection with you they are much more willing to respond positively to you than if you approach them cold. The longer you interact with them the better.
2. Personalize it
Nothing is a bigger turn off to most bloggers than an auto generated email (or one that lacks any personal touches). This is a turn off in most aspects of life – but blogging is a personal and relational medium so tailor your first point of contact to the blogger you’re writing to. Use their name, mention their blog, show that you’re not sending out an email to thousands of people but are talking directly to them.
3. Get their Details Right
Another turn off for bloggers is being pitched to by someone who gets the personal details wrong. I’ve been on the end of many of these – where the person pitching the idea has gone to the trouble of copying and pasting unique details into an email – only to forget to change a detail from the last email on some important part – like my name. Get the person’s name and URL spelling right for starters.
4. Show You Know Who they Are
This is really going beyond adding a personalized detail or two (anyone can really do that) and showing that you really do know who you’re pitching the idea to. Mention something that they’ve recently written, compliment them on something unique to them, ask them a question that shows you’ve dug a little deeper than finding their name and email address in preparing your pitch.
5. Introduce Yourself
Quickly introduce yourself with your email. This might sound too basic for a post like this – but I’m amazed by the ‘out of the blue’ nature of many pitches. Us bloggers are generally relational beasts and like to know who we’re talking to. This doesn’t mean you need to give a full bio – just a sentence saying who you are and what you do would be fine. Also consider reminding people who you are and how you’ve interacted with them before if you’ve had contact with them previously. They may remember – but they may not.
6. Keep it Brief
I know that if I open an email from a stranger that is longer than 2-3 paragraphs that in most case I’ll mark it for ‘later’ (and sometimes later never comes) unless I’m given some real reason for reading on in the opening paragraph or two. Get to the point, ask your question or pitch your idea quickly and if more detail is needed give it in a followup email (or provide a link in the email where the person can go to find more).
7. Highlight Benefits
Whatever you are pitching – it’ll have more chance of success if there’s something in it for the blogger you’re pitching to. Clearly outline what you’re asking for and how it will benefit the blogger, their blog, their readers etc
8. Keep it Simple
I had an email recently where the person asked me if they could chat with me on the phone. They needed ‘just two hours’ of my time and required that I ring them (paying for the call myself) at a specific time (which just happened to be at 3am my time here in Australia). Needless to say – I passed. If you are asking for someone to do something for you – provide them with some simple, achievable and clear steps to respond.
9. Research Your Question
– many of the questions that people ask bloggers could be answered by simply taking a moment or two to look around their blog. Look on their about page – see if they have a FAQ page and do a search of their blog to see if they’ve written on the topic that your question is on. You don’t need to spend hours on this – but you might just save yourself (and the blogger concerned) some time with just a quick search for answers. Similarly – if you’re pitching a story idea – check to see that they haven’t already written about it by scanning their last few weeks archives.
10. Consider Time Zones When Calling
If you’re calling the blogger concerned – check to see where in the world they are and what time it would be in their time zone. Also consider that it might be the weekend where they are while it could be business hours for you. Also consider this when you’re emailing – I’ve had a few people email me just as I was going to sleep and sending rude emails 8 or so hours later complaining that I’d not responded.
11. Don’t Stalk
Obsessively emailing a person multiple times in a short period of time to ask question after question doesn’t tend to go over well. If you think you’ll have multiple things to ask – hold off on sending an email until you have them all in the one place.
12. Be Persistent
On the flip side of the obsessive stalking is the pitcher who gives up too quickly. Don’t be afraid to send a reminder email asking if they got your first one. I don’t mind getting these myself as I do find it difficult to respond to everyone on the first try.
13. Avoid Press Releases
I must have hit ‘delete’ on thousands of press releases over the last few years. While I do occasionally use them – it is generally only when they are right on target for my niche and quite often when I go searching for them. I’d much rather be pitched a story idea that is tailored to my blog. This need not be long or detailed (in fact it’s best if it’s not) but if someone shoots me an email that says ‘here’s a story you might be interested in and here’s why it’s relevant to your blog’s readers’ I’m much more likely to read it. If you do have a press release it might be more effective to not send it – but to give a link to where it is hosted online so that if the blogger wants to refer to it (and link to it) they can.
14. Keep on Topic
If you’re pitching story ideas you can do yourself a lot of damage by pitching irrelevant stories to bloggers. If their blog is about digital cameras, don’t send them information on TiVO (you know who you are).
15. Be Polite and Courteous
Making demands, assumptions and being overly familiar can sometimes lead to people binning your pitch. I’ve been left shaking my head numerous times of late at the arrogance and demands of some. On the flip-side though – some pitches come across as so polite that they seem sterile. I guess there’s a fine line to walk here. Keep in mind that cultural differences come into play on this too.
16. Free Stuff Works, But….
Sending schwaag, review copies, samples etc can work well with bloggers – however you need to be a little careful and learn from the mistakes that others have made in this area. My personal preference would be to require bloggers to disclose any benefit that they’ve received from you (particularly if it’s of any high value). Transparency matters. I would also recommend asking the blogger if they want to receive what you’re sending them before you send it.
17. Mention Your Blog
Most bloggers are wired to be on the look out for other bloggers. If you have a blog, mention it in your pitch (your introduction). If you don’t have a blog – why not?
18. Link Up
One quick way to get on many blogger’s radars is to link to them on your own blog or website. This shows that you know who they are, might send them some traffic and is a show of good will that can help to break down those initial walls that can be hard to get through with a blogger. Keep in mind that larger bloggers get a lot of links from other sites and blogs so this may not have a massive impact in all circumstances – but it can’t hurt.
19. Give an exclusive
Bloggers love to break stories. It helps them build traffic, establish credibility and profile and gives them the perception of being more connected in their niche. Offering some sort of exclusive angle on a story, access to interview a key person or even given them the exclusive rights to be first with a story is something that might help you get your story featured on a blog. A quick warning though – if you tell someone that they have an exclusive but in fact end up offering it to numerous others you could end up doing more harm than good.
20. Don’t Include Anything You Don’t Want Blogged in your Communications
I’ve seen a number of companies burnt by sending emails out to bloggers that included both the official press release and pitch – as well as other information that they didn’t want to go out – the whole lot got blogged about. This can happen either because the blogger didn’t realize and just copied and pasted everything OR because the information that wasn’t meant to be blogged was too juicy for the blogger to resist publishing (even though they knew they probably shouldn’t have).
21. A word on Embargoes
Some companies approach bloggers with information in advance of product launches on the condition that the story can’t be broken before a certain time. This enables the blogger to digest the information before launch and have something prepared to write about that goes beyond rehashing a press release. The downside of this is that some bloggers either don’t understand embargoes or don’t like them – some blatantly break them to get the exclusive. I personally respect them – but would rather a company approach me in a relational way and work with me on a coordinated release of information that isn’t a hard and fast embargo – but a more relational and trusting exchange of information.
Obviously incorporating all 21 points into your next pitch of a blogger might be a little too much to ask – but as both a blogger and someone has done my fair share of pitching I would recommend at least attempting to incorporate some of the above.