Rethinking Blogger Relations

ROIIs blogger relations worth it? Is the ROI sufficient to justify the investment?

I’ve written a few times in the past about blogger relations, from a range of angles – from the tactic in general to the practicalities of pitching bloggers to the results from a blogger’s perspective. However, I recently got to thinking about it in a different way.

I think it’s important to continually question what we’re doing – it’s the only way we’ll continue to improve over time. With that in mind, I got to thinking about whether blogger relations is really worth the investment in time and money necessary to do it well.

A little context

Here’s the issue: most people in the social media fishbowl, including me, will advocate a take-it-slow approach to engaging in social media. My preferred approach has three broad steps:

  1. Listen
  2. Engage
  3. Develop

For this to work, you need to put in a substantial amount of time up-front. That time is spent monitoring what’s going on, identifying influencers, measuring and analyzing trends and getting to know peoples’ preferences.

From an agency perspective, that can be a considerable investment up-front before you even begin to engage.

When you do begin to engage, blogger relations best practices (take Todd Defren’s blogger relations bookmark for example) require continued time-intensive work in both pitching and engagement.

Is that investment worth it?

Sure there are the TechCrunches, the Mashables and the ReadWriteWebs. However, most bloggers don’t have those audiences. Most bloggers don’t have a tenth or even a hundredth of that audience.

Given those low audience numbers, does the investment in time required for good blogger relations give the necessary pay-off?

A few arguments

Even setting aside the impact of corporate culture, there are a few factors to consider:

  • Initial time: If you add up the time you need to invest to get to know a blogger, engage with them before pitching, then tailor a pitch to that blogger, you’re probably looking at least an hour or two per blogger, if not more. 
  • Future time: Of course, once you’ve done the groundwork, the incremental time investment will be lower for future pitches.
  • Relationships: Established relationships have greater value than immediate outreach – future issues management, for example.
  • Search engines: Online content with a positive tone can help build companies’ reputations through Google search results.
  • Long tail: Audience size can be much bigger than stated reader numbers – the long tail of online content can be large over time.
  • Research: If you offer a product or service where purchase is research-based and you’re not engaging, then people are making decisions on purchases based on everyone’s voice but your own.
  • More than pitching: Blogger relations encompases more than just proactive pitching – it can also include both reactive engagement with people who talk about your product, company or industry. I’ve argued before that customer service is public relations; nowhere is this more true than online.

Conclusion

My conclusion, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that it is worth the investment. 

One thing to remember is that traditional media relations takes time, too, if done right. Researching reporters, tailoring your pitch, etc takes time while reporters for mainstream outlets are, in my experience, less likely to write about the story than relevant bloggers may be. What’s more, the long-term effects of building relationships with relevant people (both online and offline) can be substantial.

So, yes – the time investment is substantial, but so are the benefits – better relationships, more coverage, better coverage, SEO, customer service improvements and more. Still, the required investment makes measurement and analysis of results all the more important, which is why we’re putting a lot of effort into that right now.

What do you think? Is the ROI on blogger relations worth it?

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  • I really think we need to stop differentiating between Blogger relations and traditional media relations. They are essentially the same. Just as most people don’t necessarily need to reach the front page of the Globe and Mail New York Times (though it would be nice), most don’t need to reach TechCrunch or Mashable. Focus your efforts on the media organizations (traditional or social) that matter.

  • Relationships drive everything in business – whether online or offline… so i concur with your POV and will only add that part of “listening” is “learning” – about the the medium and context.

    Not understanding the medium or how to engage it will result in failure and negative ROI.

  • I think it’s worth it. It must be because lots of people are doing it and more and more. I am one to think that ‘outreach’ has a strong ‘campaign’ connotation thus it’s done once in a while…when the company pulls the trigger because they need something. Nothing bad but I believe we gonna move away from a campaign driven marketing to a relationship driven marketing. Indeed the other value of all the time that needs to be invested upfront to know the blogger is a potential for an ongoing ‘relationship’. And if such a relationship can be built and nurture, there’s less of an ‘outreach’ per say where a company, once in a while, target 100s of bloggers and more of an ongoing dialog, to share ideas, to announce events and products. If that can be done (I think so but it means that social media has been embrassed by the whole company and not just a few folks in PR ;-), then its part of the DNA.

  • I think I can safely say that one of the first things people do when researching a potential product/service/etc. is google it to see what others are saying. Depending on your target market, some of their key influencers are going to be bloggers. Brands need to build up that online chatter. It’s not really an option any more.

    Besides, any PR initiative is going to be time-intensive if you want to do it right. I don’t think blogger relations is any different.

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  • Saw this tweeted and surfed in…

    as a blogger, much of what you said makes good sense. It does take time to get to know us, and what we’re all about. And it’s very true that the benefit is mostly long term.

    I did a product giveaway a couple of months ago and I still get search engine traffic to it. These surfers click the links in that post to go through to the sponsor’s site. Eventually, the amount of ‘after the fact’ hits are going to surpass the views of that post by my regular readership.

    More and more, I’m tailoring my posts to use keywords that can encourage this effect for the companies and products I blog about.

    So yes, unless the blog has a huge readership – the larger payoff is long term search engine traffic over time. At least, that seems to be the case for my ‘smaller’ blog.

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  • It’s a good question to ask, Dave. Forget the time spent researching these bloggers– most of your time will be spent actually FINDING these people! You know that I’m a huge advocate of targeting appropriately, and finding a blogger who specializes in your product area can be very time-consuming. The beauty, though, is that these online communities DO exist, and every time you find one you’re liable to find more (the beauty of connectedness). If you can build your target blogger audience appropriately, you’ll have a ultra-receptive group of folks who are likely to be very brand loyal.

  • It’s a good question to ask, Dave. Forget the time spent researching these bloggers– most of your time will be spent actually FINDING these people! You know that I’m a huge advocate of targeting appropriately, and finding a blogger who specializes in your product area can be very time-consuming. The beauty, though, is that these online communities DO exist, and every time you find one you’re liable to find more (the beauty of connectedness). If you can build your target blogger audience appropriately, you’ll have an ultra-receptive group of folks who are likely to be very brand loyal.

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