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?

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.