Bloggers sharing for profit — the next wave?

Megaphone After only two months of blogging, one of the best things I’ve noticed is how sharing and supportive most bloggers are.  They’re eager to help others get noticed and read through tipping, links and kind references.  There seems to be very little ego in the marketing blogosphere.

So it doesn’t surprise me that Drew, on getting his 1,000th comment at Drew’s Marketing Minute, would invite the author of that comment to write a guest post.  What a wonderful and generous way to mark a milestone.  And how fortunate for me that the 1,000th comment happened to be mine.

Drew’s invitation is typical of the sharing mindset that is pervasive throughout the marketing blogosphere.  I think it’s a major reason so many of us become active bloggers.

But what do you do when someone asks you to share information when it’s for their commercial gain? 

As blogs are becoming recognized by marketers as an important form of social media that can influence and motivate, public relations and advertising agencies are starting to pitch bloggers, in hopes of gaining write-ups about their clients’ products and services.  Since blogs are such personal forms of mass communications, marketers realize they can be powerful persuaders.

In the past several days, I received my first two pitches from PR people.  Each represents a different end of the spectrum of professionalism.

My first pitch came from Harley Jebens at Click Here, a Dallas interactive marketing agency where our blogging friend Cam Beck works.  Harley’s email to me was simple, straightforward and professional – he identified himself and his agency and said he was attaching information on a campaign my readers might find of interest.  No hype – no obnoxious push.  A news release and website were attached, if I wanted more info, along with a promise to answer any questions if I gave him a call or email.

Although I have no interest in talking about The MySpace page for the Travelocity Roaming Gnome  it was a professional pitch and my compliments to Harley for a good try.

The second pitch came from a book publisher’s PR department.  It was an email full of hyperbole about a book unrelated to anything I write about. In the email, the publicist tells me (not asks) that it’s something my readers will want to know about.  How could she know that if, obviously, she hadn’t done her homework by looking at my blog.  It wasn’t even addressed to me by name; it said Dear Blogger.  The pitch told me where to buy the book.  (You want me to write about your product and you won’t send or offer to send me a review copy?  Thanks a lot.)

In the 30 years I’ve been doing public relations at agencies large and small, including my own firm for the past 15, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t.   The second pitch method does not work.  It wouldn’t work if I were pitching a writer at a newspaper or magazine, and it won’t work to get into a blog.   

I approached several bloggers on a client’s behalf for the first time back in January.  After researching to find blogs on parenting, I viewed as many as I could, to get an idea of what they write about.  I emailed the authors, with an approach similar to what Harley did when he pitched me – honest, transparent, not pushy.

The response was encouraging.  Most responded by asking questions and/or asking to talk with my client before they told their readers about the product.  Some took me up on my offer to send a product sample.  One blogger asked me to have my client post a comment on her blog, talking about the product.  A few didn’t respond and probably chose not to talk about the item.  Overall, the client got some positive reviews and  spirited discussion of the product’s merits in comments.

Key is that the approach was done gently and professionally, with full disclosure and no deception or trickery.  No attempt to sneak onto a blog by posting a "sell" as a comment, as I saw tried just this week on two blogs.  (One of the bloggers was annoyed and quickly deleted the comment.  Lucky for the offending PR person that he didn’t choose instead to blast the product being pitched.)

You may have already been pitched by a PR person.  If not, I bet you will in the coming year as the PR profession discovers the blogosphere.  How bloggers are treated by marketers and their public relations representatives seeking to use their channels of communication will make a difference, since, ultimately, the decision will be yours as to what you care to share with your readers. 

How would you prefer to be pitched?

~ David Reich, My 2 Cents

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