Blogger Relations: Will Personal Branding Change the Game?

IStock_000008025420XSmallOne of the central tenets of Blogger Relations is that the PR pro should develop a relationship with their so-called “target.”  Bloggers (and mainstream journalists, for that matter!) generally don’t care for cold-calls, particularly if the pitch is irrelevant to their beat.  Remember, most bloggers are “passionate experts,” and that passion leads them to think that you really ought to care about their brilliant musings!

As I’ve written before, this relationship-building is both tough to scale and to maintain, but is still mandatory practice.

But how long must you cultivate relationships with bloggers before you get up the gumption to make your pitch?

Quick answer: it depends.  It depends on the blogger, it depends on the pitch.  A brilliant and spot-on pitch might be enough to convince a blogger to give the PR pro a pass on the whole relationship-building thing.  And anyway, some bloggers are still so pumped to be noticed (and pitched) in the 1st place, they don’t think twice about the fact that they’d never heard from the PR pro before.  It depends, it depends.

Given this unchanging level of uncertainty about “how long is long enough,” it’s worth wondering if the ever-changing dynamics of PR, personal branding, and social interaction might evolve the concept of Blogger Relations. 

IStock_000008025810XSmallAs a reader of PR-Squared recently commented, “In today’s world of instant access to information, the relationship-building process doesn’t have to take as long as it used to…”

In other words, maybe it is becoming a little bit less important that the PR pro develop a day-to-day relationship with the blogger, and more important that they establish a personal brand that suggests to the targeted blogger that “this is someone I can trust.”

Think about it: the blogger gets a pitch.  “Who is this person?  Why are they pitching me?  What’s their agenda?”  A Google search reveals the PR person’s blog, their agency affiliation, their Twitter handle.  “Hmm, she looks like a decent sort, actually; I can tell she means well, by looking at her interactions online.  OK – now, what did she pitch me about, again?”

This personal brand potency is NOT an excuse to NOT develop a relationship: in all cases, a realtionship-building approach is absolutely, positively preferred!!  After all, the PR pro can’t presume that the blogger will perform that Google search.  And, dammit, the pitch better be dead-on relevant! 

But, in our hustle-bustle to get results, a strong online presence for the PR person might short-circuit the need for a strong and lasting bond with every single blogger.

Before you suggest that this post (potentially) sends the message to some numbskull that they don’t have to develop a relationship so long as they “tweet a lot,” keep in mind that a.) I’m assaying some bleeding-edge thinking here, about how personal branding might change the nature of PR tactics … and b.) numbskulls don’t read this blog.



Posted on: January 27, 2009 at 9:08 am By Todd Defren
41 Responses to “Blogger Relations: Will Personal Branding Change the Game?”

 

Comments
  • Nick Stevens says:

    So, what I’m getting from this post is that there are basically three pillars that a good pitch stands upon:

    -a relationship with the blogger
    -a strong image for the PR practitioner
    -a relevant pitch

    It seems that most here agree that the relevant pitch is the most important. Having never pitched a blogger before, I think that is a great set of criteria to start from. Great job Todd!

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    Legal Marketers –Blogger Relations: Will Personal Branding Change the Game? [link to post]

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    RT @karasmamedia: Legal Marketers –Blogger Relations: Will Personal Branding Change the Game? [link to post]

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  • Twitter Comment

    Interesting Read: Blogger Relations: Will Personal Branding Change the Game? [link to post]

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  • Kinda sucks being so late to the comments on this one, but hey. First, yeah, the turtle really got me.

    Second, I love your perspective. I added a link to this post to one I wrote earlier today where I was a bit off-put by a “Dear Blogger” letter.

    Third, hey, let’s get a beverage some time soon. I know a really delicious 30 year old whisky we could have. : )

  • There’s a Story in here somewhere…

    Topics on the Roundtable this week include Michael Arrington’s decision to take time off from blogging; an examination of personal branding as it relates to blogger outreach and PR pitching; and whether we’re ready to move beyond Social Media 101.

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    interesting personal branding post [link to post]

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  • Jodi Olson says:

    Great post, Todd. Something must be in the water, because Louis Gray was also thinking about this topic yeterday. You can read his insights here: http://www.louisgray.com/live/2009/01/bloggers-and-pr-are-not-enemies-but.html.

  • Twitter Comment

    Let PR Squared break down Blogger relations for you, [link to post]

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  • Timothy says:

    Great article.

    I think building a relationship between blogger and pr pro is important, but as you mentioned definitely doesn’t take as much time as it used to.

    I live in Boston and have definitely seem some great local Boston PR Firms that have really solidified relationships with their clients and then building on that relationship. I actually linked to a PR firm in Boston (above) that has a very interesting marketing campaign.

    Again, some great information.

  • Twitter Comment

    Great posting about blogger relations for PR pros, @tdefren, once again personal brand comes in to play. [link to post]

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  • Twitter Comment

    Todd Defren post about if and how personal branding might change blogger relations [link to post]

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  • Nick Vehr says:

    Fascinating post. There is little question in my mind that relationships will still matter because, well, they always do. Defining those relationships is what is likely to change and that is my big take-away. They may form more quickly. The PR pro’s social media footprint might be the new “firm handshake and look in the eye” that people looked for in the past. Of course, it’s not that simple – it never is.

    This is a great post to share with PR professionals who are struggling, as I am, with providing improtant advice to clients re: the new space that will matter more and more to businesses as time goes on.

    Thanks.

    Nick Vehr (www.vr3blog.wordpress.com)

  • Twitter Comment

    @tdefren discusses blogger relations and personal branding. great discussion going on. [link to post]

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  • Matt says:

    the comment resonating most with me thus far is from @davidmullen. media relations is a large part of what i do (i also dabble in social media) in my office and i constantly struggle to balance the time it takes to build relations with the need to get results. i, too, pitch a wide variety of journalists/bloggers for several different clients. i don’t have enough time in my day to build relationships with each one, as much as i would like. the bump in the road is that, as a PR pro, you’re expected to have those relationships.

    i’m not sure how many people i pitch go read my blog posts or check out my twitter stream, but i have them both in my email signature. i would recommend everyone do this. access to that info, along with a stellar pitch, may be enough to get ink, virtual or otherwise.

  • MammaLoves says:

    Well I’m glad to learn I’m not a numbskull.

    As a mom blogger who gets the most random pitches, I do have to say that a personal approach is definitely preferred. I don’t need to know a PR person for a long time, I just need to know they are worth my time and they value our relationship. It often feels like PR folks see us as a dime a dozen.

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    PR Squared: Blogger Relations: Will Personal Branding Change the Game? [Delicious/tag/blogging tips] [link to post]

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  • Leslie Hawk says:

    interesting. I recently tried to develop a visual or a business model if you will for an “expedited” process on building relations with the media and bloggers in the social media realm. I agree with a lot of what you have said here.

    You must be “in on the game” to be considered a reliable, relevant source for any blogger or media outlet. You must not only read their posts or stories but participate in the conversation as well.

    Building relationships is still a priority and critical – I still maintain this. However, the time line is definitely accelerated and now more than ever you have to use your time wisely, efficiently and put more strategic thinking behind what, where and when you do it.

  • Jessica says:

    Interesting concept… I think the “name recognition” of a brand can never hurt, but if your pitch isn’t relevant no amount of personal branding can save you.

    perfect example: Last summer I interned at a book publicity firm. One of my co-workers pitched a blogger and got a nasty e-mail back scolding her for not doing enough research on his blog and intended audience before pitching. While the blogger recognized the company the intern was representing (and in fact had a personal relationship with the managing director), he was still offended by the irrelevant pitch.

    I guess there still needs to be a balance between branding, personal relationships, and just plain good pitching.

  • Todd Defren says:

    Thanks, all, for the GREAT comments.

    @SusanGetgood, I was particularly glad to see you show up and approve of the message; I know how tough you can (rightfully) be re: Blogger Relations.

    @DavidMullen – You’re spot on re: “relationship-building with *every* journalist a PR pro may pitch some day doesn’t scale. It especially doesn’t scale for agency folks who work on multiple accounts in multiple verticals or those whose work consists of a lot of project-based accounts.” … As many times as I’ve written about this, I rarely see Social Media types acknowledge the difficulty. It’s a nuanced but critical point for PR firms.

    @PRtini – You also bring up fascinating points that I admit I probably need to think about some more.

    Glad ya’ll are diggin’ the post. Be sure to share. ;)

  • Todd:
    This is a great point. I’ve been thinking lately about how important it is to build a personal brand – especially online. And it makes total sense that this would also help to develop one’s relationship with bloggers. If the blogger knows that you *get it*, they’re much more likely to listen.

    But I think focusing on the relationship building first is still the smart strategy. It takes the focus away from me, and making it about serving the other person and contributing to the conversation. If you’re focused on this first, you’re already building your personal brand.

  • Lauren says:

    I like your post a lot. Our PR firm really focuses on building relationships. I think ultimately, we all pitch someone at first who we have done our research on but don’t have a relationship with YET. I look forward to continuing our discussion though after that initial pitch. I don’t pitch someone unless I want to build a relationship… that’s just how I’ve been trained. But to me, that’s the best part of my job. That way, I know EXACTLY who to reach out to with a new story idea, client news, etc… It benefits my company and my clients – not to mention my media contact!

  • Social media is about relationships. Creating one-on-one conversations and interacting with your peers. So yes, relationship building is still an important part of PR and will be to get lasting coverage. Yes, people get lucky with the one-off pitches that turn into front page stories. However, those aren’t things to hang your hat on. Long-term success for your client and for you requires relationship building. And for bloggers, relationship building means interacting with them through comments, trackbacks, etc.

  • Heather says:

    Very thought-provoking. I agree that PR people are used to being “behind the scenes” and out of the limelight. But, I don’t think the idea of PR people having a personal brand is new. Haven’t we always had some kind of personal brand? For example, are you the PR person who helps reporters even if that the story doesn’t involve your client? Or, are you the person that always provides solid story ideas — not fluff? Or, are you the person that sends any and every story idea out, regardless of its merit? Whatever type of PR person you are, isn’t that part of your personal brand?

    With all this online communication, I think our personal brands are just moving and expanding. Instead of being judged by a handful of journalists, the audience has expanded and there are more tools to evaluate someone’s personal brand. To use twitter as an example, if you were the PR person who sent out terrible stories, you’re probably the tweeter who only tweets about yourself or your company. If you were the PR person who was standing by to help reporters, you’re probably a tweeter who shares a lot of valuable informaton even if it doesn’t personally benefit you. (Sarah Evans comes to mind.)

    Todd, thanks for writing such a thoughtful post. Love the food for thought.

    Heather (@prtini)

  • Great post Todd. Definitely agree. I remember having old colleagues create a Twitter account primarily for pitching reporters. When I found out, I freaked. I said don’t pitch anyone until you build yourself up a bit. They’ll figure it out. It’s so important to build your personal credibility…granted if you have a killer product you’ll have an easier time getting attention but still, be careful and back yourself up.

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    PR folks and Journalists: Interesting post by @tdefren. I commented. What’s your take? [link to post]

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  • David Mullen says:

    (Yes! I’m not a numbskull!)

    Seriously, though, this is an interesting discussion. I’d venture to say that, while relationship-building is important, spot-on, relevant pitches are more important. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve landed with journalists I spoke to for the first time because the angle was interesting, well thought-out and relevant to the reporter’s beat and her readers’ interests.

    As you mentioned, relationship-building with *every* journalist a PR pro may pitch some day doesn’t scale. It especially doesn’t scale for agency folks who work on multiple accounts in multiple verticals or those whose work consists of a lot of project-based accounts. This quarter, I may be serving up great story ideas to home/lifestyle editors. Next quarter, tech reporters at the Top 25 newspapers. And so on.

    I can’t build relationships with journalists who are targets for the children’s clothing client I may or may not have next year. See the challenge?

    Yes, relationships are *very* important. But serving up smart pitches to appropriate journalists is what wins the day. Having a relationship with the sports editor at USA Today won’t convince him to do a profile on a new high-end fashion client, after all.

  • pligg.com says:

    PR Squared: Blogger Relations: Will Personal Branding Change the Game?

    Todd Defren writes about how personal branding may affect blogger relations.

  • Drew Gneiser says:

    Great post, Todd. I think you are on to something with establishing your personal brand. I think that personal brand and relationships are tied quite closely together; who you associate with, tie yourself to, and link to and quote can all can give people a sense of who you are as well. Its important to remember that you can’t build your personal brand out on an island all by yourself. Not that you are copying someone else’s style, but you have to give people a reference point (especially when starting out).

  • Brian says:

    Great post – it’s really amazing how fast everything is changing. Only two years ago, this info might not have been true or even conceivable.

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    RT @TDefren…Will Personal Branding Change the Game of Blogger Relations? [link to post]

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  • I’ve long believed that relevance trumps relationship. Relationships may get your email opened but they don’t translate into the blogger actually writing unless the pitch is good too.

    A good, well targeted pitch that adds value to the blogger will be noticed even if they haven’t met you yet. Provided of course that it meets the general standard of good outreach (ie isn’t spammy and so on.)

    Where are relationships really useful? On the occasion — and it will happen — that you or someone in your company screws up. If people know you, they are more likely to cut you some slack.

  • Todd, Joe:

    You’ve both raised important points that need to be taken seriously by business owners as well as PR pros who hope to receive a nod via a prized blogger’s post.

    Relationships are built on trust; readership is built on having interesting stories to tell and high value information to pass along. From both we draw the energy that fuels the highly coveted (but otherwise elusive) growth in one’s “circle of influence”.

    Linda M. Lopeke
    The SMARTSTART Coach

  • Twitter Comment

    VERY interesting post from @tdefren on blogger relations and PR personal branding: [link to post]

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  • Twitter Comment

    Good, blogger relations/outreach and how personal branding may change the game in reaching out. [link to post]

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  • First, love the turtles. So cute!

    This is a very interesting observation and a thought-provoking post. My thoughts are twofold: one, how many PR pros are going to be comfortable developing a personal brand? For a very long time now, PR has been practiced largely in the background. The point of working with a client was to draw attention to the clients objectives *without* drawing any attention to the agency, and certainly not to the PR pro working on the account. The demand for transparency (whether logical and necessary or not) has started to move this needle a bit. Moving towards developing an individual PR personal brand is a very interesting twist to working with bloggers–it moves up the trust level as you state. But I can envision both PR firms and clients struggling with this, as it is quite a change from the way they are accustomed to running programs.

    My second thought is that “blogger relations” will continue to evolve, and that perhaps prescribing *any* standard practices (short of the obvious, like read the blog and be on target with the pitch) isn’t really useful anymore. As the MSM business continues to contract, we’re seeing more journalists blog, there continues to be a blurring of the lines. Additionally, some bloggers have either abandoned or curtailed their blogging activity in favor of short-format, such as Twitter. The solution of developing a ‘personal PR’ brand is a very interesting one. The overarching answer to “what do we do” is now “it depends.”

    What does this mean for agencies, which are now faced with the need to develop in-house “rock stars” and “garage bands”?

    This is a very interesting discussion, and I hope that it gets the attention and commentary it deserves!

    Jen

  • JoeC says:

    Todd,

    Truly an interesting post.

    I read an interview with Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men. The interviewer asked how his lead character, Don Draper, would fare in today’s fragmented world of advertising. Weiner imagined Draper would perform quite well in the modern era. He described Draper as a natural storyteller and characterized social media as simply another venue to tell your story. I’ve thought about that comment quite a bit.

    So here’s my point: Yes relationships and a “personal brand” matter. But I believe they help with bloggers in much the same way as they help with traditional journalists: they get your email opened, your phone call taken, or your message read. But in the end, it’s the quality of your story that matters most. I have to believe the relevance of the “pitch” and the news value of the content trumps all else. If not, then our industry has used its fancy 2.0 shoes to take a massive step backward.

    Joe



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