I had breakfast with John Bell of Ogilvy a number of years ago. He didn’t see the value of investing limited budget, time and resources on the long tail when those treasures would better be used to woo the high-fliers, professionals, top-cows and A-listers. That’s fair enough, and surely a common question, and a question we must address close to the beginning of every sales call we make at our agency when we propose blogger outreach to a prospective client.
The value comes from penetration, permanence, perseverance and persistence. There are only a finite number of members of every organization’s email list. Mashable and TechCrunch have a sizable but vertical (narrow) audience. When we reach out and pitch to thousands of bloggers, however small or niche, if they’re within maybe one but generally a handful of loosely defined topics, we always reach well outside of the echo chamber of a conversation that tends to get contained within the walls of a tech blog or mommy blog.
By reaching out ever further, we don’t assume that anyone outside of the five major urban centers are obsessed with the top five major papers or the top five major blogs. Doing so makes the critical mistake that if you get covered by the FT, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, you’ve got the world covered. In fact, I will use a newspaper analogy to try to illustrate my point.
The top A-list blogs and bloggers are analogous to David Gelles and the top journalists at the FT, the Times, Washington Post and the Journal. Though highly prestigious, getting your new startup covered by Mr. Gelles may very well not be enough. Outside of Chicago, New York, LA, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Boston and Miami, the United States is also a collection of regional, city, town and village daily papers as well as weeklies and newsletters and journals, both academic and professional, and email lists and Web-only news sources.
People have only a finite amount of time, so their consumption of content, information, news, reviews and alerts is limited. The closer you can get to the media organ that your target market consumes primarily and religiously, the higher the probability that content will register with the reader, will resonate with the reader, and will feel like it is intimate to the reader and his local community and experience of the world.
The Internet is such a gift. Never before has it been remotely possible to reach out to thousands of publishing platforms in one go, with just a team of five, globally or geographically, with a couple follow-ups and concierge service, with the reliable results of hundreds of posts and their associated tweets, retweets and secondary coverage. Add to this long-tail “theory of everyone” campaign a more one-to-one, relationship-based, Rolodex outreach to your most connected agents to-to list and you can have all the mentions in the rarefied air of the A-list as you can manage in the time allowed (and with what you have to pitch — sometimes the quality or sexiness isn’t there and it can be a super-tough sell, requiring horse-trading, etc.) in addition to the hundreds of earned media mentions that one can very reliably acquire — with the first posts showing up two weeks after the contract is signed and going on for another four weeks.
Building connections with the top influencers
One of the biggest issues with A-list outreaches that I experienced when I was at NMS and Edelman is that what happens when you only have a prior relationship with only a handful of top-tier semi-professional and professional bloggers and blogger networks that are germane to the topic or demographic of the client? What happens if you don’t know enough and the ones you do know aren’t interested or don’t think it’s interesting or a viable post?
There are times when you’ve been given a huge retainer by a huge client to push a “meh” product to an A-list that’s not interested and the time passes, the bell rings and you’ve rolled snake eyes. Nothing. No coverage — or very little, surely not aligned to the client’s expectation — or your boss’s.
We discovered that we were a lot less vulnerable to panic attacks when we bought insurance. At my agency, we do pursue A-listers, of course. But those relationships are real. They take time. Since we don’t have a strong vertical, we don’t know who we’re going to need to engage in the A-list at any one time. And, when we do sort out the A-list in any particular blogosphere, thanks to the help of eCairn, then we need to spend time building that connection, personally, with the top influencers. While that is happening, we task our seven blogger researchers with finding everyone else, using a very well-thought-out collection of keyword phrases. In general, we have two weeks or less before our first outreach. The clock is ticking.