October 12, 2011

Real bloggers and real blogs always trump Robot Armies

robot army

Chris AbrahamLast week, I talked about using the long tail of blogger outreach — the idea that you can’t pin your hopes for most public relations efforts on only the A-list bloggers. For each outreach, there are hundreds and often thousands of bloggers that are not well-known but have influence on the very people that your PR campaign is trying to reach.

I’ve written in the past about how to put bloggers first when you reach out to them, but today I want to make sure that you don’t see blogger outreach as a one-time, campaign-oriented approach but rather a relationship that lasts for years between you and each blogger. For blogger outreach to work on an ongoing basis, you need to be endlessly generous and endlessly appreciative. And the main way that you show your appreciation is to do as much of the work for them as possible.

You need to make sure you’ve set up the pitch and the campaign. Your message must be essential and clear enough that each blogger can potentially go from reading the email pitch to clicking the post button on their blog well within five minutes. Any more and we maybe get only a tweet or a Facebook Like.

We need to be clear in our email that we want a post and the pitch to be shared with the readers of the blog. In our social media news releases, we need to make sure that everything can be copied and pasted as-is, that images are the correct size, that the links are already embedded, that copy and text is simple to copy and block-quote and that any and all banner ads or videos have a handy and easy to find embed code right there.

One cannot assume any technical proficiency, one cannot assume any PR or communications experience, one cannot assume that any blogger knows any PR-speak or knows how to deal with an embargo. One cannot assume that anyone knows what a press release is, or a social media release or what PRWeb is or, heaven forbid, how to keep an embargoed message holy. Long story short, if the message in any way seems more complicated or time-consuming than each blogger fancies it’s worth, then you’ve lost them.

Authenticity vs. robot armies rife with affiliate links

I get why folks have spent many millions of dollars creating a robot army of sites and links and posts that emulate a passionate blogosphere. A robot army rife with affiliate links is really much more manageable to control freaks who need to make sure they can predict ROI based on investment. This is probably the direct result of VC-funding. Those guys love seeing money in and money out. But it isn’t authentic and it isn’t real and these castles of cards are also vulnerable as we have been recently seeing as Google goes through revisions of its search algorithm, oftentimes removing or de-prioritizing entire portions of the Internet that have been produced at great expense to emulate the vigorous and organic, self-organizing, engaged citizenry.

I won’t lie to you, having hundreds of earned media mentions as the result of a very real digital PR long-tail blogger outreach to thousands of bloggers can be SEO gold. Some clients retain us yearly and we can turn those hundreds of posts to thousands of posts per year. The powerful secondary effect of the earnest PR earned-media campaign is SEO link juice, something we didn’t sort out until we were doing this for a couple of years.

Having hundreds of thousands of prepared keyword strings and copy and images and videos pointing back to our clients results in a white-hat link-farm effect, if you will, with one caveat: It is real. We don’t pay these bloggers to write. None of these bloggers are on the same server or the same node or the same cloud or in the same network. The vigilant army of real live Google site investigators can scrutinize these hundreds of posts with a fine tooth comb and there’s no harm and no foul.

Down the Long Tail, there are loads of bloggers who have never been kissed, never been pitched by a noted brand, never been engaged by a social media team or PR agent

At the end of the day, we’re not creating a fallacy world of content used to drive revenue much like an elaborate marketing theme park. What we’re trying to do is play the game of “olly olly oxen free” with the denizens of the Internet. We’re ringing the dinner gong. We’re giving lots and lots of people who have a worthy platform for self-expression an opportunity to write about something if, and only if, our email pitch resonates with them or, to be honest, they’re impressed that our client has taken the time to reach out to them directly, asking them for a favor.

When it comes to the empowered and powerful A-listers, they’ve been pitched a million times by the world’s top brands. In fact, companies and their agencies are falling all over themselves to appeal to these powerful few. Not much further along the tail, there are loads of blogs and bloggers who have never been kissed at all, never been pitched by a noted brand, never been engaged by a social media team or PR agent, have never received an offer to pass on to their readers or received a book to review, have never received super-super concierge service and follow up.

In so many cases, we’re their first. We’re their very first PR kiss and, as you know, nobody forgets their first.

Image at top by friendlydrag0n on FlickrChris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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