How PR fails at Blogger Outreach

PR Influential Blogger Outreach

At some point in the last year or so, someone pegged me as an influential blogger… and then it started. A constant and never-ceasing stream of daily e-mails from various PR companies mindlessly clogging up my inbox. The volume has picked up substantially and is sometimes followed up with a phone call to check “if you’ve had a chance to read our release”.

No. I haven’t. And I won’t. I never asked to receive them in the first place. We don’t have any sort of a relationship. You don’t even know who I am or what I do, other then what’s in the “NAME” and “WEBSITE” field in your spreadsheet or CRM software.

Is this what modern PR is all about these days? 


I am not alone…

I had a meeting today with a marketing manager of a software startup. They recently hired a PR firm to help them build an online presence. Reaching out to influential bloggers is part of that plan. Recently, while monitoring their mentions on various social media networks, they noticed a particular tweet which caught their eye. It said something like “I guess I’ll tweet about [the company] since their PR lady keeps pestering me”. Does that sound like a PR win to you?

It’s hurting your brand.

Not only are these efforts fruitless, but they could also be hurting your brand reputation in the eyes of the online public. Pestering bloggers with e-mails they haven’t opted into is just about the worst way I can think of to build a relationship. There is almost an instant loss of trust and who knows what kind of backlash may come of it.

Invest first. Withdraw later.

Your responsibility as a marketer, PR professional and as a human being is to establish some sort of a relationship and invest in it before expecting someone you don’t know to just do things for you. Yes, blogger outreach works… but not like this. If you are a marketing manager working with a PR firm, make sure they’re not just spamming innocent bystanders whose e-mails just happen to have gotten scraped from their websites. I would ask the company to provide proof (emails for example) that they have actually built relationships with those you wish to reach, or at least an assurance that this is standard practice.

If, on the other hand you are the marketer looking to build your online presence through blogger outreach, here are 7 ideas that will make your efforts that much more effective:

The right people – Don’t just trust a google search or an e-mail list. Make sure to visit each blog and make sure their brand aligns with yours.

Read  – Make sure to read at least 10 – 15 of their posts to start with. You’ll get a feel for their tone and style of writing – and stack it up against your own brand and how you wish to be perceived.

Comment  – Take some time and post meaningful replies on a few posts. This is the easiest way to become a known entity and warm up the introduction later on.

Follow – Most bloggers will be present on several social media networks. Follow them and get to know them there as well.

Subscribe – Most blogs will have a freely available RSS feed you can suscribe to. Alternatively, most blogs will offer you an opportunity to subscribe by e-mail. This way you’ll be notified of fresh content and can then look at ways of making the connection.

Introduce yourself – Before even thinking about putting their e-mail in your system make sure to introduce yourself, which by this time (after commenting and reading for a little while) should be a much warmer conversation.

Ask for permission – Only after you’ve made the connection and provided value in the form of retweeting their content or commenting on their blog, should you ASK for the permission to update them with RELEVANT releases.

If you’re able to do this with 6 to 10 bloggers who write within your industry or appeal to your target market, you’ve won at digital marketing. Sadly, very few brands follow this approach. This isn’t a game of numbers or a race for who will spam the most people, but rather a business of relationships. They take time to develop.


– Ernest // Follow me on Twitter

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18 thoughts on “How PR fails at Blogger Outreach”

  1. Ohmyheck – Can this be required reading at every morning meeting in PR land?

    I’m a mom, and a blogger, so I fall into that much-chased “Mommy Blogger” category. I get so many emails every single day, telling me how much my readers would LOVE to learn about some new product, and aren’t I lucky to have gotten this precious email letting me know all about it so that I can post it onto my site for free??

    Not so much.

    But, I do love it when I get an email that addresses me by my name, instead of “Dear Blogger.” I adore it when they mention how their new super-duper toy would be a perfect fit for my little girl, and their other super-duper toy would be just great for my older nephews who live with me too. What? You read my about me page? You know who I am?? Impressive.

    I get so few emails like that, that I fall in love right away, and will often promote their new product/giveaway/event for them, because they actually took the time to learn about me before just pitching me. So much more effective :)

    Yes, it takes a wee bit more time to actually *read* the blogs that you are pitching. But it saves you boatloads of time in the long-run, but making real connections.

    Great post!

    • Hi Megan.

      Thank you for sharing the post :) I was wondering who caused the traffic spike! Sounds like we’re definitely not the only ones being bombarded with incessant, non-targeted e-mails. It’s amazing how much difference even just a little bit of human contact can make. I’m not a PR person, but it’s just common sense…

  2. Most traditional journalists also rant at media relations people who use “shotgun” instead of “rifle” techniques. Alas, sending a release indiscriminately in hopes of a pick-up works just often enough to keep practitioners doing it that way instead of the right way which I agree should be highly-targeted. It’s counter-intuitive, I know, but the “shotgun” approach costs less since the relationship-building and selective distribution takes more time.

    • It does take longer… but that’s the point. Your success rate (especially with bloggers) increases substantially if there’s some sort of relationship first.

  3. I don’t know how I got on a list but I get tons of emails asking if they can write a PR for me! For a Fee, of course. And there is no specifics on who would actually be receiving It. The last thing I want is to be a nuisance in someone else’s inbox! But they keep sending them.

  4. Great stuff, I’d add to throw away the typical language of a press release too. Make it much more informal. Of course you should always identify yourself as a PR manager working for a client, but I think bloggers respond better to comments like “Hey, wanted to see if you’d be interested in XXXXX.”

  5. This is a brilliant article because it clearly spells out the wrong approach and why this is damaging, as well as the approach that does work- shock horror- actually getting to know the person behind the blog and relationship building.

    At SMWF this week it was a relief to hear more people (PR, Agency, Social Media Managers) are taking the approach of human to human, actual communication. What stuns me is that is taken the majority so long to cotton onto this?

    • Hi Claire,

      Thank you for the comment, I really appreciate it. Like Judy mentioned in a previous comment, it’s still not something that’s common practice, because it’s just easier and faster to use a shotgun approach. From the PR firm side – it’s looked at as a billable activity, regardless of success, which is really due to a broken compensation system focused on busywork rather then results.

  6. Awesome stuff. Loads of common sense that sometimes PRs and Advertisers don’t apply ( who is free please cast the first stone ). Thanks for sharing!!!!

    We need to make the blogosphere a better place to be so thanks for the nudge!!


  7. Hallelujah! Thank you Ernest for spelling it out so simply. Mind you, I understand why (some…many?) PR agencies don’t want to, and won’t, do it this way. Six strong relationships doesn’t seem like enough when presenting a proposal and later, results, to a client who is thinking in terms of 100s or 1000s of “targets”. Yet this is exactly what hiring a PR is supposed to be about: the value-add provided by the PR people’s personal relationship with influencers. Saving this link to EverNote for regular citation….
    – Bruce

    • Hi Bruce,

      Thank you for such a great comment, I really appreciate it. To add to your point, the PR professional should explain to the client that 1000s of wrong people are no better for their brand then a handful of right ones. High numbers are an easier sell, but it’s also an underhanded approach that doesn’t show true value of their services.

  8. Hi….. My name is Alison…… and I’m a PR person, and I’m a little guilty of some of these. I always check out the website and everything, but I don’t follow and subscribe the way I should be. Thanks for the reminder.

  9. Having just completed a PR outreach plan for the company I work at, I can attest to the value in building a relationship organically with bloggers as opposed to Spamming them with PR releases that will never be read. Good article, hopefully more people take note.

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