With blogger outreach campaigns barely a few years old, and no training/certification programs to provide standards and guidelines, PR and marketing folks have a slippery job of keeping tabs on the ever-growing blogosphere and the evolving "best practices" in using social media for their clients' marketing initiatives.
Some of today's "alpha bloggers" have been complaining and even punishing, PR "flacks" who do not take the time to research bloggers' interests, opinions or audience (in the same way one would research a traditional journalist) before spamming them with press releases and media alerts.
Bloggers are not newsdesks
While some bloggers may appreciate "breaking news" tips - even such emails should be tailored as a 1:1 communication with a human. Just like anyone else, they appreciate respect, and a personal touch.
It's All about the Upsell
Blogger outreach is part of the evolution of PR, which many call Social Media Marketing. Marketing to ANYONE - is all about the upsell. What are the key data points to give to the blogger that would make your information relevant to his/her audience?
As Brian Solis puts it, "Tell me in one sentence why I should write about you and why my readers will care."
By now most bloggers, and especially the alpha bloggers, are aware that they are being asked to essentially provide free publicity or advertising for products/clients. Bloggers create and nurture their audiences and communities, and don't shill just because they are flattered to be considered "experts." Where possible, provide value by way of sneak peeks, betas, free product trials.
Gina Trapani, of the popular productivity blog Lifehacker, also published the domains of PR firms which she has blocked from her email as a Valleywag comment.
Brian Solis responded to Chris Anderson's post, but also provided indepth insights from a PR insider's perspective.
Other responses to "PR-spamming as blogger outreache" include Aaron "Technosailor" Brazell, How to Get an Angry Email from Me - in this article he dismantles a typical "blogger outreach" email, and why it offends him. What's interesting here is how the comments play out - and how both the client and their agency rep weigh in to apologize and explain their actions. Although Brazell remained unconvinced, at least the client and the agency attempted to rectify the situation by being honest and transparent about their error.
There are a ton of "How NOT to pitch bloggers" and "How to pitch bloggers" blog posts floating around the blogosphere, but there is yet to be a definitive standards and best practices for blogger outreach. While "alpha bloggers" are tiring of the blogger outreach game, if they wish to become taken seriously as online journalists or experts, then it would also be helpful for them to make their contact/privacy policies known. In addition, the beauty of the blogosphere is the fact that dedicated writers can "blog their way" up to the A-lists, but all along the way, they can be just as influential within their own communities/audiences as grassroots evangelists - for them, these kinds of blogger outreaches may help them break new stories or build credibility as experts by being included in beta/product trials and providing these sneak peeks to their audiences.
Social Media is evolving every minute, and so are the marketing methodologies that complement them. There are bound to be many faux pas in what is still, for a great percentage of PR/Marketing firms, a new frontier. We do our best to pay attention, and evolve our methods as quickly as we can.
Brian Oberkirch, What PR People need to know about Social Media