First things first. No matter what we’d like to believe, there is no such thing as the perfect pitch. One person’s spam is often another person’s breakfast.
Here are my ingredients for the secret sauce of a nearly perfect pitch to a blogger.
Relevance is a key ingredient. Without it, it is highly unlikely that you will get even a nibble from a blogger. Do your homework. Make sure that your product or service and pitch match the blogger’s interests. And please don’t assume that the blogger will connect the dots and understand that your pitch is relevant. Tell her why you sent her the pitch, why you thought it was relevant. Otherwise, a blogger just might assume that you got lucky, not that you were smart.
Don’t patronize. Nothing irritates more than the arrogance that you, the company, are doing the blogger a favor by telling them (and 1000 of their closest friends) about your "thing." Certainly tell the blogger why YOU are excited about whatever it is, but don’t suggest that they will be as well. Or that their "readers will love it". That’s for the blogger to decide, and that phrase, more than any other, will consign your pitch to the trash heap.
Don’t ask the blogger to write. If the pitch was good, you don’t have to ask. There are a few exceptions of course, mostly related to charities and fundraising where you will be forgiven for asking folks to spread the word. But truly, you are much better off if you focus on developing a program or offer that the bloggers will want to share with their friends. Also known as the readers of their blogs.
Brevity & Clarity
Get to the point. Quickly. Tell the blogger who you are, why you are writing and why you thought this pitch was relevant. One to two paragraphs at most. Bloggers don’t want a laundry list of features or a lot of marketing-speak and PR puffery. They may be reading your pitch on a mobile device or even a dial-up line, so ditch the attachments. Instead, tell them the WIIFM.
What’s in it for me? Answering that question for the blogger is what makes a nearly perfect pitch.
Your pitch or program should add value. Otherwise, you should advertise.
What does adding value mean? A personal blogger writes about things he is interested in, generally from the perspective of how they impact him. He’s telling his story, and you need to give him a good reason to include your story in his. That means putting your product or service into his context, not talking at him from yours with a press release, list of features or carefully crafted message point. Here are some ways to do this.
Provide access to exclusive information. But make sure it is access that the blogger actually wants. Few bloggers will want an "exciting interview" with your marketing VP. Sorry. But if your brand uses a celebrity spokesperson, some might be interested in an interview or even a meet and greet if there is an appropriate venue. Others might love access to your product managers, a factory tour or an invitation to participate in an advisory board.
Offer evaluation products or samples. Pre-release or beta is okay, just be clear on what you are sending and whether you want direct feedback, to improve the product, or are simply sending it so they have a chance to try it out. Remember, bloggers don’t need it to be new, although they do like to be clued in on the new things. Who doesn’t? What bloggers really need is for your pitch to be relevant to their interests. This is a golden opportunity for companies who are able to make their products "new to you" with relevant stories. Word of warning: Do not expect to get the products back. If your budget cannot support sending evaluation product to every blogger you pitch, cut your list back to a number that it can support. If your product is a high priced item, such as a computer or a car, consider ways to offer trial through loaner programs and events. Both Ford and GM have used these tactics very successfully recently to get folks into their vehicles. Computer companies have long sponsored the Internet cafes and email stations at industry conferences for the same reason. [BTW, if you are a computer company, I came up with an idea for you while writing this post. Call me.]
Offer products to the blogger that she can give away to her readers. Many personal bloggers use ads to offset the cost of their blogs; giveaways and contests attract readers, which in turn can increase advertising revenues. It’s such a simple way for a company to add value for the blogger while achieving its own goals of promoting the product.
Events and junkets. While I often worry that we put too much focus on events and trips, they are a good way to expose bloggers to your products and most importantly, your people. Important: while every blogger relations effort should be considered, and measured, in the context of your marketing and communications strategy, this is particularly critical when it comes to events and junkets. No matter what your budget for the event, no matter how big or small your company, your event is going to consume a lot of resources, both hard dollars and soft costs. You have to have a clear objective and a way to measure it going in, or you will be wasting money. No matter how much the bloggers loved the event. You should also look into sponsoring events or conferences that already attract the blogging population you want to reach. Consider sponsoring the attendance of a few bloggers who might otherwise not be able to afford a key industry conference. But don’t make hollow offers. Make it meaningful; a free registration isn’t much use if the blogger can’t afford the plane fare.
Support the charities and causes the community cares about. Many companies do this already in "meatspace." Think about how you can extend your support into your online and social media efforts. But beware of token support or the appearance of carpet bagging. Charitable involvement must be organic to your business or your product; don’t just jump on the latest bandwagon, throw a few dollars at something and expect to reap the rewards of your largesse. Folks can spot a faker. Just look at all the firms that have tried to "go green" with superficial efforts and have ended up more red-faced than anything.
Put the blogger at the center, not your product. Feature them on your site. Invite them to be part of an advisory council or product focus group. Actively solicit their opinions and feedback on new products. We did this with the Photographic Memories project during the HP Photo Books launch. A central element of the program was interviews on hp.com with moms about the role of photography in their lives. No question, there was a connection — if photographs are important in our lives, what better way to share them than a Photo Book — but that was not the focus of the interviews.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll take some good pitches and dissect them for the value element. I’ll also share a bad pitch that could have been so much better if the company had just focused on adding value for the bloggers, not just pushing their products.