As content marketing climbs to the top of the “what works” ladder for any and every brand, the need to acquire high quality content surrounding one’s brand is crucial. Not only the need for content from a brand itself, but about brands from an outside source.

This is where the need for influential bloggers is becoming essential to any digital marketing or PR strategy.

The logic is that consumers don’t want to hear about a brand from the brand itself anymore. They want an online peer they can connect with, trust and get recommendations from. An outsider with an unbiased experience.  And bloggers are not only abundant but they also are very trustworthy according to consumers.

Thus I’ve compiled this very comprehensive, all-encompassing guide to give you a thorough understanding of blogger outreach, how to implement it into your own strategy, some actionable tips and some inspiration to weave into your own campaigns. Enjoy!

Why Blogger Outreach

There hasn’t been a ton of research as blogger outreach is a newer technique, but there is enough to show marketers that if you’ve not already implemented blogger outreach, you need to. And if it’s already part of your strategy, there is always room to kick it up a level for even more effectiveness.

  • According to Technorati’s Digital Influence Report, 86% of influencers run a blog and blogs are considered to be in the top five sources of trustworthy information.
  • BlogHer did a study that showed 61% of the online population trusts recommendations from bloggers.
  • Word of mouth marketing is what is working. Think about how many of your social media friends post asking for peer reviews. Bloggers are the most trusted digital peers.

Which Industries are Reaching Out Well

Because bloggers are so abundant and the online population reads a lot of blogs, there are bloggers to cover any niche for any product. I don’t care how boring you say your product is, there is a way to fit it into a good blog post, just think outside of the box.

  • Fashion brands are killing it with blogger outreach and have been leading the way as one of the industries who utilizes bloggers in their influencer marketing campaigns. Not only that, but they are very creative how they go about it.American Apparel doesn’t only send out free clothes to bloggers but they even invited them to be part of their catalogue last year. Of course this caused a lot of buzz!

    Lee Jeans has been hosting jeans parties for local bloggers instead of just sending bloggers jeans.

  • SAAS companies are reaching out to bloggers actively and seeing results as well. Many have bloggers review their app before it’s released for good feedback and to create a need for the product before it hits the market. Check out Little Bird, they reached out to influential bloggers to get coverage and require people who are interested in testing it out to register for access.
  • Restaurants are making use of local bloggers for authentic restaurant reviews. I love this blogger’s post on how a restaurant sent them a gift card and did everything right.Many restaurant chains are inviting bloggers to their locations to test out the food and service as well.
  • Even the finance industry is jumping on board. I’ve heard good things about Money Crasher’s blogger outreach program and that it’s working well for them as well.
  • Retail stores. From Food Lion having a blogger cook off with local bloggers to department stores inviting local bloggers and offering gift cards, retail locations can benefit greatly from blogger outreach as well.

Develop a Campaign Goal and Make it Measurable

Basically you need a game plan before you start looking all over the blogosphere for bloggers and emailing any blogger you can find an email address for.

Not to mention, a goal gives you something to measure so when your campaign is over you can actually track how well it did.

Here are some common blogger outreach goals:

  • Simple brand awareness: Since brand awareness is a simpler goal, try anything from giving the blogger a product to review or exclusive information that helps them tell your brand’s story.
  • Thought Leadership: Again, guest post. Write something unique, inspiring, creative, new or educational to grab the attention of their audience. Make sure you have ways for their audience to follow your brand for more awesome posts!
  • Promote a new product or service: Have the blogger review a product or service before it’s released when possible. This creates a want for the product before it even is on the market.
  • Revamp Image: Reach out to bloggers and be up front about your goal. Offer your brand as a solution to a pain point that the blogger can relate to.
  • Lead generation/increase interest of a potential customer: Blogger outreach is becoming popular in the B2B realm. Work with bloggers to generate leads for your brand. Whether they review your service or they are paid by the lead, their recommendations are worth the cost.
  • Content promotion: As long as your infographic, ebook, white paper or information aligns with what the blogger already writes for their audience, reach out and see if they’ll link to your content.

Fill Out Your Blogger Profile

Just like you have consumer profiles, you need to have blogger profiles as well. Answer the following questions to create a tangible niche of bloggers to reach out to before you begin searching.

  • What genre of bloggers do your target consumers follow? Cooking bloggers? Mommy bloggers? Tech bloggers?
  • Get a little more specific and funnel down from that genre to a smaller vertical. Examples include cooking bloggers who write about grilling, mommy bloggers who recommend frugal ways of living or tech bloggers who love androids.
  • How big of an audience should the blogger have? When searching for bloggers you should have some sort of minimum reach in mind whether it’s social following on your favorite digital channel or a minimum MozRank.

Write this persona on a post and stick it to your monitor so you don’t stray from reaching out to bloggers who fit snuggly with in the profile you outline.

Consider an Outreach Tool

As you can imagine, locating bloggers and looking up their metrics and contact information is a VERY LENGTHY process. Of course it can be done and I’ll give you some tips in the next section if a tool is not in your budget.

There are quite a few tools out there that specialize in finding bloggers and they range from basic to awesome depending on your budget and needs. Here are the ones that I hear the most about:

Inkybee: Newer, smaller and geared toward smaller brands and campaigns. Friendlier on the budget but supposed to have a good database.

Blog Dash: They only list PR friendly bloggers so they’ll be receptive to working with brands in the first place.

BuzzStream: More geared to the SEO world, this tool is supposed to maximize the finding and contacting of bloggers.

GroupHigh: Considered to be the cream of the crop, they have 10 million bloggers and is mostly used by large brands and agencies.

Finding Bloggers without a Paid Tool

  • Google blog search: Search for any genre of bloggers with Google’s blog search. Make a list of all of the ones that have good content. Then manually look up their stats to make sure they reach far enough.
  • Google Alerts: Set up Google Alerts for the keywords that describe your target vertical as described in your blogger profile. For example maybe you want to know whenever someone writes about “gifts for dads” so that you can reach out to that blogger and suggest your own product. Or you want to monitor for “vegan” so you know when food blogs write about this lifestyle.
  • Blog rolls: A blog roll is a list of blogs that a blogger compiles of other bloggers in certain verticals. So if you Google “blogroll” and “specific keyword” you can find some really thorough blogrolls out there to copy into your spread sheet.
  • Ask bloggers for more bloggers: When you form a friendly relationship with a blogger, ask them to recommend other bloggers to reach out to. Bloggers are a very tight knit bunch and often times will give you some names.
  • Multi-channel approach: Bloggers tend to have a presence on a variety of digital channels. Try a reverse look up by finding YouTube influencers and asking them if they have a blog. Or use followerwonk to find influential tweeters for your campaign and while you’re at it find out whether or not they also have a blog which is usually linked to in their twitter bio!

How to Find Bloggers by Niche

Unlike traditional journalistic outlets, bloggers are niche based instead of genre based making their audience very targeted. It’s just a matter of figuring out which niche is best for your brand and only reaching out to those bloggers.

For example, if I’m promoting a brand of premium indoor paint I don’t want to simply target all DIY and home décor bloggers. It’s worth the time to dive deeper by niche and find DIY and décor bloggers who write about redesigning rooms or who have written about painting before. Some of these bloggers may only focus on furniture and this wouldn’t work for my paint. Also my paint is premium so I want to eliminate and DIY and décor bloggers who write about being fugal or decorating on a budget because their audience wouldn’t be interested in my pricier paint at all. Hence the importance of narrowing down to a niche.

Yes, while this is a crucial step it’s also time consuming. Here are some ways to find bloggers within your targeted vertical.

  • Read the blog. This one is common sense and time consuming but the easiest way to get a feel for the blogger you’re reaching out to. Make a list of bloggers by gene and start reading through their posts to find out whether or not they also fall into your niche.
  • Scan post titles. Okay everyone has faced a limited amount of time. If you can’t spend time reading a few of the blogger’s posts at least scan the post titles to get a feel for the type of content they write, the type of products they recommend and the topics that their audience wants.
  • Read the about me section. This is where a blogger gets to tell people whether or not they take part in certain post tactics and talks about their content and goal with their blog. These about me pages can be a gold mine of information to use in your personalized pitches.

Post Tactics

  • Guest post: Write a post, ideally an exclusive one on a topic you know that the blogger’s audience would find interesting. Through your post, show your brand in a light of authority and thought leadership.
  • Sponsored post: Pay the blogger for your post. Either you write it or they do. Since you’re paying you have a little more control on the direction of the post.
  • Product review: Give the blogger something from your brand to “test out.” They’ll write about their experience with your product or service. Whether or not you give them something for free and pay them on top of that depends on the blogger.
  • Giveaway: Brands who use product giveaways as a tactic usually send the blogger the product for themselves to review and another one to giveaway to their audience. Vitamix did this tactic with a lot of mom bloggers.

The Most Important Part…The Pitch

The pitch is your only chance to make a good impression. If the pitch doesn’t start off on the right foot, it will get deleted because a lot of bloggers get pitches all day every day and for time’s sake, have to make snap decisions.

I’ve broken down the important components that all pitches should contain:

The Subject Line: This is where you get the blogger’s attention without seeming gimmicky. Try to be a little more creative than “hi” or “I’ve got something you want to see.”

The Opener: In the first paragraph of your pitch, quickly introduce yourself and your brand. Keep it short and sweet but make sure you provide all necessary details.

Show you’ve done your homework: Reference something about their blog that tells them you’ve read it. Whether you reference an actual pitch, a common post topic or something from their “about me” section—show the blogger that you have done your homework.

State why you’re writing: Tell the blogger exactly why you’re reaching out to them. Both you and the blogger don’t have enough time for you to be vague. Tell them about your campaign, why their audience would be interested in your brand and why your brand is interested in them. To the point.

Tell them what they’ll get in return: Whether you want the blogger to visit your online store and pick something for free for review or you want to pay them for their post or you want to write an innovative guest post exclusively for their audience, tell the blogger what they get out of working with you.

Use manners: Thank the blogger for their time and compliment and acknowledge all of the hard work that they’ve put into their blog.

Link to all necessary information: Don’t make the blogger do research after you send the pitch. Link to your brand, your media kit and all other necessary information for the blogger to get a feel for your brand and the campaign.

Personal Pitch or Mail Merge?

Ideally all of the pitches you send out are personalized. Bloggers are good at detecting when they are part of a mail merge. But that’s just my opinion and I know a lot of brands use a mail merge anyways.

So if you are tempted to mass email bloggers, at least personalize the pitches to your “a-list” bloggers or the ones that you want to work with the most. A personalized pitch, though more time consuming always leads to higher response rates.

You can also take advantage of Google canned responses. With these you can set up a template that contains the “meat of the pitch” such as what you’re offering them, what you want from them and the necessary information about your brand. Then you can add to your template each time you send out an email. Add things like a post to reference or something you read about them in their about me section. Obviously add their name and cater a few things to the tone of their blog.

Next Level Tactics

I’ve covered the basics. Now that you grasp these or maybe you are already doing the “basics” consider some of these next level tactics to make your campaign even more effective.

Reach out to bloggers who have already written about all of your competing brands

Set up Google alerts to monitor for mentions of your competitor’s brands. Search for bloggers that have written about your competitors in the past. When you see this, you’re reading bloggers that are proving to have an affinity for your brand in the first place and willing to work with brands if they are writing about your competitors.

Interact on social media channels before pitching

Comment on the bloggers posts and share their posts on your social channels. I’ve seen some brands tweet their pitch to a blogger.

Create an opt in program

Some brands email a bunch of bloggers to apply for their outreach programs. This way you create a list of bloggers who really want to work with you and you can run all of their stats albeit social media following or traffic data. In fact, you can ask the bloggers to provide this information when they apply. Talk about less work for you.

Create a network of bloggers

Once you’ve been doing blogger outreach for a while, create a network of “go to bloggers” that you can contact for future campaigns. Consider them brand advocates.

Host a blogger event

A lot of retail brands such as department stores and restaurants are seeing a lot of success by taking their campaigns a step further. Instead of just offering the bloggers gift cards, they are hosting events for local bloggers. This way they can tell the bloggers more about their brand and cater the entire brand experience even more.

Create a full brand experience

If you can’t host a blogger event, no worries. Still make sure you create a full brand experience. Instead of telling the blogger information only about the product or service you’re promoting, provide them with your brand’s story. Instead of sending them a pair of jeans, send the blogger a gift card so they can try on different styles of jeans and interact with the sales team at your store. Sending the blogger to the store gives them a well-rounded perspective of the brand and more to write about.

Plan ahead

The blogger outreach process is a lengthy one. From deciding what the campaign will look like to finding the bloggers who fit to getting the earned post up—it can take months from campaign brainstorm to post fruition. So, start months before you actually need the posts up.  One of the biggest mistakes I see brands make when it comes to blogger outreach is timing. They contact the bloggers a week before they need the post up and this can be annoying to the bloggers as well as an impossible time frame for them to work with.

Relationship maintenance

Establishing ongoing relationships with bloggers creates a situation where you can contact bloggers for future campaigns or maybe they have such a good experience that they mention your brand on an ongoing basis.

To keep up with your blogger relations, make sure you share their posts on your own digital channels. Thank them for their mentions. Send them free new products from your brand and keep them updated. Talk about brand advocacy…

Track and Measure Your Campaign

Once you’ve pitched bloggers, your work isn’t even sort of done.

You need to keep track of the bloggers who respond and work with you and monitor for your earned blog mentions.

Then you need to track how well all of the earned mentions perform. Track things like:

  • Social shares
  • Comment counts
  • Sentiment (what people say about the posts/your brand in their social shares and in the comments section of the post)
  • Traffic to site
  • Product purchases

Track your posts once a week and keep the metrics updated in a spreadsheet. This way you always have something to show your boss or clients.

End on a Spark Note

Because this guide is full of so much information here is a super condensed list of what steps you need to embark on now for your own blogger outreach campaign.

  • Make a goal
  • Develop a reason why you are reaching out to bloggers
  • See if a blogger outreach tool is in the budget
  • Fill out your blogger persona profile
  • Locate your bloggers by genre
  • Narrow this genre down to a niche
  • Read through the blog to see if they work with brands
  • Decide what kind of post tactic you want to use
  • Give your campaign a creative element
  • Pitch your bloggers
  • Track and measure your campaign

Do you have any additional tips when it comes to reaching out to bloggers? If so, I’d love to hear them in the comments section below!

(Image Credits – moyogo)