After my missive on not being a media outlet and how most emails from publicists end up in my overflowing trash, gentle reader Brigette Mayer asked some questions worth exploring further.

Eclipse de ballon

Eclipse de ballon, by markameleon on Flickr (Creative Commons by-nc-sa licensed)

Brigette’s general take was that my assumption that this topic has been discussed to death is an inaccurate one. And she’s right. I was writing as if everyone who reads my blog shares my exact experience, and of course you don’t.

Here are a couple of Brigette’s questions and my answers. I think this is a topic worth exploring from many angles, so please don’t be shy with your opinions and experiences, and questions if you’ve got ’em.

Brigette: As a small business owner, how do I differentiate between “popular” or “professional” bloggers and those that are blogging more as a means of expression? Or do I? I would think that two different types of press releases would apply in this situation, due to the audience; however, maybe I’m wrong?

I’m going to say this entire series of questions is irrelevant, because the press release is dead. Or it should be. At least when it comes to new media. Traditional media may still love receiving hundreds of press releases; I couldn’t say.

Further, it doesn’t matter why a blogger blogs as long as they’re open to receiving unsolicited emails from people looking for coverage and their audience is interested in the kinds of things you want covered. It’s important to note that some bloggers don’t want to receive unsolicited emails. Check their contact page to double check.

But okay. Let’s walk through this whole thing.

You have something you’d like to spread the word about – it may be a product, a book, a pattern, a blog, an event, whatever. You’ve decided you’d like to reach an online audience, so you start looking for blogs to approach.

Make a wishlist of blogs, and approach them in order, from the top down (depending on your approach, you may want to approach several at once – in that case just make sure you don’t promise exclusivity). Your #1 blog should be the one with the largest engaged audience that’s interested in what you’re promoting. (Example: I delete emails from publicists when the subjects are car parts and ways to winterize one’s home. I open the ones with subject lines about crafts, books and creativity.)

Get to know that blog. How frequently does the writer or team of writers post? What proportion of their posts report on products, books, patterns, events, etc.? If they blog only once a month about something they heard about via a publicity email, then you’ll know not to be surprised if your email doesn’t get a response. Time to move onto the next blog on your list.

This email I’m referring to should not be a press release. Press releases are written for mass distribution in the hopes that some newspaper or another will pick it up. Every blogger I’ve ever spoken to about this hates receiving press releases. They’re a step away from spam, and sometimes they really are spam. We’re people, not media outlets.

What this email should contain is information about the product and also a note about why you’re emailing this particular blogger. It’s not that bloggers need to feel special, it’s that we need to feel like human beings. When one human emails another, there’s usually a reason for the email. Your promotional email should contain that reason. And let’s acknowledge that the overall gist of the email is that you’re asking the blogger to do something for you. And you’re a perfect stranger to that blogger.

Here’s an example of an email I’d like to receive:

Hey Kim,

I’ve been reading through your blog and I like what you have to say about creativity. I wrote a book about how to push through writer’s block. I know you don’t write that often about writing and your readers aren’t necessarily interested in writing professionally, but I think the themes of the book are in line with the themes you blog about. I’d love to send you a copy of the book if you’re interested. No pressure to sing its praises.

Cheers,
Outstanding promoter

Short and to the point. And friendly. Even if I’m not interested in the book, I’m going to write back. That’s the first step in forming a relationship, and the best thing a publicist/promoter can do is have a relationship with the people they want to cover their stuff. This person would email me again with a different project in the future. And I’d want to hear from them.

Ok, now just a bit about Brigette’s question about the motivations of the blogger. Generally speaking, it doesn’t matter if a blogger blogs for love of blogging or if they’re doing it as part of their business – except if it influences how you might approach the blogger. You’ll only get a feel for this by getting to know the blog and how the writer approaches it. You may find some blogs are very focused on making a profit from the blog – they’re very product-friendly and they run ads. Some blogs may not run ads or mention products. Knowing this may influence the approach you take in your email.

Brigette: Also, if this personalization of press releases for bloggers and other new media types is “common knowledge” then it should certainly be taught in the education system…and I’m not sure it is.

I haven’t a clue what’s taught in courses. Does anyone know how (or if) getting blog coverage is covered in any training or academic programs? Please let us know in the comments.

Speaking of the comments, my little diatribes on this topic are only my opinion. What’s your opinion as a blogger? How do you like (or not like) to be approached to cover other people’s stuff? If you’re getting blog coverage for your stuff, what’s your experience? Do you find it valuable to get blog coverage? What strategies work and don’t work for you?

Finally, are you interested in talking more about this in the context of getting traditional media coverage?