Given the incredible explosion of blogs and the attention the bloggers themselves are receiving (Hello, CNN/ABC/Fox, etc.: I’ve available for bookings . . . ) I thought it would be useful to ask one of the pros I know about how publicists should be approaching this new outlet that’s here to stay. I got in touch with Helena Bouchez (who really sounds like she’s a movie star, right?), principal of Helena B Communications (est. 2005) an expertise PR firm that helps marketing thought leaders raise their profiles among prospective clients and key opinion leaders, easing the new business development process. She has developed and executed effective expertise PR programs for creative organizations such as health care marketing firm Interval (Minneapolis), luxury brand consultancy 400twin and visual communications firm Decker Design (New York), bass guitar manufacturer Lakland Musical Instruments (Chicago).
Previously, Helena served as vice president at Chicago-based Hodge Schindler Communications, where she worked on its flagship account, brand consultancy Prophet, as well as natural foods retailer Fruitful Yield and ERP software provider Friedman Corporation along with numerous book promotion projects. Her work prior to Hodge Schindler includes stints as associate director of MIS for ad agency DDB Chicago and business manager for a suburban Chicago residential architectural firm.
Leslie: How does a publicist obtain a good list of bloggers?
Helena: Twitter Search and Google are good places to start. You also can search Google or Yahoo on the phrase “Top 10 ____ blogs,” where blank is your topic. Chances are, someone already has curated a list for you. I would also set up a series of Google Alerts for the industry and start seeing what names pop up consistently. A lot of the more sophisticated PR tools also have blogger searches as well. Here are a few other search options from blogger and social media guru Chris Brogan
- Alltop – the Internet’s magazine rack.
- Google Blogsearch – search by topic.
- Postrank Topics – search by topic.
Leslie: I’ve noticed that some bloggers are fairly open about receiving samples though I wonder sometimes if they really need the products to write their posts or do they just want the stuff for themselves (something I would call “presents”)? How does a publicist vet a blogger for this purpose?
Helena: First, if you have a product you want a blogger to review, sending samples – along with a backgrounder about what makes it special and different along with a series of good low-res photographs – is essential. If the product is too big or expensive to give away, consider inviting bloggers to tour the factory or venue and write freely about their experiences.
Obviously, companies don’t have an unending supply of samples (or time) so it makes sense to provide them to the bloggers who have the best connections with their audiences. Typically, these folks are reasonably good and engaging writers. Actually, the more personality they have and the more opinionated they are, the better – it makes for stickier, more compelling reviews and a readers that are more likely to engage and take action. Also, some evidence of conversations on their blog, meaning some comments, is a good sign. If they are on Twitter (most are) you also should see some interaction with readers on their feed.
Other things you can do:
1. Search the blog for posts the person has written about products in your category. Comments indicate conversation. Evidence of conversation is good, but lack of one doesn’t mean that no one is talking. It just might be happening on a different channel. (Twitter, Digg, Facebook, etc.)
2. Google/Yahoo and Twitter search on the name of the product they’ve written about and see if their blog post, or reference to it, appears within the first few pages.
3. Set up Google Alerts on the blogger’s name, as well as on your product’s name and the product category, to see who is writing about what.
Note from Leslie:
Don’t forget to check out the new guidelines that the FTC put in effect to cover endorsements in social media This is an extension of an existing rule for endorsements requiring that bloggers and others in the Web world disclose when they are being paid to support a product or service. You can read the overview or the full text.