This has been said in various forms by many before, but as I keep seeing bad examples in action, here you go: The Very Basics of Blogger Outreach (Mallard Style!). This is based mostly on my own experiences doing outreach for clients as well as when I managed online influencer outreach efforts for a group at Microsoft.
1. Build the Right List:
Seriously, just do your homework and find the right kind of blogs to use as a starting point. This one step alone, done smartly, would eliminate 90%* of all “crap PR person pitching me!” situations (*scientific wild-ass guess). Take your time, research the niche, understand your clients goals and the bloggers goals/style/content/history, and be very willing to drop people from your outreach list no matter how desperately you or your client may want a good review from them. As you continue your research (read below) and learn more about who they are, what they write about, some of those will just naturally fall off the list. That's a good thing.
Speaking of, some of the ideal bloggers on your list might not be amenable to being approached. Read their post archives, do some searches, look for rants. If they enjoy tearing through PR pitches and posting your emails online — do you and your client a favor and stay far far away.
1a. Corralary: Relationships are Key, But Not Always Possible
Many bloggers won't consider any pitches from people they don't have a pre-existing relationship with — the fact is they likely are being bombarded with bad pitches for irrelevant things, and justifiably won't give the time of day to anyone who hasn't invested the time previously to build a relationship. If you work directly for a company, or are part of their long-standing agency relationship, hopefully you'll have already invested the time in building solid and genuine relationships with key bloggers. But life doesn't always work out that way, and sometimes you just need to build a list from scratch. Read #1.
2. Don't Chase the Big Fish and Ignore the Niche Blogs
If you base you list off some “Top 10â€³ Internet-famous blogger list, good luck. Aside from only reaching out to the biggest fish who are least likely to give you the time of day, you're likely missing out on a huge variety of fantastic, passionate bloggers with dedicated readers who just haven't “hit it big.” Look deeper into the topical niches relevant to your product or brand, find some interesting blogs that may fly under the radar screen of others. Look at their blogrolls to keep following the trail to even more interesting blogs. You'll probably find a lot of wonderfully-written blogs by enthusiastic writers. Their current audience may be small in number, but could be just the kind of impassioned readers you're looking to connect with.
3. Research Who the Bloggers Actually Are
Hit the “About” page, read their recent tweets and posts, even look them up on LinkedIn (just don't get carried away). It may take some time and effort, but research like this can be invaluable — you'll be able to better craft a pitch that is relevant to them, and you might find some common ground you didn't know existed before. On one project I contacted a blogger, knowing we actually and by total coincidence lived in the same town and had similar family situations (he was pretty open on his About page). I mentioned that, struck up a genuine conversation, and consider that person a wonderful new online friend now. Oh, and he wrote up something about my client's project along the way. Win all around.
4. Find out if they Blog on Related Subjects
Use their onsite search bar, or hit up Google and type “site:http://www.theirsite.com yourtopic”. If you are pitching a sweet new Mac OSX desktop application, it probably makes sense to see if they have talked about Mac apps ever before, or if they even own a Mac (see #2). Don't be dumb here.
5. Personalize your Email
This is email marketing 101 — don't use a form letter. You may reuse selected components: links and product descriptions, for example. That's fine. But the “Hi [name]” and substantial portions of the email should be personalized. Refer to recent posts on similar subjects to demonstrate you've actually read their blog. Mention something relevant to your product they listed on their online bio. Heck, ask about the weather in the state they live in — anything to at least demonstrate you bothered to do something more than mail merge a form letter against a .CSV file.
6. Don't Lie, Obfuscate, or Evade
Just don't. Be up front about who you are, your relationship to the brand/product/client, and why you are contacting them. Period.
7. Be Brief
Get to the point and avoid rambling. While back at an old employer, where everyone was obsessed with sending complex pat-on-the-back update emails to executives, we used the maxim that no one ever bothers to read beyond what shows up on the preview pane in Outlook. So keep it short, lead with the pitch.
Speaking of being brief, that's it for this post. Enjoy!