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Monday next week I'm to appear on a webinar panel talking about journalist relationships. You can sign up for it here if you’ve always wondered whether I talk in dulcet tones or a high pitch falsetto.
However I wanted to write a piece of my own, partly to draw attention to the upcoming webinar hosted by Vocus (let’s not veil the truth) and partly to add an Econsultancy staff blogger’s opinion to the debate.
So what are the best ways for PRs to engage with Econsultancy's writers? I’m going to start with some entertaining flippancy that nevertheless holds more than a grain of truth and then move on to some best practice for PRs.
A lot of these are dos and not don’ts, but to fit the commandment theme I’ve had to use a few double negatives. Forgive me.
1. Thou shalt not send stationery. Start sending donuts.
A trivial one to start? Not when a blogger hasn’t had breakfast.
There is a massive industry in personalised stationery, I get it. If you’re holding events and giving out pens and pads because people actively need them, then you might as well brand them.
But if PRs want to send a little gift to some bloggers, they shouldn't send a pen with a logo on it. PRs might think it will remind bloggers of their company or clients, but it’ll usually get lost. The warm feeling of receiving a pen will certainly fade quickly.
Of course, PRs can’t bribe people. Econsultancy is part of a PLC and gifts can’t cost more than £50. What I’m really saying is that PRs need to be as obvious as possible and appeal to broadest tastes when not discussing actual work.
Donuts are a mighty secret weapon and the best PRs know it.
2. Thou shalt not use a quirky subject line. A quirky greeting is better.
When PRs email bloggers on a massive bcc list, the worst go with sensational subject lines like this:
This means bloggers won’t open your email. Likewise, similar hilarious lines in the press release intro won’t wash.
But where quirkiness does work is in a personalised greeting. Here’s a good one:
As David is away and nobody seems to be on the Econ desk (are you all out having a long boozy Xmas lunch – hope so!) is anyone planning on writing up the Google news from last night?
It’s so simple, it’s just honest but it works. I didn’t know the writer of these lines that well (I had met them once) but the person wasn’t taking liberties in writing like this and it endeared them to me. Aww (in the end I don’t think I responded).
3. Thou shalt not be formal. It takes time to get to know bloggers as people but if you do, you win.
That’s what spending some time on a greeting is about. Maybe even ask a question. It’s not correct for a PR to say they don’t have enough time to be friendly.
If a PR believes that relevance is important, they won’t be sending big emails out, they’ll be doing it one at a time, hitting the right people with the right messaging. If that’s what they’re doing, then it should be done with a personal touch.
Here’s a head start for you. Below I have listed a few of the many interests each of our bloggers has in the wider world outside of digital.
In the end, if a PR manages to learn this kind of information naturally, they’ll certainly have found their way to the top of the blogger’s regard.
Chris Lake – jukeboxes/White Russians/The Fall
Graham Charlton – Bob Dylan/wine/meat
Matt Owen – Iron Maiden/B-movies/booze/peanuts
David Moth – Rolling Stones/festivals/scratchcards/peanuts
Christopher Ratcliff – rainy days/walks in the park/dubstep
Ben Davis – Michel Roux Jr/London Review of Books/peanuts
4. Thou shalt not get something for nothing.
Both sides of the relationship are aware of the symbiosis of bloggers and PRs.
This means that if a PR delivers a great story or some neatly-packaged great content for a blogger to use, the blogger will give more of a hat-tip, perhaps a link, maybe even some hyperbole or praise.
If the content is less well packaged, less original, more of a recycled idea, the blogger might not link out and might not mention the client in the first paragraph of the article.
5. Thou shalt not telephone.
If you have ‘dynamite content’ that has been well presented, back up your email with a call, but no sooner than a day after the email.
And don’t repeat everything on the email over the phone. Just ask if it was received and if there’s anything else needed. Simples.
6. Thou shalt not be unaware of blog output.
Every blogger has an ego, so if a PR sees an article and thinks they have data or a case study that could provide the basis for a follow-up post, they should get in touch.
This shows PRs have been reading, which is good. Often Twitter is the best way to follow up with next-article suggestions, because a PR can increase the article’s reach, however slightly, at the same time as getting in touch.
7. Thou shalt not avoid comments, social, ‘the churn’.
PRs should regularly tweet about articles from their number one targets. There’s nothing political here, they won’t annoy other clients or journos.
It just makes sense that if a blogger notices that their Twitter handle (or Facebook or G+ or LinkedIn profiles) is used by a PR on a regular basis, then that blogger is going to develop an affinity with the PR.
This does mean that PRs have to keep checking in to different blogs maybe using RSS or IFTTT to see when relevant posts go live.
The same rule applies for comments on blogs. These are gold dust for bloggers. PRs should be adding a quick nugget to get the ball rolling.
8. Thou shalt not have an opinion.
PRs often send around comments from their clients on particular big news stories. This isn’t a great tactic because when bloggers want opinion on big news, they usually have an expert network they tap into.
Taking any old opinion for a blog piece would highlight a blogger devoid of ideas, desperate to fill a word count or perhaps one looking to do an enormous compilation of opinions (difficult to do anyway because there aren’t many different opinions out there on most subjects).
The point is that clients are sitting on lots of information invariably more interesting than opinion. Anything from trends they’ve measured on their own side of business, to case studies, infographics, meta-studies, literature.
PRs should dig around a bit more.
9. Thou shalt not entertain pie in the sky. If you’ve got something, give it up.
This is my pet hate. A PR sends an email saying would you be interested in content X. I reply and say yes, potentially.
The PR responds and says great, we’ll get something over to you in a few days. A week later the PR sends some poor content, with no references or raw data, heavy with opinion and attached in a Microsoft Word document.
This is how it should work:
PR sends email saying ‘is this of interest?’ The email includes a summary of the content, with a link or PDF allowing access to fuller content or data.
I’m aware that PRs want to ration their best stuff because sometimes they have to pick which publication gets an exclusive. PRs don’t want to hang around waiting for a blogger to ignore juicy stories.
But this shouldn’t preclude efficient contact with bloggers. A note to say ‘please let me know if this is of interest because we’ve got others who will take it’ is fine, rather than feeling out bloggers before even compiling any information.
10. Thou shalt not hide raw data and background.
There are so many blogs out there that there’s often an inevitable obfuscation of where some data actually comes from. References aren’t always to primary sources.
This is lamentable and something all bloggers should rail against. Likewise, PRs should provide more methodology and raw data or at least links to reports. Just quoting truths isn’t going to inspire trust in a blogger.