One of the best ways to get your message out to an audience that is likely to be receptive to your message is by working with established bloggers to cover your organization. Good blogger outreach is a subtle art, and this post is a crash course in implementing a strong outreach program.
Step 1: Find the important political blogs in your state.
You can’t do blogger outreach without knowing who the bloggers are. One of the best resources for finding your local blogs is leftyblogs.com, which has a unique blogroll and feed for every state. Your search should start here. Another great resource is Google Blog Search, which allows you to search a vast directory of blogs using keywords. The right keywords are important here, so if you are looking for blogs in Wyoming you should try combinations like: Wyoming+Democrat, Wyoming+progressive, Wyoming+politics. Other resources that may be useful are Technorati, DMOZ Open Directory Project, or my favorite little secret, Blogshares.
Step 2: Find contact information for those bloggers.
Blogging is a conversation, so most bloggers are good about putting their contact information on their site. For example, on my blog there is a Contact Kevin option on my top navigation bar. Look for an about or contact page, or look at the blog sidebar for a preferred method of contact. A lot of bloggers make it clear which method of contact is best for them. Add the contact information to your list of blogs. This will be your blog media list. I have created a Google Document of an example spreadsheet here. Notice that the spreadsheet include a lot of fields for the various types of contact information. Use what works for you. Also notice that I have phone listed as a field. You may know some bloggers personally and have their phone numbers (like many of you have mine) and that may be a way you are able to contact them. However, if a lot of people are going to have access to your media list make sure that it is okay for that person’s number to be listed. A more conservative is approach is to have the phone field just say yes or no, and possibly the name of the member of your organization that has the number. For blogs with multiple authors, the blog is listed as many times as there are authors with contact information.
Step 3: Read through the posts of each blog.
Dip into the blogs archive and get a good feel for the kind of content that the blogger writes. Also note how frequently the blogger posts. A couple of things to take note of is to see if the author posts press releases verbatim (I’ve been known to do this) or posts announcements of upcoming local events.
Step 4: Build relationships with those bloggers.
The best way to build a relationship with a blogger is to make substantive comments on their posts. Just leaving a “great post” or “interesting” isn’t going to cut it. If there is one thing a blogger appreciates it is an active commenter as a member of their blog community. Most of the time comment forms will include a field for your website URL, and if it does make sure you use your organization’s blog address (if you don’t have one, use your organization’s website, but read my post on blogging as a Young Democrat chapter and get started on that blog. If you don’t have a website, I hold you personally responsible for my increased blood pressure, and I will be writing a post in the near future to help you remedy the situation, for both our sakes). You want to make sure that the blogger knows that it is you that has been making all those great comments on their site.
Step 5: You have the relationship, now use it.
Just be careful not to abuse it. Only contact a blogger about writing something that is important. If you are constantly flooding them with every little thing, at best your important stuff is going to be lost in white noise, and at worst you have a blogger that is annoyed with you and your organization. If there is one thing that you don’t want it is a blogger that is pissed at you. Ask the blogger if they would like to be added to your organization’s press release list (don’t have one? Well I have a post coming up to help you out with that). Make it a point to ask this of bloggers that you have seen post releases on their site. Remember that bloggers are always looking for things to write about, so if you have quality information to send them there is a good chance that they are going to use it. If you have a really big piece of news, contact the most read blogger of the bunch and let them know that they are getting first dibs at it. Bloggers love being the first to break a big story even more than they love good comments. This increases your chance of getting covered by that top-level blog, and lots of bloggers follow the lead of the top bloggers.
A couple of things to keep in mind:
- Be professional and careful when emailing a blogger. You never know if that email is going to end up verbatim on one of their blog posts. There are some bloggers that absolutely love to do this when someone sends them something ridiculous.
- Never get mad and lash out at a blogger for not writing about something you sent or for not writing exactly how you wanted.
- Some of the people you know personally may be bloggers, and will be the most receptive to you. Marshall Spevak of New Jersey contacted me over Google Chat to tell me about John Adler’s fundraising success, and from that Adler got a featured candidate post.
- Blog outreach is not an overnight process. It takes time to build relationships and to establish your legitimacy. The benefit though is that once a blogger trusts you they may even come to you asking if there is anything going on with your organization they can write about.
- The blogosphere is often an echo chamber, so by getting coverage your message could spread all over the place, and that is exactly what you want.
So there is your introductory course in blogger outreach. If you have been running a blogger outreach program that has been successful, let me know about it. If you have any questions about this post or more advice on the subject, leave a comment or contact me.