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3 Rules for Creating a Blogger Outreach Campaign That Doesn’t Suck

by Marian Schembari on October 21, 2013

Here’s a little secret: Most companies have no idea how to work with bloggers. Literally, none. Platforms have been created to track “influencers” (Klout Perks anyone?), connect publishers with advertisers; PR agencies with writers. The industry is still figuring out how to work with bloggers and they’re doing it wrong. In the years I’ve been a blogger I’ve been sent hundreds of generic press releases, gifted random items I don’t blog about, gifted items I DO blog about, asked to guest post, paid for sidebar ads and sent on vacation. While that’s all fine and dandy, I can’t imagine these were successful campaigns for the companies in charge.

Because I’ve also been on the corporate side of things. Bloggers have no idea how to work with brands any more than brands know how to deal with bloggers. So hopefully, having played for both teams, I can give you a few tips no matter what side you’re on.

Today? Three points to hit when creating a blogger outreach campaign. The hope is to avoid wasting your precious time and making sure your project doesn’t suck.

Rule #1: Offer Benefits

No, I will not write an entire article about that “cool new infographic” you launched just because you emailed me about it. No, I’m not going to read your 300 page memoir about raising pigs and then spend an hour writing positive fake positive reviews all over the internet.

First of all, bloggers should never write about anything they wouldn’t use “organically”. UNLESS IT’S FOR AN OUTSIDE PUBLICATION THAT PAYS THEM TO DO IT. Meaning that as a brand, it’s your job to research influencers in your area, contact them individually and offer something awesome in exchange for said influence. This means paying them to host a banner ad about your super-interesting-product. This means inviting them to an awesome event in their town where they can get free manicures or beer or a shiny new toy.

Example: Hosteling International hosted me at their awesome Point Reyes location last month. I did not pay for it. However, since I frequently write about travel and adventure, it was a good fit. If the stay had been shitty though, I wouldn’t have written about it. I also would never have even heard of that specific hostel unless they emailed me and offered a trip there.

Don’t have a specific thing to give away? Offer traffic. Which brings me to….

Rule #2: Promote Your Bloggers

No matter what you do, promote the work your blogger puts into promoting you. Most decent-sized brands will have a larger audience than your average blogger. Meaning posting a link to a post about you on your brand’s Facebook page could give that blogger a huge boost of traffic. And as a result, shiny happy feelings towards you and your brand.

Example: At Couchsurfing, any time someone wrote about their experiences we could tweet a link. If the article was something special, we would share it to Facebook. One guy’s blog crashed because we sent so much traffic. One vlogger saw a huge increase in subscribers to her YouTube channel the day we shared her video about Couchsurfing. Doing this takes a total of 4.3 seconds and again and again, those bloggers would email us to say thank you. Follow this simple rule and bloggers WILL write about you again.

Rule #3: Be Specific

If there is one mistake I see over and over from both brands AND bloggers is the lack of specificity. A company will get in touch with a blogger and say “Here’s a free dress, write about us.” Or, as I experienced at the TBEX conference last June, “Send me on a free trip and I’ll write about you.” No. NO NO NO. And no.

Dear brands, go back to your brand values, your messaging and your goals for this quarter/season/year. What are you hoping to achieve by working with bloggers? If you’re just looking for a bunch of links to your website, fine, but that’s going be a gigantic waste of your time. For example, if you make custom dresses and you just launched a new summer polka dot line, send a free dress to your top 10 bloggers and ask them to:

  • Post a photo to Instagram of them wearing the dress with the hashtag #polkadotlove #brandname.
  • Create a Pinterest board with a summer polka dot theme and add your dress to the collection.
  • Write a blog post about their favorite outfits that incorporate polka dots.
  • Give them a few dresses and ask them to host a giveaway on their blog.
  • Etc etc etc

Please note that nowhere in that list does it say “send free thing and expect blogger to do all the work.”

Look, it can be really hard to blog about a brand and not feel like you’re selling out. Often posts that are clearly sponsored end up being the least engaging. Your job is to tell bloggers exactly what to do so that not only is their job easier, but it makes their audience happy.

Example: HTC is running a campaign where they sent a bunch of online folks a free HTC One. Every week we’re sent a fun new item in the mail and our job is to take a photo, do the assignment and use the appropriate hashtags.

Whether you’re just starting out on your blogger strategy or you’re halfway through and not seeing the results you might have expected, take a step back. Are you doing specific research or are you blinding copy and pasting press releases? Are you actually offering something a blogger would want? Are you pimping out said bloggers? And are you being clear from the get-go about what you hope to get out of this relationship?

Good luck! And I love hearing about awesome blogger campaigns, so list your favorites in the comments!

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  • davevandewalle

    2 is 3 and 3 is 3. I mean 3 is 2.

    In other news, this is awesome and it’s great to see you back here.


    • Marian Schembari

      Thanks David!

  • Maggie Patterson

    Great tips. As a PR pro and blogger, it makes me crazy that brands or PR can be so lame. Totally will be sharing this in a bid to educate the masses.

    • Marian Schembari

      I couldn’t agree more! I cut people some slack because this is brand new, but sometimes I chuckle at how little both sides know. It’s like people forget how to be successful business-wise when the word “blog” enters the conversation.

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  • Hugh Anderson

    Nice post, Marian. At least it sounds like in amongst all of the awful pitches you do get some decent stuff. We’ve been trying to help educate the masses too, but what most people don’t seem to get is the need to work with bloggers over time – it’s like trying to “close the deal” on a first date – not a good strategy! Some real, authentic understanding over time goes a long way.

  • Malia Moss

    This was informative and entertaining. Lets be best friends.

    • Marian Schembari


  • Leucadia Chiropractic

    Wow! Very informative. Awesome tips for bloggers. What do you think is the most interesting topic that a blogger should write about?

  • Ann Daniel

    Good evening,

    Thank you for sharing; it certainly added a lot, I would like
    to adjoin a point of how benefit to use a blog for building relationships with
    others as blogger outreach goal purpose is more engagement, afterwards the
    brand or service will be mentioned every now & then once the aim is set.
    Following up after setting your goal figure out your business needs from
    discussions & services to promote that will be of benefit to you and the
    goal you’ve set will be easily accomplished.

    Sincerely Ann Daniel

  • Melanie Sheridan

    Thank you for item #3. Details matter! Vague pitches go straight to the circular file.

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