So this PR person (not a Textie) asked me: "How do we engage bloggers?" Part of me wants to say: if you have to ask, you shouldn’t even try. That’s the cynical, mean part.
But I suppose I should add my own two cents to the blogger/PR debate which blew up oh-so-nicely last week. Before I joined PR, I was a rarity – a journalist who also happened to be a blogger. It’s certainly an advantage for me in my current job. I can honestly say to journos and bloggers that I know where they’ve been and where they’re coming from. It also makes me rather peevish when I see clueless PR blindly attempting to ‘engage’ bloggers and making a right royal flub at it.
Bloggers are not journalists. While journalists can be bloggers as well, the reverse does not hold true. You do not ‘pitch’ bloggers the way you do journalists. But there are certain things you do with journalists that you can do with the New Media crowd:
1. Find out their niche. What do they cover? What are their interests? Don’t just send any pitch or release willy-nilly. An example of what not to do? Send Paul Tan a pitch about hydrophonic plants instead of about cars, and you deserve to be tarred and feathered.
2. Politely make contact, introduce yourself and what you do as well as who you represent. Don’t wait until you have something to pitch to make New Media friends. Importantly, ask them how they would prefer to be contacted. When I was an editor, I preferred IM or emails. If a PR person had to, then call me at work. My mobile phone was off limits except for absolute, dire emergencies. Press releases and invite attendance did not fall into the latter so I did blow my Fiery Editorial Pissy Breath on clueless PR person. Don’t get me started on the Kaspersky rep who called me at 8pm at night.
3. Work on building a relationship. Don’t treat them like one night stands. Use, abuse, chuck. Malaysia’s small. The media circle is small. Heck, even the PR industry in Malaysia is pretty tiny which is how my appointment got blown up as big PR industry news. Make the effort. Play your cards right and you’ll be regarded a reliable source at best or at worst, angry bloggers won’t be crucifying you on their blogs.
What you don’t do with bloggers which you can with journalists:
1. Send them unsolicited releases. No, no, no. Yes, Gmail may give you lots of storage space but most bloggers do not want releases from absolute strangers in their inboxes. Get in touch with said blogger first, ask politely if blogger would like to receive news about your client, then send them. Just don’t bother sending releases to Shaolin Tiger unless you want to see him do a Hulk Rage. He blogged quite a few times about receiving unsolicited PR writeups. And he’s still getting them, the poor sod.
2. Invite them for events and expect them to write about them. Journalists are obligated to write about news or if your client advertises (sad but true) but bloggers are free agents. You want a nice big writeup on their blogs? Contact Nuffnang or Advertlets for blogger advertorial rates. If you call up a blogger and ask him what angle his blogpost is going to have, quit your job now. Please. You’re the type who makes the rest of us look like morons.
Bloggers aren’t a different race or breed of people. Heck, even Tun M blogs. Treat them like people, relate to them, reach out to them and don’t just consider them a ‘means to an end’. What if the shoe was on the other foot? A journo I knew once said this in passing about a PR friend: "Pity she isn’t more useful." Ouch. What PR needs now is authenticity, sincerity and earnestness. The days of spin and fakeness are over. I’ve said this before – I believe there is a way to be good again. Even for us so-called PR flaks.