By Contributing Editor Jennifer Nastu
Steve Rubel, VP/Client Services at CooperKatz & Company and author of the Micro Persuasion weblog, has recently found himself, as a PR strategist, in the strange position of being approached by other PR folks.
"It says something about the changing media landscape that the PR guy who runs a blog might be pitched by other PR people," he says.
Blogs should definitely be incorporated into an overall public relations strategy, he notes -- if only because, if you're lucky enough to be written about by a high-profile blogger, chances are likely that the more mainstream media will pick it up.
Rubel shared techniques he's learned about identifying and approaching influential bloggers.How to find and rate the most influential blogs in your industry
Your goal should not be just finding yet another name to add to your contact database.
Rather, you should find the most influential blogs, approach them thoughtfully, and form relationships. "You need to study blogs even more than you do the media," Rubel suggests. "It took me several months of studying it before I started doing it."
--Research and measuring influence
"It's just deep Googling," says Rubel. "Find the watering holes people are gathering around, talking about the issues you deal with."
Search the keywords you're looking for along with the word "blog." Then, using the advanced Google toolbar, look at the page rank of the site you're visiting (ranked from one to ten on the number and influence of inbound links coming into the site).
Compare the page ranks of the blogs you find. You're not necessarily looking for a specific rank -- say, six out of ten -- because if you're in a very narrow niche the sites you find may not receive all that many links which means page ranks will be low.
Rather, use the tool to compare sites to each other within the same industry. For example, if most of the blogs you find have a rank of two or three, but a couple are as high as four, those two are probably the most influential.
Besides page rank, look at three other elements to decide if it's a blog you want to go after:
Is the blogger active, with posts on a regular basis (daily or several times a week)? Are there long breaks between posts? Have they been doing it for several months or longer?
Influentail blogs get commented on. Rubel's blog, Micro Persuasion, gets anywhere from 10-15 comments a day.
#3. Who's linking to it?
Blogs that are linked to are obviously blogs that are read. There are two cool tools you can use to see what other sites link to a blog:
a. Technorati (http://www.technorati.com)
b. Bloglines (http://www.bloglines.com)
You can also check out Feedster (http://www.feedster.com)
, a news search engine which monitors mainstream information sources as well as hundreds of thousands of blogs. Sign up for myFeedster and you can customize your feed so that, for instance, any time someone's writing about the keywords you choose, you'll know about it and can contact the blogger.How approaching blogs for PR differs from approaching journalists
--Pitch vs. heads-up
When pitching a journalist, you're crafting a pitch with a story angle. Bloggers aren't simply looking for story angles; they're looking for conversations, the chance to be engaged with readers.
"Your goal [with bloggers] is to say, 'Hey, take a look at this, thought you might like to react to it…'" Rubel explains. "It's not PR-speak."
Spam a journalist with a press release and they can take one of two actions: ignore it or write about it. Spam a blogger and they have another option: "They can write about it, they can do nothing, or they can slam you for it. That's a risk," says Rubel.
--Job vs. passion
The nice thing about reaching out to bloggers, says Rubel, is it's very easy to start a conversation that begins a fruitful relationship.
Whereas journalists are doing a job, tend to be beyond busy, and tend to respond only to pitches that they decide to write about, bloggers are generally blogging out of passion and for name recognition. They're actively looking for people to talk to them and link to their sites.
In other words, they're more open to hearing from you.How to approach bloggers
"The best way to approach bloggers is to become one yourself," says Rubel.
For publicists, convincing a client to launch a blog automatically establishes the client's credibility and grants them a place within a community. It helps position them as a thought-leader and opens the door to dialog with other bloggers. (And it makes the publicist's job easier.)
"You can link to other blogs, say, 'Hey, you might want to look at this," Rubel says. "They think, 'Hey, here's someone like us.' The point is that pitching a blogger is not like pitching a journalist."
Once you've identified the influential bloggers in your industry, form a relationship. Start by sending an email -- not to announce anything, but simply to introduce yourself. "Tell them who you are and why you might want to get to know each other," Rubel explains. "Now you've established a rapport, an ongoing dialog."
You can also begin by posting comments to the blog -- but only if you have something thoughtful to say that adds to the dialog. After you've done that a few times, you can send a personal email to the blogger, saying something like, "You might have noticed I've been reading your blog, and I wanted to introduce myself…"
Then, when you've got news to announce down the road, you can give your contacts a heads-up: "Hey, here's something you might want to take a look at and comment on."