As a blogger, I often receive requests for reviews (whether they be comics and/or DVDs on my personal blog, or professional books for this blog), and I'm always more than willing to comply. However, like many of my fellow bloggers, I frequently receive requests that don't fit my blog...and requests to advise non-profits on how they can engage bloggers.
So in an effort to provide some great insight (and to help both parties with a quick-and-dirty guide), here are some general guidelines for non-profits of various stripes to engage bloggers. Hopefully, this will allow you to better engage in marketing/public relations efforts, and to help you in advocating for your organization's mission more effectively.
- Look for Bloggers Who Have A Stake In Your Mission - Two really good online resources for networking and finding bloggers are Google Blog Search and Icerocket - both provide great search resources to find blogs that cover some aspect of your mission. However, be sure there's a good match - too often, organizations will attempt to engage bloggers who have little - if any - affinity for their mission.
- Determine Your Blogger's Popularity - Sites like Quantcast and Compete can tell you a blogger's traffic, and you want to know the unique monthly visitors of a blog. Engage both high-traffic (for visibility) and low-traffic (for a more immediate sense of community) blogs, and also be sure to check out their social media presence (many bloggers use social media as a way of driving traffic and building community).
- Offer Value, Even If It's Only Exposure: Many bloggers may be in it for freebies, but ultimately, the greatest freebie your non-profit can offer is readership for their blog. (Of course, this also means you have to approve). Bloggers will be motivated to write about your agency if you can provide something of value to them (especially if they claim they're "PR Friendly", meaning that they are open to receiving solicitations from marketing agencies and others). And speaking of which....
- Understand FTC Blogger Disclosure Guidelines - In the past few years, there has been a development of legislation around when bloggers need to disclose that they have received an item for the purposes of blogging about it. You can find a copy of the guidelines here, and the Word of Mouth Marketing
Association (WOMMA) has a great quick-and-dirty (and continually updated) guide to social media disclosure. At the very least, it will save you numerous headaches (and hefty fines) later on....
- When the Post Appears, Promote It - once you get a blog post focusing on your non-profit, make it part of your marketing efforts. Tweet it, link to it on Facebook and Linked In, and create a link on your web site. You're not only thanking the blogger for their efforts, you're also providing them with a great benefit - exposure. (Yes, it is repetitive, but quite honestly - worth repeating).
- Track Your Efforts - This can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet tracking the author, blog title, URL of article, unique monthly traffic, and date in which post appeared. At the very least, you can make the case that for a minimum of effort, you received a set number of impressions and/or unique readers for your agency. However, there is one item that I would be remiss in not addressing....
- Avoid Blogs Where "Admin" Is The Sole Author - Many blogs serve as spam blogs, allowing some sites to "cheat" in driving search engine rankings. These kind of blogs usually have "admin" as the author of posts, and many of the posts tend to read a little more like bland sales pitches. These are usually a dead end, and not worth pursuing - try to find bloggers who post under a name or pseudonym. (Having a picture on their blog usually helps as well).
Admittedly, this is a starter guide, and I am sure there will be ample opportunity to drive conversation. But as a way to enable non-profits to begin dipping their toes into social media by engaging bloggers, I'm hoping it's a great way to lead off conversation.
And as always, thanks for reading!