As a Chicago Now blogger, I'm finding myself in a middle of a popularity contest: between helping friends with their efforts, getting requests from media and organizations to profile them, and creating real-time topics...I am never at a loss for topics that make great posts. However, I also recognize that many nonprofit, community and other mission-driven organizations are looking to engage bloggers (and yes, blogs are still relevant in today's times) to drive their mission. As an effort to provide guidance and insight (as well as generate interest in my freelance work as a digital marketing consultant and copywriter, here are some guidelines for engaging in strong, smart blogger outreach.
- Do Your Research On Your Target Blog - it's more than just reading the blog to ensure that its content fits your mission. Be sure to check out its unique monthly traffic through free tools to ensure that you will get proper coverage. Check out the blogger's social media profile to see whether they are amenable to writing about your organization.
- Create a Solid Pitch - When I'm working with public relations agencies and higher level organizations, it may often come in the form of a solid cover letter with an attached press release and/or pitch sheet. For smaller organizations, it's usually a brief e-mail summarizing the highlights of the organization. (It helps to tie it into some event or milestone, like the 95th Street Red Line Station project or the Chicago Charity Challenge.) Either way, sending a brief pitch (and a short conversation via phone) usually helps me (as the blogger) provide the appropriate pitch/approach to writing it for the blog. Which leads to...
- Create A Media List - Whether you create a high-end database or a simple spreadsheet via Microsoft Word or Libre Office, you should track your media contacts. Basic information should include the blogger's name, e-mail, blog name, and URL, as well as unique monthly traffic for the blog. (For the record, One Cause At a Time receives 350 - 500 unique visitors per month according to Google Analytics). I would also suggest connecting with Public Narrative, an organization that assists nonprofits with communication and media and helps connect them with interested journalists.
- Blogs help shape the story, not the spin - As a blogger, I try to write posts that encapsulate the best of technology, social change, and community-driven efforts throughout Chicago. Sometimes, bloggers like me get some of the fine details wrong, and I'm always willing to make corrections/clarifications. It is also tempting to use blogs as a way to generate "spin", changing several details to provide an element of spin or make the blog post sound a little too promotional. (One small Chicago-based foundation, years ago, insisted on making changes that were different than what was discussed). Collaboration is key when working with bloggers since we straddle the line between "professional journalism" and "personal opinion." (At least, that's what I believe).
- Ethical Bloggers Disclose When They Receive Complimentary Products - Whether I have received complimentary comics and books (as a pop culture blogger) or access to a conference, I have always disclosed when I have received free items and access. It's not just out of a sense of ethics, but I am also bound by the FTC Disclosure Guidelines. (Worth a read if only because these guidelines also cover social media). Most of the time, that disclosure is relatively simple, such as A complimentary copy of this book was provided for purposes of review. My thoughts are my own.. When I have written books reviews for the blog, I have relied on the Chicago Public Library's Interlibrary Loan service to find and acquire books (meaning no need to disclose). Otherwise, ethical bloggers opt to disclose when necessary
- Always Ask For a Link to the Published Post - This may seem obvious, but this isn't just for due diligence on the blogger's part. In short, your organization and any blogger (including me) are looking for traffic and attention. Blog posts should be part of the "media mix" for any nonprofit or social enterprise, and that includes having it available for your organization's marketing/public relations and other outreach efforts. (After I have completed a post, I add it to Google Plus (giving it greater weight), Twitter and this blog's Facebook page). Having access is a given, and you have a right to using any positive media mention in your marketing efforts.
There's obviously more to blogger outreach and relations which can be covered in a single blog post. Think of this as a great "starter" to get you thinking about your organization. We've been lucky to highlight some great community-based efforts over the past few weeks, and we have some great plans for the blog coming in the near future.
Questions? Comments? Please leave them below, or please feel free to use this form to contact me directly.
And thanks for reading!