After former New York Times top editor Jill Abramson was ousted from the paper in May, inVocus spoke with PR pros regarding the impact of losing a contact at a news outlet and the struggles to build new relationships. We’re revisiting that topic today with Brittany Berger, digital content supervisor at eZanga.com, who focused more on relationships with bloggers and their growing importance.
Q: What has been your experience with bloggers leaving a blog or shutting down shop? How does that impact your job as a PR professional?
Brittany Berger (BB): A big part of our PR strategy is writing guest content for other sites. There have been times where we contributed to a blog and that contact at the blog left. One time that this happened, I had a lot of difficulty finding contact information for someone else there. They weren’t actively listening to mentions on social, so it took a lot of researching and super-sleuthing to find an email address. It’s a lot of work to basically get yourself an “in” at a blog you already had an “in” with once. It can be really frustrating. Once you find a new contact, you’re basically starting from scratch: pitching to someone that doesn’t know you and trying to start a new relationship. You have to try and rebuild rapport and make the contact see that you’re still a worthwhile connection for the blog or company. It doesn’t always happen, unfortunately.
Depending on your PR strategy, that can really change the game. If most of your online mentions come from relationships with bloggers, losing touch with even one can make a huge arm of your PR strategy disappear.
Q: How important do you think bloggers and blogs are to your job?
BB: I think it’s growing more and more important to build relationships with bloggers. People are increasingly getting information from smaller, niche sites and blogs catering to their interests, instead of relying on mainstream media and traditional news outlets. For small businesses, especially, creating relationships with bloggers is the best way to ensure consistent mentions of your company and links to your website.
For PR pros that are also involved in the company’s content marketing, the relationship can also open up other opportunities. Guest blogging for SEO may be “dead,” but it’s still great for PR. There have been times when pitching a story to a blogger actually resulted in either me guest blogging for them, or them becoming a contributor to our own website.
Q: How do you work on establishing a relationship with a new blogger?
BB: Always “warm them up” before sending them an email. For example, a lot of my connections have been made through pitching through HARO [disclosure: Vocus Inc. owns HARO]. But I never just see an opportunity and pitch it. First, I read some other stories by the blogger, check out and follow them on social media, share a post or two, etc. I then wait a few hours for them to notice all that before sending my pitch.
Q: How do you maintain relationships with outgoing bloggers?
BB: Connecting with them on social media makes it very easy, but I also use a lot of great tools to help me stay up to date on what’s going on with bloggers I work with. Newsle sends me digests of things that have been written by or about my LinkedIn connections. I keep a Twitter list in HootSuite of accounts for important connections, whether they’re bloggers that have mentioned us, written for us, or had us write for them. I subscribe to their blogs via RSS to stay up to date on what they’re writing about. Finally, LinkedIn has a sort of hidden feature that keeps track of your LinkedIn communication with connections and allows you to manually add notes and reminders. You can add a note for each point of contact you have with them, and set a reminder to check in with them every so often.
Q: Can you talk about a time when you lost a blogger whom you had a relationship with?
BB: Sure! I previously had a contact with a very niche Bitcoin blog that was perfect for us. They seemed to really be a fan and included us in a lot of articles about Bitcoin. While we were in the process of them interviewing our CEO and me writing a guest post for them, the blog seemed to shut down with no notice. It was still there, but stopped being updated and the blogger stopped responding to communication on all channels. We had already worked the upcoming posts into our game plan, so it threw me through a bit of a loop!