What I’ve Learned Doing Blogger Outreach

What I've Learned Doing Blogger Outreach
Not every blogger wants to work with brands, and that’s okay. But for those who do, I thought I would write a post about some of the things I’ve learned doing blogger outreach.

But first.

What is blogger outreach?

(I knew you’d ask.)

Blogger outreach is part of marketing to bloggers — it is reaching out to bloggers in an effort to create a mutually beneficial relationship. Generally speaking, it means a brand or PR firm is trying to find bloggers to feature or represent their products and services.

Blogger outreach is one facet of a brand’s social media marketing plan. Other elements include managing social media channels (such as Twitter and Facebook) and content creation for brand blogs and websites.

Blogger outreach can take many forms, but in my case, I am usually trying to find bloggers who want to review a product or participate in a brand-sponsored campaign. Currently I have one client of my own, Rose Romano’s Italian Gourmet Toppings, and I also work with Element Associates doing blogger outreach for some of their clients.

Over the past year or so, as I’ve worked with various brands to find relevant bloggers to review their products and share their messaging, I have looked at many, many, many blogs. Oh so many blogs!

And I’ve learned a lot — about what brands are looking for, what turns them off, and how difficult it is to find on those blogs the information that I need to report to my client and also to reach out to the blogger.

For instance, you would not BELIEVE how many bloggers do not have an obvious way to contact them. If you are a blogger and want people to be able to contact you — brands or readers or whoever — why, oh why, do you not have an email address in a prominent location!?? I do not understand.

In an effort to keep things brief, and we all know that brevity is not my strong suit, I decided to make a list of things for you to consider of you want to work with brands. I will expound on each one (naturally, expounding is what I do best, ha!) but you can scan down through this list and then take inventory of your own blog and see where you might be able to make some basic improvements to make your blog more attractive to brands who might want to work with you.

9 Things I Learned Doing Blogger Outreach

1. Design Matters

The very FIRST thing I see when I look at a blog is the overall design. It takes me about three seconds to decide if I want to click away or stay and poke around. If your header is blurry, or if it doesn’t fit the page correctly, or it is just plan ugly (sorry! some blogs ARE ugly!) I will almost always click away. A brand wants their products and services promoted on blogs that are attractive and professional, so keep this in mind when designing your blog.

Not everyone needs or can afford a professional blog designer (although I HIGHLY recommend one if you can swing it) but at least make sure that your header is not blurry or pixelated, and make sure it fits neatly into the space. It shouldn’t be too tall either, you want people to be able to see your content without scrolling.

Also, generic templates are generally a turn off. If your blog looks like 10 other blogs out there, it is not going to stand out to marketers. I have a tutorial on How To Design A Blog Header, for those who like to DIY.

Consider the overall color scheme of the blog. Is it pleasing to the eye, or does it make you want to run far, far away?

Is the sidebar cluttered or neat and organized?

Are there blinking buttons that make your head hurt?

Is there light type on black background (serious migraine trigger, folks! Do. Not. Do. It!)

Stand back and take a look at your blog like you’re looking at it for the first time. What does it say about you? That is what others think when they see it too.

2. Your Blog Name Matters

Sometimes I have a verrrrry long list of blogs to look through. If I just got back from a conference, and I have 500 business cards to sort through for a specific campaign, I will start by picking out the ones that the names sound most interesting and original. Not everyone can or wants to change their blog name once they’ve started, but if you’re in the position to rebrand or if you are just starting out, give serious consideration to your name.

(Note: This is a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do scenario  I do not particularly love the name of my own blog; I seriously considered changing it recently because the words Musings and Housewife are both WAY overused, but I decided to keep it because it’s been my brand for so long and people know me for it now.)

3. Content is King

Even though design is the first thing I see, if I hang around long enough to read a post or three, I am not going to stick around for long if there are glaring typos, if you have copied and pasted press releases or company information off the website, or if it is poorly written.

Hint #1: Proof read, proof read, proof read.

Hint #2: Take time to develop your voice. Not everyone is a writer, but bloggers don’t have to be writers. Try to blog like you talk. Read your posts back to yourself out loud. Does it sound like something you would say? If you’re talking about a product, take the time to spin a story and share how it has made a difference to you and your family or how you used it. Make it personal.

Anything you can do to set yourself apart from the next person is going to get you farther in this space and get you more opportunities with brands.

4. Easy to Find Contact Information is Essential

People, if I like what I see and I can’t find a way to contact you, I will get very grumpy. Make your contact information highly visible. Put it in your header or navigational bar or at the very tippy-tip-top of your sidebar. Use an obvious word like EMAIL or CONTACT. Don’t be cutesy here. I am scanning the page, looking for a very obvious word that essentially says to me, “I want to hear from you!”

And PULLEEZE do not use contact forms. (This was actually news to me just a few years ago, and I took mine down after a couple of marketing friends told me that it is a huge deterrent to contacting bloggers because it is so much more time consuming than just zapping out an email. Now that I do blogger outreach, I so totally get it !!) If you do choose to use a contact form, also provide your email address so there is an option.

5. Social Media Icons Should Be Easily Accessible

Don’t make people hunt for your Twitter and Facebook buttons. Place them in a highly visible spot, ideally all together. You can download free social media icon sets in all sorts of fun designs. Place them in your header or at the top of your sidebar — that is where people typically look for them. (Google is your friend.) If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, you can see mine on my sidebar under “Subscribe and Follow”.

Most marketers want to know where to find you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. They want to see what your follower counts are and what kind of interaction and engagement you have on those platforms. Some blogger campaigns utilize those networks, or if not, it still gives an overall idea to your influence and reach.

Or if they are already working with you, sometimes brands want to promote your posts on their social media channels, and they want to link to you. I always link to the blog posts featuring Rose Romano’s products, and I like to include a link to the blogger. Sometimes it take me five minutes to find a Twitter handle.

6. You Need A Detailed About Page

I wrote a post, How to Write An About Page, and this pretty much says it all. PLEASE include your kids’ ages (estimates are fine) and what you write about and what you don’t. This helps immensely when pitching products for certain age groups.

And by all means, include a photo of yourself! Don’t be shy. People want to see who is talking to them. Ideally your photo should be on your home page, but at the very least, have one on your About page. I do both. I have my family on my About page so people (readers and marketers alike) can see who we are.

7. Know Your Stats

Your traffic numbers don’t necessarily make or break your opportunity to work with a brand, but they are important to know. Ideally, you’ll have a media kit you can send brands when they reach out to you that has your current stats, tells how you like to work with brands, and shows some examples of your best work. (You can see mine thru the link at the top of my blog)

At the very least, know your average monthly unique visitors and your average page views. The most universally accepted method for tracking those stats is with Google Analytics. If you’re not using it, start now!!

8. Accentuate the Positive

Along those lines, if you aren’t proud of your blog’s traffic stats, then focus on your assets. Perhaps you have a loyal following and your posts get lots of comments, perhaps you have a highly engaging Facebook page, perhaps you have a ton of Twitter followers or you’ve won awards for your writing or organized large events for local companies . . . where ever your strengths lie, focus on those. This information can be on your About page as well as in your Media Kit.

9. Be Professional and Dependable

Even if you’re at home working in your pajamas, be professional in all of your interactions with brands. Not all pitches are a good fit for you, but you can always respond professionally, or just delete if you truly aren’t interested in pursuing the conversation. Be up-front about your policies. If you agree to review a product or write a post within a certain time frame, keep your end of the bargain. Or at least give the brand a heads-up if things change.

If you want to be a professional blogger, treat blogging like a job at all times. Marketers are going to go back to those bloggers who they find dependable and easy to work with. That’s just a fact. Do you ever wonder why the same bloggers get all the gigs? They are the ones that brands have found they can trust to do a good job; and they are pleasant, professional and fun to work with. It’s that simple, really!

Of course, we are always looking for “new blood” so there is a space for you. Just make sure to be someone we want to work with!

I’d love to hear from you and see what you think. Did I miss anything? Does anything here surprise you? I’m ALWAYS happy to answer any questions you have. Blogging can be a really fun and rewarding part-time (or full-time) job if you want it to be. In fact, I highly recommend it!

If you want to learn more about making your blog the best it can be and improving your content, I highly recommend Melissa’s DIY Blog Critique eBook as well as her Content Brew classes if you want something more in depth. Check them out at MomComm!