December 4, 2007

Thoughts about pitching to bloggers

While reading the "Global Neighborhoods" blog titled, "Note to communicators: Join in, don't pitch" the following thoughts came to mind and compelled me to post the following comment.

Unfortunately, I think part of the problem is that many agencies push their publicists to pitch to influentials rather than contribute to the conversation. In a strict business sense it is viewed as a more cost effective way to disseminate information because it can reach a wider range of “influentials.”

That same release that was sent to you, most likely went to other bloggers with a similar beat. The tactic of pitching only requires a publicist to draft a generic news release that can then be sent to hundreds of editors, journalists, bloggers and key influencers with the hopes that at least 30% of the recipients run with the information.

What you are asking is for the publicist to join in many different conversations. This would require many tailored bits of information and a higher level of involvement that is not as cost effective. Imagine the amount of time that it would take to write 100 different releases of information, tailored to specific conversations of that day’s post.

I will ask my first question: What has a better return on investment when attempting to get a client into the blogosphere? Pitching a generic news release or building relationship by joining in on the conversation?

As summed up by Katie Paine in her new book “Measuring Public Relationships” ( many of us tend to forget that the “R” in “PR” stands for relations. Thus, many publicists do not focus on building relationships with the influentials that they rely on. Instead, they solicit them with news release emails, phone calls and negative attitude if the release is not picked up in the media outlet.

I will ask a second question: What's more valuable? Generating a many hits with a generic news release or building dialogue with bloggers?

Focusing on generating blog hits through shotgun pitching strategies is not a good way to show any client ROI. If successful all you accomplish is getting it through the gatekeeper at that moment in time, but eventually the backlash will be that the blogger you keep pitching too feels abused and eventually blacklists you severing the relationship building opportunities that could have blossomed by joining in on the conversation.

My third question is how do you make blogging more cost effective? As for solving the problem of how to join in many conversations, a publicist should not be the only person blogging for a client. They should build a blog list and offer higher level strategy and best practices advice to the client on how to appropriately blog. They should also encourage the client to get employees engaged in all blogging efforts. There is no one who can talk more about the company than its employees.

Finally, does pitching have a place in PR? For much of traditional media, pitching will never go away. For example, the only way to get into the Wall Street Journal print edition is to pitch your story to a key reporter or buy advertising. However, I agree with you and many other bloggers (myself being new to the game) that a publicist should not try to infuse old communication techniques, such as pitching a story, to new media outlets, such as blogs.

Bloggers start blogs to create a forum for open discussion on a topic of interest that the blogger enjoys facilitating and is knowledgeable about. People go to blogs to participate in conversation and share ideas and opinions, while they go to traditional news outlets to consume vetted information.

As a side note, I want to point out that I am not affiliated with Katie Paine or her new book. Rather, I’m in the process of reading the first pages and felt compelled to share some thoughts from reading her book in my comment. I also recommend it to anyone looking for solid information about measuring their public relations.

Feel free to comment on my latest thoughts.

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