Internally, we call our blogger outreach "long-tail" because these brand promotion campaigns aim at all the passion players of the blogosphere, not just the top few some consider the most important.
Think about it this way (an acting analogy): Every actor from the A-list through the D-list are working actors. They certainly don't act for free. To these actors, acting is a job, a business. However, there are also thousands of actors who populate community theaters worldwide. They act because they love it, they're passionate about the craft, and they don't care if they're paid or not, they have other things going on -- work, family, kids, hobbies, friends, etc.
The same thing is true with most bloggers on the Internet. Everyone is so focused on getting the attention of maybe 1,000 celebrity bloggers, they're missing everyone else.
In many ways, our online long-tail blogger outreach is almost identical to traditional PR, just using different channels, different protocols, and different rules of engagement tailored best to bloggers and other online influencers. Before we reach out to bloggers, we spend a lot of time and attention developing a compelling narrative and a perfectly-targeted and appropriate "gift," be it a literal gift such as a two-dollar off coupon the blogger can offer her readers, a review copy of a book, karmic dispensation (an opportunity to help others), a funny video or widget (a dancing bear, anyone?), or just the opportunity to be recognized as an influencer and being engaged with on a high level of attention and appreciation.
Part of this requires that we make things very simple. If we can't convince a blogger to "take our call" and then post, all within 5 or 10 minutes, it's probably not going to happen. The way we do this is keep the pitch email very brief, one or two paragraphs at the very most. We have tried many different styles and this is where we are: short, terse, minimal, highly textual, with a clear message and a clear request, no verbiage that sounds like it is selling or marketing. All assets, graphics, movies, or videos are collected into a "microsite" or "social media news release (SMNR)." Finally, we never include conversion GIFs, hyperlinks, hot emails, images, or attachments in our message.
Then, we offload all of the "press release" and "news release" information into the aforementioned Social Media News Release (SMNR), something we also call a client microsite. Rather than send the blogger the press release as an attachment or inline in the email or directly to a website where there could easily be information overload, the SMNR breaks down the goal and message the client wants repeated and simply gives the blogger the ability to copy and paste any or all of the info directly to her blog -- all of the content, including embeddable video, banners, and widgets (with their embed code), photos, graphics, links, copy, and whatnot. Our SMNRs are boiled-down into one easy-to-navigate page with various sections of info -- a Who, What, When, Where, Why of text, images, logos, videos, widgets, banners, etc.
Depending on how compelling the issue is to the blogosphere, we get from dozens to as many as 200 postings in a 4-8 week outreach cycle, reaching millions of readers from an outreach.
Mind you, bloggers are busy, bloggers have other stuff going on, bloggers are very independent-minded people by their very nature. It is impossible to tell them what to do from on high, so it is important to not only make each outreach as pleasant and as easy to understand and navigate as possible, is also essential to be human, be responsive, and make sure the blogger knows, without a doubt, that there is a person behind the pitch.
After the email pitch goes out to all the bloggers, all replies, questions, query, and frustrations must be dealt with immediately and personally by a human being -- just say no to autoresponders and noreply email addresses. Offering bloggers a rapid and personal response is the most important and most time consuming portion of the blogger outreach -- a real person responding to every email response whether it is positive or negative can be the difference between a success or failure. Our mantra is "respond quickly and with love."
If positive, great! We respond thankfully and ask them to please send a link to their post or tweet when it goes live; if negative, we respond accordingly and are often able to sway a negative response into a positive post by simply engaging him or her thoughtfully, quickly, and with compassion.
Follow ups are key as well. By not following up on bloggers who say they will get back to you, will post later, or will look into it, you are letting posts slip through the cracks. By gently following up with these folks, we are able to remind them of our last conversation, continue to be on their mind, and hopefully are able to get them to post for us.
In our outreach campaigns to bloggers and press, we regularly get 50 to 250 posts for a client per 4-8 week outreach cycle – this is generally an order of magnitude more articles than most PR shops get their clients, and we achieve it because we don't assume some bloggers are more worthy of our attention than others and because we strive to approach all bloggers with respect and gratitude.