NOTE: This post also appear’s on Waggener Edstrom’s Thinkers & Doers blog.
Let’s face it. In the blogosphere, you’re either a spectator, critic or a creator.
To put the spectator or critic categories into a visual format, consider the following. Would you rather be:
A) A Statistic…
B) A Connector…
The answer is easy for anyone that has the intent of ever building relationships and engaging with others online.
Let’s be honest – we’re all strained for time. PR people are lucky to sneak in a glance at blogs or social news sites before having to jump back to client work (unless you’re Gatorade and have opted to centralize monitoring with a social media war room…yea, I’m jealous). While most people may be perfectly okay consuming content in a passive manner (option A above), we all know that it takes active participation to actually build dialogue and make connections online.
Too often, blogger outreach is still vastly overlooked on the PR front. Don’t get me wrong, everyone loves a headline story in the NYT or Washington Post. But, why only bank on delivery of the golden ticket when having a vast network of influential bloggers can drastically help boost your outreach? In addition, bloggers are often the starting point for building momentum around a story that will eventually help you leverage outreach to top-tier publications.
So Scott, let me get this right. You’re saying we just need to start commenting like crazy on industry blogs and we’ll be moving right along?
Connecting with bloggers is different from connecting with mainstream media. You don’t pitch bloggers. You build relationships and as we all know, relationships take time (check out Brian Solis‘ and Arik Hanson’s tips on blogger relations).
Commenting is a solid start to building relationships but it’s important to remember the following before throwing up any random response:
1. Comment early.
If you’re not already, you should be using Google Reader, Feedly or some other aggregator to pull in blogs and news sites that you want to read daily. A quick glance at your Reader each morning provides a great opportunity to be one of the first to comment. This shows the blogger that you’re attentive and also gives you more freedom to shape the follow-up discussion.
2. Keep your comment concise and relevant.
Deviate too much from the topic of the post or try to be a sly marketer and you’re asking to have your comment blocked or deleted.
3. Add value.
Very rarely does a short “Great post!” comment do anything but boost the comment stats for a blogger. Provide some additional insight, share a relevant link to a similar article or useful resource (again, be careful not to appear as though you’re marketing yourself – it’s good to link to content that doesn’t directly benefit you), suggest that the blogger connect with person X…the options are endless.
4. Provide your name and a legit link.
There is nothing worse than seeing a comment from someone only to find that it’s a spammer attempting to get you to click over to a bogus site. Keep it personal by linking your comment to your Twitter handle, blog, or LinkedIn profile. It’s also not a bad idea to sign off your comment with your Twitter handle for other commenters to connect with you. NOTE: If you’re a PR pro and represent a client, say so. Transparency trumps all.
Don’t just leave a comment and not return to a post – especially if you are voicing a strong opinion that is likely to generate further conversation. Some blogs do provide the option to be notified when you leave a comment but if not, be sure to check back one other time that day and the morning after to see if you should respond further.
6. Show respect.
Would you walk into someone else’s house and greet them by spitting on their shoes? No…at least I hope not. Same rules apply. It’s absolutely okay to disagree with a blogger (and bloggers will often write posts with the intent of prompting feedback with differing opinions) but don’t come out of the box with a contentious line. Step back, breathe, think about what you want to say and carefully craft your response in a respectful manner lest you plan on being shunned from the comment board forever.
Bonus – Connect further!
Comments are great but you can easily be buried in the mix, especially with popular bloggers or posts. If the blogger provides an email address, try connecting further after you’ve commented on his or her blog a few times. Your name will likely ring a bell as most bloggers receive email notifications when a new comment is posted. That being said, keep your initial outreach simple. Don’t dare use the email as a way to paste in a press release/ irrelevant pitch and call it a day simply because this blogger made it onto your target outreach list.
On that same token, do your research, some bloggers refuse pitches all together. But, remember degrees of influence. A “don’t pitch me” blogger may help you connect with a better resource down the line.
If not by email, try poking around on other social sites to connect further. A few retweets and replies or consistent post bookmarks on Delicious are likely to help draw a blogger’s eye and assist with name recognition down the line.
Finding Time to Comment
Kiesha Easely recently provided a breakdown on her daily blogging schedule. Few people in PR have time to maintain this intense of a schedule but it’s a good example. At the least, you should be monitoring. It’s too easy to do and way too important. If you’re not, you’re missing out on huge opportunities.
Start by taking 15 minutes after your daily monitoring to comment on three different blogs. Analyze the types of comments others post and find ways to fit your voice into the conversation. Over time and if done right, people will respect you as a member of the community.
Now, go get your comment on.