Monday, 18 February 2013

How To Sell To UAE Bloggers

I'm doing quite a lot of 'how to'ing recently, am't I? Don't worry, this isn't a book post...

This advice doesn't come from someone that runs amazing professional 'blogger outreach' programs because I don't really do very much of that. It comes from the other end of the horse - the blogger at the receiving end end.

While it's lovely to find you have been added to the Cision media distribution list and positively feted by PR people, many of the approaches seem to miss some reasonably basic thinking when it comes to seeking the engagement of people with blogs, popular Twitter accounts or much-liked Facebook pages. So these pointers might be helpful for future approaches.

1) Bloggers are people too.
I almost fell into the trap of labelling this one 'bloggers are not journalists' but this misses the fact that journalists (no matter how it goes against the grain to admit this) are also people. Little I have to say about approaching bloggers doesn't also apply to approaching journalists.

So by saying we're people too, what do I mean? I mean, for instance, that it would be nice if the approach were individual to me rather than generic. Saying you enjoy my thought-provoking blog is all very nice, but that hardly tells me you actually give a hoot or have ever read anything I have written.

If you had, you'd be aware that I'm much more likely to bite you than let you pat me on the head.

I am naturally going to feel more interested in helping you out if you've been a regular reader/commenter on this blog. Even a few words referring to why you think this blog would be interested in your new perfume line for dogs - ideally linked to some content I have posted here - would let me know you've at least had a stab at mapping the relevance of what you do to what I do. Shared interest is good. Irrelevance is bad.

2) Bloggers aren't there to cover your products
I know, it's amazing isn't it? But the majority of what I write in this blog is peculiar to me and the world around me. Inviting me to the Armani hotel to attend the launch of a new range of bamboo shopping trolleys will not have me gushing and bright-eyed at the prospect of going to such a wonderful place. I have never written about bamboo shopping trolleys before and have exhibited no interest in these items in the past (although now I'm quite sure Klout will include it in my areas of expertise and I'll own the category in search).    I don't write about products or review products. Ten minutes spent browsing the blog would mark me as a non-target for shopping trolley launches.

Fashion and food bloggers are more susceptible to these types of invitation if they relate to fashion or food and if they are somehow interesting and/or innovative. Food product launches are not likely to cut it. Fashion bloggers are (sorry guys, but you are) incredibly spoiled and will need something out of the ordinary or a great relationship having been established.

3) Bloggers have day jobs
There are few people in the Middle East making money out of blogging to the extent they don't have to earn money by doing something conventional like, say, working. So a Tuesday afternoon event is likely to be out of the question - an all-day gig mid-week, even if it's exciting and deeply tempting, will likely not cut ze mustard. We have jobs to go to. That means if you want to organise an amazing all-day event targeting bloggers, you'll probably have to work on a Friday. Altogether now? Aaaahhh.

4) Slowly slowly catchee monkey
An individual approach that is contextual will be much more likely to reap rewards than scatter-gun event invites. A great example here is how Nokia's PR agency, d'Abo & Co, used my recent highly public Twitter meltdown with my HTC Android mobile (there's nothing like a mobile perma-crashing and telling you it's 'quietly brilliant' every time it staggers back to its feet to get a chap's goat) to slip a Nokia Lumia into my life. It was a risky strategy, they had to have had real confidence in that product - but, having the expectation I'd hate the Lumia I actually loved it and didn't mind saying so. I don't feel beholden to them for lending me a mobile, but I did think their timing and smart approach was very well managed. I don't mean to be difficult, but I am generally brand antithetic. Some bloggers I am sure will love brands. Love 'em to death. Positively fawn over  'em. Let me know when you find one, eh?

So it's a matter of monitoring conversations (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, whatever) and mapping out your influencers (who IS an influencer?) before making an approach that is generally, as with any conversation, led by a contribution of some sort. Give forward to earn a place at the table.

By the way, most UAE blogs have relatively small readerships.

5) Build a community by being a member of the community
What is an influencer? A Klout score? Number of followers? Number of comments? You need to establish some metrics to decide at what level of influence it's worthwhile bringing someone onside - because you'll need to invest in the relationship. It's not a one-hit thing, the key word is the R one - relationship. Approaching a person, inviting their involvement and engagement with you, facilitating that engagement and maintaining a respectful (ie not 'we're targeting product messages at you because we think people listen to you') dialogue. That way you can bring influencers on board, typically one by one, and maintain that conversation to the point where you actually could organise a tweetup or other event and people would be happy to come. That'll take time and investment, but it's so much more effective than pumping out generic materials in the hope that bloggers will slavishly act as botnets for your product messages.

That's my 2p worth. I genuinely hope marketers out there find it useful.

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Mother Inferior. said...

Nicely said Sir Alex - especially because it is region specific.
Unfortunately I fear we are preaching alone.
Clients need to care more about the quality of coverage their brands receive and recognise themselves the 'digital' portals or peeps that warrant an association to be worked upon.
PR's just love a big fat monthly report to hand over mostly, and there are hundreds ,nay , thousands of 'bloggers' out there who will provide it for a free lunch/concert/massage/handbag

Sally - My Custard Pie said...

Interesting post and as a blogger on the receiving end of these approaches as well as some who works on the marketing side, like you I can see both sides of the fence.
In my experience, most bloggers, myself included, started and continue their blogs due to a passion for their topic and due to the considerable time, effort and energy that goes into their little tiny space on the internet are fiercely protective of the content that goes into it. I think sometimes PR people lose sight of why it's now considered a good idea to 'engage bloggers' - and understand why they might do so with pressure from clients to deliver measurable results. It's not just about Klout scores or site stats - as you point out very few have noteworthy traffic. It's the authentic voice and trust that is built up with readers. Focussing on quality (rather than quantity) relationships between PRs and bloggers, and between bloggers and their readers is the key. I hope your article will help build an understanding from both sides of the partnerships. As a footnote to this - the blogger outreach programmes by PR companies here in the region are a recent development. Most bloggers I meet set up and started blogging way before this trend. Many are unsure how to deal with this new attention.

shelo said...

I have a small readership and don't get any offers. I'm such a failure in the blogger circuit!!! *Cries*

JTG (Misalyn) said...

Like shelo, I have small readership too, mainly from city photobloggers of CDP community. Most of the hits are coming from Google or Facebook, but I do get offers from time to time. I am not a 'choosy' blogger but whenever I write about a product or create a backlink for a company/product, I make sure that my readers/followers would probably consider trying it too.

For the past few weeks, I noticed that a lot of companies are trying to advertise/sell their products or services by roaming around the blogosphere and post comments on specific posts with links to their websites. Sure we can moderate the comments but I find it annoying deleting spam comments from anonymous full of advertisement links.

By the way,your post is very interesting.

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