Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Rats Nest

A colleague of mine started working on a proposal this week that included blog outreach. So he came to me asking for advice about what blogs to target and how to search out new ones.

I find that most PR people are looking for simple answers. When it comes to media we have some pretty basic lists that hit most of the big groups, then use MediaMap to fill in blanks. The lists we present aren't a be-all-and-end-all lists, but offer a good solid starting point.

Blogs are more complex, since they come and go, some have credibility and some don't, yet all show up on Google searches.

So to accomplish this task we started with a few sites we knew, then punched terms into Google's Blogsearch engine, and looked for links in Technorati. We also spent some time on Blogpulse and clicked through blogrolls.

A few hours later he showed up back in my office saying "My God! This is a Rat's Nest!" He's right, this isn't an easy process and it's up to each team to decide whether it's worth the time investment. Frankly, I prefer the term "maze," but that's just me.

Later another colleague asked me about a podcast he wanted to pitch. I told him what I new, but cautioned him not to send just a generic pitch, that he had to listen to the podcast and then craft something specific.

"That's what we should be doing for all reporters," he said. "But who has time?"

Back when I started at my current company each person worked on only three accounts, most of which had teams of five or more people. These clients paid a lot of money and there were a lot of publications, since this was at the height of the dot com bubble. They also received a lot of covearge for their cash.

But over the last few years teams have gotten smaller (as have fees) and the number of print publications diminished as well. Yet, our jobs have become more difficult as it's become more difficult to get into the publications that are left. News holes are smaller and journalists, burned by fly-by-night dot coms, are must core skeptical.

Oh, and we now have four, five or six clients per person. So our workload has increased, fees have fallen and the job has gotten tougher, meaning we have less time to research but more demands.

So here come blogs, which demand that you pay attention, engage in conversation and know about the blog. This is nothing new. Read through the bio on any MediaMap entry and you'll see a reporter scolding PR people to "read and understand the publication before pitching." Good advice. And the best PR people do just that.

Still, you can't do it for everyone. You may carefully research a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe or New York Times, as the reach and prestige are pretty high, but just throw a pitch at some of the smaller publications. It's not that you don't care, but you have to balance client need with the time you have to spend. Basic calculations. Of course, some clients may consider the Boston Business Journal to be more important and influential to their audience than the Times, which changes your equation a bit.

Then there are the bloggers, who are territorial about their own little piece of cyberturf, speak to smaller audiences, but are just as important to add to the PR mix, and you have a much more complex picture.

Just careful you don't get lost in the maze.

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