Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Send a Text, Get a Pizza

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

I'm probably stretching the "even vaguely foodie" boundaries of the Weekend Cooking criteria with this post, but ... indulge me. I'm helping out My Cousin Who is Currently Studying PR in College, who wrote via Facebook with a question concerning two of my favorite things: pizza and blogging. Since I have long ago realized that I don't have all the answers (or, sometimes, any answers at all), I thought I'd answer here ... and give YOU the opportunity to share your collective wisdom and thoughts, too.

The question (somewhat paraphrased by me):  "My case study group is using 'reaching out to bloggers' as one of our tactics. We're working on a hypothetical campaign where a well-known pizza chain implements a text-ordering pizza option and we want to make sure we use the right terminology, so our question is: how to PR people reach out to bloggers? We know that we would not write a press release and send it to them, so how would we get a food or tech blogger to write about this new text-ordering option?" 

First, how cool is it that they are asking about best tactics of reaching out to bloggers? Seriously, after being the recipient of upteen wayward PR pitches, this is refreshing to me ... and gives me hope for a new generation.

'Scuse me.  I need a moment.  (Wipes tear from eye.)

So, then. How best to reach out to bloggers and get them to write about the new ordering-a-pizza-via-text-option?

1. Keep the press release.
I think in this case, a press release is still a key piece of your media kit.  It just can't be your ONLY piece.  It will give the blogger some talking points and help them write about the important facts.

2. Send the release to the blogger with a PERSONALIZED email.
From what I've seen in my three years of blogging, nothing gets a blogger to hit the "Delete" key faster than an email that begins with "Dear Blogger" or, in my case, "Dear Ms. Chronicles" or my all-time-favorite, "Dear Cherished and Appreciated Book Blogger." Use the blogger's first name.  To find that out, you have to ....

3. Do your homework.
As in, actually read and become familiar with the blogs you are targeting.  This is paramount, and needs to be the first step in your outreach to the bloggers.  Obviously, for a pizza chain, you'll want to be careful about what blogs you target.  Unless you have a gluten-free crust option, you don't want to target a blogger who writes about food allergies, for example.  Food bloggers who focus on healthy eating or frugality or all-things-organic are also probably not your best audience either.

Broadening the outreach to the tech bloggers is a great strategy, and might be more advantageous than the food bloggers (although I would definitely keep them in the mix.)  Also consider targeting parents - but whatever you do, avoid the term "mommy blogger" when dealing with the ladies.  As a busy mom who works full-time outside the home (and whose workday is never the same and 4 months of which is spent on the road in my car), a text-ordering pizza option would be very appealing to me.  If I can avoid a phone call, I do.

Also consider targeting college students and sports bloggers.  And sports editors of local college papers, and sports editors of weekly/daily papers who might have a blog.

Whether they are writing about food, tech, sports, or a hodgepodge of all three, its impossible to find out what the blogger's niche is without reading the blog.  Keep in mind, though, that some familiarity is good; too much (using names of one's kids, etc.) gets a little bit into the creep-factor.

4. Offer the bloggers something.
Obviously, you'll want to give the blogger an incentive for trying out the text-ordering pizza option.  A free pizza would be nice.  Also, know that there's a long-running and passionate debate in the world of blogging regarding compensation for posts. For the most part, we do this for free and because we enjoy the whole blogging scene.  But there are some bloggers who are invested in monetizing their blogs, who depend on the revenue made as part of their family's income, and are very savvy and sophisticated (in a good way) at working marketing deals with companies.  For this segment of the blogging world, you might want to consider taking out an ad on the blog, just as you would in a newspaper or other publication.

5. Expect honesty.
Bloggers are brutally honest, particularly when it comes to reviewing products. We've worked hard on our blogs and have cultivated trust with our readers, and we don't take that for granted. We're not going to endorse a product that we don't believe in, and in some cases, haven't personally used.  If we agree to write a post about the text-ordering option, and if the app is clunky or doesn't work or (worst of all) our pizza doesn't show up, expect to hear about it on the blog. PR people are about control: of the message, of the timing.  Know that you surrender a good deal of that control when working with bloggers.

6. Remember that we have lives outside of the blog.
Behind each blog is a person.  The stereotypical image of a unkempt blogger sitting in mama's basement banging out diatribes is a false one. We have lives, and busy ones at that. Most PR professionals know and understand this. If we agree to have a post go live on a certain day and we get slammed with a work deadline or the whole family gets the flu, then your post is going to fall to the bottom of the priority list.  Life happens.

Again, most PR folks are great about understanding this ... but there is always the exception. There's nothing that will get me to Block Sender faster than a publicist who constantly sends me emails or worse, makes me feel like shit because I haven't gotten around to doing a post yet.

(And that goes back to the email point.  If we don't respond to your email, that means we're not interested.  We check our email.  Often.  So, don't hit us with multiple "just wanted to follow up" emails and by all means, if we politely decline, do not try to engage in a "please, pretty-please, this product is absolutely The Best Thing EVER and will change your life" type of dialogue. It's pathetic, smacks of desperation, and won't work.  

Now it's your turn.  What advice would you give to a PR professional wanting to get bloggers to write about a text-ordering pizza option?

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


TheBookGirl said...

I think you hit all the important points. The most important thing for me is demonstration that the product/service is worthwhile. They might want to consider movie bloggers as well -- they could do a movie and pizza night recommendation.

Beth F said...

First, there is no stretching the limits, cause there are no limits for Weekend Cooking!

I think you've really covered the major points. My suggestion was a free pizza so bloggers could blog about the experience. Oh perhaps offer a giveaway -- blogger blogs about it, and offers one of his or her readers a free pizza. Giveaways get people's attention.

A press release and personalized email that shows you've looked at the person's blog is good. If you went to my blog, for example, you'd say, "I see you've shared a grilled pizza recipe, but what about those nights you're too busy or it's raining? We're just a text away. . . ."

You can also reach out to bloggers through twitter. Some of us got a free pretzel chip sampler through twitter and then blogged about it.

Good luck and have fun.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Personally I like the "Dear Cherished and Appreciated Blogger." Imagine how it would be to get a note from our husbands, "Dear Cherished and Appreciated Wife." (ha ha - I would think it was from somebody else!) :--)