Once again, I've been inspired by comments on PR Couture's blog, some other non-fashion related social media/web 2.0 projects I'm working on (see my other blogs if you're interested) as well as conversations with acquaintances of mine who happen to be in the field to offer my thoughts on PR and the blogosphere.
I've said before that I love to get pitches and emails, mainly because there's tons of great stuff out there and a PR rep might introduce me to something awesome that I would have never discovered on my own, and they can usually give me more background info, samples, and better images than what's available on the web. Also, since I contribute to many different websites and occasional print publications, I always welcome new ideas and things to write about. Many thanks to them!
The main questions I seem to encounter from PR types is how to find blogs to pitch, how to determine the traffic levels they get, and how to approach them. So here we go:
1. When it comes to finding blogs to pitch, Technorati, google's blogsearch, and the fashion blog networks like Glam and Coutorture can be good places to start looking. Team Sugar's online community also seems to be growing in popularity. Forums can be useful as well - for instance, I think almost everyone on the Fashion Spot has a blog, some better than others. Do searches for terms/phrases related to whatever it is you are pitching to find blogs that are already talking about the general subjects at hand. Looking through the blogrolls of some of the more established fashion blogs can be a good idea as well, because they often link to other quality sites. I've also found some cool sites by looking for things tagged with "fashion" and such on del.icio.us.
2. Traffic levels are tricky to gauge. Alexa alone doesn't give the whole story, so I like sites such as Popuri.us because it lists the Google PageRank, Alexa Rank, number of backlinks, and other important information, which provide a much more complete picture of a site's place in the blogosphere. Clearly, this kind of thing is useful to advertisers as well.
3. Approaching bloggers. Personally, blanket pitches don't offend me, but I am more likely to respond to something geared specifically to my interests. There seems to be an unfortunate trend of bloggers skewering PR types for delivering non-targeted or poorly crafted pitches - while I agree that some of the emails bloggers get are ridiculous, the whole thing smacks of an elitist attitude. Yes, many bloggers are early adopters, at the forefront of the new media, and what have you, but that's not an excuse for mocking others who aren't as savvy as you.
Anyways, anyone approaching bloggers need to understand that blogging is a participatory medium* ("markets are conversations" after all) and that they are going to call it like it is. There is no controlling a company's message and everything is transparent. If a product sucks or a company provides bad service, someone is going to talk about it. Unlike magazines and traditional media dependent on getting advertisers, bloggers are not typically afraid of offending anyone. Even if they do run ads, it's rare that a blogger requires the ad money to keep going - most of the time, blogs are a labor of love and born out of a desire to be another voice in the discussion.
However, that same participatory nature that can make the blogosphere intimidating also offers business and PR types the unique chance to respond in a public forum. Done properly (e.g. replying to criticism in a constructive, civil manner) this can actually make you look better. I'll admit that participating fully in social media world takes time (I probably wouldn't be able to engage to the extent I do if it wasn't part of my job), but it can be incredibly valuable in long run, especially for small start-ups that don't have huge advertising budgets.
*Don't be afraid to leave comments on posts you like or join a discussion on a forum (check out the rules and regulations first though - chances are blatant pitches will be deleted and you might be banned). Try to interact as yourself, not as someone with a product to promote.
Okay, that's enough about me and what I think - I'd like to hear back from PR people in the comments or through email (fashionablekiffen "at" gmail.com) about what you would like from bloggers or any questions/complaints/etc. you may have. I promise I won't mock you on my blog :).