How To Pitch a Wine Blogger
With the North American Wine Bloggers Conference coming up and given other issues surrounding this blog occupying my mind of late, I wanted to address the issue of Wine Blogging and Wine Bloggers from a public relations perspective. Specifically, I wanted to address the issue of How To Interact With a Wine Blogger.
In case anyone needs reminding, and I doubt anyone in or around the wine business does, media relations are those activities that a company or individual undertakes to inform media outlets of there existence, their mission, their product, the value of their product to a medium's readers/viewers/listeners, or news associated with their activities. Companies and individuals do this not because it is their duty, but because they hope to see their message delivered to the end user of their product…the customer. And in the process, they hope to sell more. I hope this information doesn't come as a surprise to anyone.
Blogs are, decidedly, media outlets. Some folks may not have the same respect for them that they have for more traditional or longstanding media outlets and some folks may question their utility as conveyors of information, and some bloggers themselves may see themselves as different and new animals, but this is beside the point primarily because these folks are misinformed. I mention this only to set the stage.
How then, if you want to deliver your message to customers via blogs, should you interact with wine bloggers? Let me suggest the following:
1. Pair Down Your Targets
There are hundreds of wine blogs. Outreach to any single wine blogger takes time. Time is likely the commodity you have the least amount of so you must ration how you use. it. In paring down the number of blogs you plan to reach out to you have to try to answer a couple questions: Which Blogs Write For An Audience Likely To Include My Target Customer? And, Which Blogs of This Sort Have A Readership Large Enough to To Care About? Answer these two questions and you can get to work.
2. Know The Blog
Once you pair down your target list, it's really important that you get a handle on the tone of the blog, the topics they tend to cover and how they cover the topic. For example, while you might want to convey your companies unique value proposition to the wine trade, rather than consumers, and while FERMENTATION might seem like an appropriate vehicle for such an effort, if you read this blog you'll find that it's probably not the place to pitch a story about the dangers of direct shipping. However, you might want to pitch a story to FERMENTATION on the political efforts being made in your neck of the woods to stamp out direct shipping. If you are looking to send samples of your wines, as another example, it would be a good idea to find out if your target blog accepts samples and if they tend to review wines of the type you produce. Know your media targets. This is one more way to save valuable time.
3. Follow The Blog
Just how hard is it these days to follow 50 or 100 wine blogs? Not too hard. Get a good RSS reader hooked up. Every day scan the headlines of the blogs you are following. Stay up to-date with what they have published. You'd do the same thing with traditional media. It's prudent.
4. Pitch Your Story With Gusto, Honesty, Sincerity & Respect
Chances are that you have one opportunity to really interest a blogger or any writer or media outlet in your story du jour. So, do it right. This means pulling no punches. It means contacting the blogger and not hiding the fact that you are pitching them a story idea. It means you are telling them why their readership is likely interested in the story. It means respecting the bloggers time by not writing a novel when you email them. It means not disrespecting them by assuming that just because they are bloggers they demand a much more informal, gee-your-are-my-pal approach. The best pitch letters and emails are short, concise, compelling stories that are, in the end, sales literature. If you have done your homework concerning the blogger, if you've honed your story idea and if you can deliver that idea in writing, then you've put your best foot forward.
5. Get'em What They Need
If Jim Laube or Steve Heimoff asked you for more information after you pitched them a story, you wouldn't sit on that request for very long (I hope). You shouldn't with a blogger either. If we ask for more information you don't care if we really want it or if we are putting you off. You care that you can get it too them in as timely a fashion as possible.
6. Remember, No Means No.
If you do enough story pitching you are going to hear "no thank you" pretty often. Unless that "No, thank you," also includes a "never contact me again,", take it like man, move on, keep monitoring th blog, and look for other opportunities to reconnect with a new pitch or new information in the future. But don't' be a pest. The point here is that a blogger, just like an editor, knows what they want. If they don't like or can't use your pitch, move on, try to understand why it didn't appeal to them, and adjust your approach in the future.
7. Careful With Duplication
Unless the information you want to get out concerns a very big piece of news (and that is rare), then be careful pitching the same story or angle to multiple bloggers. Like other writers, editors and publications, bloggers don't want to be "me too" writers. They want a unique angle for story that speaks to their interests and their readers and they probably prefer to be the one to write it. Pitching the same story to multiple bloggers at the same time is like sending the same set of roses with the same card to numerous women at the same time.
My hope is that many of your reading these suggestions recognize they just as easily could have been a description of how to reach out to the traditional wine media or any media for that matter. This in itself should indicate that where wine bloggers are concerned, you aren't dealing with anything too new.