When blogger Essena O’Neill quit her dream ‘online life’ on social media, making headlines all over the world, the unintended irony was that she demonstrated the influence of bloggers. And it’s not just corporates who are wooing them. An increasing number of charities are working with bloggers in a quest to reach more people and boost their brands. Samantha Partridge, Online Content Manager at YHA, agrees: ‘Bloggers are becoming an increasingly important avenue to promoting organisations online as their reach on both their blogs and social media channels can be phenomenal, not to mention the SEO potential.’ Meanwhile, Emma Wilson, Senior Communications Officer at The Children’s Society, has seen some great results from working with bloggers on their Seriously Awkward campaign to protect 16 and 17 year olds from harm, abuse and neglect. She told me that, ‘Bloggers have helped us reach tens of thousands of new people, generating more support for the campaign as well as in depth discussions online about the issues.’ Like many of the bloggers I know, I get approached by many charities. I’m always mindful that blogger outreach is labour intensive, but it does pay off, making a huge difference to your brand and campaign outcomes. I’ve talked to a bunch of well known bloggers about what makes them more likely to engage with nonprofits.
Connect on a personal level
Bloggers are not journalists, and whether they make a living solely from their blog or not, it’s likely to be their passion. Blogger Kathy B says, ‘I want an organisation to use my first name, tell me about what they do, and express why they want to work with me.’ Bloggers value a personal, informal, yet professional approach and anything that seems transactional is a turn off. Jen Lowthrop, who writes travel blog She Gets Around , supports this view: ‘Bloggers today are savvy and business minded. Gone are the days of sending a press release or inviting a blogger to an event in exchange for a write up.’ On the same note, freelance writer and blogger Helen Redding advises charities to attach relevant information such as press releases in their emails, rather than links to general information on their website, as it ‘shows a level of care and thought has been put into the approach.’
Do your research
It may seem obvious but you’d be surprised by how many organisations don’t do this. It’s pretty obvious from my blog that I write about charities and digital marketing, yet I’ve had press releases about random topics such as cocktail bars, electric toothbrushes and hovercraft. Fitness blogger Helen of org.uk told me that, ‘I’m more likely to engage and work with a charity to promote their event if I feel that they’ve had a look through my blog and taken the time to research me and their charity is likely to be a good fit.’ Demonstrating that you share the bloggers’ values is even better. Kathy B was recently impressed by a breast cancer charity who wanted her to raise awareness of their campaign. ‘They addressed me like an old friend, referred to a specific sentence of a post I penned earlier this year that indicated my support of their cause, complimented my site, and communicated their own belief in and enthusiasm for their work,’ she says. ‘I was touched, inspired, and instantly invested in the project. I’m still working with them and have upped my monthly donation, too.’
Blogger Liz Burton says that charities who have taken the time to offer ‘unique and engaging content’ are more likely to stand out in her inbox. She cites a charity who invited her to meet Sir Ranulph Fiennes as he trained to run the Marathon Des Sables and another who asked for her input into a new children’s subscription pack they were putting together as ‘these are the kinds of activities that make interesting write ups for my readers.’
Play a long game
If there’s a good fit with your brand and its values, bloggers will be keen to invest in a relationship with you, especially if you demonstrate the same level of commitment. Liz Burton told me that, ‘The collaborations that work best for me are those who genuinely want to nurture long-term relationships. I’m usually pretty disengaged by any brand or charity that blanket emails me with a press release, but charities or organisations who go out of their way to do their research, find out about me as a person and want my support will get it.’
Bloggers like to see that their content hasn’t gone unnoticed. Redding suggests, ‘Don’t let blog posts go unshared or unretweeted – bloggers like to feel that what they’ve done has been picked up by those who asked them to do it.’
Prioritise quality over quantity.
Successful blogger outreach requires a significant investment of time but has big benefits for charities, so it’s fine to cherrypick. Lowthrop points out that it’s worth charities taking the time to build ‘deeper, longer term partnerships’ as they could lead to bloggers becoming brand ambassadors or creating a series of blog posts or videos. She feels that, ‘It will be better to you in the long run to work smartly and personally with a select few bloggers than spread yourself too thinly amongst many.’ So that’s how you do blogger outreach. What tips have worked for you?