Why Startups and Bloggers Both Fail at Blogger Outreach

Startups need attention and a very relevant technique to gaining attention is maintaining a healthy relationship with bloggers. Bloggers (no matter how popular) need content, things to write about and news to spread.

Sounds like a joint venture made in heaven? True – but as always, things aren’t that simple.

The Diversity of the Blogosphere

The Blogosphere is made up of different crowds. There are the hobbyists who are just writing their blog as a hobby. There are the top tier tech blogs like Techcrunch. But between those two there is the crowd of niche blogs – and these make up at least 90% of the blogosphere. Included in this segment are all the corporate blogs of this world, the individual bloggers, the marketing bloggers, etc…

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When we talk about Blogger Outreach for startups, we are talking about those 90% of niche bloggers. When you are approaching top tier techblogs you are not approaching an individual running a blog, you are approaching a journalist working at a media company. Big difference. The journalist is not part of the Blogosphere even if his company might be.Blogger outreach is often regarded as gaining second tier press. That's a big mistake being made by both parties.

And when you approach bloggers, the hobbyists will probably not be within your target audience. They are small and don’t care too much about reach. Their blogs are less focused and don’t rely on regular publishing. They might one day professionalize what they are doing, but that doesn’t mean they are of interest right now.

Bloggers Are Not Second Tier Journalists

No one wants to be “second”…

Many startups see niche blogs like this one as “second or third tier press”. After all its a place where they can get talked about – where they can convince someone to write about them or publish a guest post. But niche blogs aren’t press. Niche blogs are part of businesses.

That means that the people who run those regular niche blogs and people running startups are basically two sides of the same coin.

The problem is – both sides fail to understand this. Startups approach bloggers differently than they would approach other startups, and bloggers fail to see their benefit from the connection and begin to think of themselves as judges for startup ideas.

The Blogosphere Was Built on Networking

When blogging became popular it was largely because bloggers networked among each other – and not just via business cards. They shared each other’s articles, commented, exchanged guest posts, and helped each other whenever they could. This allowed the blogosphere to grow as fast as it did and this is what even today keeps the blogosphere alive and kicking.

The successful startups that built their businesses based on blogger outreach managed to make themselves part of this networking process. Many of these became successful bloggers by this themselves. Two examples of this are SocialBro and Buffer, two social media apps that now also run very successful social media blogs. Both of them won entries in the Top 10 Social Media Blogs 2015 by Social Media Examiner. Other examples are Postplanner  and Kissmetrics.

But these startups didn’t regard the bloggers as press – they regarded them as business contacts.

A Better Blogger Outreach Strategy

If you are a startup, I would like to propose to you a better way of implementing a blogger outreach strategy. It all begins with how you regard your goal.

The goal is to grow your business. And their blogs are not the only way bloggers can help you. They have businesses themselves. So the real question is – how can your business help their business. (Please don’t take this as an invititation to send me bad sales pitches). And of course that already includes the second part of a healthy business relationship: How can their business help your business.

NetworkingThis really is networking 101 – but when you regard blogger outreach as a networking activity rather than a marketing activity, the results will probably be better. Of course, often the results will be a published guest post or an article about your product. But that’s what you wanted anyway, isn’t it?

What We Bloggers Are Often Doing Wrong

The mistakes are being made on both sides of the table though. Too often we bloggers reply to contact requests by judging a product like someone asked us to invest in it. Too often we get asked something like: We would like your feedback and answer that we don’t see the market.

What we should have said is: “I’m sorry, but the solution is not for me.” Alternatively: “Heck, you are solving the problem I have.” Startups are capable of doing their own market research.

Too often we feel we need to behave like a top tier tech journalist (arrogant and without a clue, there are exceptions though). Too often we regard ourselves as being on top and the startup as being far below – while the truth is that it’s a conversation between two entrepreneurs.

We don’t see blogger outreach as a part of our job as well any more – we expect others to reach out to us. But part of networking is always to make oneself approachable – and to be willing to help instead of just be willing to feel important!

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What Startups should be doing:

I’m a startupper turned blogger – and content was always my game. My former (and failed) company exploreB2B was a content publishing site for businesses and business people. I had to move on. I became a blogger.

But I’m not a journalist – blogging is part of my business now. As a blogger I am many things at once. One part is writing my blog, but I’m also a consultant, a marketer, a teacher (check out the Masterclass!), a salesman, a business developer and many more things.

So if you are a startup trying to build a relationship with me: Don’t treat me like a journalist. That doesn’t mean you cannot pitch me – I’m always happy to read a well done pitch.

But if you pitch me keep in mind that I’m not a journalist. Don’t tell me that your startup now has 10,000 users – I don’t care. I care about the solution. Could I use it? Would it make my life easier?

Or send me a guest post – I am always ready to publish a well written guest post that tells my target audience about something that can be useful for them.

Or you can offer me a joint venture. I’m first and foremost here for business, so if you can think of a collaboration of mutual benefit – here we go.

What Bloggers Should Be Doing:

Most of us bloggers are simply entrepreneurs – and part of our business is blogging. That means we should always have our business in mind. When we get approached by startups we shouldn’t think about judging a business model, product or idea – we should see the other person as we see every other business person we meet.

What’s happening is part of the general networking experience – help each other and create a situation of mutual benefit.

But somehow, many of us tend to see themselves as a journalist once they get approached by Startups. Which in turn leads to being treated like a journalist – which many of us don’t like in the first place. We end up in a downward spiral that will sooner or later crash the relationship into the ground.

So, the next time you get pitched by a startup CEO – simply see him as a business person, an entrepreneur like yourself.

Final Words: Blogger Outreach Is Networking

While communication with top tier blogs is a PR activity, blogger outreach is a business development activity – and largely based on networking. And that goes for both sides. I’m not a judge for your business model. I don’t care whether your product has raised millions. All I care about is whether you can improve my business.

And that is great for you startups as well. Because it opens a hell of a lot of opportunities.

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This article was proofread and edited by myself with the help of Grammarly. If you are blogging in English and cannot afford a professional editor, Try Grammarly Now! It rocks.

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  • http://elainefogel.com/ Elaine Fogel

    Top bloggers have a great deal of influence and that’s why start-ups approach them. As a blogger and former business journalist, I can see where there’s some crossover, but there’s one major difference. Journalists are supposed to report the news unbiased and bloggers typically editorialize.

    • https://twitter.com/i_anic Ines Anić

      “Journalists are supposed to report the news unbiased…”

      The key words here are “supposed to”. Very little actual journalists sound unbiased to me today. That’s why I trust a journalist as much as I do a blogger. Heck, perhaps even less than!

  • Levi Sweeney

    Great info! If I want to start my own blog, I’d better find some other blogs similar to mine to interact with.

  • jamesduren

    This is a weak post. And your disdain for journalists is a detriment to your sense of expertise.

  • http://www.unveiltheweb.com/ UnveiltheWeb

    I agree Jonathan with your premise. I always teach and share that our goal is to know what business we are “really” in; what are the tangible values our customers feel and experience through our businesses/products; what problems we are specifically solving and who we are solving the problems for.

    But in identifying target audiences we many times neglect defining, discovering and connecting with those who serve the same audience we do but in a different way. These are the people we network with and offer value to.

    Blogs can be a fantastic way of taking someone we don’t know and by including them in our articles with high value when it’s appropriate and then letting them know we begin the process of creating good will and opportunities at both connecting and networking.

    I appreciate your post Jonathan!

    ~ Don Purdum

  • Hannah Kovacs

    Jonathan, good on you for opening up a dialogue around this topic! I so appreciate that you’ve taken the time to outline tips for both the start-up and the blogger — it really should be a two way street. First and foremost, I always try and express to the blogger how much I’ve LEARNED from their insights. If I’m reaching out to them, it’s because they’ve taught me something valuable. And then I make an effort to share any ideas that may have come to mind as a result of reading their content. That can open up some mutually beneficial, powerful conversations. It does you no good to be self-serving in your outreach!

    I am such a big fan of this blog and I was delighted to hear that you’re open to receiving guest posts. I have a few ideas stored away and would love to hear your thoughts on them!

    Thanks again for the awesome insight :)

    Hannah
    [email protected]

  • http://Www.workoutchampapp.com Harshit Sekhon

    Your thoughts as a blogger just helped shaped my perspective on how to approach blogger outreach. The burning question still in my mind is “what’s in it for you, as a blogger?” if you were approached by a startup for coverage? Can you please share your thoughts on this question Jonathan?

    Also +1 for shout out to Grammarly. How good is it, right?