Blogging is big business. As media moves increasingly away from paper, and onto our screens, Google has empowered bloggers.
One simple search, and our words can be as easy to find as those of a major newspaper journalist. And unrestricted by the whims of editors and media alliances, we can post whatever we like, whenever we like. Which means often bloggers get stories up quicker than the main news sites.
For small companies, bloggers can provide a free and vital source of press. We need the material as much as these companies need the promotion, and so if you're running a start up in need of media attention, the rules of blogger courtship can be important ones to learn.
In the early days, it will be the bloggers who will write about you first, until you develop enough of a reputation to interest and intrigue big name websites, magazines and news sources.
But how to court a blogger is skill few do well.
Normally I write about a different kind of courtship. For the past eleven months, I've been the voice behind 30 Dates - one of London's most popular dating blogs.
As a result, I get daily approaches from companies. Dating websites, events companies, apps - everyone wants me to trial their new product or service, and tell the thousands of singletons following my blog all about it.
And yet many of these companies get this approach fundamentally wrong. So many in fact, that I thought it was about time to write down some rule to approaching and courting bloggers.
Here is A Blogger's Guide to Getting Good Press.
1) Send a personalised email.
My blog account gets a lot of spam. In fact every Nigerian prince and Russian oligarch seems to want to share millions of pounds with 30 Dates via wire transfer! As a result, I delete a lot of emails without looking twice. So make your email stand out from the rest. Make it clear you've written an email just for that particular blogger, rather than mail merging every website you know with the same cut and paste email.
2) Don't send a Press Release out as a Guest Post.
If a blogger is worth her salt, she treats her blog like a baby. And that baby is not a place for thinly veiled free advertising. Successful bloggers are bright, intelligent, media-savvy individuals. They edit their own work, are constantly on the hunt for stories, and generally run their blogs in their spare time for little or no financial gain, whilst also juggling full-time jobs. Don't patronize them by asking them to host a poorly disguised advert.
3) Read the blog first
There's nothing more insulting than someone contacting you, praising you on your work, and then making clear they have never read it! My blog is called 30 Dates, because I went on 30 Blind Dates in the run up to my 30th birthday. Anyone who spends even five minutes reading 30 Dates will know my motivation was simply to make dating fun, not to find 'the One'. So when a dating 'guru' rings me up and asks me why I didn't succeed in finding the One, despite going on thirty dates, it puts me on the back foot.
4) Wait for the right time
Early press is only worth it if it's good press. A bad reputation can be hard to shake, and the internet lasts way longer than yesterday's newspaper.
I get hundreds of companies approaching me too early on. If you're offering a service that depends on membership, or busy custom, then don't ask someone to review it when you're only just starting out. It's a wasted opportunity, and the blogger is unlikely to come back a second time. I can't count how many dating sites I've been asked to review, when they don't have many male members yet!
5) Offer the blogger something
I don't think you should pay a blogger to write a review. It goes against my principles of impartiality, and fair reviewing. However, the blogger shouldn't be left out of pocket trialing your service or product. So if you invite a reviewer to try it out, I think it's only fair that you offer the service or product for free. Remember the value of a good review to your company. Instead of focusing on the one free ticket you're giving away, think about all the potential tickets a good review can sell.
6) Do not use bribes
Any genuine blogger will take these kinds of gestures completely the wrong way. I once had a dating event organiser slip a vibrator into my bag at the end of the night. Not only was it a completely inappropriate gift for a stranger to give to a single woman, but it made me think she'd obviously realized none of the men at her event were worth going home with! (And yes, I wrote about it!)
7) Treat the blogger like a normal customer
Don't suck up, or give the blogger special treatment. We can see through it. The fairest review is of a situation, which is completely natural and normal. Have faith in your service or product.
8) Don't use stooges or set-up scenarios
It will back fire. Someone will let on that they're not a real customer, or haven't used the product before. Trust what you're selling!
9) Don't introduce the blogger as a blogger
I recently went to a singles event where the organizer opened the evening by telling everyone I write a dating blog. Whilst it's by no means something I keep secret, it's something I like to reveal at my own pace. He may as well have stuck an arrow above my head saying 'Avoid this girl, she's gonna write about you!'.
10) Don't badger a blogger
No one likes a nag. The reality of the world is that people's perceptions affect the way they interpret things. If you've badgered a blogger in the run up to the event, or nagged afterwards, constantly asking when the review will go up, your impatience is likely to affect how positively the blogger writes up your service.