Virginia Miracle: How to Work With Bloggers and Influencers — live from Word of Mouth Supergenius

11:55 — Jim Lovelady introduces Ogilvy PR‘s Virginia Miracle.

11:56 — Virginia explains how she got started with WOMMA, and then later with Dell.

11:56 — Virginia says targeting an influencer is not the first step. She recommends finding what you have to offer and then finding the right subset of talkers you can work with.

11:57 — Virginia says everything should start with what you’re trying to accomplish. One thing that is never a good reason is “everybody else is doing it,” explains Virginia.

11:58 — Virginia: Reach, preference, and action are how you measure how you’ve created awareness, evaluation, engagement, etc.

11:59 — Virginia: The next step in this approach is creating the engagement value. Virginia shares the JFK famous quote about asking what you can do for your country, and says this is the question to begin with when talking about bloggers and influencers.

11:59 — Virginia’s big objective: What is the value we can provide people so they will actually give a crap and want to spend time and energy with us?

12:00 — Virginia: It may take reaching out and talking to others to find out what you have that’s valuable to the outside world.

12:01 — Virginia: Audit your assets: What do you have to offer? Virginia’s potential offerings include:

– A sneak peek at new offerings

– The chance to meet your known / hidden heroes

– The opportunity to be truly heard

– Honor, fame, giveaways, a consulting job?

– Recognition among their peers

12:02 — Virginia shares the example of LifetimeMoms.com where contributors are fans and are explicitly paid for their content.

12:04 — Virgina: So now we’re at the stage of identifying who we want to talk to. It’s not just about bloggers. All the conversation may happen within forums. All of the conversations may happen on message boards or some other format. I’m saying bloggers, but think more broadly.

12:05 — Virginia’s tips on identifying influencers:

– Not just the Top 10, the Alltop, the Technorati elite

– Match the influencers to the engagement opportunity

– Look at adjacent categories

– Sort by the ability to create great content

– Read their blog (and filter for relevance and receptivity to your brand)

12:05 — Virginia: When designing your outreach program, build it out of bricks.

12:07 — Virginia emphasizes WOMMA’s Ethics Code, FTC Guidelines, Insourced Relationships, Providing Value, and Listening to Influencers as her escalating bricks to build your program with.

12:09 — Virginia: And lastly, keep it up. Often there is a spike in outreach around an event based on our marketing calendar — but these people don’t disappear after these events. We’ve started initiating 12-month plans when we’re working with bloggers and influencers. It’s about how to build a strong foundation and keep that up. If you do try to do a drive-by or one-night stand, it leaves everybody feeling empty.

12:10 — Virginia: It’s critical you’re regularly talking to them, responding to their needs, and reacting along the way. Your plan has to be able to change based on the feedback you’re getting from the very people you’re trying to work with.

Q&A

Q: Do you reach out to bloggers and influencers differently than you would traditional reporters?

A: That’s a great question. Some bloggers want to be reached out to as journalists, while others would bristle at that. Follow the breadcrumbs, check to see if they have any policies already outlined on their blog, and look for clues. The one thing we never do is just assume they will take a press release, which a traditional journalist covering a beat might be OK with.

Q: Is there a special process for pitching a blogger for guest posts?

A: The most important thing for pitching someone you want to write for is building your credibility. What do they have to gain by posting your story on their blog, or vice versa? It’s probably important to establish your footprint first, and establish that you’re listening.

Q: With the new FTC regulations, is pay for play dead? Or are people just getting used to the disclaimer?

A: I hope that paying them to write about you is indeed dead and gone. It’s been against the WOMMA code of ethics for a long time. If you were trying to provide them an experience, and they need to disclose they had airfare and a hotel, I hope there’s regular and clear disclosure about that. And since the new FTC regulations have come out and we’ve offered suggestions to bloggers on how to disclose, there’s been nothing but relief from them. They want to be clearly transparent.

Q: From a timing perspective, is the outreach to journalists being done in tandem with blogger or influencer outreach, or is it a staggered process?

A: It’s usually different because what we’re trying to do is different. There are examples of different bloggers and journalists being at the same event. But for bloggers, you may have to start outreach a little earlier because it’s not their day job. In general, creating different types of engagement is the way we go.

Q: You mentioned providing values to the bloggers. As a brand and I want them to talk about me, if I really just want them to talk about me, how do I keep up a relationship that’s not just 1-sided?

A: Try sharing real news on new innovations, or giving them a test drive — anything where you’re giving something of value.

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