By Nataliya Deleva, Senior Account Manager, Weber Shandwick Digital

At Weber Shandwick we are true to the INLINE approach we’ve been using for years. INLINE Communications are not independent offline, online and experiential activities – but rather are communications that tell a consistent story across the spectrum of media that most influence the audience targeted. This is relevant for the way we engage with bloggers, too. Outreaching to bloggers is not new, nor difficult, but I still often bump into posts from annoyed bloggers on ‘how not to’ examples of brands’ representatives contacting them. This never stays quiet in the corner but rather fires up on Twitter or on the blog itself, where discussions and negative comments bombard the brand. So it’s always good to remember the simple rules of blogger outreach and engagement.

Rule No 1: Make it personal and relevant

Dedicate some time to read the blog. Use RSS feeds for fresh updates. Avoid ‘Dear Blogger’ and mass emails like the plague and use their name (obvious, right?). It’s even better if your first paragraph refers to a previous blog post relevant to your client or product. Start with a gentle intro first and, if they are interested, then send your information or challenge.

Rule No 2: Create engaging content (not information)

Entertaining bloggers is key – try games and contests for bloggers as well as for their followers. Don’t ask for free advertising, but rather challenge and provoke. If you challenge them to complete a task, they are more likely to get on board.

Rule No 3: Incentivise bloggers for their time and effort

Remember, bloggers don’t get paid for blogging - it’s their hobby. The ‘Test & Review’ approach, where you send out a product to key bloggers for review, is good, but be prepared for negative feedback as well as the positive. Another type of incentive might be offering a prize for a competition they host for their followers on the blog. Experience-type incentives also work well. In each case advise bloggers they should disclose their relationship with the brand, in line with the new online regulations. This means that if you are sending review products to bloggers or even inviting them to clients’ events, the bloggers must state that they were sent the product (or that they received a form of financial benefit), should they write about it online.

Rule No 4: Meet in person

Aim to meet and know bloggers in person the way you would with journalists. Invite them to join you for a coffee. Find out about their likes and dislikes, birthday, holiday plans, etc. Something as little as a birthday card may charm them and make them feel more inclined to partner with you. Invite bloggers to media events so you can meet them, but also let them use the opportunity to network with other bloggers, which they love.

Rule No 5: Partner with bloggers

Provide direction about the blog post, if requested. This is especially valid when inviting bloggers to your event – they need to know your expectations, but don’t rush them to post (not even in a ‘friendly way’). Follow the blog post about your campaign or product and help bloggers to respond to requests from followers. Respect bloggers and treat them as journalists, however recognise their need for support.

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