The media landscape is evolving. The way consumers absorb news is much different today than it was even five years ago. We’re now living in an era of instant information; the days of the daily news cycle are fading, if not already behind us.

Just look at the people in any public space—chances are that most of them are staring at their phones. News has become fluid, live and personalized. Media consumers are faced with unlimited options, and competition for their attention is fierce. Nonprofits with limited advertising budgets and manpower might find the online world overwhelming and intimidating.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Sharing relevant information with your target audience has never been more accessible. Blogs, community groups, forums, social media and other online profiles present a direct pathway to specific audiences that are already engaged with your topic. Bloggers are online influencers—niche journalists—who build tribes with common interests and can help nonprofits share their message with these individuals.

There’s more to promoting your nonprofit on a blog than just sending a press release to every blogger out there. The blogging world is full of noise, and standing out takes a little finesse and a personal touch. Just like reaching out to traditional media, the secret to working with bloggers is building meaningful relationships that add value for both parties.

Here are some basics of blogger relations for nonprofits:

Do your research: find and understand the most relevant blogs

All too often the value of a blog is measured by the traffic or number of readers. However, if the topic doesn’t directly relate to your story pitch you’re better off to focus your efforts on a smaller blog with a topic that aligns more directly with your target audience.

For example, a blog about animals with 1,000 followers is great, but if you’re specifically talking about rescue dogs you may have more success pitching to the blog about dogs with 600 followers.

If you’re new to the blogging world, you can find out what blogs are most relevant by asking around; talk to your volunteers, partners and social media followers about what blogs they’re following. A Google search is another great way to learn about key online influencers related to your cause.

Before you reach out to a blogger, learn as much about the blog and its followers as you can. Engage with the blog; show an interest and build a relationship by subscribing, signing up for emails, posting comments and sharing links on your nonprofit’s social media channels.

Read older posts and don’t skip the comment sections; this is where you can learn about the community of followers and their interests. What topics resulted in the highest number of comments? Are the comments positive or negative in tone? Does the blogger post only text or a variety of media, such as videos, slideshows, images, etc.? Get a feel for the blogger’s style and pay attention to the frequency and tone of posts. This will help you tailor your pitch and build a rapport with the blogger.

Tailor your story for each specific blog

One of the keys to success is to make sure your story matches the blog’s tone, topic and adds value. Keep your pitch fresh; share a new idea that hasn’t already been featured on the blog.

It’s important that your story is unique. Sending a generic email with a news release in the body will get you nowhere. Take time to make it personal.

Think beyond text. Get creative with the ways you can engage with the blogger. Some ideas might be:

  • Offer to write a guest post. Many bloggers welcome this as long as it isn’t too promotional.
  • Get them involved. Can you invite a blogger to host an event or a live Twitter chat?
  • Think visual. Could you create a photo slideshow or video blog post? Multimedia is engaging, fairly quick and easy to create and helps with SEO (search engine optimization), which is a bonus for both parties.

Be careful and creative when making contact

Email is the most common way to contact bloggers. However, don’t underestimate the value of a Twitter or Facebook message. The goal is to stand out from all the other messages and competition in the blogger’s inbox.

Craft a personal message that demonstrates your knowledge of the blog and directly explains how your story idea is a good fit. Keep it short and avoid including attachments or images, as some email settings will send these messages directly to junk folders.

Don’t SPAM bloggers

What’s more annoying than email spam? This is why personal notes and tailored story ideas are so important. When the blogger sees your name in their inbox, you don’t want the reaction to be an automatic “delete.” Avoid sending every press release or story idea that come across your desk unless you think it genuinely complements the blog’s tone and focus.

Keep it original

Think you can save time by repurposing something in your story vault? Think again. Google can tell when material has been reused online and this will hurt the SEO for both your nonprofit and the blog. It’s also not great for your relationship and doesn’t really offer any value to the blogger.

Share, share, share your post

After all your effort, you want your post to get as many eyeballs on it as possible. If the blogger sees that you are helping to drive traffic to their blog, they’ll more likely want to work with you again in the future.

Chances are the blogger will promote the post through their social media networks, and you should do the same. Retweet and share any social posts from the blog, and be sure you’re recognizing your blogger in any organic posts of your own.

Check the comments on the blog post and on social media. Use this opportunity to engage with commenters—this is a great way to connect with readers and build new relationships with potential donors or volunteers.

Show gratitude and courtesy to build relationships

Make sure you thank the blogger and share your feedback. If you think they did a great job on a blog post, let them know. Keep an open relationship and pass along story ideas that might be helpful even when they may not directly benefit you.

Relationships are everything and can make the difference between having your story featured or your email deleted.

Persevere

Don’t be afraid to fail. If your top choice doesn’t work out, move on to the next. The great thing about the Internet is there are countless options and every day a new blog is popping up.

Happy pitching!

Katie Ostler

Katie Ostler

Media Relations and Digital Communications Professional
Katie Ostler is a public relations professional specializing in media relations and digital communications. She has worked for nonprofit organizations such as Santas Anonymous, the Alberta Library and the Canadian Diabetes Association. She spends her free time hanging out with her new baby Charlie and husband Simon.
Katie Ostler