How do you ethically ask bloggers to write about your business?

A colleague I met at a recent networking event asked me something very interesting via email:
Is there a ethical way to ask bloggers to write about your business?
I’ve spent some time thinking about this question because my first response was a knee-jerk answer of “any way you ask someone to help you promote your business is ethical”. But that’s not true. Witness the waves of spam we receive every day from people who are following just that dictum.
On the other end of the spectrum, clearly if you never actually promote your business and just wait for those blogger-types to stumble across it and write about it is folly too. If you don’t promote your business, chances are you don’t have one after a while.
So the truth must lie somewhere in the middle, and there are indeed ethical and socially acceptable ways you can promote your business with bloggers.
I can then examine my inbox to see some examples, and one leaps out immediately: sending a press release or media announcement is rarely, if ever, a good solution. I would estimate that I read the headlines of less than 10% of the press releases I get, and less than 2% of them engage me enough — or are targeted enough — that I’ll read a paragraph or two into the release itself. (remember too that I have years of experience sifting through press releases from my former life as a magazine editor)
Really, the best way to engage a blogger and let them know about your business is for you to participate in the discussion on their blog then, once you’ve established yourself as a commentator, open up a private channel of communication with them via email and begin to introduce your business.
I’m reminded of a Godfather type of scene, where I’d be whispering with some sort of American-Italian accent, “you gotta pay your respects before you can get the attention of the Don. Move too fast and, well, there’s gunna be trouble…”
But then again, there are likely many other ways to approach bloggers effectively to promote your business too. Dear reader, perhaps you can share one or two of your best practices in this regard?

8 comments on “How do you ethically ask bloggers to write about your business?

  1. Whenever we think of approaching Bloggers for B2B clients we look first at Blogs that tell us exactly how to contact them. The clearer the Blogger is about how they want to be contacted the better we feel as marketers about contacting them about advertising, a review, or a sponsorship. For example, I know of many review sites that openly ask for items to review…or subsidies for their coffee because the group all sports Macs. The clear message makes my ethical considerations easy to judge.

  2. This is a great question which has the same answer (in my mind) as people asking for connections to decision makers for jobs, funding, etc.
    In order to create evangelist, one must demonstrate consistent value and make deposits often – not just when in need. At that point, one does not have to ask because the evangelist can’t help herself but promote you…

  3. That’s exactly the way we’ve approached it. In fact, doing the ‘PR’ yourself already gets you a few points, and the rest is about starting a conversation. Marketing or PR is no longer about telling your story – its about starting conversations and dropping in on blogs to comment thoughtfully has worked wonders for us. Now the secret is out 😉

  4. For me it’s been always the most difficult thing to promote my business or make bloggers write about it, thank you for this great article, short and effective, well, I guess I just started implementing your technique by posting this comment 😉

  5. Does this type of approach change at all when instead of striving strictly purely for PR for your company you have research to offer bloggers?

  6. Dave,
    You can take this to a whole new level by engaging in “high quality comments” – those comments that enhance the value of blog. For this to happen, the commenter has to really “care” for both – what is written on the blog AND the value of the comments for the readers of the blog.
    Have a great Friday!
    Best,
    Raj

  7. this is great, the approach I had till now was, regularly leave comments on their Blogs, participate to the discussion and after a while contact them to ask about a review, I wasn’t quite sure about that, so I just google it now, and was forwarded to this blog, I guess it’s good path I’m on.

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