How to get bloggers to help tell your stories
Following the tweets from the Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention this week has reminded me just how fast the world of digital communications is moving. There are still lots of sessions on using social media to support fundraising and campaigning as well as interest in specific areas like crowdfunding and using blogs and bloggers.
This reminded me of an article in Third Sector I’d seen in February which shared the story of how some charities are engaging bloggers as part of their media campaigns. The author, Helen Barrett, illustrated the different approaches being tried by larger charities such as Cancer Research UK and Action Aid (use a third party agency to help engage bloggers on a charity’s behalf) and Amnesty International UK (who prefer to keep communications with supporters in-house and try to embed the social media approach internally).
I found the examples interesting but the learnings are even more powerful if added to the outputs from the Convention above:
- Social media isn’t a standalone activity – it should be integrated with other campaigning, brand or fundraising activities
- Getting bloggers on board is about building a relationship with them first rather than treating them like a journalist working to a print deadline (check out CharityComms for more detail on this). And ultimately accepting that it may be a two-way relationship in the future
- That said, when the right messages do go viral – through social media generally or specifically through bloggers – they can be hugely powerful (see recent post on Sussex Road Safety Video). Marketing guru Seth Godin’s blog generated over 600,000 ‘engagement points’ in 2009. That’s real people engaging with his content, not just page views. Any topic he discussed would therefore have been seen and copied, linked to, recommended, tweeted, liked on Facebook etc. a huge number of times beyond this.
So, looking at bloggers in particular, what can we do if we don’t have the resources to hire a specialist agency, know a marketing guru or have a team of 20 to start blogging for us? Actually, we can still do quite a bit. Here are a few ideas to help find and engage with bloggers to help tell your charity’s stories:
- First, plan your digital stories. Know what you want to say as part of your integrated campaigning or fundraising activities
- Use online tools like Google blog search to find bloggers who share your interests or aims and who might therefore be positively inclined to write about your stories
- Make a shortlist from these results by assessing against some or all of these criteria
- those who blog frequently and consistently
- tone and content doesn’t contradict your brand values (you’re not looking for a perfect match)
- have a large number of readers
- they reach the target audience you want to influence (key!)
- they have links to other social media platforms so the message gets spread even further
- they engage with their audience (lots of comments and answers by the author)
- Check your shortlist with your peers and colleagues and see who is recommended or read by these guys
- Don’t ask for help straight away as you are less likely to get it!
- Instead, start to build a rapport with your final shortlist – post comments on their blog, answer questions and provide information that their readers will find useful. Incorporate some of your stories and who you are into your comments so that people start to recognise your cause and the great work you do. If possible, share videos and pictures to bring your stories to life
- Where appropriate, recommend their blog in your social media channels and to your contacts. If possible, link it to your online pages and show the blogger that you’ve done this. You’re not ‘selling’ them – if you genuinely believe the content will be valuable to others, you are doing them a favour by recommending the blog. You are also earning brownie points with the author
- After a short period (no hard and fast rules but at least a month or so) of building rapport, contact the blogger directly. Explain that you feel there is a real synergy between their content and your stories and ask if they would help you tell them
- Provide whatever they need in terms of background information, campaign briefings etc and thank them for their help (just like any other supporter)
- Don’t drop the relationship once your campaign is finished! Treat them like a supporter or campaigner and keep them up to date. You could do this by adding them to an existing stewardship programme (if they agree) or other supporter communications programme
- Be prepared to reciprocate if asked or at least continue to add value to their blog with answers to questions, comments, pictures of your activities etc. where relevant
- Use your existing social media tracking tools to measure any uplift in activity as a result of the bloggers’ involvement and feed back results to them as a courtesy. They will love to know their posts helped your cause and will be more inclined to support you in the future.
What else would you add or have you done to encourage bloggers to support your cause?