Going a little off-topic today, I'm going to address an issue I deal with daily - public relations people sending me press releases. In general, I appreciate the effort and can often find great things I wouldn't have found out about until after it was too late or not at all. However, if PR folk followed a few steps that I shall propose below, a considerable amount of time and energy could be spared on both ends.
I don't speak for all bloggers in this post, just me. Some bloggers indulge in throwing up press releases and adding a sentence about how great something it is. Others ignore them completely while some (like me) are in middle ground and bite on the obscure, interesting ones.
Checklist for Public Relations People
1) Has the press release been on TechCrunch, Mashable, Digg or any other such sites? Bloggers love their RSS and have probably heard of it already and not found it interesting enough to write about. Regardless of whether they have heard about it or not, bloggers love having exclusive content. If bloggers write about your press release that has already been on the blogosphere it makes them look like just another insignificant part of the echo chamber. Not good.
2) Does the press release adequately fit the blogger's genre? I get a lot of press releases that fall into this category. I like technology, plain and simple. I often leave that new-fangled Web 2.0 and social network stuff to other sites. Before considering writing about your press release I think to myself "Will this get comments?" - keep that in mind. If you're not sure, browse/search through the bloggers archives to see if they have written about similar topics in the past.
3) Are you sending the press release days in advance, right at launch time or a week after it has been announced? The earlier the better. This gives bloggers time to prepare a great post before the post embargo ends so they can be the first out there. For example, I was given information about OpenDNS's shortcuts feature before it went live. I took the extra time to write a thorough post showing users what the feature was and how they could use it to better their Internet experience, et cetera. As such, the article did well and I even got linked in the NY Times.
4) Do you know the blogger's name? Use it. I can't begin to tell you how many blatant copy-and-paste press releases I have received. Some were horribly impersonal such as "Dear Editor", while others were completely off base with "Dear Greg". My name is plastered all over my site, please use it. Most bloggers have an about page, read that at first to find out their name. Furthermore, add a personal touch with something along the lines of "I know you have been adept at blogging about site optimization recently so I want to share with you..." and close with "If you're ever in Silicon Valley, drop by our headquarters for a tour!".
5) Are there any other value-added perks along with your press release? This includes everything from beta invites to the service's closed-beta, exclusive rights to post something (ie, you only send the press release to me for the first day), a full version of the software to good product images or screenshots that can be used in my post. If your press release is about a hardware item, you will get a reply from me asking if I can review it. Don't make me ask, just send it over.
Furthermore, can you provide any benefits that the blogger can handout to his/her readers? Exclusive downloads,
ringtones (just kidding), beta invites, et cetera.
6) If a blogger writes about your press release or replies to your email, reply back. Even better if you comment on the blogger's article.
7) Future correspondence is great, just don't expect a reply back for every single email. Do I look like I'm Michael Arrington? I don't really care if your company has a new CEO, unless it's Steve Jobs. Also, think to yourself "Can the blogger write a substantial post on this press release?". There's only so much I can talk about when it comes to the Microsoft Zune being offered in Pink.
8) Think twice about contacting bloggers about things they are not cool enough to be a part of. Press releases about TED or FooCamp just make me feel bad. What's that Tim, I'm invited to next year's FooCamp!?
9) Do not send the same email again if you don't get a reply. This triggers the "oh hell no" response and causes most bloggers to immediately delete any further emails from you.
10) "We would like to fly you out to..." is a great way to start an email. Even better if it ends with "meet Steve Jobs".
11) Bloggers, do you have anything to add?
The Next Step for Bloggers
Get GMail Blogger Edition (beta) to recognize which press release emails bloggers reply to (and if they reply positively or negatively) and offer a feature to auto-reply/auto-delete emails based on past user actions with predefined rejection emails.