All posts by Chris Christensen

I am the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog.

15 Tips for Choosing Bloggers to Work With

Earlier this year I was working with the agency for Airberlin to help them pick bloggers for a specific FAM trip to Germany.

This is a service we offer now at BloggerBridge.com but, It seemed like others might be interested in what sort of things I look for when looking for bloggers.

Background

Airberlin was organizing a trip to Düsseldorf for carnival. It was the 3rd year in a row they had offered this trip.

Pre-Filtering

The first year that Airberlin offered this trip we had 204 bloggers that were interested within a week. While it is great to have interest, that creates a lot of work. So the first thing we did for this trip is set some minimum qualifications:

  1. Domain Authority – We looked for a domain authority of 35 or greater. Domain authority is something a website gets overtime by being linked to by others. It is a decent sign of a blog that will drive SEO traffic to your website.
  2. Page Views – For this trip which included free airfare we set a minimum number of page views of 10,000.

Filtering

Even with those qualifications we ended up with 45 bloggers and only a few spots on the trip. So now we start to compare bloggers.

We had created this opportunity in BloggerBridge.com as a “One Click Apply”. That means that everyone who expressed interest in the trip was added to a list of bloggers. We can sort that list in different ways so:

3) I Sorted the list by traffic (page views) first and start at the top of the list to look at the different bloggers.

4) I also saved myself some time by creating some templates. I created one that said (in a nice way) “Sorry we had a lot of interest but and you did not make the cut”. I can then click a button to start a message to someone quickly.

Edit your BloggerBridge.com message templates here: https://bloggerbridge.com/message_templates

5) The next question for the client was, what are your requirements for location? language? audience?

The #2 slot on the list had a lot of traffic, but his blog is in Spanish about a specific European city, the city where he lives… and it wasn’t Düsseldorf. I eliminated him, because the content wasn’t relevant to this project which was trying to promote Airberlin to the U.S. market.

The list also had bloggers from Canada, a couple from Great Britain, one from India and one from the Philippines whose audience were not big in the U.S. We eliminated those as well.

6) I wouldn’t just pick the top 5 for traffic. Some of the bloggers are travel bloggers and some are not. I knew one  blogger, for instance, on the 1st page and she is great. The client would love her. But I will bet her most popular posts are recipes.

So if I pick a Lifestyle blogger or a parenting blogger, for instance,
I would want to ask how many page views they usually get for travel content. That is a reasonable question to ask.

7) I can even use the BloggerBridge.com campaign tracking feature to get the specific page views for a post which they have created in the past which is similar to what they expect to post for this project.

Maybe I would pick one of the family bloggers, or maybe I would do a whole blog trip with just them, but it would depend on the content and what their audience likes.

8) When I was on the first Düseeldorf trip we went to a drag queen competition because we were with a number of gay travel bloggers. You want to match the bloggers and the itinerary. So think about the bloggers you want before creating the itinerary or pick the bloggers that match the itinerary.

9) The blogger  who had the most traffic blogs about meals normally. So I asked the client did they have some good meals planned? Her site is a bit slow, but some of her travel content had great depth. I know this because by now I am looking at content on the bloggers sites.

10) I looked at time on site  in the Google Analytics for each blogger. Anything more than a minute long is typical, much under a minute is a concern.

One blogger had a 50 secs time on site. That is not low enough that I would reject her, but I noted a different blogger with over 2 minutes  time on her site which meant that even though she has almost half as many page views total, she gets more attention in terms of time people spend reading her site.

One blogger had a time on site that was only 28 seconds. The longest post I found on her site was 128 words. Skip her.

11) Ask around

I knew personally 5 of the bloggers on the list and they are all great to be around. For other people on your short list you can ask for the name of a PR rep that they have gone on a fam trip with.

12) Think mix. It might be nice to have one person who is good with video, at least one photographer, maybe at least one person with a strong social media following, especially because this is a big colorful event.

13) I sort the list by Instagram followers and look at the top couple.

I expect to see something like 30 likes / 1000 followers and the more comments the better. Our top Instagrammer had good numbers and probably more importantly, I liked her photos.

14) I sorted the list by You Tube subscribers to see if there were any people good with video, the carnival parade would make for some interesting video.

The top blogger by video followers have been around for a while, although I don’t know them personally. Some of their videos got a lot of views, but some didn’t,  so I checked out the next few on the list as well.

15) I sorted by total followers to see if there are some surprises

One blogger had a great facebook following, so she was worth looking at, but her time on site is not great and I only found one travel story on her blog. Her travel category was mostly movie reviews. Skip her.

Conclusion

By this point we had a pretty good short list. What would you do different?

BloggerBridge.com Updated Pricing

BloggerBridge.com but it is a tool used by a number of companies in the travel space (Context Travel, VisitBritain, VisitBelgium, AirBerlin, etc), to help identify, attract and manage bloggers. They are using these bloggers to create content to attract visitors to their company.

I wanted to let you know some updates for BloggerBridge.com:

1) We launched some new pricing for BloggerBridge.com this week. See below.

  • BloggerBridge.com has the profiles for thousands of bloggers
  • We track the schedules for 1200+ bloggers and can alert you when they are heading your way
  • We know the Google Analytics for 100s of bloggers
  • You can use BloggerBridge.com to advertise opportunities to bloggers
  • You can use blogger lists, projects and campaign tracking to help manager your work with bloggers

2) We are developing advanced features for managing bloggers. If you have experience with or interest in coordinating the work of lots of bloggers I would love to talk to you more. I will be looking for beta partners in early 2017.

3) We have also added a “Done For You” level of service for the many companies that I talk to that are not really looking for a tool, they just want someone to do the work for them.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Chris Christensen

Why I Ignored Your Press Release – A Blogger Perspective

Why I Ignored Your Press Release - A Blogger Perspective

In addition to running BloggerBridge.com, I have an award winning travel blog and podcast called Amateur Traveler, this post is written from the viewport of the 11 years I have spent as a travel blogger.

This is not one of those posts that complains about the quality of PR pitches that I get. Don’t get me wrong, I have enough material for that post but I thought it might be more useful to look at some of the underlying assumptions for PR pitches and whether those assumptions are valid  for bloggers.

As I understand the PR world there is the reality and the theory of PR. While the reality behind a PR pitch is often “my client wants me to announce this”, the theory is that a press release provides value it the following ways:

1) Reporters have to write a certain number of stories and are short of ideas so a Pitch can provide story ideas

2) News outlets are always in search of the latest news, I mean hey it’s right there in the name. A PR pitch is a great way to bring news to a reporters attention.

3) Reporters, freelancers in particular, are always looking for a new story angle that will  catch the eye of an editor. A good pitch can have a good story angle.

How are Bloggers the Same?

When you pitch me you are basically pitching my audience. What would they find interesting. I don’t see that as any different from pitching mainstream media. And of course most of the really bad pitches I get forget this basic thing. If I write you back:

“I blog about travel”

…then you forgot.

I get a lot of pitches. That too is the same as newspaper editors or freelancers I know. You are trying to stand out in a crowd.

So how are bloggers any different?

Many Hats

There is no one way to characterize bloggers. They have a greater variety of motivations to write in the first place. One big difference is that a blogger is often the publisher, the editor and the reporter all in one. That means that when you pitch me you are pitching the publisher as well as the reporter. I can guarantee a story will be written but I am thinking, how will this make me money, not just is this an interesting story. With sponsored posts that answer is obvious, but with any other story I have to believe that this post will get me a lot of traffic that I can monetize in some fashion.

Also many bloggers, like me, are doing blogging on the side in addition to some other full time or part time job. So when you pitch me your pitch also has to be good enough, to be interesting enough to write instead of making money.

Because blogging is just one of the things that I do, I have a backlog of story ideas. I checked recently and found I had over 250 different story ideas. In addition to podcasts and videos, I try and put out one solid blog post a week. That means even if I stop traveling today or stop getting new ideas tomorrow, I have literally 5 years worth of ideas. I don’t need more story ideas. What I lack is time not ideas. And yes, those bad pitches just take away from my most precious resource.

Deadlines

You can safely predict that tonight’s local news show will be an hour long and could safely predict about how many pages will be in tomorrow’s newspaper or next month’s issue of your favorite magazine. They all come out on a deadline and on a slow news cycle may need some help filling up the space. Blogs have no such deadlines except those that may be self imposed by the blogger, and there is no white space or dead air that needs filling.

Shelf Life

The other thing that is different about my blog, and many blogs, is that what I am looking at is stories that have good shelf life. I want a story that is good tomorrow but is still valuable in 5 years. Much of my traffic comes from search engines so even if I am not promoting an older story, often then most popular post on my blog wasn’t written this year.

This is the good news about working with bloggers. Your newspaper article will be at the bottom of the birdcage tomorrow. Your TV spot forgotten by next Thursday. Even most online mainstream media sites delete stories after a year or so (madness).

But, this actually means that I am not looking for news. That is to say I am not looking for a story that is timely so much as I am looking for one that is timeless and useful. So ever one who pitches me a new hotel opening or a hotel deal is pitching me something that is generally of no use to me. Why would I spend my limited amount of time available for writing on a story that is obsolete next week or next month?

Conclusion

Before you pitch another blogger, look at what you are sending and see if it makes sense. If you aren’t sure, ask. See if you can learn what might be interesting. Sending really bad pitches will get your email treated like spam. Sending boring pitches will at best, get it ignored.

How about picking a hand full of bloggers this week who you would really like to work with and spending a few minutes asking them what kind of things they look for? What have you got to lose?

FIR #31: Bring Back The Tourists!

Chris Christensen, our CEo, was a guest on this week’s episode of the For Immediate Release podcast – FIR #31: Bring Back The Tourists! Topics included crisis management communications for destination. We look at some good and bad examples.

  • The panel included:
    BloggerBridge CEO Chris Christensen (who also hosts the Amateur Traveler podcast),
  • Voce Communications Senior VP Christopher Barger (who is about to open Christopher Barger Communications)
  • CustomScoop founder Chip Griffin
  • Shel Holtz – host of For Immediate Release

Topics included…

  • The implications for communicators of the growing trend of corporations embracing gay rights and issuing public statements opposing statewide legislation that restricts those rights
  • Egypt’s plan to win back tourists despite no recognition in the plan of terror risks, while Mexico has found a way to address the Zika virus
  • The widely reported story of an executive who deleted his entire startup with a single line of code, which turned out to be a publicity stunt
  • The decline in personal posts on Facebook and how it affects communicators who have invested heavily in Facebook as a channel
  • Dan York’s report on Facebook’s F8 developer conference
    The pivot to video by many news organizations and whether company communicators need to follow suit
  • Communication jobs opening up focused on writing the scripts chatbots use

Campaign Tracking in BloggerBridge (video)

One of the most requested features from companies using BloggerBridge has been the ability to track how many page views the various blog posts being written for them or about them by bloggers are getting. Companies want to see this data today but also want to track it a month from now, six months from now, etc.

Bloggers want this reporting to be simple and quick.

To meet both needs we have added campaign tracking to BloggerBridge which we think will make it easy for both companies and for bloggers. See how it works in this video:

Message Templates – Save Time When Contacting Bloggers

One of the companies using BloggerBridge.com had a number of people interested in a new opportunity which they posted last week. They found themselves sending some of the same information over and over again to different bloggers. Messages like:

“Hey, looks great we would love to have you join us and here are the details…”

or

“It appears that you didn’t see in the opportunity where I said that the requirements for this opportunity were…”

To save them some time and to save you in some time in the future we have added message templates to the system so that you can at least start that email with the part you keep adding over and over. You can define a message and a button name and we will add that button to:

  • Search results
  • User profiles
  • Message Viewing
  • User List management

So you can quickly send a message and move on. You can find a new tab under the Messages tab called “Templates” where you can create, delete or edit new templates. All enabled templates will show up as buttons in the places above.

This feature is only available to companies.

Here is a demo of the feature.

What do you think?

Where BloggerBridge Bloggers are Located Now or In the Future

I was curious. We have been tracking the locations of hundreds of the thousands of bloggers in BloggerBridge for a while now. Probably the number one way that most connections are currently made in BloggerBridge is by companies that are watching for bloggers coming to a specific city. But, I wondered, where are the bloggers and where are they going?

So I hit the BloggerBridge database and pulled out some data. I queried for the location of all the bloggers in the present or the future and got this map:

Map of bloggers locations or plans

Where BloggerBridge Bloggers are Located Now or in the Future
where in the USA are BloggerBridge Bloggers Now or in the Future

That’s a lot of locations! That’s a lot of bloggers!

Blogger Outreach – Thinking Beyond the Press Release

For Immediate Release

I have only been blogging for a little over 11 years, and my background is not traditional journalism.

But, the theory goes, a traditional journalist is paid on salary at is always looking for new story ideas to fill the many column inches of writing that are required from them. The idea behind a press release them is that you’re trying to provide story ideas for someone in need of them.

I know that there have always been good press releases and bad press releases. A good press release alerts you to a story that would be of interest to your readers. A bad press release is usually more related to the story you wish your boss wishes people would be interested in. A really bad press release is poorly written, poorly targeted, and just plain boring.

When targeting bloggers with press releases, however, there are additional issues.

Different Economic Model

In traditional journalism, the stories are supported by advertising. It’s advertising that pays journalist salaries. It’s advertising that pays for the means of production and it’s advertising that pays for editors, marketing, and office space.

Few, if any, of the bloggers that I know make their living from advertising. Bloggers tend to make their living from other jobs, other work, affiliate revenue, consulting, or their own products. I find it more common that a professional blogger has a backlog of story ideas, photos and they haven’t used, but what they lack it’s time. That is particularly true of the blogger who is living is earned from some other job.

What a press release asks for from a blogger is their most critical resource, their time. What it delivers in value, needs to be measured against that.

Different Release Long Term Value

The press release was invented in a time when most stories were written in newspapers and magazines. Both had a certain number of column inches to fill on a regular basis. The hot story today is at the bottom of the birdcage the next day. This meant that timely news was the most important.

For many if not most bloggers, the most read post on their site this week was not written this week. It may have been written years ago but continues to get search engine traffic, referred traffic and possibly even social media traffic. This means that a blogger has a bigger incentive for creating deep and valuable content than they do for creating timely content.

On my blog I am specifically not looking for any stories that will be obsolete in a week a month or maybe even in a year. That means I don’t write about sales. I don’t write about what’s happening this weekend or even in the next few months. I am much more interested in the annual festival than the new festival.

Global Audience

If you are looking for a local audience, working with a blogger is not always the right choice. The internet gives us readers, listeners and viewers around the world. My own Amateur Traveler podcast is used to teach English at Oxford University and in the German and Canadian school systems. It is also used to test English comprehension by the Thailand Foreign Ministry.

For a blogger with a national or international audience the same story that you pitch to the local newspaper might not be as valuable. A good blogger is always asking the question about what does their audience need or want. In the travel space, I have to realize that when I talk about a destination, the majority of my audience would have to fly there. That becomes a filter then for me. Is this a destination worth the cost, trouble and time to fly to?

The issue is not just relevance to the reader but also uniqueness to both the reader and to the search engine. It used to be that if the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Antonio Express both picked up and ran the same story that no one cared. In fact the wire services were even created to promote that duplication. Understand that a professional blogger is looking for a story that they can make their own.

Some Recent Press Releases for my Travel blog

I received about 50-100 press releases last week. I learned:

  • California’s state bus is officially named: “Golden State.” Seriously?
  • News about 2 horse races and 2 people races, even though in 10 years I have not written about races of any kind
  • Who the new Dean of Hospitality and Tourism is at a top school is (travel, but why do I care?)
  • That one hotel I have never heard of join a hotel group that I have also never heard of
  • News about a high tech light bulb… twice… possibly interesting but I write about travel
  • The news that Fisher Unitech has been given authorization to sell stratasys 3D printers and services in the state of West Virginia… I just marked that one as spam
  • An infographic for Star Wars (I write about travel)
  • That one company (who I don’t know and who is not in the travel space) has a new sales leaders (that I don’t care about)
  • Two new suitcases from different companies… hey that’s travel related!

Honestly some PR people seem to assume that the more that they write me the more likely I will write about their stories but I think the opposite may be true. I unsubscribe or for the most egregious mark them as spam. Yes, you can buy a list of bloggers and email them twice a week, but that doesn’t make the story more interesting.

Conclusion

If you’ve ever sent a press release to a blogger and thought it unprofessional when they respond in anger or frustration, consider also that you may not understand their profession.

Before you sent that email, did you pause and consider “what value am I bringing?”.

10 Ways that BloggerBridge makes your life better for a DMO

10 Ways that BloggerBridge makes your life better for a DMO

1) You know that you need more content for your website but content takes time to create. BloggerBridge.com will help you contact local bloggers who know about your destination. Don’t go it alone, find local allies.

2) You don’t have a huge budget to be flying in writers, bloggers, photographers. Wouldn’t you want to know of people who already have plans to visit. You might be able to get some content just for comping a night in a hotel or two or maybe just tickets to that new museum will help publicize it. Be opportunistic, make your budget go further.

3) You are traveling to a different city to meet with local press. Find out which influencers will also be in the area that day, even if they are just passing through. Multiply your efforts, get more for your travel dollars.

4) There are thousands of different bloggers you know you could work with but how are you supposed to know who has the most influence. BloggerBridge.com will help you compare bloggers side by side. Make better decisions, optimize.

5) You know that you could be doing better with your social media, but who has the time to learn. Find content creators for your next press trip who also do consulting and have them teach a half day class for you and your steak holders. Get Smarter, find help.

6) You know you could get more traffic if you had more content or better content on your website. Find content creators who you can pay to create additional content, because you have enough to do. Prioritize your time, outsource.

7) Yes, you usually tell people that your destination has something for everyone, but you know that isn’t true. Whether your target audience is families, business travelers or adventurers, you can use BloggerBridge.com to find niche bloggers to focus on the people you are looking for. Find your niche, specialize.

8) You have some great content, great! But how do you get the word out about your message. Use BloggerBridge.com to find content creators who have loads of followers. Amplify your message, socialize.

9) Those content creators you contracted to, connected with, reached out to, or hosted will probably want to work with you again. Use BloggerBridge.com to organize content creators into different lists to make your work easier next time you want to reach out. Don’t just contact content creators, collect them.

10) You are doing well, you now have a number of projects outsourced and new content coming in daily. Don’t drop the ball on what you need to do with all these moving pieces. Use BloggerBridge.com’s workflow feature to keep track of who is late or who you own a review or a check. Keep your sanity, organize.

10 Ways that BloggerBridge makes your life better for a DMO