Why don’t higher ed PR folks pitch to bloggers?

One thing to come out of last week’s conference on how colleges can obtain publicity is that very few college and university PR people are pitching bloggers. We’re still trying to get our stories into a shrinking news hole in print, TV or radio. Meanwhile, more and more traditional journalists are also writing for their organizations’ websites. (Case in point: Newsweek science writer Sharon Begley, who was the subject of last week’s Friday Five. She’s posting a few times a week on her blog, in addition to writing for the offline version of the magazine.)

During one of the roundtable sessions at the conference, I asked how many at the table (a dozen or so PR pros) were pitching their stories to bloggers. Nobody was.

Why aren’t we pitching to bloggers? At the conference, I heard two primary reasons:

  1. It just hadn’t occurred to us. We don’t think of bloggers as sources for our news.
  2. Bloggers lack the credibility of traditional news outlets. We don’t think our supervisors, alumni, etc., will be that impressed by a blogger picking up our story.

At least colleges and universities haven’t gone to the extreme of some PR agencies that have been called out and publicly humiliated for routinely spamming bloggers. Still, there are plenty of legitimate blogs that would make tremendous outlets for our stories. They are influential in certain circles, and they can also become a vehicle to more mainstream media coverage.

Why not give it a try? But first, make sure you don’t send out something that could end up here. Know your audience. Be smart about your online PR approach, just as you are with your offline pitching.

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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

11 thoughts on “Why don’t higher ed PR folks pitch to bloggers?”

  1. I have successfully pitched bloggers, but I try very hard to be strategic about it. I follow the normal rules of pitching: 1) Make it relevant (read the blog first!); 2) Make it short; 3) Have a news hook.

    This may be easier for those of us who have a narrow beat — mine’s healthcare!

  2. I’m pitched more and more by higher ed institutions, but it might be explained by the fact that I also write for UB.

    What I can say is that my blog is read by higher ed reporters and editors. So, I think it’s definitely a good idea to pitch bloggers to get your stories out there and in search results (blogs and Google have a special relationship as you might know). Journalists do use blogs to find story ideas, which is why bloggers should be pitched (and that doesn’t mean put on a general mailing list) even if you’re just trying to reach mainstream media.

  3. Interesting post. I wonder if there’s going to be a shift here that will force our (higher ed PR folks’) hands — community bloggers.

    If colleges don’t have them already, it would be surprising if, in the near future, they don’t have people in their geographic area blogging about them or others who’ve latched onto a niche (say a particular type of research, etc.) who will be blogging about what’s happening on campus.

    Probably time to get on the bandwagon.

  4. Ellen – I agree that it’s probably easier to pitch if you have a focused beat, such as health. Our campus focuses on science and technology, so that also makes it easier sometimes to pick a group of blogs to pitch to. What is the perception among your administration on the value of blog hits vs. traditional media hits?

    Karine – I’d be interested in your take on the pitches you receive. Are they relevant, for the most part? Worthwhile? Any words of wisdom for the higher ed PR community?

    Charlie – I think we’ll be seeing more of exactly what you suggest: bloggers in our communities, and many of them forming online blogging communities or group blogs of their own. Philly Future http://www.phillyfuture.org/ is one that comes to mind.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. I think a lot of institutions that have people at the helm who aren’t as plugged into blogs or the digitalspace as the ought to be, would be surprised to know how much influence blogs have and what importance it can be to just “put stuff out there” a lot of the time.

    So while savvier folks are taking advantage, I think it’s still something that others aren’t as warm to embrace because it doesn’t occur to them that it could truly help them.

  6. I’ve done a bit of blogger outreach, more on a local PR level with bloggers who cover our city. I’m also working on a plan to involve a few local bloggers in a new facility announcement, by giving them info and access to take photos and video of a proposed heritage building redevelopment/campus expansion. They might even get access before the mainstream media. Of course, no one north of my pay grade has any idea abou tthis plan yet, so we’ll see what happens.

  7. Ron – I agree with your statement: “I think a lot of institutions that have people at the helm who aren’t as plugged into blogs or the digitalspace as the ought to be.” That’s the case on our campus, but we have strong supporters in the administration who saw the impact of our Name Change Conversations blog http://namechange.mst.edu during the past year.

    Stephanie – I think colleges and universities need to use both approaches: pitching to bloggers and blogging ourselves. We’ve been successful with blogging (see link above and also http://visions.mst.edu ).

    Colin – Sometimes it’s best to not let the higher-ups know what you’re up to until you can prove some success. Good luck!

    Dennis – My pleasure.

  8. I agree with Ron in general, but it really depends on the (internal) client.

    I have some who work in very focused areas who do understand that their target audience is probably reading the blogs I’m pitching.

    The only reason I don’t do more blogger pitching is time/resource constraints. I want to do it well if I’m doing it and, like most public higher ed institutions, we’re understaffed for what we’re expected to do. I have to prioritize fairly brutally.

    That said, my RSS feed reader is my VERY BEST FRIEND w/regard to not missing anything important in the course of a normal day.

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