Amazing hyperlocal technicolor dream bloggers sound off

27th Mar 2012 | Posted by Stephen Brown Stephen Brown's picture

This week Cohn & Wolfe Atlanta helped underscore the importance of hyperlocal journalism in grassroots engagement by linking corporations, institutions and agency communications practitioners with Georgia-based bloggers at a PRSA|GA breakfast meeting. A spoonful of citizen journalism met a dollop of local color for a program that helped businesses recognize important findings about how bloggers like to be approached and activated.

Despite some detractors who claim hyperlocal journalism may not offer a sustainable advertising model, public relations pros have found a boomtown of news placement opportunities with hyperlocal, hometown opportunities on sites such as The Examiner. Especially if an organization’s business goals involve reaching and engaging niche consumers on a local level, TLC to the hyperlocal bloggers is a must.

On behalf of the state PR society,  Cohn & Wolfe Atlanta invited a congregation of agenda-setting bloggers from a variety of B2C and B2B beats:  Malika Harricharan, founder of the Association of Food Bloggersand creator of Atlanta Restaurant Blog; Louis Mayeux, editor of AOL news site Buckhead Patch; Kristi York Wooten, who writes about music, art and social justice for The Huffington Post; Meghan Cooper, contributor to parenting blogs such as Atlanta Moms on the Move and My Atlanta Moms; and Jason Pye, a political blogger for Peach Pundit.

The bloggers immediately smashed a widely-held assumption that they only want news if it’s an exclusive. Many in the media pitching business had come to believe that press releases were antiquated in a world where a one-on-one exclusive offer to a gatekeeper could result in a high-impact, single-source scoop.  Turns out, the bloggers love press releases and don’t mind news being ubiquitous before considering covering it as well. For the bloggers, having information previously published on other sites, blogs or social networks actually makes them more likely to cover a topic or event and add their own spin or angle, stoking the groundswell of a movement.

It’s all about the hyperlink, they shared. These bloggers were adamant that events or new products be written up on other sites so they could hyperlink to them.  Moreover, they shared that detailed event descriptions on Facebook Events are a great repository for information for their readers. In fact, some thought Twitter and Facebook Notes features are starting to replace some traditional blog formats.

In the age of dubious facts from multiple sources, the bloggers shared they rely on PR practitioners for accurate information. The group suggested that Twitter is one of the best ways to follow and pitch them.  In fact, several on the panel said PR pros don't take advantage of Twitter enough to contact and keep up with their preferences. Following bloggers’ Twitter feeds is a good way to get a capsule look at trends and topics dear to their hearts.

The bloggers emphasized the importance of email subject lines and that the “headline is everything” in grabbing their attention. Additionally, they expressed surprise that many communicators don’t customize their pitches to the individual; that causes a pretty fast “delete.”

Pictures are still very important. Even those writing restaurant or product reviews said they snap their own pictures but aren’t averse to getting official photography as well. The mom blog panelist revealed Pinterest is now her second biggest traffic builder behind Twitter.

While Jason Pye was resolute that he’s a “blogger, not a journalist” and therefore holds fast to his personal opinions  as the currency of his writing, others were open to solicitations for partnerships, reviews, events and more – all with full transparency and authenticity to their beats.

Best of all, after asking live questions, the PR group dug deeper with an exercise to pitch the bloggers in real time with pitch notes provided at each table. Each of the 70 breakfast attendees wrote one-on-one solicitations to the bloggers on color-coded note cards. The in-room sample yielded a record set of colored cards for the food and business bloggers in particular, even while the policy wonks bent the political blogger’s ear in person.  All in all, it was refreshing to discover the openness of this set of bloggers to hear from marketers. And their preferences will guide coming months of new connections for brands seeking hyperlocal relevance.

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