The Art of the Business Part 8: Becoming more Bloggable

Last month I talked about the basics of starting your own blog. In this month’s column, the second of three on blogging, I talk about how to use new media as a way of promoting your art event.

If you google Vancouver blog, the number one hit is Miss 604. Rebecca Bolwitt is a born-and-bred-in-Vancouver professional blogger and podcaster, whose Vancouver-centric blog garners 40,000-50,000 unique visitors a month.

I interviewed Rebecca about how new media is changing the face of traditional media, and how we, as artists, can use it to help market ourselves.

RC: How do you think blogs are changing the face of traditional media?

RB: Blogs are making traditional media know that they need to be more immediate. The thing about a blog versus a newspaper is that it [the newspaper] can’t change. The thing about blogging is that you can post a news story in the morning, and it can change through the day. You can have comments on it, you can continue the discussion. What blogging is doing for traditional media is that it’s making them realize that it’s becoming a two way discussion. You can hear back from your readers, and not just in traditional ways like letters to the editors.

Secondly, you can also go mobile—people can get updates on their phone, have online subscriptions—RSS—so the news goes to your inbox every morning, instead of your front door mat.

Thirdly, anybody can be a producer. Anybody can produce content, have people pay attention to it and watch it. Everyone can be a part of what the internet is becoming. And what the internet is becoming is something that traditional media outlets can no longer ignore—since it is so huge, it is so big, and it’s engaging people in conversation.

RC: Do you think blogs are gaining in credibility (as compared to mainstream media)?

RB: Yes, definitely. If I’m writing a post about Vancouver history, I research my pieces; from my dad, from textbooks, from online sources. I can quote them, and link back to my original source, which you can’t always do in a newspaper. People can also call you on it if you make mistakes. In that way, blogs can be very credible. We are gaining in credibility, however it is a very slow process.

A lot of people are scared of bloggers. People are still very hesitant to trust bloggers, because there are few bad seeds out there, and there are some who are doing it just for fun, but there are also those who would like to gain credibility in the mainstream realm.

RC: If I have an art event to promote, and I invite the mainstream media to come out and see it, we have a kind of unspoken contract that we will let them in for free, and they will give us some press about it. Does it work the same way with bloggers?

RB: Absolutely. If you are willing to give me access to your event and blog about it, certainly.
The thing about bloggers is, if you invite us to your event, we are very open and honest and transparent. That’s the big thing about blogging. If we’ve been invited to an event for free and in exchange we are writing a post about it, we are going to be honest about our experience. We can say if we had a bad time—or not. That’s just the way it is. We have no editor to report to, just ourselves, and as long as we let them know. I don’t want people to think I am being paid off to write positive reviews.

RC: How do I know that a blogger is legitimate? Anyone can have their own blog, what if they are just looking for free tickets?

RB: This is a very valid question. To know a blogger is legitimate, you need to know their first and last name, not just their handle. You need to know who this person is. Google them, and find out that they don’t also have a blog that is terrible and illegal. Ask around town and see if people know them, have heard of them. But most importantly, read their blog, and see what they’re all about. Make sure they are the right type of person you would want at your event—if it’s a fit. Also, if you are looking for the most reach, don’t be afraid of asking for their stats. Bloggers check their stats. How many unique visitors do they have every month?

RC: How do I pitch my event to you?

RB: If someone copies and pastes a press release in an email to me without even a “Hi, Rebecca!” or a “Hi, Miss 604!” I’m probably not going to pay much attention to it. You need to be personal. You need to know what the blogger’s about. Read their site.

Let the blogger have free access to it. For me, if it’s not on my radar as something I’m already going to attend or can/would attend, I would need that incentive.

To pitch an event to a blogger, you have to realize what they are writing about, You have read their site, and then contact them, either through email or a contact form on their site.

RC: Is it okay to ask a blogger about their stats?

RB: Yes it is!! 90% of bloggers look at their stats, and where traffic is coming from. A big thing for bloggers is to give them link love. What that means is, if you have a website link back to the blogger once they’ve written about you. That makes us feel really good. We like that people are paying attention, that they are open to bloggers, open to communication. It makes me want to deal with them in the future, and recommending them to my friends.

RC: What are some good blogs to pitch to?

RB: Try pitching to the group blogs in Vancouver. I also blog for Metroblogging Vancouver, and we have about 8 authors right now. Some focus on politics, some on food, so you can submit to us and someone will pick it up. Beyond Robson is another Vancouver group blog. The good thing about group blogs is that, more than likely, someone will be writing about your subject matter, and pick it up.

Other good ones to submit to are ones you read. If you read someone’s blog, and you have an event coming up, pitch it to them. If it’s a food event, find some food bloggers. If it’s a sporting event, find some sports bloggers. A good way to find popular blogs is to just google them. It means that they are doing it right, and have excellent SEO (search engine optimization).

RC: Any additional words of wisdom for using blogs/bloggers to promote your art event?

RB: The biggest thing in dealing with bloggers is reading blogs. Find some daily reads, the ones that you enjoy, and those are probably going to be the ones you are wanting to pitch to. You don’t want to send them a big huge press release, you want to be personal. NO generic “Dear Sir/Madam”. Be personable. Blogging is very personal, it’s a real discussion, it’s person to person, it’s comments, it’s transparent. Bloggers love free stuff, and when they get free stuff, they will write about it. Make sure you supply them with your website so they can link back to you, which will help drive traffic to your site.

In conclusion:

  • NO copy and paste press releases
  • Let the blogger know you’re reading their stuff
  • Make sure the event is a good fit
  • Link back

– Rebecca Bolwitt, Rebecca Coleman, Simon Ogden and Rob Parker of YaYah Studios will all be participating on a panel discussion tenatively called The New Face of Marketing: Facebook, Text and the Bloggers’ World at the Making a Scene Theatre Conference on Friday, November 14 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Granville Island.

Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Titania Productions, a Vancouver Marketing and Public Relations Company.

Miss 604 image via Miss 604

For a streaming or downloadable podcast of this post (the interview in its entirety), click here.

15 thoughts on “The Art of the Business Part 8: Becoming more Bloggable

  1. “NO copy and paste press releases.

    Let the blogger know you’re reading their stuff.

    Make sure the event is a good fit.

    Link back.”

    This is good advice. I go through a ton of promo stuff emailed to the blog@praxistheatre.com address. Things that are personally addressed to the company (e.g., “Dear Praxis blog”) are 100% more likely to get my attention, for what that’s worth.

    Great interview.

  2. Very true. And I get a wack of press releases and such emailed to me that have no indication whatsoever of what they would like me to do with it. Write an article on it? Go and see it? Review it? List it? Share it? I honestly have no idea. And when I write back asking what they want me to do, 85% of the time I get no response.

    It’s just weird.

  3. Marketing is really simple at its core. It’s just about building and maintaining relationships. That requires research, and some back-and-forthing while you get to know the person and build that relationship with them. Being personable will get you far….
    BTW, Thanks for the props, Ian.

  4. Building and maintaining relationships. That’s so true. I think many young marketers, or would-be marketers, get swept away in the thrill (ahem) of the press release, and totally neglect the social element of marketing and PR.

    I guess since so few independent theatre companies have team members dedicated to these pursuits, it’s understandable – though not forgivable.

    One of my big problems with marketing at present is scaleability. Even if I knew a lot about theatre marketing, how would I empower team members to help me out with it as the stakes get higher?

    The Praxis Theatre blog, for example. When I try to bring new team members in, it tends to bog down while I try to teach them how to think and do exactly as I do. A losing and undesirable proposition, obviously.

    Scaleability. Any advice?

  5. Oof, that’s a good one Ian. I guess the key is to find someone involved with the company that’s actually excited about the process of marketing, something which is revealing itself to be a huge stretch in theatre artists. They’re all about ‘living in the moment’. I find if they don’t have a true head for it and are just doing it to ‘pitch in’ in some way, that the demands of it quickly dampen the enthusiasm of even the most eager artists. Marketing is an exercise in patience and long-term payoff, with little immediate measurable results. It takes a unique kind of vision.

    So, how do we ‘sex up’ marketing?

  6. Question: just read the post about “putting a value on your work”. This might be a sensitive subject but, how do you justify the time spent blogging, when the money aspect seems to be missing. If it’s wise for artists to seek money for doing their art, should not bloggers be wise to go work for paying news sources that have an actual revenue stream? It might give you less editorial control, but the same could be said for artistic control with artists. Seems strange that advice would be good for one and not the other, or, why is blogging cooler than traditional media, but “starving artists” doing theatre for free should learn that making money isn’t all that bad?

  7. Hey Ben, valid questions all. I can’t speak for the Rebeccas, but for myself, as a blogger and as a theatre artist the two are mutually inclusive. I need theatre to become more popular so that I can make more money off of it, and I believe that to make that happen there needs to be a lot more discussion about it. That’s why I blog here, to hopefully get conversations started, which will raise theatre in the public consciousness, which will translate into a bigger paying audience down the road. And I can advertise my own work for free to a substantial readership.

    And it should be noted that blogging isn’t all done for no revenue, I know of a lot of bloggers that make well into the six figures, believe it or not, and they do it on blogs that are in areas equally as niche as theatre.

  8. I think blogging is a marketing tool. It’s a secondary marketing tool, though, not a direct one, like having business cards or a website. It connects people with ‘the real you’, the person behind the product or service.
    I write these blog posts for a couple of reasons. One is, I’m really passionate about helping artists to take themselves more seriously, and to become more business like. The other is, by putting myself out there as someone who knows something about this stuff (ha!!), I increase the chance of someone finding me and hiring me.
    I can’t say that I’ve ever gotten a job directly from the blog, but it is a nice ‘value added’ service.
    Plus, I love to write, and I love being part of the blogging community. So, I guess I do it for intrinsic values, but if I make money off it, that would be great.
    And like Simon, I’m in for the long run. Who knows where it will lead? It’s a brave new world…

  9. Ian, re: scaleability.

    I think one of the ways to make this easier as things grow is to document what you’re doing. Deconstruct it. Lay out the step by step process.

    Not only do you end up creating a training manual for your team. Which will take a lot of the pressure off you having to spend so much time training. But you also create system that could help out other theaters.

    Hope this helps.

    D.

  10. Pingback: Interview Mania » Vancouver Blog Miss 604 by Rebecca Bollwitt

  11. I think the interview was great. Rebecca Bollwitt is my “go-to” person whenever I need anything social media, because she is so knowledgeable and always willing to share it (I call her my blogging Jedi Master).

    One thing that I’ve noticed now that my blog has taken off is that many good PR people DO follow the pitching rules that Miss604 was mentioning.

    My blog is known for being random (hence the title, Random Thoughts of a Student of the Environment). So I get invited to ALL sorts of things… food events, theatre events, tech events, environmental events.

    When good PR people pitch me, they *know* that they *should* be reading my blog or otherwise, I’d detect that they have not been doing their research.

    If you tell me “Raul, I see that you’ve been wanting to go to the Fringe Festival but haven’t had a chance to go. Here’s one opportunity you might want to take…” then I’m certain that you’ve read my blog (because I haven’t been to the Fringe in, like, EVER!). But if you tell me “Dear Hummingbird604”, I will most certainly erase the email.

    I am repeating some of the points that Miss604 has made, come to think about it! Anyhow, one additional one that I have noticed in a good PR pitch that I just received – make sure that the blogger knows that he/she can be very honest and fortright about his/her review. Rebecca also touched on this, but some PR people are not so specific.

    If a PR person wants to pitch me, they have to let me write openly. AND on the topic of stats – they *need* to know that stats is not only unique views but also Technorati ranking, Google Page Rank, etc. I kind of pride myself in not looking too too much at my stats but I know they’re soaring (ok, that sounded self-absorbed!)

    Great interview, Rebeccas! (both of you)

  12. Thanks for the props, Raul. And I know you sometimes come to theatre, because you did a review for Metamorphoses!
    It’s good to hear you agreeing with Miss 604, I thought her points were really good, and very in line with my philosophy that marketing is just about creating relationships based on trust. It takes a little more work to find out someone’s name or do some research, but boy, does it pay off!
    And you should check out the Fringe–there’s something for everyone!!

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