You wanna be one of the cool kids in the marketing lunchroom? Then you damn well better have a blogger outreach program.

This is a micro-PR concept in which you research popular bloggers within the context of the client you are trying to promote. More often than not, you want to share a product or service with the blogger with the intent of getting a positive review or mention.

When this technique started to gain popularity six or seven years ago, advertising agencies and clients went to great lengths to dazzle bloggers. Since then, we’ve had a massive influx of bloggers. In addition to blogging in the traditional sense, many people use blogging tools to construct websites and additional marketing materials. Therefore, the term “blog” has become a bit of a gray area.

Some people, like yours truly, utilize blogs in a thought-leadership role. Others utilize blogs as a new media tool for things like press releases, product launches and an additional voice to their product or service. It’s not that one is right or wrong but when you seek to construct a blogger outreach program, you don’t want to reach out to a company that is simply using a blog to distribute their own marketing material.

Despite the glut of online content, many marketers skip the due diligence and assume anyone with a WordPress installation wants to be contacted. Therefore, they ditch that quaint old notion of putting together a nice piece of marketing material or package to introduce themselves to the blogger. Meh.

By taking time to reach a blogger in the proper way, you are showing respect. Treat them as if they are special, and you show your commitment to the sense of “craft.” Many people in my generation grew up with parents who instilled the idea that you’re only as good as your word. It was part of the, “If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing right,” speech. Those lessons should inform everything we do in our industry. Bring a refined level of craft to your work, in creative pitches, in your presentations and even in your spec work. You must understand that this is what differentiates you from your competition. Anything that’s not well-crafted is simply crap.

OK, thanks, I had to get that off my chest.

So when IBM took the time to send me a “VIP blogger invitation” to the Smarter Commerce Global Summit 2012 in Orlando, Fla., I was incredibly impressed by the sense of craft and attention to detail.

It wasn’t just that they put something mildly expensive and unexpected in a box and shipped it to me. The innovative minds behind the invitation understood that it was the first page of what could very well be a wonderful story and a long-term relationship.

Upon opening the box of invitational tchotchkes and various marketing materials, I could tell that the people who sent it understand how to create what I refer to as a story seed. Plant that seed, nurture it and it will grow into something beautiful.

However, the concept far outgrew the box. I was contacted by a representative who acted more like a Ritz-Carlton hotel concierge than someone following up to determine whether or not I received the package.

Samantha Press, a social-media strategist at IBM, contacted me to ask if I received my materials. She also asked if I had any questions regarding the conference. Then she followed up after I registered to see if I found suitable lodging.

After that, she contacted me again to determine whether I would like to speak with industry experts in order to facilitate any content directives for my blog. Do you see what’s happening here? Samantha is not your run-of-the-mill customer-service representative. No – she understands that she’s crafting a one-to-one relationship. 

This is not something I take lightly, because it’s rare to see it executed so well. When I experience it at this level, it makes an incredibly strong impact. So much so that even after experiencing a great conference with wonderful speakers, 10,000 breakout sessions, decent food for breakfast and lunch, and variable entertainment options every night – I still think about how cool the invitation was.

What I really want you to take away from this article is that if you intend to reach out to bloggers, regardless of their subscription base, you need to do so with the highest attention to detail.

Make sure to outline your invitation, directives, and intent in such a way that you don’t try to direct the content of the blogger. Nothing will backfire quicker than a blogger who feels as though they’re being told what to say. Make sure to do your due diligence in order to find the appropriate bloggers to match your audience as closely as possible.

For those of you who have created, or are thinking of creating a blogger outreach program, I would love to hear from you. Tell me about your ups and downs throughout the process. Please feel free to fill out the comments below and give me your take! Hope to hear from you soon.