Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Going begging for bloggers

When a nonprofit or a political campaign has invested in a high quality animation or video, we frequently try to release it first to bloggers in hopes that it will get posted and gather steam for "viral" traffic. Clearly the nonprofit has a "promotion" motive--we've put money into this and want to get it out to people who don't know about us already. Posts on blogs present one way for nonprofits to reach new audiences who might support their activities. I find the process brutal, but I'm like a kid in a candy store when a few posts begin to surface.

This process is critical to a launch. We can't afford to hope that our wonderful video gets spotted by someone and then spreads like gossip. We have to do something to start the gossip.

I'm sure over the past few months I've sent hundreds of emails to bloggers after checking out their sites and trying to find a personal approach. I always identify bloggers working on related subject matter--so for example I (and two people working with me) sent quick emails to dozens of personal finance bloggers when we released our recent "Christmas Time for Visa" animation about credit cards. We also looked for bloggers who like humor, and bloggers talking about Christmas.

We saw an eclectic range of responses--some pretty funny themselves. We probably saw twenty or thirty posts by Christmas day, including posts from some of my favorite blogs. Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution gave us the best compliment ever: "Consumers Union: putting the "fun" back in "fundamental political reform." A quick comment from Will Brady (who is somewhat skeptical about our ability to pass credit card reforms :-) next year) resulted in additional posts, like this one at Slowly She Turned.

Nonprofits building large email lists to support political activity must work with bloggers, and ultimately must invest the time and energy required to join the great blog discussion--and not just at the time we have something to promote. At the same time, I hope that bloggers can see a benefit for their readers to posting these kind of nonprofit initiatives. Obviously, no one will benefit from a poor item or a flawed strategy, but if you think the item is fun or the reform initiative useful then your readers probably will too. Thanks to all the bloggers who helped Consumers Union in 2005!

The point about participating in conversation is a good one. Blogging has a social norm of linking. If someone asks for attention without eventually reciprocating, eventually the result will be less attention.
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