How to Blog Your Way Into the Media

I recently took a tour of the 100 Minnesota based blogs that make up the Newsbobber 100 to get a feel for what people are writing about in this state, and came away with a few observations regarding media relations.

If you’d like to see more of your ideas reach a larger audience, this post is for you.

As regular news consumers know, the media tends to turn to the same subject experts over and over again for comments on news stories. As I see it, they do this for two similar reasons. 1. It’s easy. 2. Many people are hard to reach, which is a problem when you’re working under tight time constraints. So, how can you make it easier for reporters to contact you?

1. Put your phone number on your website. This is by far the best thing you can do. I receive many more media contacts via phone than any other source. Perhaps you could use a Google Voice number if you didn’t want to put your main number on the site. I’ve only received a handful of crank calls over the life of this blog by publishing my cell phone number, and have met a ton of cool people (and reporters) by doing so, so the upside has been huge for me.

2. Answer strange looking phone numbers. Did you know they have phones in Sioux Falls? I didn’t either, which means I didn’t recognize the area code of a reporter who called me from there earlier today.

3. Put your email address on your website. If you’re not comfortable with your phone number, give this a try. This also helps with off-hour requests when reporters may be hesitant to call, or for contacts from people in other countries (I’ve done a few things in Australia recently because of email).

4. Put a photo of yourself on your website. I can’t quantify this one, but it seems likely that you’ll seem more credible as a source for a story if you stand behind your words with a photo of yourself.

5. Use your real name on your site. Have you ever seen someone quoted in a mainstream news source by their username?

6. Make your Facebook semi-public. People googling you may stumble across your Facebook page high in the results. You may receive contacts through Facebook’s mail if you don’t have your privacy settings entirely locked down.

7. Allow comments. Sometimes reporters will drop a comment asking you to contact them. That only happens when you’ve given them no better option. However, you won’t get even that if you don’t allow comments.

8. Mention where you live. This doesn’t mean you need to put your mailing address on your website. Do this because it helps reporters figure out whether a person is local when they’re looking for a local source for a story.

9. Have an opinion. It doesn’t really matter what your opinion is, but it’s not likely that a reporter will riff off something you say if you don’t have an opinion of your own.

10. Use Twitter. Twitter has become the original source for lots of stories. If you see something newsworthy and tweet about it, there is a decent chance a reporter will contact you for commentary in their story. But that only works if you’re reachable via direct tweet, through the website you link to from your profile, etc.

There are ten. Perhaps some media folks can add additional ideas on what makes it easier for them to find sources for new stories?

New Form Of Spam Gives Women Orgasms

I’ve never encountered this form of blog comment spam before:

Re-Comment Spam

The lower of the two comments comes from a real Amanda. The upper comment took Amanda’s comment, added two more sentences, changed Amanda’s commenter URL, then reposted the comment under Amanda’s name.

That’s some sneaky stuff. The commenter and comment look familiar, which may cause many website owners to miss that it’s spam. Of course, there are still a few flags, such as the domain and email.

I don’t know where Amanda stands on giving women orgasms, but it seems safe to assume that the 2nd Amanda is not the same as the first.

Newsbobber’s Blog Directory Descriptions

Bob Ingrassia’s new Minnesota blog directory and ranking system, Newsbobber, has received some buzz on Twitter today. This seems like the start of something useful for people interested in finding local bloggers who’re passionate about various topics.

One thing that’s cool about the directory is reading Newsbobber’s take on what they perceive each site to be about. That’s no easy task considering how many bloggers blog about whatever it is that interests them rather than focusing on specific topics (sports writers) or pre-set points of view (columnists).

Here’s Newsbobber’s take on this site:

Newsbobber says: Ed Kohler, a Web marketing and digital strategy expert, gives you The Deets. This is Kohler’s personal blog, where you will discover a guy who really hates unsolicited phone books. Kohler also regales readers with tidbits about beer, pizza, jogging, biking and, oddly enough, folded toilet paper in hotel bathrooms. On occasion, Kohler unleashes his considerable Web research skills to expose Internet trickery, shady practices and other modern-day skullduggery.

That’s awesome. I get the impression that Newsbobber reads The Deets more than I read The Deets.

One little nugget I find interesting in that The Deets appears to be the first site added to the directory. Check the ID at the end of the URL:
http://www.newsbobber.com/minnesota_blogs/detail.php?id=1

There was a time when I was #1. Then all hell broke loose.

Share What You Learn Throughout 2009

Why the heck do you read this stuff?

Seriously, don’t you have anything better to do?

My assumption is that, at times, you do not. Or, more likely, you need a break from something you’d rather not be doing so you check to see if there is something new on The Deets that will give you a break from what you’re not prepared to give your full attention to. Or, you’re related to me and check in to figure out where I may be at the time based on photos of toilet paper.

Regardless of why you read this crap, I appreciate that you do. But here’s the deal: I like reading stuff too. And I know many of you are very interesting people with a lot of passion about a wide variety of subjects. However, I don’t hear nearly enough from you about the things that you’re passionate about.

What I’m asking for, in 2009, is more from you. It could be in the comments here, but better yet, it would be in the form of your own blog or some other form of creative content.

The thing that would excite me the most is seeing more of you become subject experts. What the heck do I mean by that? I mean, take a topic that you’re passionate about and write about it, take pictures of it, sing about it, dance about it, draw it, doodle it, cook it, drive it, eat it, or sleep with it.

The best stuff I consume comes from people who have decided to own a subject. They do what they can to know as much about the subject as they can, share what they learn along the way, and help others who are following in their footsteps. This may be something you love, something you find humorous, a pet peeve, or who knows? Try running with a topic that you find interesting. Explain why you find it interesting (or don’t) and share what you learn and you go deeper and deeper into that subject.

I ask this of you for selfish reasons: I want to consume more content in 2009 from people who are talking about stuff they really care about. The subject matters less than the adventure. But, I hope that you understand that while it will benefit me, the real benefit will be for yourself. No matter what you decide to publish content about, you will find an audience – actually, the audience will find you – and that will be your biggest reward.

While there has never been a time in the history of the world where people have had more choices about what to read, look at, or watch, there are still limitless opportunities for helping people understand a topic that you’ve decided to become an expert at. Seriously. Look at the competition: Why on Earth would someone waste 5 minutes of their life reading the latest column from someone like Katherine Kersten where, just based on the title, it’s glaringly clear what her boilerplate right-wing talking points are going to be.

But where can you go today to read about topics worth discussing, like:

– Where can you find the best breakfast burrito in the Twin Cities?
– Are Zubaz making a comeback?
– Who makes the best Booya?
– Where are the best sledding hills?
– Which movie theaters are best for people who enjoy watching movies without talking, cell phones going off, or crying babies?

In all cases, the ongoing question to answer is, “Why?”

Those topics could be 5 sites or regularly occurring topics on sites. I’d follow all of them. Someone, please, take on this important work in 2009. Pick a topic that you’re passionate about and share what you learn with the world.

How to get started? The easiest way is to go to Blogger.com and follow the directions on the homepage.

Top-5 Recent John Battelle Posts

John Battelle is a busy man, and he makes sure to get that across with occasional posts on why he hasn’t been posting regularly on his blog. Here are my top-5 funniest posts from John from the past two months:

5. Back, Sort Of
4. Traveling . . .
3. Still Traveling . . .
2. Lite.
1. Where’s Battelle?

I don’t blame John for the light posting volume, but I have to wonder: do people find posts that say you’re not posting valuable? Personally, I don’t. Just posting something valuable when you can or don’t post at all.

I guess this is kind of the inverse of my Twitter philosophy which is, don’t say anything unless you have something valuable to say.

The Power of a Good Roundup

The roundup. On the web, this takes the form of a blog post where the author links out to a batch of stories – generally on other sites – with quick summaries of why they’re worth reading. They’re powerful posts when put together by people with good taste.

Here are three that are done well, in my opinion:

David Brauer’s Daily Glean: David Brauer of Minnpost.com – a Minnesota based news site – runs a daily summary of the most interesting Minnesota-centric reporting he finds hitting his Google Reader at the crack of dawn each weekday. His 3-5 sentence summaries include a glimpse into the back story of the stories being covered. Being “gleaned” is quickly becoming a badge of honor for Minnesota journalists who are recognized for particularly interesting reporting.

Rebecca Kelley’s SEO Roundup: The SEO industry can be a tricky one to follow online since there is a fire hose of content created each week and much of it is total crap due to self-promotion or misinformation. Rebecca manages to pick out the truly worthy gems weekly for the SEOMoz Blog.

Erica Mauter’s Minneapolis Metblogs Roundup: While Brauer focuses on the news of the day at MinnPost, Mauter gathers lists of gatherings such a local sporting events, the arts scene, new restaurant openings, and political events worth checking out.

What do they all have in common?

– They’re on top of their topics of interest.

– They love to share.

– They have great senses of humor.

– They’re generous linkers.

Who would you add to this list? Does someone in your industry or geography fit the profile of a great roundup blogger?

10-Steps to Local Business Blogging Success

As of today, this is my best advice on how to get started with a business blog where the focus will be on a local audience.

First, what so I mean by a business blog with a local focus? I’m talking about businesses that work with people who live in close proximity to themselves, such as restaurants, real estate agents, auto dealers, movie theaters, and hardware stores. Businesses who could benefit from using the web to get and keep in better touch with people in their community.

Okay, the advice.

1. Find some local blogs. Go to Technorati.com or Blogsearch.Google.com and search for your city’s name. Many of the top results will be blogs written by people near you. Visit them.

2. Subscribe. Sign up with Google Reader and subscribe to the blogs.

3. Check links. Local bloggers will talk about other local bloggers. And they may also link to other local bloggers from a column of their site. Use this to repeat steps 1 & 2.

4. Read the blogs. You’ll learn things you didn’t already know about your community and figure out who sounds like they know what they’re talking about.

5. Contact a blogger. Once you’ve found someone who you identify with on some level, send them an email and ask them out for coffee, beer, or Irish coffee. Tell them that you’ve been reading their blog for a while and are interested in learning more about blogging.

6. Blogger Conversation. Ask the blogger about how they got started, what motivates them to blog, and what advice they can offer you about getting started blogging (do’s and don’t’s). And ask them who else you should meet locally (other people who share similar interests, technical people who may be able to help you set up a blog, etc.)

7. Comment on blogs. Now that you understand the landscape a bit better, start leaving comments on blogs you read. Try to ad comments that add value to the site by expanding on what the author wrote, something funny, etc. Don’t be self-promotional.

8. Set up your blog. Choose a memorable name and a topic that will be relevant to prospective customers. Keep in mind that people won’t read your blog if you’re simply being self-promotional.

9. Start writing. Start slow, but on a set schedule. Provide something of value and see business returns over time from people who grow to like you through your writing.

10. Inform your blogging friends. Let your new local blogging friends know about your site. They may be willing to link to you from a future blog post, which will help you build your local readership.

At that point, you should be up and running and on your way to creating a great online relationship with your local community which should, over time, lead to new business with little to no hard-dollar costs (just time well spent).

Jason DeRusha’s Bloginar-ing Secrets



Jason DeRusha Bloginar-ing Secrets, originally uploaded by edkohler.

WCCO’S Jason DeRusha is breaking down how many blogs he has (7), why he’s so slow at doing Good Question (MNSpeak & Twitter), how many Good Question emails he receives (60-80/ day), and why his wife doesn’t listen to him anymore (married for 10 years).

Thanks to Jason and Erik Black for sharing their thoughts on blogging tonight. And to WCCO for putting together the bloginar.

Why the Term “Blog” is So Difficult to Understand

I’ve found explaining blogging to non-bloggers to be a difficult task from time to time and have been trying to figure out why.

My reasoning at this point is that people confuse the various ways the term “blog” is used.

1. Blog – the software used for publishing information. As in, “I use Blogger for Blogging.”

2. Blog – to write and/or publish a story. “I’m going to blog this.”

3. Blog – a story on a blog. “I wrote a blog about this.”

4. Blog – an online media site. “I have a blog.”

Put this together, and it’s pretty clear why people who aren’t familiar with the term can’t figure out how to wrap their arms around the term when they first hear it.

A person blogs a blog on their blog using blog software. Ouch.

Choosing a Blogging Platform

Should you host your own blog? If so (or not) what are your options and why should you choose one over another?

These are common questions from people who are considering getting into blogging for business or something beyond blogging on their MySpace or LiveJournal account.

Based on my experience, here is how I’d help guide someone to the right solution for their needs today:

Choosing a Blogging Platform

This will surely change over time as new players enter the market, current players slip behind, etc. so please keep in mind that the recs here represent here and now and will probably look ridiculous in a year or two .

But, with that in mind, the important thing to remember is that any new blog platform will have to make it easy for currently bloggers to transfer their blogs if they hope to gain an audience. If that’s the case, most of the blog platforms mentioned in this diagram should be transferable. Stay away from MySpace if you think you’ll ever want to republish your posts somewhere else.