To understand the importance and essence of blogger relations, I think we should get to the roots of media relations in general. What is a difference between a blogger and a journalist? We should find the answer in how they use their medium to reach people. A journalist (online or offline) is telling, reporting people about interesting things and news. It is a one way communication. Communication should be about building relationships. In the classic way, it is really hard to achieve this goal. Even in web sites, news portals it is not always solved to facilitate conversations with the readers (enabling commenting for instance).
At the same time, bloggers try to creat interesting content and spark conversations (!!) by using social media platforms. They are good storytellers that is crucial for a good PR. A blogger is also freer than an average journalist, who is controlled by his editor. A blog post is more visible (see: Google, Technorati etc.) and easier to find than an article of a journalist (especially if it is written in an offline medium). Thanks to Google who loves blogs, in many cases it ranks higher blogs than news portal links.. The success of our campaign depends on our messages' visibility among our target audience(s).
In the age of empowered customers people are looking in different way for information. These people are influenced,inspired by unique channels and communities. They either search in Google or look for answers and opinion from their friends or other peer group members. Our challenge is to find who are those people to whom people are turning with their questions for advice and opinion. We need to be where our customers are discovering, sharing, and talking. In some cases customers trust bloggers more than brands.
This is why the importance of blogger relations is gaining momentum and should be part of the PR strategy. It is also interesting challenge how to turn bloggers to our brand ambassadors. Engaging bloggers is a continuous relationship that is "always on" (see: real-time engagement), but for this we have to develop a relationship with these people. For the blogger it can be also lucrative to leverage those relationships for future growth.
Weber Shandwick created a very useful figure to show and help us to understand what kind of influencers we can find in social media:
Last year I tried to find blogger relations programs in the golf industry, but in vain. Only from Nike Golf I heard that they have such program as I described above. The others treat bloggers as journalists and add them to their media contact list. I think it is more than nothing, but not sufficient to reach our objectives. Blogger relations is not limited to golf equipment, but also relevant to golf courses and others who provide products and services in the golf industry. Of course, the blogger relations program as a concept should be used in other industries as well.