Blogger outreach is a core content marketing activity for our clients, but unlike with mainstream media, there is very little industry knowledge about the inner workings of professional bloggers. While most of our outreach team comes from a media relations background, figuring out “best practices” in blogger outreach is mostly learning by doing.
One of the major differences when pitching bloggers is working around their current editorial schedule. Unlike news outlets and magazines, most bloggers are a media company of one. That means it’s up to the blogger on what they want to post, when they want to.
While this increases the opportunity for coverage, it can also make planning a challenge. Sometimes your content is seasonal and has a limited window of opportunity. Sometimes the expected end date for a client project means pickups could appear days, weeks or months later.
So we set out to better understand the editorial planning of bloggers to not only increase our placement rate, but improve our industry’s relationship with a growing medium.
We collected survey responses from 85 bloggers across lifestyle topics—food, entertaining, parenting and home decor to name a few—asking them the following three questions:
- How far in advance do you plan your editorial calendar normally?
- For small holidays/big events for your industry (4th of July, Mother’s Day, etc), how far in advance do you plan your editorial calendar?
- During the holiday season (Nov. & Dec.), how far in advance do you plan your editorial calendar?
While 85 is a relatively small sample size out of the millions of bloggers publishing, this analysis is a step in the right direction to improve the content marketing results when pitching in front of events, and especially when pitching to bloggers in the lifestyle space.
Question 1: The average blogger editorial calendar
Based on the collected responses, lifestyle bloggers plan their calendar on average 30 days in advance. While some bloggers responded that they plan a week or less out, the majority (49%) of bloggers surveyed plan a month or more ahead.
In addition, according to a recent study by Orbit Media, it takes the majority of bloggers two hours or less to write a post. This means for bloggers, content brainstorming may happen far ahead, but creation happens very quickly. So by getting in front of the 30 day mark, you’re more likely to catch a blogger before their post is written.
Question 2: Small holidays and important events
Small holidays and events throughout the year are commonly covered by lifestyle bloggers. Special occasions like Mother’s Day, Easter and Valentine’s Day have opportunities for seasonal content and pitching.
But, unlike winter holidays, these events may only take up a small percentage of a blogger’s calendar for that month. So getting the timing right is critical, as the window of opportunity is small.
For these holidays, bloggers on average plan 38 days in advance (a 28% increase from their normal blogging routine). While roughly only a week difference from their normal planning, this small increase and the relatively low number of holiday-related posts available make this a challenging placement to land.
Question 3: Primary winter holidays
We’ve discovered when creating seasonal content in November and December that outreach needs to take place in advance—way, way far in advance. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah is when many lifestyle blogs ramp up their post count, so it’s natural that planning increases as well.
When asked how much their editorial planning changes for holiday content, bloggers responded on average with 55 days, or an 85% increase from their normal schedule. Of the bloggers surveyed, 57% answered with at least some incremental increase in their editorial calendar planning.
Knowing now that bloggers start planning their holiday posts around September means it’s time for marketers to start brainstorming marketable content in mid- to late-summer.
Does DA correlate to increased planning?
While collecting survey responses, we wondered if a blogger’s domain authority correlated positively with advance planning. Surely, we thought, if a blogger is spending 30+ days mapping out their content, it has to be pretty high quality.
We surveyed bloggers with DAs between 13 – 63, with an average of 33 overall. After collecting and analyzing responses, we found that there is no correlation between the DA of a blog and the planning time of their calendar. Our sample size isn’t great, but we found it interesting nonetheless.
Similarities to mainstream media
As blogging continues to cover a broad definition of people (“inventor” of the blog and tech writer Dave Winer defines it as “one voice, unedited, not determined by group-think”), we’ve noticed some growing similarities to mainstream media. While the lone blogger is still very different from a nationwide publication, this growing medium is starting to get tips from publishers.
Seeking long term editorial partnerships
For traditional media relations, building a relationship with a reporter is still the #1 way to go in hopes of placement and coverage for your client. Becoming a trusted source for information negates the need to constantly monitor an editorial calendar to ensure you’re pinging them at the right time.
Mid- to high-tier bloggers are seeing the same value and brands are jumping on it. With the right influencers in mind, exploring partnerships like co-branded graphics, social sharing and ghost written content can be a free to low-cost way to build relationships and earn more placements.
Media kits mirroring online magazines
Excluding the big lifestyle players, most magazines still provide some kind of media kit available for download which will outline high-level topics they plan to cover throughout the year. But among B2B and trade magazines you can still figure out the running themes and align your content accordingly.
We’ve come across many bloggers who also have a dedicated media kit, but most are reserved for sharing advertising and sponsorship rates instead of topic ideas. This could be because most bloggers are unsure of the specifics of their content up to a year in advance. To get a sense of what they make be talking about and how frequently, look back to the previous year.
Editorial planning—but more relaxed
As we’ve covered in this post, bloggers are learning that editorial planning helps the end product. But, the majority of bloggers are still a one-stop-shop, omitting the staff hierarchy and long lead time of other online media. Most bloggers are friendly and flexible after you’ve shown the value of your content.
Higher value content = Faster to publish
Creating “must have” content is still the fastest way to earn placement rates. The same way top tier media rush to be the first to cover breaking news, bloggers will often be equally as excited to make room in their editorial calendar for stand out content. Relying on this, however, is a surefire way to end up with less overall placements.
Timing isn’t Everything – But it Matters
Blogging takes on many forms. From the occasional online journaler to the top earning mommy media brands, blog outreach needs to be nimble enough to hit inboxes at the right time. Taking their planning into account means putting less of a strain on them, therefore improving relationships and earning more coverage for your content.