By Bob Walsh
Scott M over at the Business of Software forum asked today:

Is there any ethical way to employ bloggers to write about your program? If yes how and if no then how would you go about asking them to review it without sounding desperate and of course hopefully getting a positive spin from it?

Putting aside paid postings via and the like, the answer is I think a resounding Yes: bloggers can and most definitely should be asked and encouraged to write about your product. Consider the very successful micro-ISV company and product ActiveWords: their product review page demonstrates what consistent public relations via blogging can achieve.
Here’s how to get bloggers talking about your micro-ISV app or site:

  1. Briefly email the blogger, explaining what your product does and why they and their readers should care.
  2. Ask if they are interested in reviewing it, and perhaps posting about it, and if so, offer them a full license so they can properly evaluate your product over time.
  3. Stress why you think your product is useful, interesting and worth the attention of the blogger, and that you want an honest opinion, good and bad.
  4. If they email their interested, load them up, give them your personal email so you can answer any question that comes up and mention they are entirely free to disclose in their blog how they got your product. Also ask them to email you when they post, in case you miss it.

Here’s how not to do it:

  • Pay someone to blog about your product without disclosing they are paid for this service.
  • Refuse to give bloggers free licenses because “all they want is free software.” This is idiotic thinking: they are doing you the kindness of paying attention to your product – you want this.
  • Belittle, insult, dismiss bloggers who don’t write gushingly glowing reviews of your product. To understand how bad a strategy this is, try this thought experiment. You have to pee. You stand facing a strong wind. What will happen if you vent? Not happy results, right? (see below)
  • Send one email to one blogger, and since they don’t respond, give up. (see below)
  • Lose track of who you asked to review your product. (see below)

Welcome to below!
Here’s the 5 things you’ve got to do to engage bloggers successfully about your product and thereby gain attention, interest and sales:

  1. Consistent, ongoing effort is the way to go. Make a goal of reaching out to 5 bloggers a week, every week.
  2. Engage in the conversation. When bloggers review/mention your product, comment! Your Blog Radar should already be showing these posts, but at the very least add each contacted blogger to your RSS feeds and jump into the conversation when they post. Do what you have to – this is important.
  3. Admit weaknesses isn’t weak. If a blogger takes you to task over a missing feature, a bug, weak documentation, engage them. If it really is something that needs fixing or improving admit it in your comment, point out the other good things about your product, fix the issue and let them know via your blog.
  4. Tolerating abuse isn’t strength. There are always going to be “bloggers” out there who call your product, life, significant other and your dog a steaming pile of shit that should be put in a can and dropped in boiling vat of oil. Get over it. The best response is to comment their post, with links to other bloggers who have reviewed your product in a fair way. Failing that, ignore them.
  5. Have a blog. If for no other (and there are many other reasons for a blog, see my new blog – for more on this) than so you can point out to people paying you attention these reviews.

To my way of thinking, blogging is absolutely the single best PR/marketing activity a micro-ISV can allot time to; that’s a big part of why I wrote Clear Blogging: How People Blogging Are Changing the World and How You Can Join Them.
[tags]product reviews, blog reviews[/tags]

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