Blogging has flipped traditional PR on its head. It used to be that ink begat buzz. Life was simple then: you sucked up to the Wall Street Journal, one of its reporters wrote about your product, and the buzz began.

(Here’s a collection of great speeches about the state of the art of blogging, courtesy of Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen. In particular, check out Robert Scoble’s and Hugh Macleod’s sessions.*)

Nowadays buzz begets ink. Journalists no longer anticipate or create buzz—rather, they react to it: “Everyone is buzzing about FaceBook. There must be something to this, so I had better write a story about it.” This role reversal has fried people’s minds.

The latest development is that blogs beget buzz. Blogs have changed everything because they represent a cheap, effective podium for creating buzz on a massive scale. Technorati provides an easy way to identify the A-listers, so all you have to do is attract the most influential bloggers. Here is a guide to the process.

1. Create a great product. There is a big catch to this democratization of buzz creation: Bloggers have a very low tolerance for bull shitake, even lower than journalists do because bloggers seldom rely on editors to “cleanse” their writing. It’s easy to say you’re going after bloggers, but this assumes that they’ll like your product or service. The most important thing you can do to attract them is to create a great (DICEE) product.

2. Cite and link. “Linking is the sincerest form of flattery.” Imitation no longer sits atop this throne. It’s hard to trash a company, product, service, or person that links to your blog. Personally, I’ve never met a person who linked to my blog that I didn’t like. :-)

3. Stroke them. If you want to supplement citing and linking, you can send the blogger emails with these kinds of messages:

  • “I love how your style sheets cascade.”
  • “I set my RSS reader to refresh your blog every five minutes.” (contributed by Alex Krupp)
  • “Not a day goes by that I don’t read your blog.”
  • “Why don’t you publish your blog in a book?”
  • “You could easily break up your daily entries into several parts because they have so much content.”
  • “I’ve forwarded your blog to many of my friends.”
  • “I ‘digg’ your blog almost every day.”
  • “I don’t care how often my RSS reader gets your edited versions because your blog is so insightful.”

However, marketers are already inundating popular bloggers with such pablum. To break through the noise, you need to craft a compliment about a specific entry. For example, “I found your entry about rainmaking to be very helpful, and I’d like to make you aware of a new customer relationship management software product that we make.”

At the very least, per the suggestion of Jason Pettus, make sure that you read the blogger’s site. Many marketers begin with such a generic pitch that the blogger can tell he hasn’t even read the blog.

4. Give schwag. In case you hadn’t noticed, most bloggers don’t make a lot of money from their blogging efforts. Thus, samples of your product, t-shirts, tickets to the Stanley Cup Finals, etc can go a long way. I’m not saying you can buy bloggers, but you can make them happy pretty easily. Dollar for dollar, schwag for bloggers is one of the best marketing investments.

5. Make connections before you need them. Mediocre marketers try to befriend bloggers when they need them. Good marketers befriend bloggers before they need them. Great marketers have befriended bloggers while they were working at their previous companies. I learned this lesson well before the advent of blogs: the press connections that I made while employed by Apple have lasted twenty years. Also, make lots of connections. Today’s egocentric, self-indulgent blogger with five page views per day may well be tomorrow’s Technorati 100 stud. As my mother used to say, “You can never know too many bloggers or have too hard a slap shot.”

If you’d like to hear how friendly a conversation can be with a journalist, please click here. This is my unedited interview with Moira Gunn, the goddess of NPR’s Tech Nation. The interview was eventually heard by twenty five million people.

6. Be responsive. This is a common-sense “duhism” that is violated almost every day: If you want buzz, you have to return the phone calls and emails of bloggers. You are operating on their schedule; they are not operating on yours, so get used to it. Sure, if you’re a Steve Jobs, you can make the rules, but until you reach his level, you have to play by the rules.

7. Use a rifle, not a shotgun. Any company that carpet bombs bloggers should be shot. The effect is the same as sending two dozen people the same email requesting help. Not only will this approach fail, bloggers will conclude that you’re a bozo to boot. Your job is to find out exactly who you are relevant to. It is not the blogging community’s job to sort through your bull secretion.

8. Be a foul weather friend. Anyone can be friendly, happy, and available when times are good. The big test occurs when the weather turns foul: your company screws up, or the blogger writes something negative (justified or not). When this happens, some companies erect barriers and hunker down—a big mistake. Also, you should never, ever lie to a blogger. If you screw up, admit it. If you can’t admit that you screwed up, then at least signal that you know you screwed up by telling the blogger “I can’t answer that” with a wink.

9. Be a source. Face it: there are times when your company simply isn’t worthy of coverage. Don’t take your ball and go home. Instead, “pay it forward” and help the blogger with her entry by acting as a source of information, by introducing her to other sources, and by offering insightful analyses. The next time, you may be the subject of the blog, not just a source.

* This is an excellent example of sucking up. :-)

Addendum 1: Make connections after you need them too. Geekzone pointed this out. Let’s say you’re successful, and your great product has garnered the attention of bloggers. This doesn’t mean you can rest; instead, keep working the relationships because you’ll need these connections again. Even if you didn’t garner any attention, keep at it for the next time you need help.

Sucking up is not an event—it’s a process.

Addendum 2: Pitch reporters through their blogs. This excellent tip comes from Jason Baxter. He makes the observation that it’s often difficult to pitch journalists “through the front door” of their big-time publication. However, many journalists have their personal blogs, and they are much more accessible through these than through their “day job” publications.