Topic Hubs – How to Effectively Build Relationships with Bloggers

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Topic Hubs – How to Effectively Build Relationships with Bloggers

Ann Smarty in Reach Smart Linkers: Top Mommy Blogger Networks provides a great list of blog networks composed primarily of women.  The point of the list is simple – effectively reaching out to bloggers can yield links and traffic.  Ann also points us to the post How to Pitch Mommy Bloggers.  That post starts with …

PR has long misused and misunderstood pitching to Bloggers, most specifically, mommy bloggers.

Any blogger can probably tell you that most PR people continue to poorly reach out to bloggers.  Every day I receive approximately 5 press releases.  It’s not a bad thing to get these press releases, but I’d say the chance that I’ll blog about it is less than 1%.

There are lots of suggestions out there for how to pitch to bloggers.  Examples include Five keys to successful blogger outreach, Blogger Outreach, PR and Blogging Outreach: Practical Tips, Pitching Bloggers, Blogger Outreach for PR: The Importance of Follow-Up, How Not to Pitch a Blog.  If I were to very briefly summarize the key advice of this advice:

  • Read the blog first
  • Make your pitch relevant
  • Build a relationship
  • Follow-up

To do this effectively, it’s going to take the effort of commenting and otherwise engaging with the bloggers to build the relationship that will eventually allow you to effectively pitch the blogger.  That takes quite a bit of work and may or may not yield enough in terms of results to make it an effective use of time.  My guess is that the tradeoff of time vs. results is a big contributor to why PR people still just spray out press releases.

Topic Hubs

I’ve recently been finding myself building relationships with bloggers using a very different strategy that has worked very well for me.  The key to this strategy is what I call “topic hubs.”  A topic hub aggregates a collection of information sources (web pages and RSS feeds) to form a new information hub around a particular topic – hence the name “topic hub.”  For example, the B2B Marketing Zone is a topic hub on B2B Marketing.

Relationships with bloggers naturally form when a topic hub is involved.  I’ll get to that below, but first let’s look a bit more closely at what topic hubs are and how to create one.

In my case, I use Browse My Stuff (a technology that my company built).  It brings together a set of sources, organizes the content around keywords, allows curation of the content, and uses social signals to identify the good stuff.  It also generally does a good job of long tail SEO in order to bring traffic to the site and ultimately back to the bloggers who are generally the sources of content.


There are a lot of different ways to be able to create similar kinds of sites.  John Tropea in his post Communities and Networks Connection blog aggregator suggests the following services as an alternative to Browse My Stuff:

services like Individurls, MySyndicaat, FeedRaider, Bozpage, Feedbite, Planetaki, and […] Protopage, Netvibes, PageFlakes

You can also use Postrank and My Alltop to create topic oriented pages.  There are also more community oriented solutions such as WordFrame, the software behind sites like Social Media Today.  Bottom line, there are quite a few services that allow you to pull together a set of sources based on web pages and/or RSS and compose those into a new site that is a collection of those sources.

Building Relationships

Building relationships when a topic hub is involved is actually quite natural.  Before you pull the hub together, it makes sense to contact each of the bloggers you want to include to let them know what you are doing, why you are doing it, when it will launch, etc.  You will get the best result when the bloggers are more actively engaged.

As we’ve done this across different topics, we’ve settled into a process that seems to work fairly well.  We start with by contacting a key blogger or two.  In the case of the B2B Marketing Zone, Tom Pick, a well known blogger in the space happily agreed to support the effort.  We agreed on a launch date and initial bloggers to contact who would form the founding group.  From there, other bloggers happily participated.  After all, it’s not hard to sell a blogger when the net effect is increased visibility and traffic to their blog.

Doesn’t this take a lot of work to do?  Not really.  You already should be going through an identifying the bloggers in the space.  You need to find their contact information (email or twitter works best for me) for effective blogger outreach.  Most of the aggregator services are relatively easy to get set up.  And you should be monitoring these bloggers if you are really going to try to do effective outreach.  So almost all of the work involved are things you should already be doing if you want to build a relationship with a group of bloggers.

The trick here is that since you now are coming to the blogging party with something that has potential value, and you are showing sincere interest in contribution to the network of bloggers, it’s a very different dynamic.

Of course, after you’ve built the relationship with the bloggers via the topic hub, there’s still the matter of effectively working with them to get coverage in the blog.  But it’s so much easier when you’ve established a mutually valuable relationship via a topic hub.

I look forward to your thoughts and interesting conversations around this.

Dr. Tony Karrer is CEO/CTO of TechEmpower, a software, web and eLearning development firm based in Los Angeles, and is considered one of the top technologists in eLearning. Tony is a frequent speaker at industry and academic events and is the author of eLearning Technology and SoCal CTO.


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Tony Karrer

Dr. Tony Karrer is CEO/CTO of TechEmpower, a software, web and eLearning development firm based in Los Angeles, and is ... [Read full bio]

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