The media landscape has shifted as blog influence is on the rise. Sites like Huffington Post and Mashable report news and features through a host of bloggers with a readership in the hundreds of thousands.

Many topical blogs have built entire communities around their blogs and social channels and find that readers are loyal and socially connected. Recommendations from favorite bloggers are not viewed by readers as advertising, but rather a recommendation from a friend.

“According to NMIncite, by the end of 2011, there were over¬†181 million blogs on the internet.”

With the evolution of blogging comes the need for a blogger outreach strategy for brands. In addition to traditional media, blogger outreach can increase online visibility and build brand awareness.

So, how do you go about starting a blogger outreach strategy?

First you must know your audience. Do you have different target markets for products or industries? Have you talked with your customers and sales folks lately? Do you have any brand champions? These are people who love your brand and tell others about it for you. Ask them about what topics they are reading online and what sites they visit frequently.

Once you have identified your audience, it is time to find the influencers. If you use paid PR tools like Cision and Vocus, they have added bloggers into their databases as influencers so you can now search for journalists and influencers. If you do not use these types of paid tools, you can find influencers and bloggers on Klout and PeerIndex, through indexes like Technorati, and by simply using Google Blog Search. Alltop is another great place to find bloggers for specific industries and topics.

Now that you have your short list of influencers, the hard work begins. Set up a dashboard on iGoogle or a similar RSS reader and spend some time reading the influencers’ blogs. Follow them on their social media feeds to get to know each person and form a profile. It takes time, just like building media relations, a Twitter following and a Facebook fan page.

Interact with the influencers, join the conversation, comment on posts/updates that are relevant to your market. Once you have created a relationship, you can reach out and send your personalized pitch when the timing is right.

Be sure you know how bloggers want to be contacted.¬†Often times bloggers will have clear directions on how they want to be pitched. Look in the “About” section or “Contact” section or there might even be a PR-Friendly tab. If your campaign includes a giveaway, there may be specifics for that listed on the blog as well.

Keep in mind the same pitching principles apply to bloggers as they do to the media. Show them that you know who they are and what they write about. Prove to them that you can give them information to help their audience. Be transparent. Do not send canned messages in an email blast to your list. Do not send attachments. Ask how you can help them and become a resource.

Bloggers as the new influencers can help your business build brand awareness and extend your reach to new audiences.

Image via Alltop