I’ve worked in PR for over ten years. Over this time, working with bloggers has gone from a non-existent part of the job, to forming a fundamental part of every brand campaign.
Last year I published my tips for bloggers wanting to work with PRs, which I hope is helpful to those bloggers to whom PRs are a great mystery (and let’s be honest, most people don’t really understand exactly what PRs do). I guess it was a round-up of the type of blogger I would want to work with as a PR – the type of blogger I would want representing my client’s brand.
These days I see myself as more of a blogger than a PR. Even the work I do outside of the blog is more of a social media/ content marketing role – and the majority of my expertise in these areas I’ve learned through creating Mum in Brum and establishing it online.
When I look back, I really knew very little about social media management, SEO, keywords, email marketing, video, photography or writing copy for the web. Blogging has taught me SO much!
And I really do think PRs are missing a trick…
Bloggers are experts in content marketing, they understand what it takes to build an online brand from scratch, and there’s nothing they don’t know about social media. They understand the value of key words, Domain Authority, Klout Scores, Google ranking, hashtags…and they’re familiar with all sorts of resources that PRs aren’t yet using (but really should be!). If you’re not collaborating with one, you should be hiring one!
The value of bloggers to PRs
I admit that when I worked in PR, I probably took bloggers for granted. There was always that thought that by inviting a blogger to an event or offering a product for review, you were doing them a favour by offering something for free.
How wrong I was!
Back then I had no idea about the time it takes to build a successful blog. Even though, as a PR team, we only targeted bloggers above a certain Moz ranking or with a desirable number of social media followers, we gave absolutely no consideration to how much work it actually takes to build up that Domain Authority or those followers.
And it’s that influence that PRs should be paying for when working with bloggers.
The influence of bloggers has grown considerably over the last ten years and continues to grow each day. As Natasha Courtenay-Smith explains in her book The Million Dollar Blog:
“Its not just that they share the same huge audiences enjoyed by traditional media, such as print magazines, TV shows or newspapers – it’s because they have the keenest audiences too.
Bloggers are vocal, likeable and authentic, with a lack of bias and no need to follow anyone’s rules but their own – this is why they connect more powerfully with their audiences than a traditional media outlet might”.
Granted, the majority of bloggers aren’t sharing the same audience figures as Vogue (we live in hope!), but the influence of bloggers within their particular niche is something that big brands are taking considerable notice of.
10 tips for PRs working with bloggers
Almost three years into the life of this blog, I now get approaches from PRs on a daily basis. Once upon a time, each approach felt like a real coup, but these days I have to be a little more selective.
As much as I’d love to review every product offered, accept every event invitation, or respond to every press release that lands in my inbox, like most bloggers I don’t have the time. Now I understand why that ‘rude’ journalist never got back to me about my press releases…
So how can you build relationships with bloggers and get the most from them as a PR?
1. Make it worth their while
Unlike the traditional media, bloggers are not on a payroll. Most bloggers mainly blog through passion alone. They don’t sit at their laptops from 9am – 5pm, but instead they have to fit blogging around their lives.
In the case of parenting bloggers, most are either full-time stay at home mums/dads with kids to look after each day, or have other full-time or part-time jobs to hold down. They blog in their precious ‘down-time’. So if you want them to blog about your brand, you have to make it worth their while by offering something in return. Most PRs today will offer some form of payment for a collaboration – but how much should you offer?
2. Be realistic about what you’re offering
Producing a blog post on behalf of a brand takes a huge amount of time. It’s not just about drafting 300 words and hitting ‘publish’. Just taking and editing the product photography alone, can take well over an hour. Recording and editing a video can take even longer.
Some bloggers may also expect additional payment for promoting the content on their social media platforms – how much engagement they get on those platforms should dictate how much you want to offer.
Be clear about what results you’re expecting and be prepared to offer a fair price for not only the blogger’s time, but also their influence. Bare in mind that when working with bloggers with a higher Domain Authority, they can command a higher price.
3. Consider the value of review products
If you prefer to offer products rather than cash (as a lot of brands do), consider the value of the product. A lot of bloggers will ask for a minimum product value, or you may have to be prepared to make up the value with payment. I personally assess each product on an individual basis. If it’s a product I love the sound of, a brand I want to work with, or something that will be of particular interest to my readers, then I’ll consider a lesser product value.
If you have low value products you would like reviewed, it’s definitely worth getting in touch with new bloggers who are looking to increase their profile – remember that your content will still be on their site once they’re more established down the line.
5. Think outside the box
If you don’t have budget for your campaign, or a product to offer for review, consider other ways you can add value for the blogger.
For instance, perhaps you can give the blogger a link from your website, a mention in your newsletter or a shout out on your social media pages. This will be especially appealing from credible brands with large followings, since bloggers are always looking of ways to increase their website hits and engage new readers.
6. Make sure it’s relevant
Believe it or not, bloggers spend a ridiculous amount of time building trust with their audience and creating content to keep them coming back for more. Most bloggers have a niche audience which they’ve built up through months/years of hard work. Most credible bloggers won’t be prepared to undo all of that by publishing something that’s completely irrelevant to their audience.
7. Personalise your approach (don’t blind copy emails!)
Closely related to the previous point, but if you really do want to get results from your emails you need to personalise them. As you would when contacting the mainstream media, take some time to research those bloggers who you think are most relevant and make a personal approach. Suggest ways you could work together based on their previous/current content.
I know of a lot of bloggers who instantly delete anything that isn’t personally addressed to them. When my inbox gets overwhelming, those ‘mass emails’ are the first I’ll delete.
8. Do follow up
As with the mainstream media, established bloggers get inundated by emails from PRs and online marketing execs on a daily basis. Since bloggers are often checking and replying to emails on the go, it can be easy to open and read something and forget all about it (#guilty)…
If you genuinely think that you’re offering something that will be of obvious interest, don’t be shy about giving the blogger a nudge with a follow up email.
9. Be upfront from the offset
Personally, nothing irritates me more than when a PR gets in touch to say they are working on something and please can I provide my phone number so that they can call me to chat me through it.
Talking on the phone is obviously necessary sometimes – once you’ve built up a relationship with the PR and you need to discuss the finer details of a campaign. But the chance of a blogger taking the time to talk to you, with no prior knowledge of the campaign (or what’s in it for them) is very small.
Remember that bloggers get hundreds of spammy emails from PRs each month, so they won’t immediately trust you. State in your email exactly what you can offer and what you would like from them in return right from the off.
10. Avoid press releases (pretty much) altogether
Blogs aren’t the same as the mainstream media. It’s not the blogger’s job to report facts or news stories to the general public. Don’t get me wrong, press releases are useful to send as ‘background info’, but don’t expect a blogger to simply take your press release and publish it.
Think about why the topic would be of interest to the blogger’s audience and suggest ways they may want to use the information…Could they help raise awareness across social media using a hashtag, could they host a competition, provide a testimonial or produce an engaging video for you to share on your website?
If you want to provide content for the blogger to use, ask the blogger if they will accept a guest post. But bare in mind that it will have to be in the same tone/style of the blog, relevant to their audience and most bloggers will also want the content to be exclusive.
Are you a blogger? How do PRs gain your interest? Is there any particular PR practices that annoy you?
Are you a PR working with bloggers regularly? How do you choose which bloggers to work with? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!