I’ll never forget the first conversation I had with a senior PR exec about the blogger-brand relationship. One of their team had just sent out the sort of email bloggers hate to get – a mass, impersonal press release and bloggers weren’t happy. The email had been sent by a new team member and was quite simply a rookie mistake. The response they had received from mummy bloggers though had left them in a flood of tears.
As bloggers become increasingly inundated with pitches and invitations, there is a strong push toward monetisation and a loud battle cry that we want to be treated with respect. We want personal emails, no more press releases, relevant pitches and invitations. These are all very understandable requests and to their credit there are PR firms who are taking them seriously and radically changing their approach.
Today’s post is for the bloggers who want to work in this professional capacity with PRs.
PRs are people too. Sometimes when I hear bloggers talk about monetisation there seems to be this prevailing idea that the big corporates are out to take advantage of the bloggers. What surprises me about this is that in my dealings with clients, this is never something I hear from them. PRs (and brand reps) are people too. They are learning about this space, looking at how budgets can be allocated (just because a client is a multinational doesn’t mean that the brand marketing or PR departments always have exhaustive, or even particularly big, budgets – budgets are allocated to product lines and specific products/launches with certain objectives in mind). They are also really concerned about how to most ethically and fruitfully work with bloggers.
I can’t tell you how often I have emailed a PR or brand rep at 11pm only to have them email me straight back. This is an industry that works exceedingly long hours and tries to build both relationships and campaigns often on the smell of an oily rag. Sometimes the budget they will have allocated for an entire campaing (including their fee) will be less than some bloggers charge for a sponsored post. That they can’t pay isn’t always that they won’t pay and to characterise the industry as one that wants to take advantage of bloggers isn’t fair. Yes sure, there are some out there that haven’t got a clue and aren’t interested in learning but that’s not the majority.
Here are 4 things to think about when you want to establish a professional relationship with PR and brand reps.
1. First Impressions Count
The first time you engage with a PR or brand rep, remember that it’s a real live person sitting at the other end of the computer. A person with passion, interests, family and friends. They aren’t out to take advantage of you – they are doing their job either the best way they know how or the best way they can within the constraints they have on them. So, be friendly and polite and think about how you can make the best impression:
For example, if you only accept sponsored posts on your site instead of saying: I don’t write for free.
you could say something like: Thanks so much for thinking of me, I currently only accept sponsored posts on my site due the number of requests I receive and the amount of time involved in them. I’d be really happy to talk about ways that we could work together if this is something your client is open to.
Give them a response they can work with that is friendly and polite and leaves the door open for a future relationship.
2. Relationships are a two way street
If you are going to take money from a brand then you need to be very clear about the value that you offer them. The value you offer a brand is not just the fact that you blog, tweet and Facebook, nor is it that you have x number of followers. The value that you offer is in the way that you can engage your readers in a story about their brand – in a way that is authentic and interesting to your community.
More and more bloggers are wanting to approach PRs for sponsorships or giveaway products, if you haven’t done your bit in building the relationship then you are going to find this much harder.
3. Have a long term view
The most effective brand work is that which is more than a one-off review and giveaway. This is something that brands are increasingly becoming aware of, and open to. When you are setting your rates and considering your approach, don’t lose sight of the long term. How could you work with a brand in more than one way and in ways that offer value to your readers as well as to you?
At the recent BlogHer conference Laney from Crash Test Mummy tells me that one of the presenters suggested that bloggers might accept unpaid work with a brand the first time, while letting the rep know that the next time they work together it would need to be a paid capacity and outline their rates. Laney says she’s found this has worked really well for her personally, which is great to hear!
Be friendly, professional and upfront – PR and brands do want to work with bloggers and if they know in advance what it will cost it’s much easier for them to find the budget.
4. Events are not social opportunities
When a brand hosts an event it’s because they want to start a relationship with bloggers who they have a genuine interest in, and feel would be interested in them also. If you only ever attend blogging events to socialise with other bloggers you will lose your credibility and trust capital within the PR industry. While there are almost never any explicit expecations that you will write a post-event blog post, the event itself is an invitation to connect so consider carefully the events you choose to attend and how you might extend the hand of friendship in return. Taking the time to network and chat with the brand reps on the day, sending a follow up email and/or if the brand has truly done a great job of engaging with you on the day and sharing great content, consider blogging about it. It is not selling out to write an unpaid post (or a paid in kind post); remember your bloggers read your blog because they are interested in the same things you are, so if you find something interesting or useful share it and your readers will thank you as much as the brand.
Events offer you a great way to start a long term relationships with a brand – they give you the unique opportunity to make a personal connection with a marketing or PR team member. Take the time to understand what they are trying to achieve, what motivates them and the heartbeat of their organisation is – you might just be surprised by what they say!
Have you had a great experience building a professional working relationship as a blogger or PR rep? Please share your experiences in the comments or if you have a question, ask away!