Once relegated to the most esoteric of interests (think Philately or Dungeons and Dragons), specialist bloggers are now all over the media landscape, and PR professionals are paying attention. In fact, I’ve had consumer clients who were more interested in what an influential blogger said about their product than a mainstream news publication, especially when it comes to important lifestyle niches like craft beer or mobile devices.
Like working with all media, however, there are certain points to keep in mind when dealing with these bloggers, who are often passionate experts in their fields.
Remember, bloggers are not journalists
90% of the stress or grievances when working with bloggers stem from a lack of understanding of who they are, or more specifically, what they’re not – professional journalists. Most never wrote for a publication, and even the top niche bloggers can be enthusiasts, not objective reporters.
This is not to say that the quality of work is subpar. The top craft beer bloggers I’ve worked with when dealing with a major beer brand were even more knowledgeable and detailed in their prose than journalists who cover craft beer for national publications. One must remember, however, that a love for a particular field does not make them immune to errors. Since most bloggers are the writer and editor, they may sometime miss mistakes an editor would have caught. In addition, we shouldn’t assume the blogger knows PR jargon like”off the record,” “exclusive,” or “embargo”.
But they can be more beneficial for brand visibility
The lack of resources works both ways, with bloggers not constrained by word count or an editor’s blue pencil, allowing them to express more detailed views and opinions on a particular product or subject. They also have a unique way of getting your message across by speaking directly to their readers in a personalized, unfiltered way that is often lost in traditional journalism’s need to seem impartial and unbiased.
Be patient yet firm
Don’t get upset over minor hiccups like a blogger’s failing to cc everyone on an email or forgetting that you sent an image folder a few days ago. Remember, some have full-time jobs and blogging is only one part of their lives. At the same time, don’t let them take you for a ride. If they misspelled a name or included an incorrect image, be sure it gets fixed even if they are “off the clock”, especially if it’s a paid sponsorship post.
Incentives don’t have to be monetary
Some brands are reluctant to work with bloggers due to the pay wall barrier and view a sponsored post as essentially (an incredibly cheap) native advertisement. From a blogger’s perspective, however, a few hundred dollars can go a long way to help justify the work they put into their blogs. If however, you or your client are adamant about not paying, look for alternative ways to garner a blogger’s interest. For our beer brand, we simply gave craft beer bloggers an “exclusive” first opportunity to review a new IPA before it hit stores. This sense of exclusiveness coupled with their fascination with the brand’s history more than justified working with us.
Set expectations beforehand
Before working with any blogger, be sure to outline exactly what you hope to accomplish by working together. Is your ultimate goal to drive site traffic to a commerce site or simply gain favorable reviews for a new product? Have a detailed conversation with the blogger and be sure to include social media shares or any other key metrics you need to evaluate success.
Ultimately niche blogger relationships, both transactional and otherwise, are a powerful asset to any PR campaign, especially as part of a broader traditional media outreach. Just be sure to understand the key differences and you’ll be glad you entered the blogosphere.