5 Things To Look For In A Blogger Relationship

Do blogs and bloggers still matter for PR agencies and professionals? While it seems that every news organization, business and activity “enthusiast” has a blog, blogging itself has quieted down in the past few years. Many blogs are extensions of mainstream media, rather than disrupting or supplanting it, and when it comes to working with bloggers for visibility, the “pay-for-play” approach demanded by some name-brand bloggers doesn’t always yield the returns that brands want.

But there are certain advantages to working with bloggers, who continue to hold influence over consumer behavior. Blogs still rank as the most important information source for buying decisions among consumers age 18 – 34, according to one study, and the number of blogs out there only continues to grow.

Here are five things to look for in a blogger relationship.

They’re cost-effective.  Working with bloggers on product reviews or sponsored posts can cost as little as the price of product giveaways, or about $150 up, making it a highly cost-effective choice. Look at specialist bloggers in particular if you’re interested in targeting a niche demographic (people who live in a particular neighborhood, for example, or who adhere to a specific type of diet.) For hyperlocal or hyperspecific PR programs, bloggers are a gold mine.

They’re flexible and collaborative. Though many journalists or former journalists do go on to write blogs, bloggers as a whole are not journalists, and working with them can be more relaxed than collaborating with media professionals from traditional outlets. Look for bloggers who are authentic enthusiasts about their topics, as well as very open to product-specific mentions, without the constraints of editors who frown on “commercial” mentions.

They’re in it for the long-term.  Enthusiast bloggers make great partners to keep in mind for multiple interactions. They can be outlets for offering a first look at new products or services, for example, akin to VIP customers or “frequent fliers” who are already positively oriented toward the brand.

They’re well designed. A good blog has a very specific look and feel, and some do a fabulous job of presenting a certain image to the world. Work with a blog that has the look and feel you want your product or service to be aligned with. The resulting post will benefit from the good taste and style of the blogger, who will shape the content in her own unique style. Use the final product not just as a media placement, but as an additional marketing asset to be leveraged by your sales team.

They represent a new direction. Working with bloggers — who have more of an independent, free-spirited flair than traditional media — is likely to put your product or services in front of a different audience than the ones you’re reaching through traditional means. If you’re looking to go beyond your existing base, a well researched blogger program can provide a new outlet.

Make Your Blogger Relationships Work Harder

Bloggers aren’t just an online source anymore. The big ones, the “super-bloggers,” are expanding their media empire from small screens to large ones and virtual relationships to “real world” with tremendous PR potential for your clients.  You can tap into this power by following some timely tips.

Effective blogger relations can expose your client to bigger and better audiences, making them part of meaningful conversations that ultimately translate to increased awareness. This is particularly true now that certain bloggers own more of the media landscape than ever before. Many broadcast outlets book local bloggers as contributors, and top-tier newspapers accept contributions from regional bloggers.

To help leverage relations with the “super-bloggers,” take advantage of these timely tips:

It’s not about you. Bloggers don’t care about your brand’s agenda, period.  Their main focus is their audience. So when pitching an idea or product, get to know that audience – what do they want to hear about, what product might be useful for them, etc. You can’t always tell who the audience is by the blog’s name. Do the homework — it’s never worth ruining your relationship with someone over a lazy pitch.

Keep track of everything! Keep accurate records of the following: which of your story ideas a blogger has covered in the past, the last time you spoke, what approaches have worked well and what fell flat. When it comes to family / parenting bloggers I find it’s helpful to know personal details such as if they have children, and the children’s ages – this information is particularly valuable when pitching toys and other children’s products.

Think beyond the blog. Make sure that whatever idea you’re pitching is not only appropriate for the blog – but for expanded opportunities as well. Visualize the potential broadcast segment or event inclusion and outline ways to make it work. Blogger promotions and partnerships should also be taken into consideration – these are mostly pay to play, and it’s important to do your research and keep in mind that not every blogger is right for a paid promotional partnership.

Keep talking (and helping). Keep the conversation going! Check in on editorial calendar opportunities that may be a perfect fit for your client(s), upcoming events that might be worth attending or sponsoring, any Twitter chats that you and/or your clients should participate in, etc.

With a little homework and a solid strategy, these regional superstars could help elevate your client’s brand.  What are your tips for developing relationships with bloggers?

The Care And Feeding Of Bloggers: Tips For PR Pros

Last month, a top-ten firm cooked up a PR mess when it tried to surprise bloggers by serving frozen entrees from a client brand instead of the freshly cooked meals the guests were led to expect. The duped bloggers started an epic food fight, dishing on the agency and their client online for weeks after the event.

More recently, a boutique firm ran afoul of Jenny Lawson, a/k/a The Bloggess, by pitching her a news item that wasn’t germane to her brand of personal and highly irreverent humor. The situation would likely not have risen to the level that it did, except that an unfortunate PR exec hit “Reply All” when complaining about Lawson to a colleague, calling her a “f–king bitch.” Of course, Lawson instantly posted the note, and a subsequent (badly crafted) apology, and her legions of loyal readers leaped to her defense. Over a thousand comments were posted in a couple of days.

So, what is it with these bloggers? Are they just overly sensitive, or are PR people inept at engaging with them?

Of course, many of the principles of good media relations apply to bloggers, but it’s a mistake to equate the two as audiences. Bloggers aren’t just like everyday journalists; in most cases, they don’t answer to an editor or publisher, and many have a highly individualistic voice and following that is unique to their blog. It often makes more sense to look at them as influencers than media.

Here, then, are some blogger relations basics that may bear repeating.

Be personal. Unlike traditional journalists, most bloggers cover topics of intense personal interest. It’s their job to be biased, subjective, or even provocative. So, approach them the same way. Know the blog and its subject matter, and whatever you do, show some personality and awareness of their voice and following. Anyone who’s read The Bloggess, for example, will know that it’s not suited for a commercial pitch.

Be relevant. Ditto. Of course, any pitch should be preceded by research, but just know that, while a typical reporter may ignore an ill-advised approach, a blogger just might make you the poster child for PR spam. Many bloggers just don’t need or accept mainstream pitches, so know that before you go there.

Know the community. Better yet, be a part of it. Start by commenting on a recent post. If you like it, RT it on your own feed.

Be collaborative. If appropriate, think in terms of traffic-building ideas like reader promotions and giveaways; exclusive content angles; or sweepstakes that build readership.

Be respectful. Don’t be dismissive of smaller or niche blogs, as sometimes narrow outlets have deeply passionate followings. My team arranged a modest reader giveaway for an e-commerce client on a home design blog I’d frankly never heard of; the result was 8000 new newsletter sign-ups in a single day.

The Bloggess says it best. “Treat every blogger as if they have a dark army at their disposal.” Because, often, they do.