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.

7 Reasons Why PR Pros Should Blog (Updated)

For public relations and other agency professionals, blogging may be natural, but it isn’t always easy, particularly if you have a full-time job or are running a business. I love to write, feel reasonably confident in my blogging, and held editorial positions early in my career (where all I did was write.) But even so, there are days when coughing up a brief post feels like drudgery, and when my husband is my most loyal reader.

So, why do it? Business blogging has changed fairly dramatically in the six short years since I started. It seems like everyone’s into content marketing, so it’s much harder to stand out. Also, the role of the content blog as a community hub has diminished in favor of social media platforms. Today, people are more likely to be commenting on Facebook, Instagram or Medium than on your blog page, so it’s less likely to result in the gratification of lots of comments. And blog comment spam is so out of control that super-blogger Chris Brogan recently closed down his public comment function.

Even so, I think the predictions of blogging’s death are premature. It’s vital for communications pros to understand the mechanics of blogging, and to be able to jump in when needed. Also, for those of us in PR who counsel clients about it, it helps to have done it. We’re familiar with the challenges as well as the upside. A blog is also an extraordinarily valuable tool for a business owner. Here’s why.

Fresh content drives SEO. High-quality, searchable content is a part of any good PR or marketing campaign, and increasing your blogging is probably the most painless way to update content without thinking about it. What it may lack in precise targeting, it can make up for in frequency and regularity.   

A blog is a key sales tool. Content extends a company’s selling proposition. Yes, there are other ways to push out content more proactively, but an industry-focused blog is the most organic way to get your message out. In our business, the talent of our staff is what we’re selling. So, why not highlight that talent and how we think, create, and work on a weekly basis?

A blog is a great recruiting tool.  Direct, unfiltered contact with important constituencies is key to a professional services company, and in our business, finding talented staff is sometimes harder than finding great clients. Since we’ve upgraded our blog, we’ve noticed a measurable increase in the quantity and quality of unsolicited resumes from new and recent communications graduates.

Blogging feeds your social stream. Finding relevant content to share on social networks is made easier with a steady flow of blog posts.

A blog is good brand PR. It shows that someone’s home. When browsing the sites of creative agencies, or just about any company, most of us note if there’s an up-to-date blog.  It says you’re plugged in to industry issues and events, and it inevitably leads to additional visibility opportunities in the form of speaking invitations and content sharing within other, relevant professional communities.

Blogging is a terrific discipline. I think of it like working out. You may dread it, try to avoid it, or occasionally even hate it. But when it’s done,  it’s a beautiful feeling and a very empowering step that propels you on to the next thing.

Blogging helps crystallize thinking on key issues. Once I started blogging regularly about some of the big topics in our industry, like outcomes measurement, or content marketing, I found it far easier to articulate a POV to clients and prospects. Similarly, a ripped-from-the-headlines post about the latest brand crisis has a way of forcing you to go beyond a superficial read of the situation, so you can wind up more well informed and confident in your judgments.

In subsequent posts, I’ll look back over the years and share the best tips for maintaining a business-focused blog, based on firsthand experience.