Unfortunately, I had to leave about a third of the way through this conversation to catch my train back to London but it got me thinking...
I am a blogger (albeit for only six months now) but I've been in the PR game for over ten years. As such, I have a unique insight into the tentative relationship that currently exists between blogger and PR execs. I am able to to understand what the PR person is looking for from a blogger and also, what a blogger is looking for from a PR person. Here are my tips for a happy, healthy relationship between PR executives and bloggers...
|Image credit: Adamr on FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
A main component, arguably the most important component is contacts (as in building relationships with people). Anyone can search through one of the many media contacts databases to find a journalist or blog that writes on certain subjects and who you think may be interested in your story or client. However, it's another thing entirely to build relationships with these people with mutual trust and respect. But build relationships you should, it can make for better coverage and engagement.
Interacting with bloggers is not rocket science. Some of the rules you should be applying when working with journalists are also true for bloggers. Namely;
- Never ever allow your emails to bloggers to begin "Dear blogger". They will go straight in the bin. Even worse than this is to start an email to a female parent blogger with "Dear Mummy Blogger". You run the risk of being derided on twitter. You wouldn't start an email to a journalist with "Dear journalist" would you? No, didn't think so. It doesn't make for a good working relationship.
- Before you contact a blogger, do your research. I can't stress this enough. What is their name? What do they write about? This sort of information can be found in media databases, but you should also be visiting the blogs you're thinking about getting in touch with and having a look around, just like you should be reading up on a journalist's work.
- Linked to the point above, if a blogger has an 'advertising' and/or 'contact me' page on their blog, read it. That's a blogger's way of being up-front about what they will and not publish on their blog with regard to sponsored posts, advertising, text links etc.
- Don't contact bloggers about things that are totally irrelevant to them. Again, do your research. Mothers to nine-year-old will find it insulting if you contact them about a range of breastfeeding products. You may laugh, but it can happen. Like I've said before, you wouldn't do this to a journalist, would you?
- Don't ignore bloggers once you've been in touch. There is nothing worse than a PR person who promises the earth and then goes all silent and doesn't deliver. If you do this to a journalist or a blogger, they won't want to work with you again.
Blogs are a great way of reaching people directly but, in your quest to promote your company or client, don't always just focus on the blogs with the biggest readerships. Yes, a large number of people will read whatever ends up on the blog but will that equate to good engagement? You may find that blogs with smaller readerships work harder to interact with their readers because they're trying to grow their own readership (I'm not saying that the bigger blogs don't of course, but they are interacting with a vast number of people and that can sometimes mean they're spread a bit thinly). Going with a 'smaller' blog can also promote loyalty between you and the blogger, so think about that too!
In the same vein, don't rule out working with blogs because they don't 'look right'. There are some amazing blogs out there that write on specific topics and have large followings on their blog, twitter etc. However, because they may not look a certain way or write a certain way, PR execs won't go near them. You're missing a trick if you ignore these blogs. These blogs have the potential to become cult and if you can build a good relationship with them, that will be golden.
And one last point has to be about the importance of managing your company or client's expectations. Please don't promise the earth to them if there's the slightest chance you can't deliver. But you shouldn't be doing this anyway, it's totally irresponsible and unprofessional.
Just as it is important for a PR professional to be just that - professional - so it is important for a blogger to maintain a level of professionalism when working with PR execs. With this in mind...
- Please treat PR people with respect, even if they have made a mistake. The relationship between blogger and PR professionals is still in its infancy. PR execs will make mistakes, it's inevitable. But please don't shoot them down in flames, especially publicly. It's important that PR execs learn from their mistakes, not vilified for making one in the first place (of course, if they are repeat offenders then a different tactic may be required).
- If you don't have an 'advertising' page on your blog, get one. It's the best way to tell PR people what sort of content you will and won't accept on your blog. It won't stop the irrelevant emails coming through but it will help.
- Make sure your blog includes a way for you to be contacted. As a PR professional, it's so frustrating when you find a great blog you want to work with but you can't find any way to get in touch with the blogger.
- Keep to your promises. If you say that you'll write a post about something or other, please do it. It won't just be the PR exec who'll be expecting one to be written, their company or client will be as well and, if it doesn't appear, the PR exec will be held accountable.
- It would be useful for PR execs to be sent follow-up statistics for a post you've written about their company or client's product or service say, two weeks or one month afterwards. It's important that a PR professional can demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) to their company or client and follow-up statistics like this can be extremely valuable in showing how many people blog posts have reached and any associated interaction.