PR professionals and brand representatives may be well-versed in the art of gaining publicity from traditional media outlets (newspapers, magazines, television, etc.), but many are not as experienced when it comes to dealing with bloggers. As a blogger and a marketing and social media professional by trade, I have seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Here are some tips.
1. Finding quality bloggers
Look for blogs that have been around for more than six months – many bloggers start with great intentions and quickly lose interest when they find out how much work is involved in maintaining a blog. Look for good writing (do you want spelling errors, incomplete sentences and other grammar flubs to be associated with your brand?). Monthly views and social media followers are important – find out the blog’s reach. Look for a good number of reader comments and social media shares/retweets to determine if the readers are engaged. Look for bloggers that are well connected – participation with blogger groups and associations are good (the Beauty Blog Network and Total Beauty are examples from the beauty world, but there are many others). Make sure bloggers are following FTC (or other relevant) guidelines – there should be some sort of disclosure if bloggers receive free products/services. iFabbo is a great way to connect with quality beauty and fashion bloggers. iFabbo maintains strict standards for blogger and brand members. If you find a blogger you like working with, feel free to ask them for recommendations on other bloggers. You can also check their blogroll (a list of links to other blogs – usually on the home page) for similar blogs.
2. Allow for longer lead times for posts/reviews
Most blogs are a labor of love. Most bloggers don’t have the resources to blog full-time or hire staff. Remember that blogging is most likely NOT their full-time job, so be respectful of their time. Blog posts are often more involved and longer than typical product mentions in magazines, so allow time for testing, research and writing. You SHOULD check in from time to time after submitting a product for review, but be polite and never demand a review. Just as in the magazine/print world, unless you are paying for the review, bloggers are under no obligation to review your product.
3. Be professional and courteous at all times
You should cultivate relationships with bloggers the same way you would with traditional editors and press staff. Remember, when you submit a product for review, you are not paying a copywriter to write glowing words about your product – you are asking for an unbiased review. Many bloggers have a wide sphere of influence on the web through blog readership and social media channels. It’s best to keep relationships friendly and mutually beneficial!
4. Send relevant press kits
As the editor of a cruelty-free beauty blog, I expect that you will send me pitches for beauty products that are cruelty-free (not tested on animals). Don’t send me pitches for auto parts or macaroni and cheese recipes – it’s just not relevant to my readers.
5. Perfect your pitch
Address me by my name – make it seem personal and not like a mass e-mail (even if it is). Don’t forget to include information about your product, small photos or PDFs (don’t clog up in-boxes without asking – “photos available upon request” works beautifully), a link to your product’s website (you won’t believe how many people forget the link), your contact information, when the product will be released, prices, etc.
6. Include a short description of your product with relevant links
Let’s say you have an upcoming event that you’d like me to share with my readers. If I can cut and paste a short, pre-written description of the event with links, I’m much more likely to post. Make my life easier. This should be written in the tone of the blog you’re trying to reach (usually an informal tone) and should be newsworthy (not OVERLY self-serving). If I have to re-write your formal press release in an informal tone, remove quotes from your president, and remove unnecessary fluff, I’m less likely to do it. Of course, the blogger can add to and edit your blurb, but you’ve given him/her a great head start.
7. Don’t call
Phone calls are a thing of the past in the online media world. Bloggers typically see phone calls as negative and intrusive. Send your pitch via e-mail and feel free to follow up, but don’t call unless you have permission – it won’t help you in this case.
8. Send appropriate press samples
Do send full-sized samples. Bloggers need to use a product frequently to write an adequate review. For example, skincare products take at least four weeks to test. I can’t possibly write a valid review on a product I’ve only used once or twice. Whether you’re promoting appliances, baby items, food items, beauty products or clothing, you’ll need to send the blogger an adequate product for a proper review. Don’t send a product and ask for it to be returned either – that’s just tacky and most bloggers won’t even consider it.
9. Never demand a write-up in exchange for an event invitation
It is implied that bloggers will do their best to write about events they attend, event sponsors, etc. It is considered poor form to demand a blog post, just as it would be considered tacky to invite a TV or newspaper editor to an event on conditional terms. Relax. Even if you don’t get a write-up, you’ve made a connection. Never discount the power of networking!
10. Do your research
It is reasonable to ask a blogger for things like page rank, number of monthly viewers, social media fan counts, demographics, newsletter subscriber numbers, etc. However, many of these things can be found online, and you’ll likely get a better response if you do your homework beforehand.
If you’re a blogger, what’s been your experience when it comes to working with brands?