Nixdminx
The life and times of a happy go lucky blogger in London
Bloggers + brands = happiness? Discuss

It’s not just parliament that’s hung – the debate between the blogosphere and the brand world will hang around for years to come. It’s true that no one has all the answers. My view is that we’re all in this together and in the spirit of community, collaboration and caring about what we do, there certainly is a way for bloggers and brands to work happily together.

Linda Jones at havealovelytime asked me for my views on her recent article Travel PR meets Parent Blogger – How to do it Properly. Linda is someone I have great respect for her. Not only is she prolific and an all round good egg, she has amazing insights and vision. Her blog gotyourhandsfull set up for twins has been a valued resource for a friend of mine who is Mother to twins. Havealovelytime is a great resource for the family traveller. To be honest, it’s probably one of the only community of shared experience about travel and days out for families, by families. That’s why during my work at lastminute.com running it’s social media efforts, I recognised the great work she was doing and named the blog in two lists, the Top 10 Travel Blogs and also the OYLB Top 50 travel and lifestyle blogs.

Which brings me on to my response to Linda’s post. If you’re a blogger there are some things you should know about how brands view you…and not just in travel either. Your blog can make for a rich and rewarding experience through the communities you engage with which will without any doubt include brands.

And what makes me so qualified to write this post? I’ve been a corporate blogger for over four years and a parenting and lifestyle blogger for nearly two. My advice is for bloggers who are finding themselves approached by brands, pr agencies, digital agencies and advertising agencies who are all trying to get a piece of this new blogging bubble.

First and foremost
If you’re a blogger with a PR and journalism past, you will certainly understand the migration of media away from the traditional print medium towards social media. If not, well I think you’ll be learning pretty quickly that you are in demand, and here’s why

1. It’s all about you baby!
And why are you so popular? Brands are on the look out for UGC / CGM (user generated content / consumer generated content) in blogs. This could be; reviews, news, praise, rants or a personal story and it does not have to be orchestrated, negotiated, planned or placed. If there is a link back to the brand site or product mention this will help with SEO (how high they appear on the page on google) for the brand which is great for them and affiliates the two of you, giving them credibility. If the company is using a monitoring tool such as Radian6 they will find your post or tweet and be able to compile it with others to find out the public opinion and calculate sentiment. What does this mean for a blogger? You’re opinion will be analysed. Sounds weird doesn’t it? Maybe a bit Big Brotherish (in the true Orwellian sense)? Don’t be put off. It’s massively democratic – if you put your opinion out there in the public domain, it is being listened to and smart companies are using their ears to learn and hone their offerings. If you’re unhappy about a product or have an issue, you might even get a response from the company and your problem resolved. As many parent bloggers know and others who write about fashion, beauty, travel – you can also get to build strong relationships with brands which are mutually beneficial.

Your blog + postive brand mention = authority and credibility for brand

2. Why is blogging so popular all of a sudden?
Blogging is very powerful and wikipedia is a good source of info on the varying trends if you want to know you knitting. Since the arrival of the internet into the mainstream, the last 10 years or so has seen a paradigm shift in the media and not just from print into online. Traditional journalism has been eroded by brand power and people power – both are putting out content in the new realm of social media. News is broken on twitter by people not journalists any longer so what does this mean for the corporate bod? They’re lonely as they don’t have many journalists left to talk to and they still need to create buzz around their brands.

PR – journalism = no press coverage
PR + social media = online coverage


3. Why brands want to work with bloggers

If you are a travel company, Linda has listed several in her article, it’s a difficult sell to put your product in 40-50 words on a website and add a thumbnail. Getting bloggers to experience and review product or holidays gives meaningful feature length content and opens the door to conversation.

Blog + brand product/experience = meaningful content

4. If brands are getting it wrong – you can do them a favour, point it out
The thing is, a lot of brands are terrified of social media and that’s why they’re getting things slightly off key at times.

Have you had an email from a PR company asking ‘when to expect coverage’? or from a marketing person saying ‘I need your decision today’. These are the questions that PR and media people ask on behalf of clients as they harvest their crop of media coverage or bums on seats for an event. At work, I constantly have to remind people inside companies that bloggers have different sensibilities; they write about niche interests and usually out of hours and the usual rules don’t apply – so they need to be patient, understanding and show they care. In fact, I would say 20% of a social media role is actually an emotional, yet professional, investment into your work. On this blog, I am on the receiving end of invites and offers for trips, products to review, news and events. I feel well within my right to explain where I stand to brands or media companies; if I am not going to write about something, I will tell them why. If they want to me to come to events, I have baggage. I’ve recently explained to a PR agency that unless they can arrange my transport to an event I can’t go because of the time pressure of the school run. They have booked me a taxi and now we’re both happy. Other brands run evening events in town; they forget the obvious; Mummy bloggers don’t live in London and have kids to put to bed. The conversations which we have with our blogging communities must continue into the relationships we build with brands to make them mutually beneficial.

Blogger = opinion
Blogger + feedback = change

5. So what to do if you are approached by about your blog?
If you are a blogger, and you’ve never worked with PR, marketing and advertising agencies or even big global or domestic brands like Disney and Butlins, you may feel wowed that you are receiving attention. It’s great isn’t it? But it’s a two way street, you are valuable because you have set yourself up as an independent blogger with a point of view. You may also experience the rabbit in headlights effect too and feel overwhelmed or even pressured into committing to something. Do make sure you ask questions; why are you inviting me? what are you expecting me to do? do you want time commitment? are you giving me product? are you offering to pay for a post? A good social media expert will set all of these things out for you but if they have not do not be afraid to answer questions. It is in both of your interests to make this work if you are interested in the brand.

Blogger + social media expert = conversation

6. What to do about unwelcome attention
As Linda and many other bloggers have stated, bloggers are often on the receiving end of unwanted, mismatched, irrelevant and untimely promotional material. As time goes by, agencies compile lists of bloggers which they rely on to blast out news. It’s important that you respond and tell them you want to be removed off that list or better still, tell them what you are interested in. Often the only way to reach a blogger is by a comment on their blog, an email or a tweet – how do they know what’s going on in your head? Of course, great social media experts will read your blog but an intern sending a press release out to 50 journalists and 100 bloggers will not take such care. Help try and change this it before it becomes common practice.

Blogger + feedback to agency = progress

If you have any comments or questions, do feel free to ask me here or on twitter @nixdminx

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16 Comments to “Bloggers + brands = happiness? Discuss”

  1. New Mummy says:

    I get a lot of PR attention, when I first started getting offered things I took everything but now I’m more selective. If they offer things that are not suitable I write back and thank them but explain its not for me often they will email back with something that’s suitable. I can only go to PR events if they cover travel expenses as I live in Lincolnshire & most things are in London. I always tell them how long I will test something for and when they should expect a post up, sometimes if I have a lot to do it may be a month but as long as I tell them they are happy with that, they understand that I am a full time mum.
    The emails that really annoy me are when they just send a press release with even a hello, I do delete them but I have explain that on my blog under PR/advertising.
    .-= New Mummy´s last blog ..How Do You Deal With The Grumps? =-.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by New Mummy and nixdminx, nixdminx. nixdminx said: Bloggers + brands = happiness? How bloggers and brands can work successfully together http://bit.ly/d0mLUf [...]

  3. Natalie says:

    I’m normally wary when I read posts about brands or PRs working with bloggers as they tend to skip the informative and cut straight to rant, but knew I could count on you for a great post. I think it’s important that people realise that they get out what they put in and so if they want to reduce the clutter, to be specific and upfront about how to be contacted and what you’re interested (or not interested) in hearing about. If they still muck up, you can point them back to the link but conveying what you’re about makes you professional, a force to be reckoned with, and someone who is being accountable for helping to improve the blogger/PR dynamic.
    I think one of the biggest sources of criticism is the misguided idea that money can be directly made from PR, when they invariably don’t hold budget and have to generate coverage for free leveraging product or a small amount of budget to cover expenses. As bloggers we’ll do ourselves a great favour if we get more savvy and recognise how to leverage the opportunities. I don’t respond to ‘just a press release’ after all, as they ‘just’ don’t require a personal response.
    .-= Natalie´s last blog ..Cardboard Fun with Creata Car =-.

  4. Brenda says:

    A well written post that highlights the correct points of how bloggers and brands should be working together.
    It is all to do with professionalism and attitude. Those bloggers who work hard and know their goals will be treated more respectfully than the others who are just looking for freebies and do not have much to back it up with.
    More and more PR companies and brands are investing in resources and time which will enable them to work with bloggers in a more productive manner.
    Brands are now starting to realise that the blogging community can help then reach out to the social media audience, as people are looking for the personal viewpoint rather than just clever PR spin.
    So what is important now is to find a solution that is a win-win situation for both the blogger and the brand!

    • admin says:

      The win-win is long term relationship building I think – how long do you imagine blogging for? And how long is a social media expert’s career? Now that’s a question! x

  5. Hi all,

    I’d like to say first that I’m impressed and yet not surprised with the quality and in-depth information on this article. great stuff.

    Speaking from the brands side, we need our clients to spark a little conversation, find that very blogger that represents an excellent match and will benefit from covering the product. We should never forget that clients are as passionate about the subject matter as the blogger. And while the client has the product, the offers, the events and experience, the benefits, the blogger has the community. if the blogger benefits her community by promoting the product, there you have the win-win.

    Some PR’s have failed in the “finding” and in the “approaching”. And some bloggers have failed accepting money for any product that doesn’t represent its community. In every case, both parties loose. But when a PR finds a good blogger and the other way around, it is all very easy. it is like falling in love…maybe???

    Would you say helping bloggers and brands find each other is the key to a sweet relationship? A match.com in the blogosphere?

    what do you think??????

    Xavier izaguirre, blogger at http://combatlondon.co.uk/
    and Social Media manager at http://socialmedialibrary.co.uk/

    • admin says:

      what a very romantic view you have of the blogosphere Xavier! Great to hear from your side of the fence too, thanks for your comment

  6. hahahah, yes I am very romantic :)

    ….Thanks for sharing your vision

    Xavier
    .-= Xavier Izaguirre´s last blog ..Can “the most unfunny children’s comedy this year” Use Social Media To Combat Bad Reviews? =-.

  7. Linda says:

    Oh my, I don’t know what to say about the earlier part of your piece! So well wow, thank you will have to do! Those are very kind words indeed.

    Thank you for the informative, detailed and thoughtful response, I’m sure this is something that people can return to, more than once, to learn more about what makes brands tick.

    I’m not sure I’d always agree with Xavier – I think part of the “problem” for bloggers and/or journalists drowning in an inbox clogging tide of nonsense is that some misguided PRs should be facing up to the fact that the likelihood of a blogger or journalist being “passionate” about a product is pretty miniscule.

    They want to provide a service to their readers not be a mouthpiece for a ‘passionate’ brand. I agree with Natalie that as a blogger and/or journalist being upfront about what you’re interested in is key.

    That’s why I spell out clearly in ‘about’ sections who we are and what we do. So then when a PR insists on sending us loads of documents/attachments/huge pictures because they have found us on a list somewhere, obviuously without a cursory glance at the site – while claiming to love it – that’s when the ‘ranty’ type posts are most likely to spring up.

    And if you use a service like Response Source and are as specific as is humanly possible and *still* get stuff you haven’t asked for, then it can be pretty galling.

    Best is when you say you are writing about X and some (frankly ridiculous) PR ‘know-how’ suggests that account execs should contact you in light of your query and say: “I know you are writing about X, but really, why don’t you write about Y?”

    On a good day it can be entertaining.

    And of course there are plenty of excellent PR teams doing a great job.

    Thanks again for this post and for your kind words.
    .-= Linda´s last blog ..Great British Days Out 2010 raising money and awareness for NACCPO =-.

  8. Katie Morse says:

    Hey there and thanks for the Radian6 mention. Coming from a PR background myself, I’m still astounded to see how little attention is paid to pitches. I fully understand the need to get placements, but with the social space a personalized pitch (that’s well-targeted, no less) goes a long way. Bloggers of all shapes and sizes are busy people, just as are the reps doing the pitching and the the journalists they’ve traditionally been sending these pitches to. Sometimes a bit of background can save everyone involved a lot of time – and also help to improve the effectiveness of the campaigns they’re running.

    Just my .02 on what I’ve seen from both sides of the fence.

    Cheers!

    Katie
    Community Manager | Radian6
    @misskatiemo

    • admin says:

      Thanks Katie – Radian6 is a great tool and lovely to know that there are people behind it too, great to see you here!

  9. @Linda (and all)

    It is difficult to feel passionate about a pitch that consists of a press release and attachments, but, if the match between the blog’s agenda and product-offer exist, and the PR move goes beyond the press release then, maybe, bloglove can be given.

    Examples of great blog engagement include Reebok Easytone, Silverstone, Disney. They managed to string the chords of the bloggers with “money can’t buy” opportunities.

    And they resulted in win-win-win situations. that is what we all are in the game for, specially all those of us who play the three parts (bloggers, PR’s and readers)

    Also, think of football, music, fashion… These bloggers would kill to spend time with some of the Pr agencies’ clients. Some bloggers are there for the experience, not the money. Passion drive those around
    .-= Xavier Izaguirre´s last blog ..Last-minute food bargains =-.

  10. [...] ticks helps. But overall, apply a certain etiquette and you will be successful. You just need to keep your ears open, come clean and participate in the conversation. Pretending you do (ie, saying you love a blog [...]

  11. Claire says:

    I have this post starred in my reader, and am back again …. just thought Id delurk this time. Its a great post. Thanks

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