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