It’s no big news these days that bloggers and influencers can form an integral part of the plan for client coverage – so why are brands and PR agencies still blanket emailing, getting details wrong with their outreach and generally rubbing bloggers up the wrong way?
Take it from me, I’m an established blogger having worked on my blogging brand GastroGays for the past five years and now calling it my full-time job, but I’ve also spent my time and paid my dues working in PR in London in both an agency and as a freelance PR and social media manager in London and Dublin. I’ve been on both sides of the outreach process. To really harness the potential power bloggers can bring to a campaign, client or project, here’s where PRs could improve blogger outreach strategies.
Watch Bloggers and interact off the clock
Get to know the bloggers you want to work with. Don’t just use a scatter gun approach and a lengthy Google search to choose content creators for a campaign. Make time to gain an understanding of the most desirable key players in the sphere but don’t neglect those small-scale micro-influencers or the up-and-coming blog writers who are destined to excel in their fields eventually. Comment on their stuff, engage with them over social media, be a reader, be a supporter. Above all, be a human. It’s always lovely to find that PR who approaches you about an opportunity is actually that one whose personal profile pops up so often on social channels. Make it your business to know the movers and shakers and make yourself known outside of the corporate sphere if you can – it speaks volumes. The human element is essential.
Get Your Facts Straight
Awkward. There’s nothing worse than a misinformed email from PR to blogger or an opportunity sent from an unknown marketing exec out of the blue that totally misses the mark. Getting names wrong, mentioning the wrong blog title, having a snooty, snappy email tone or effusively praising a post that isn’t even on your blog are such standard practices that it’s becoming the norm. Don’t be sloppy with your content creator outreach. Avoid those rookie mistakes as it reeks of total amateur hour and make sure you’re focused on the fine details. Inspire a content creator to work with you – you can’t change a first impression.
Find the Face Time
Don’t lurk in the shadows and only reach out when a boring client campaign is crying out for coverage. Instead, foster real relationships with content creators, whether that’s via social media, over email or – even better – in person. Invite ones you admire into the office for a get-to-know-each-other chat. Meet a couple over a cuppa one afternoon and pick their brains whilst detailing what you do. Take some of the key players to lunch or for a drink so you can ascertain the specifics of their niche, audience and angle. You will get to know first hand what they do and don’t do – invaluable collateral going forward.
Be that friendly face and the PR who puts in the time and effort – not the one who just drops by when they need a favour. Content creators respond better when you’ve developed a relationship with them and have demonstrated symbiotic benefits. Trust is everything and a random email signature in their inbox once in a blue moon isn’t going to cut it. Become a friend and you can better rely on content creators’ coverage.
Save the spin, be up front
We know PR is *all* about spin. Turning the tragic into magic, trash into treasure, subdued into sexy – it’s effectively what PR and marketing is all about. Account managers, directors and execs need to be adept in making the banal absolutely brilliant and that’s what makes them great at their jobs. However, unlike journalists who report on behalf of their masthead or employer, blogger and influencers are all about their honest voice and ‘brand me’, effectively. They are small business owners building brands and dealing in contracts and deadlines daily, so they can be just as professional (if not more so) than journalists and other media figures. Don’t underestimate, undermine, sugar coat or skirt around content creators – they can handle the truth and an honest answer is always welcome. Cut the jargon. Keep it real. Get to the point. Let them know the specifics of what you need, how they can help you, what they’ll get in return and also what future opportunities are in the pipeline. An open and honest outreach to bloggers will inspire the same in response – a healthy, honest and trusting working relationship.
Remember, it’s a community
Bloggers talk, so don’t treat them as one-time coverage dumps. There’s a reason brands are box jumping over traditional media and mediums in favour of tapping into content creators’ audience – proven to be less invasive and a more personal pitching space to sell product. Bloggers have created close-knit, loyal and engaged audience pods so try not to treat them like a one-time hook-up because a sour taste will spread around. Bloggers have the ability to be far more real, honest and open than their traditional media peers, so they have little to lose by calling out PR bullshit whereas journalists and traditional media don’t have that luxury. Keep everything professional, kind and open because you don’t want to lose that blogger/influencer cash cow and you certainly don’t want to be that mean, moody PR everyone has stories of or the brand that bloggers avoid.
Free up that budget
So many of us are blue in the face saying it but, once more with feeling, bloggers need to get paid. There’s few things worse than hearing “we have no budget for this”. Bloggers need income for the content they produce in a way journalists don’t! Don’t treat them the same. A full-time staff journalist produces their content because they are being paid a monthly salary, bloggers and influencers are carving out a living project-by-project, each individual income stream at a time. So you believe they don’t deserve to be paid for what they produce? See above: brands that bloggers avoid.
Content creators are self-made entrepreneurs, making bank off their own hard work, so don’t be the brand that expects the world in return for nothing of monetary value. Exposure doesn’t pay the mortgage. Fair pay for fair work should be the accepted attitude across the PR/marketing industries. If you’re commissioning a blog post on a client’s products – you realise that’s a long-term digital advertisement and endorsement, right? Likewise a lengthy Instagram story using a brand’s products really creatively to help them sell – it’s not a talent someone just licked off the ground, often it’s taken time, practice and energy to perfect social media sharing skills. Of course, don’t squander the cash – be discerning about where that budget is going, only work with content creators whose skills and influence you admire and make an opportunity to work together truly worth their while.