Between aspiration and belief there is the same difference that lies between an advertisement in a glossy magazine and a blogger. They could be selling customers the same product, but while one sells a vision, the other reality. This explains why (at least in the view of Technorati’s Digital Influence Report) consumers trust information and advice from bloggers, and why blogs are the third-most influential digital-resource after retail and brand sites when making a purchase.
Marketers are therefore increasingly looking to bloggers as the new influencers to support their communications and SEO strategy. However, unlike B2B marketing, working with bloggers demands a different approach – an interpersonal one with just the right amount of professionalism and a dash of diplomacy. Because unlike savvy media buyers, bloggers are everyday people – a mum of three, a teenage shopaholic, a foodie.
How do I know this? Because Cision is home to what we believe to be the world’s largest and most up-to-date global blogger database. We do not only store their contact details, we constantly engage with them to understand their pitching preferences, their pet peeves, their highs and lows of the blogosphere, which we share on our blog as part of our popular Speedy Spotlight interview series.
In this article, I have collated the intelligence gathered from our interviews to bring brand marketers the insight they need to get smart about their blogger outreach.
Identify and understand bloggers that are right for you
Bloggers are all online and active on social media, but simply surfing the internet will result in a long list of contacts that are not necessarily right for the brand. Remember, bloggers are influencers only in the areas they write about. Sending mass emails to a random list picked off the web will prove counterproductive.
Ellie Myers, author of beauty, fashion and lifestyle blog Misellyre, says: “There’s nothing worse than a mass email about car insurance or something like that — it shows that the marketer is trying to get a job done quickly and has given no thought as to whether it would be relevant to my blog.”
Don’t build lists, build relationships
‘What can marketers do better in working with you?’ is one of the questions we ask bloggers who we interview, which inevitably yields a similar response – get to know me.
Bloggers are everyday people, often with other jobs and responsibilities. Even though sponsored posts are often welcomed by bloggers, the approach taken by marketers can sometimes put them off. This is about person-to-person marketing, which is why building a relationship is key to securing a long-term bond.
Gabriella Simonian, content and website manager at BarChick Ltd and author of the food blog Thyme & Honey, advises: “I like to build personal relationships and be a little less formal. It’s nice to be able to pick up the phone and speak to someone I know, and who is going to come to me with great ideas or opportunities that fit with the content of my blog.”
Be upfront and honest
Blogging has evolved to become a lucrative option, and full-time career for some. However, sponsored posts come in many forms, whether it’s in exchange for a free product trial, freebies, or payment.
Bloggers are undoubtedly receptive to the opportunities presented. However, from our conversations with them, it is clear that PRs do not always treat bloggers with the same respect as they do journalists, even though it is coverage they seek from both parties.
It is best for marketers to be upfront about what they want from bloggers and discuss expectations from the start. Do not demand coverage for a freebie and don’t wangle a story by luring them into fake competitions with non-existent prizes.
Danny, author of the daddy blog Danny UK, tells it like it is: “I’m more inclined to work with you if you’re fun, approachable and I don’t feel I’m being used. But if you want to feature something on the blog, talk to me. Ask if I would be interested. Ask if I know anyone else or if you need more people. Tell me what you can offer me. Let’s be honest, I want the money and the views as much as your clients want to be read about, but it needs to work for both of us.”
Let bloggers do the talking
Good blogs have an established online presence and digital network. They do so for a reason that has to do with the blogger producing content that has proved to be appealing to its audience. It is important, therefore, to let bloggers do what they do best and keep to their individual style for the message to benefit in their network.
Hayley McLean, author of the mummy blog Sparkles and Stretchmarks explains: “I think a good PR discusses expectations from both sides from the start – when they would like the review or piece to go live by, what they would like to be included, etc – this way there can be no crossed wires and everybody knows where they stand.”
Be a part of the blogging community
If you are looking for a one-off association with bloggers, you know the drill. But if bloggers are and will be an essential element in your marketing mix, it is important to stay on their good side. The blogosphere is vast but a close-knit community. A single negative comment or a tacky approach can evoke the wrath of the blogger and their network.
While influencer data and outreach tools, such as Cision’s, give you direct access to such details, networking with bloggers personally at events and conferences is a sure way to inclusion. Moreover, engaging with bloggers in discussions and debates also helps give your brand a voice among influencers and industry peers.
By maintaining a consistent relationship with bloggers – sharing industry insight or sending a free trial their way for nothing in return, you are more likely to establish a good understanding that goes beyond product pitches, opening a two-way communication stream that will be sure to give your brand the influencer edge.
Thu Tieu, author of the beauty blog Face Made Up, sums it up for marketers: “Bloggers are revolutionising the way companies promote their products and a lot of brands are beginning to realise that. The ones that don’t really need to catch-up and be more open in working with bloggers because I do think that we are becoming a much bigger voice.”
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