When it comes to blog partnerships there is no one size fits all formula. All brands and bloggers are different, and so are their individual needs, and approaches. Recently, I got to thinking about the kinds of partnerships that have come my way, and what made some of them great, and others not so much. After giving it some thought, I decided to write some of these lessons-learned down in hopes that it will help PR folks (current or aspiring) in getting the best experience out of working with influencers and social media.
From the outside looking in, it’s easy to think that bloggers just get free stuff and do fun things, and we shouldn’t complain. However, anyone who blogs knows the tremendous amount of work that’s involved and it’s so much more complicated than that; there are so many things that go on behind the scenes and what you see on Instagram.
Since bloggers have individual approaches I felt it would be beneficial to reach out to some of my fellow social media gurus and share their thoughts. You hear from me a lot, so I thought providing some unique insights might do better to highlight what works well for most bloggers. It was also partly selfish because I really wanted to know if others experienced the same things I have in the past.
So much of blogging happens behind closed doors (and behind a computer screen), so it’s always nice to hear from the community I respect so much. From mommy bloggers, style bloggers, fitness bloggers you name it! Here’s a general consensus of what we all feel really works best:
DO YOUR RESEARCH
The internet is saturated with bloggers, there’s no question everyone and their dog is blogging now (no seriously), so I understand that it can be tough to find the right fit. Here are some things you might consider in choosing the right blogger or influencer for your brand.
(A) Is their following legit. Take a peek at their followers and if their followers don’t have a single photo posted or a single follower themselves chances are they’ve been purchased, and you might be putting your eggs in the wrong basket.
(B) Take a closer look at their images. Have you seen these images before? Do they feel authentic to you? Is it engaging? Do the images even look like the blogger? There are bloggers and influencers out there who are using other people’s images (and hard work) and passing it off as their own (not cool), and doing some quick due-diligence on images will also help you figure out if you’re putting your eggs in the right basket.
(C) Does their content align with your brand? While a blogger or influencer might have a big following does their brand values, aesthetic or target audience align with yours? Is this how you want your brand to be represented? Have they posted content in the past that didn’t sit well with you? For example, if someone is a wellness or lifestyle blogger chances are they aren’t going to condone gambling or promote casinos. Alternatively, if you’re a dairy company reaching out to a vegan it might not be the best fit.
Anita Kirkbride of Twirp Communications writes
“Oh MYLANTA… the requests I get! How about not lying about whether or not they’ve actually looked at your website? Actually, make sure it’s a good fit before contacting the person (no I don’t review casino apps!). Personalize EVERY SINGLE REQUEST. I receive so many terrible cut and paste jobs that I think every single request I get is fake”.
Maybe make sure it’s the right fit for everyone so you don’t close a door before it’s even opened.
I reached out to a number of bloggers from all different genres, and one of the most common themes was about making sure you’re being personable. Matthew Sherri Tully of Answerthetullyphone.com suggests that
“little things matter. Spending some time getting to know us before pitching. Not only will you see if what it is being asked fits, but it can be more personable“
Lifestyle and mommy blogger Brittney MacLean of www.britdesign.ca also suggested the same thing.
“like most bloggers, I keep it my focus to feature brands that I truly support in order to keep my content strong to my beliefs, so when a PR firm contact forum reflects that they’ve taken the time to explore my blog and note what they enjoyed about it and why their product would feature well, I’m more apt to work with them.
I know they canvas hundreds of blogs/insta accounts every month, so it is nice to know that they were interested enough to browse while on mine. I especially enjoy when a PR firm is personal when I respond back. It’s important to get to know the author behind the screen” →
A little research can really go a long way, and almost always will yield better results. Mo, of Lion-Hunter.com suggests.
“It may seem like such a small thing, but being addressed by name and not my Instagram handle, blog name or another blogger’s name they forgot to replace after the glorious copy and paste; is a great start to our potential collaboration.”
While copying and pasting save time and energy both of which we call could use a little more of, if you’re not thorough it could cost you the beginning of a really great partnership.
NUMBERS AREN’T EVERYTHING
While a big following looks great you might want to consider how people are engaging with the content. Are they asking questions? Do they seem genuinely interested? Is the blogger passionate about their projects?
You can have a blogger with a wide audience and absolutely no influence and it’s very important to recognize the difference.
Conversely sometimes having someone who’s a little unexpected or perhaps reaches a different audience might resonate better with your audience. The internet has a bad habit of turning out a lot of the same content.
TRUST THE BLOGGER KNOWS THEIR AUDIENCE BEST
In order for bloggers to keep their content authentic and likewise engagement high it’s important they maintain their own voice. Gina Bell of EastCoastMommy.com suggests:
“I prefer when brands let me use my own voice… rather than dictating what I should write about their product. I find the content resonates more with the reader when I’m allowed to come up with my own branded narrative“.
While bloggers are kind, yes, they are also providing a service (that takes time and effort). And while you might be super gung-ho about your brand or company the blogger may need some information before they start pitching for your team. Ask yourself why should the blogger be interested in my company, brand, or product. What makes us different than the rest? And what’s in it for the blogger?
If there’s something you know you want out of the relationship or work rendered, please make sure you’re clear before the blogger does the work. Erin Trafford-Basquill of DIY Passion suggests:
“I really like it when they (brands or PR reps) are up front about the campaign objectives and when it’s obvious they have gone through my site/social and understand and appreciate my voice. And depending on the campaign, I also really like a phone call to hammer out details. It seems like such a small thing – but it truly sets both parties up for success in my mind“.
We are happy to deliver what you’re looking for (and make it look pretty in the process of course), but less so when we need to do something twice or even up to three times to get there. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to do a task more than once because of lack of communication.
Fitness Instructor, Nutrition expert and blogger Suzi Fevens of Suzifevens.ca takes this one step further and adds she appreciates when brands are:
“clear about what they are looking for and what kind of compensation they can provide (whether it’s monetary payment, product, a combo, or something else) is huge. Having to go back and forth trying to nail down specifics takes so much time on both ends and it would be easier if everyone was very upfront. I also prefer to have specific guidelines as to what the campaign must include so that both parties know exactly what is expected“.
Suzi makes a case for saving time which of course any creative or PR person can appreciate. There’s nothing better than knowing as much information as possible, so you can make an informed decision right away.
BLOGGERS PAY BILLS TOO
Unless you are an intern you are likely getting paid to send and respond to emails. Bloggers, however, are not. Style blogger Syed Saud Sohail of TPGSyle.com made a really good point when I reached out for a comment about what his biggest gripe about being approached is:
“I would definitely consider that bloggers have bills too. When brands are offering products and no budget for campaigns bloggers are already at a disadvantage. We need the funds to continue our craft and business, and to cover the high costs of being a blogger“.
It takes time and effort to curate our content. While we make it look effortless (that’s the point) but there are times when we need to hire people to assist us (if we’re in the photo we likely didn’t take it). Time and effort aside a lot of times we also need to buy hardware, software, props, or other elements to appropriately style the product in the best possible light.
Consider the value of the products you’re sending and how long it takes to create the content. If it’s a $12 tube of mascara the blogger is likely not going to spend hours creating beautiful flawless content for you without compensation.
Not only do they likely not have time, but it just doesn’t make sense, and it can be slightly disrespectful to have such an expectation.
BLOGGERS HAVE MANY COLLABORATIONS (USUALLY AT THE SAME TIME)
In order to survive as a blogger it’s important to maintain multiple partnerships, and contracts at once. And while we might be the only blogger you’re currently working with right now, you are probably not the only client we are working with right now. We are great at juggling a bunch of things it’s why we are our own bosses, but it just means that all relationships are very different, and likewise so are their needs.
It’s important to remind yourself that you are not a blogger’s only client, and consquently you’re not the only one with special requests at all hours of the day (and night).
One of the things, that also came up over and over in this conversations was the emphasis on being as specific as possible before the work is completed so things move forward smoothly.
GREAT CONTENT TAKES TIME
If you’re looking for quality content you need to make sure you’re giving enough time to complete the task (especially when you need to account for shipping the items, and/or shipping delays). East Coast style blogger Sarah Duquette of Bohoandbraidsblog.com knows this all too well.
“It can sometimes be difficult when brands approach bloggers and then the product takes some time to arrive. When the product is finally received they message you saying that they see the product has been delivered and they would like the post up the next day. Brands have to understand that we have various brands we are working with and that paid work take first priority”.
While us bloggers make things look effortless and amazingly wonderful (that’s our jobs) these projects take time, and there are variables at play to ensure great content. Giving your blogger enough time to complete the job will ensure: (a) great content, (b) less stress on you and the blogger, and (c) that they want to work with you again.
And if you’re not paying for the service it’s important to be respectful that paid projects have to come first, and all items sent without a contract are for consideration only.
APPRECIATION GOES A LONG WAY
Bloggers, Influencers, Content Curators (whatever you wish to call them) are providing a service, and 9 times out of 10 they hear what they did wrong rather than what they did right.
Pointing out a positive— before you drop a bomb of negatives— is always a great tactic when providing criticism, and also a great way to show your sincerity which will motivate a blogger to go above and beyond for you.
All that said, there’s no job I’d rather have in the world; however blogging is still relatively new and I think there’s still a lot to learn on both sides of the fence (e.g. for brands/ PR firms, and bloggers). I know I’m always looking for ways to improve and grow, and the input from these lovely bloggers above will help me do just that. I hope you found this post interesting, and truth be told some of these things could be applied to many other jobs, and responsibilities as well.