Are you interested in working more closely with brands, but have no idea where to start? The thought of making money online from your blog is no easy task. Where to start, how to promote yourself, and even how to compose a pitch can be overwhelming.
To help our SITStahs start on the path to working successfully with PR companies and brands, we invited Jami Beaton Eidsvold, a social media strategy and blogger relations manager at GOLD Public Relations, to provide her insight. She has nearly ten years of experience managing campaigns within the interactive, advertising, and public relations industries for clients such as Invisalign, CoolScupting by ZELTIQ, SEMA and Marc Allison Jeans.
Let’s face it…brands need bloggers and bloggers need brands. We exist in a delicate eco-system where the different parts sustain each other. PR people like myself are on a mission to maintain a proper balance, because we know that when the brand to blogger relationship is done right, we create mutually beneficial relationships that profit everyone involved: companies, bloggers and your readers.
I first started blogger outreach for brands over six years ago. Back then it was the wild west, there were no books, no classes, no best practices put out in our field that told us how to work with bloggers. I learned the ropes by reading every nasty blog post written about us dreaded PR hacks and I started compiling a list of all the things “NOT” to-do when pitching bloggers in an effort to avoid the infamous blacklists. As a result, I learned to meticulously research my blogger lists for clients and never pitched a blog that I hadn’t personally read myself.
It’s been a long learning process but I am proud to say that as a result, I have built some amazing relationships with bloggers over the years. We have worked together on contests, giveaways, sponsorships, reviews, campaigns, custom content, ambassador programs and I even call on a select handful of the bloggers I trust as consultants for the brands that we work with at GOLD PR.
If this all sounds like something you’d be interested working toward, here are a few tips that I can share from my humble perspective on how to successfully partner with PR professionals and the brands they represent. Working together will help us all push this interdependent model forward:
1. Tell us What You Want
The best PR person will hopefully do their research, but keep in mind that there are millions of blogs out there now. The easier you make it for us to take the guesswork out of it, the more targeted the opportunities we can bring to you. What I have found most helpful when researching bloggers to pitch is a simple button or tab that links to a page created specifically for advertising and PR. Include on that page exactly what types of opportunities you are open to, what’s off limits and what exactly you can offer to a brand on your blog. This is a great place to also include a note on what you DON’T want, highlight topics you won’t cover, let us know you if don’t do reviews, or make it clear that you’re not a “mommy blogger,” the more you can tell us off the bat the better for all of us.
2. Sell Yourself
Although YOU know that you have a loyal army of readers who will go out and try a product you recommend or that you can guest post on a dozen different blogs to drive additional traffic, there is no way that we will know that at first glance. Make it a point to list your accomplishments and demonstrate your influence, better yet create a comprehensive and branded media kit that is available upon request that provides information on you blog profile, traffic stats, rankings, reader demographics, external, third-party references, awards/accomplishments, advertising options/rates, and your influence across all social media platforms. I know there’s a lot of debate about sharing your traffic numbers, but the bottom line is that this is the first thing that brands are asking us to demonstrate. If you don’t frame it up for us in a way that we can then “sell” to the brand, PR people are left to our own devices and will end up at Compete or Alexa, rather than pulling from your media kit to sell your marketing power as a whole. It’s also important to note that this is even more important if your traffic numbers aren’t extremely high yet.
3. Know Your Audience
We may think that a certain opportunity would be perfect for your blog, but you ultimately know your audience best. You know what they respond to, what types of posts they like, how they will react. Brands want to work with you to access the trust you have with your audience, don’t sell them out with a giveaway that you know only a few of your readers will participate in or review a product that they won’t genuinely be interested in reading about. Although these types of initiatives might give you a way to work with a brand or a short-term payoff, they will hurt you in the long run because you won’t ever deliver results that will allow you to put a premium on your posts. Or even better, if a brand comes to you with an idea that you don’t think will resonate with your audience, suggest something different that you know will.
4. Proactively Pitch PR
If you meet a PR person that works with a brand that you absolutely want to work with and that you think will be a good fit for your brand, don’t be afraid to pitch them with your ideas. Some of the best campaigns that I have run for clients started with a blogger reaching out to me with a proposal of how we could work together. Especially if you are trying to ask for compensation or an expensive product or service, develop a simple proposal that outlines exactly what the brand will get from you in exchange for the marketing value you will bring to them.
5. Measure and Demonstrate Value
ROI, you hear it all the time, but it’s really is important for you to be able to demonstrate some form of measurable value to the brands that you work with if you want to have a long-term relationship with them. This can be as simple as providing an analytics report after a campaign, ensuring that the post you write gets a lot of comments, tracking click thrus, passing on potential leads, etc. Find a way to quantify what you were able to do for the brand and then openly share it with them immediately after so that you are on the top of their list the next time there is an opportunity.
6. Be Professional
If you are looking to represent and work with big brands, treat your blog like a business. I try to personally introduce the bloggers we work with to the brand executives whenever I get the chance, and in order to do this I have to trust that you will be professional and represent us well. Things like professional business cards, media kits, proposal templates and just a well-drafted email will go a long way in your relationships with PR people. Please know that although we may love the ideas you pitch, we still have to go back and sell it to the brands we work with, so being patient is very important too.
7. Be Honest
Above all, be true to yourself and your readers. Don’t agree to write a post just for the opportunity to work with a big brand name or a payday and sacrifice your trust equity with your readers in the process. Reputable brands are looking to work with bloggers that don’t “sell out,” they will steer clear of bloggers who are hawking products left and right even if they have the big traffic numbers. Meaningful relationships with brands will come from a blogger that can be a true advocate for their brand through a multitude of real connections. Also don’t lie about traffic numbers or promise results that you can’t deliver. Although it might secure you the opportunity, if you can’t deliver, you can bet that the next time you’ll be off their list.
In my opinion, this is an exciting and pivotal time for the blogging industry because brands now fully understand and value the power of your blogs to reach their consumers. We no longer have to “sell” them on the fact that they need to be working with bloggers, we just have to bring them the right opportunities that help them achieve their marketing goals. And whether you like it or not, a public relations representative will almost always be your direct link to working with a brand, and we can be your strongest advocates as well. Your role in the mix is to represent the industry with a level of professionalism that demands that you receive fair compensation for the work that you do. If we all work together to find a way to balance our collective needs and goals, we will be working towards building a very profitable eco-system that works for us all in the end.
If you’re ready to take your first step towards working with brands, we encourage you to check out Invisalign’s Mom Advisory Board. It’s a great way to get an amazing smile through the Invisalign treatment program, all the while writing and giving your readers real insight into the process. Learn more here!