There’s been a lot of talk around the blogger-sphere of late about bloggers and brands*. And how the two can work together. Or even if they want to work together.
And when I wrote this post about how to be a better beauty blogger a few weeks ago, I talked about building and maintaining a relationship with PR companies as part of a way to build your blog. And the question came back, how do I make contact with them in the first place?
Now, there will be plenty of bloggers out there who have no desire to work with brands and don’t want to write about specific products on their blog. You have permission to click off this page now.
For those who do – particularly if you are blogging about fashion and beauty like I do – having a great working relationship with PRs can certainly make it a whole lot easier. For me, PRs play an essential role in the information chain between brands and my readers. They help provide me with images, specific product information, and details about possible trends and upcoming events. They are a key part of the information chain but they are far from the only part.
Yes, I may run with ideas that come via a press release but I’ll never run that press release verbatim. Boring.
Instead, if an idea appeals, I’ll create it into a blog post that includes, not only that product, but other related ones. I’ll make sure that the information I pass on to my readers is relevant to them; not just relevant to the PR or the brand they’re representing.
And yes, PRs can be a source of free product. I say “can” because not all PRs have product to give out. It would be easy to get caught up in the excitement of receiving a new lippie or a shampoo but I’m very conscious that when I recommend a product on my blog that it’s an honest recommendation because my readers are motivated to go out and buy it if I mention it. Blogging is the new word-of-mouth or over-the-fence marketing. Increasingly people are sourcing consumer information online and when they come across a blog written by a real person, they stop and they take notice of what we have to say.
To that end, I will ALWAYS trial beauty products that are written about on Styling You – often they come from the PR company but sometimes I’ve sourced a product or service myself. I figure if I’m keen spend my money to try it and write about it, then there’s a fairly good chance my readers will be too.
I don’t write about a product just because it’s sent to me. It needs to fit in with my planned blog post schedule and it needs to be something that is actually of interest to my readers at that particular time. I’m very clear about this in my Disclosure Policy and a suggest you be too.
Where bloggers stand on the fashion and beauty media ladder
Some of the PRs on my contact list have been there for more than 13 years. One or two go back to a time (gosh, horror) before the Internet. As a fashion and beauty print journalist, I used to receive – IN THE POST – printed out press releases on paper with transparencies for images. I’m looking at you Adam Worling. Dinosaur stuff.
So, in some respects those relationship bridges have been built long before I started my blog. Many PR companies followed me to the blog three years ago from my previous job as a journalist. Many I’ve now met in person; but most I now have a very healthy email relationship with!
Having said that, there are still a lot of PR agencies out there who I never hear from. There’s one agency in particular (which shall remain unnamed and unlinked) that has a stable of fashion and beauty brands that would be perfect for my readers but they never answer my emails or phone calls. Let alone add me to a database. It only annoys me slightly. Because if I really wanted to write about one of their brands or products, I just do. And really, it’s their brands which are missing out – Styling You now receives more than 100,000 page views a month and has almost 5000 email subscribers.
I get that bloggers are still not considered by all PRs as influential media. There is a hierarchy – and trust me, coming from being a regional Australian journalist to a blogger – I know this hierarchy all too well. Sitting at the top of the fashion and beauty media ladder are glossy mags, with high-end monthlies perched at the very top like a glittering star on a Christmas tree.
Fashion and beauty bloggers, if they are on a PR company’s radar, are on the bottom rungs of that ladder.
That hierarchy will always be there but there is a growing change in the landscape with more companies realising that bloggers and other social media channels cannot be ignored. (If you’re a PR company or consultant, head on over to this post for tips on how to work with bloggers)
Enter, stage left, the emergence of blogger-only events. Sydney PR agency Maxted Thomas lead the way with this last year. I paid for my own way to Sydney for the day to be part of a fantastic event that brought bloggers and a number of beauty brands together.
Occasionally. Very occasionally. I’ll get invited to a beauty or fashion media launch that is not blogger-specific. It’s these times that you feel like you’ve come up the media ladder, at least one rung.
So how do you get a PR company’s attention?
1. Be very open about your site’s statistics. Even if you don’t have a huge readership, be honest. PRs want to know about your site’s traffic and followers, just as they are very aware of magazine and newspaper circulations. It’s these figures – as well as any clear followings and communities evident through commenting, Twitter and Facebook – that make your blog attractive to PRs.
2. Create an email letter that introduces yourself, who you are, what your blog is about and what your niche is. What sets you apart from the others in the blogging pack? Do you have a target readership?
3. Make a list of the brands you’d really like to connect with and then use Google research to find out whether those brands have in-house PR consultants or whether they outsource to an agency. If they outsource, there’s a fair chance that the agency they outsource to also looks after other fashion or beauty brands.
4. Cold call that brand or agency to introduce yourself and ask who you should send your introductory email to. When sending that email, make sure you personally address it to the person. Follow up that email a couple of days later with a phone call.
5. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t make progress straight away. This is all part of the relationship building process. Send a new email every quarter and don’t take it personally if you don’t make a connection – straight away or at all.
6. An alternative way to create a relationship with brands is to follow and “talk” to them on Twitter or Facebook. Through key searches on Twitter you’ll find not only the beauty and fashion brands present but also the key people behind their PR.
7. PRs rarely have a budget to pay you to write about a product. They are contracted by brands to secure “free publicity” for their products or services. They might have product available for a reader giveaway.
8. If you’re looking for brand sponsorship or advertising then it’s the brand’s in-house marketing or out-sourced digital marketing managers who need to be on your radar. Follow steps 1-5 again with these.
Never, never lose focus on why you’re blogging in the first place.
You don’t need PRs to make your blog successful. When you blog about a topic or in a niche that you’re totally passionate about, then you’ll rarely be stuck for inspiration. Look around, it’s everywhere.
*My hilarious and wise blogging friend Mrs Woog wrote a fantastic post on Thursday about bloggers and brands. Head over and have a read if you haven’t done so already.
This post was chosen to be included in the Independent Fashion Bloggers’ Links a la Mode: Tech Weekly Roundup
Edited by Maggie Battles
Trends and technology move at a rapid speed these days and along with that comes unlimited choices. We can choose from a variety of blogging platforms, we can shoot from any number of cameras and shop from any number of online boutiques. There’s so many styles and options to choose from in fashion and technology that we’re constantly evolving our taste to match each moment in time. This weeks Links has a collection of examples on how to take your blog to the next level. The following are a group of links with helpful advice on everything from how to work with PR people, to switching to a new blogging platform and to navigating user-generated fashion on the web. I trust that many of these links will prove to be very useful to all of you. Happy posting!