Blog tips: how to work with PRs and their brands

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?

Fair point.

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.

The Camera Club at The Beach Road Hotel, Bondi, provided the back drop for the Australis Papparazi Perfect launch, which I was invited to earlier this year

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.

Bloggers get the mineral makeup treatment from Jane Iredale at the Maxted Thomas Beauty Blogger event in July 2010

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.

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*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.

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This post was chosen to be included in the Independent Fashion Bloggers’ Links a la Mode: Tech Weekly Roundup


 

Mobile Mavens: Making Savvy and Stylish Choices to Improve Our Blogs

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!

LINKS À LA MODE: TECH – May 17th

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  • http://bigwordsblog.blogspot.com bigwords

    You are full of such wonderful advice and so lovely to share with others. That PR agency is missing out x

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      True is true ;)

  • http://pinkdivabeauty.blogspot.com/ Tammerly @ Pink Diva Beauty

    A great read darling. I do agree that most PR companies are super supportive but there are a couple who won’t touch bloggers still and they are going to lose out in the long run.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      Yes, they will x

  • http://www.maidinaustralia.com bronnie

    Having been a journo I’m definitely fine with working with PRs. I think the key thing is to work together. So many bloggers get peeved or upset to be called a Mummy Blogger or not addressed by name, but as a journo I was regularly sent a generic release, with my name spelt wrong, or even the sex wrong – but if it’s a good story, it’s a good story. I’m just happy to be included in the same opportunities other media are included in. And if it’s a bad story, or nothing to do with what you write about, there is no obligation to do so.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      Too true.

  • http://www.thesourcebottle.com/ Bec from SourceBottle

    Great article Nikki. I can definitely see a shift in the way bloggers are regarded by PRs and business generally. I LOVE bloggers and many use SourceBottle quite effectively to raise their profile among PRs by posting call outs for experts to comment or make a guest post on their blog. If a blog is popular among a PR client’s target markets, you can be sure the PR will value any opportunity to get involved.

    Thanks again for a great post!
    bec

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      Thanks Bec, there is a shift. I’ve been lucky in that I swapped from print journalism to blogging so brought a lot of contacts with me. And SourceBottle rocks!

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  • http://www.nappydaze.com Donna @ NappyDaze

    As always this so very helpful for those of us who are rather clueless in this arena. Thank you so much for sharing these valuable words of wisdom!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      Thanks Donna, I’ll also be adding in a blog post next week following my panel at Blogopolis: Advertorial vs Editorial. More info coming your way!

  • http://none Julie

    Hello. I heard you say on SKY news that you had 25,000 hits a month. How come you now say you have 100,000……?

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      Hi Julie
      When I did the Sky News interview in May yes, I said I had 25,000 unique visitors a month. I now have 30,000 unique visitors a month and just over 100,000 page views. I think you’ve got confused with the terminologies.

  • http://www.glutenfreezones.com Petra

    This post was so helpful! I have started implementing some of your suggestions and am already seeing the results! Thanks :)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      Oh, that’s fantastic Petra. Love your site – I’m gluten intolerant so appreciate all the tips you give out.

      • http://www.glutenfreezones.com Petra

        Thanks – glad I can help too! :)

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  • http://www.midthirtieslife.com Mid 30s Life

    Just as an aside, the last time I bought a glossy monthly mag was back in Sydney and it left me fuming. I felt as though I had just paid for a whole lot of ads, in fact I actually sat down and counted the pages (I was having a HORRIBLE day and thought a mag would cheer me up). Over 40% of the magazine was full-page ads.

    So give me a fashion blog any day. There’s no comparison.

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  • Harriet

    Nikki, your emails are fast becoming a highlight of my week. I’m not a blogger (yet) but recently embarked on a media comms degree at the tender age of 40-something, in the hope of moving beyond the world of marginalised part-time admin jobs (the domain of so many mums grappling with the awful dilemma of motherhood V career).

    What a joyous thing it was to read your blog tonight, when I should be studying, and realise that this actually counts as professional development. Yippee, I’m acquitted! Thanks for being an unwitting mentor to this Mutton of Media :)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      I’m very much in favour of blog reading for personal development. Good luck with your study – my advice – start a blog. You’ll be ahead of the pack when you graduate.

  • http://www.stuffthatibought.com Elise @ Stuff That I Bought

    Great post Nikki! Lots of good info in there for the new bloggers coming through the ranks. I do feel sorry for PRs because they hear from loads of new bloggers every week who just want free product and you have reiterated the importance of professionalism. I always enjoy reading your advice posts.

    I do have one little nit-pick though – Elise Garland PR were doing blogger only beauty events long before Maxted Thomas’s event last year. They were always an intimate gathering because back then there really only were a couple of us!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      thanks Elise … and re EGPR … I was around and they were emailing me but not to invite to any blogger related events!

      • http://www.stuffthatibought.com Elise @ Stuff That I Bought

        You should totally move to Sydney then ;)

        • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

          Totally!

          • http://www.maxtedthomas.com.au Claire @ MTPR

            Agree … great post Nikki. I think any PRs that ‘avoid’ bloggers will only suffer the loss of great coverage and consumer awareness down the track.

            I just wanted to jump on here to clarify that Elise is right. We were not the first blogger event in Sydney. However, our research led us to create (what we believe to be and have been told) the first cross client blogger event. We focused on bringing our staple of beauty brands to the blogging community in one central place, where they could interact with and experience our brands together.

            Thanks!
            Claire

            • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

              Hi Claire – I believe your event was also the first event that included bloggers from outside of Sydney. So grateful for the invite!

  • http://www.FoxInFlats.com.au Andrea

    Great tips Nikki!
    I think its always a good idea to stay focussed on what’s in it for them. And also, make it easy to share any results and feedback with the brand they are representing.
    A

  • http://www.mummy-time.com Brenda

    Excellent tips, Nikki! As per usual!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      Thanks Brenda … I have a head for of stuff I like to download regularly!

  • http://www.hairromance.com Christina @ Hair Romance

    Hi Nikki
    Great post. I’ve agree Twitter is a great resource for connecting with brands, and PRs too. I’ve made great connections that way.
    I dislike reading press releases on blogs, I read blogs for the personal insight of the blogger.
    Really enjoying these recent posts about blogging!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      That’s so what makes bloggers different from mainstream media – the personal approach. Glad you like the posts on the blogging.

  • http://www.businesschic.com.au BusiChic

    Hi Nikki,

    Great post with lots of practical tips. I’ve been lucky that my niche as a workwear fashion blogger has led to my getting approached by some clever PRs and in-house marketing but without a doubt I always feel very lucky that *they get it*. With great posts like yours here, I’ve no doubt that more will. Keep it up!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      I think where you’re helping PRs and marketing manager to get you is that you’re very clear on your niche – it’s an awesome one! Love your work!

  • http://www.maidinaustralia.com bronnie

    Very well said Nikki. I’m a former journalist also, and while I’m aware of the heirarchy etc, I’m still astonished that some PR companies who should know better are way behind when it comes to bloggers, particularly established, award-winning bloggers such as yourself. Such a missed opportunity for wide coverage with very little investment required on their behalf.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      Bronnie, yes, it is amazing but I don’t let it stop me from doing what I’m wanting to do with my blog – and that’s provide fun, interesting, advice-driven content for my readers. Those companies will catch up eventually …

  • http://www.ahthepossibilities.com Seraphimsp

    This is something I’ve really been thinking about lately and working on as well Nikki. Thank you so much for your suggestions. I have so much to learn when it comes to this. I have clear boundaries for myself but want to work on making connections in a meaningful way for me and my readers. Like Eden said, it’s so generous of you.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      Clear boundaries are essential! You’re the publisher so you need to know what you want. The disclosure policy is a great way to publicly let others know too.

  • http://blushfully.blogspot.com/ dana blushfully

    hi nikki, this is so helpful and really gives a more in depth insight into the world of beauty and fashion blogging. i think everybody in media and general public (who aren’t exposed to blogs) are still getting into grip with it and what a community we are! this has really taken my blog into a whole new light which i never thought i was ever going to achieve. thank you again for sharing. =) keep in touch, xoxo (cendanak on twitter)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      Definitely! The community factor is a very big thing for PRs, media and public to get their head around. Especially the part where we all work together and support each other.

  • http://edenriley.blogspot.com/ edenland

    Wow, what an awesome post. You know so much, and are so generous with your info, Nikki. Props.

    I would probably shrivel with fear if I ever attending a beauty event.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      Eden, I’m an over-sharer from way back. Big believer in it actually. This has been mulling around in my head for months now and feels good to get it out there for discussion. And for the record, you would rock a beauty event. I may be doing one in Sydney soon and you will have to be there!

  • http://www.danniibeauty.blogspot.com DanniiBeauty

    Great post! I’ve worked with a few brands/pr over the last year and its been great. There have been those brands though that won’t reply to emails. But I still think it is a evolving process, brands are still getting there heads arounds bloggers and what it all means. I’m really keen to work with more brands as time goes on hopefully this will be get easier.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

      It’s definitely a work in progress, Dannii. The key is not to get hung up on the progress but to keep focussing on your blogging – as that’s what ultimately they’ll be interested in.