It’s one year on since I wrote this post.
I had a re-read of it this week and what I wrote then is still sound advice for bloggers wanting to initiate work with brands and PRs.
But before we get into the nitty gritty of a few updates, I can’t stress enough what I wrote at the end of that post:
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.
Why am I beginning at the end this time round?
Because in the past 12 months there has been a huge growth in Australia of the number of bloggers blogging across all niches. And with that comes an increase in the number of bloggers who would like to work with brands.
Depending on your niche and style of blog, it could be of help to be in the know about new product releases before anyone else. If you write a personal blog, this might not be any importance to you. (I totally get that not everyone wants to work with brands. Your blog is your space; you’re free to do with it want.)
If you do want to work with brands, the important thing to remember is that a press release or a gifted product does NOT a blog post make. Well it can … but it’s not really an exciting one.
Remember, where bloggers have it all over mainstream media is that we have a voice, often an individual and influential voice. And it’s that voice that your readers are wanting to connect with. Not the voice of the PR professional or the PR professional’s client.
You are the story teller in the blogger-PR-brand equation. If a new product in your niche floats your boat and you know it will float your readers’ boat, then tell that story.
That’s what your readers will keep coming back for more of.
Regular Styling You readers will know that I blog about a host of different products every day on my blog. It’s the nature of my blog because I write about accessible fashion and beauty. Some of these products are gifted to me (which I disclose on each post); some I’ve bought in store; some I’ve just seen online and know that they will fit the theme that I’m writing about.
I include links to buy the featured products online because that’s what my readers have asked for. They don’t necessarily live in a capital city with an access-all-stores shoppping pass. And even if they do, they’re pushed for time.
I’m also very clear on what types of products and brands my readers are into and can relate to. A survey I conducted before Christmas helped with that but it’s the daily feedback on the blog, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram that I respond to and mould what I write about to suit.
So, how do PRs and brands fit into this content process for me?
1. Just like when I was a fashion and beauty journalist, I am on lots of PR databases, which means I get emailed press releases (hundreds each week) and I get sent unsolicited product. Part of my daily and weekly work routine is to sift through the product and press releases to short-list the ones that I think will work for my blog and my readers. The emailed press releases get filed in folders on my email account; the products get put on rotation in the bathroom (beauty) or the back of my bedroom door (fashion) for trial and/or photography. And yes, Mr Styling You puts up with the added clutter – just Under no circumstances do I feel that I have to blog about anything unsolicited that is sent to me. I am fair though and, if suitable, will try and include in an upcoming post.
2. If I get an email about a beauty product that I think would work for my readers, I politely email the PR company to request a sample to trial. A sample is not always available. PR companies are given set amounts of stock by their client to distribute to media. If no sample is available, I don’t blog about the product. If I receive a sample I’ve requested, I make sure I include the product in a future post theme. It is very rare that I will only include one product or brand on an individual blog post. Just like a magazine editorial, a range of products and brands is always featured around a theme. If a brand wants an exclusive mention then that’s a sponsored post – just like a promotion that would appear in a magazine.
3. If I get an email from a PR that is more of an advertisement, ie their client is running a competition on their Facebook page or website or they are having a sale; a gift with purchase or something that is more about a brand wanting to harness my readers for their campaign, I politely email back saying that this would need to be sponsored content and ask whether their client has a budget for that. Remember, it’s not the PRs who have the marketing budget, it’s their client or another agency which has been engaged to handle their marketing. If there is a budget and it’s something I know I can tell a story around, I email back with my media kit and the contact details for my agent, who will then negotiate a price.
4. If I get an email from a PR that is offering me a giveaway opportunity, I email them back to let them know that on my blog, unless it’s a sponsored post, the only giveaways I run are part of my monthly multi-draw giveaways. At the same time, I email them my competition guidelines, eg the minimum prize value, what the brand gets in return for that prize, a request that the PR or brand send the prize direct to the winner and a deadline by which they have to have the image and copy to me. Once again, if they’re interested in a sponsored post, I’ll email my media kit and put them in touch with my agent. Previously I did all this negotiation myself. Each time, I’m prepared to walk away if the brand or PR does not want to meet the fee I have set. Remember, we each need to value our blog real estate and our readership influence.
5. If I get an email from a PR inviting me to an event or launch, I email back to politely ask whether the client has a budget for travel costs. Increasingly, PRs are emailing me and offering this in advance (makes my accountant’s heart sing!). If travel costs are covered, I’ll make every effort to attend as the PR has gone out of their way to make that attendance possible for me. If travel costs are not included, I’ll look at my work and family schedule, my travel budget for the month, the product or products at the centre of the launch and decide whether my attendance is going to add value to me, my blog and my readers. I always RSVP by the RSVP date even if I can’t attend. I do see these events as essential networking if you are working with brands and are wanting to put faces to email signatures.
Oh, and a big no, no. Please don’t publicly express your
sour grapes dismay at not being invited to a particular event. Not only is it a sure-fire way to ensure you never make it on to an invitation list for that brand or PR company but it’s just not event etiquette. PRs work to a certain budget for an event and that includes how many invitees they have on their list. Some events are full media events, which increasingly include a number of bloggers alongside print and magazine journalists, and some events are blogger-only. Either way, no-one is ever guaranteed a spot.
6. Working with and building relationships with PRs is very much a part of the overall networking I see that I need to do as part of my blogging business. Living outside Sydney does make this more difficult but I’ve made it a priority because an email relationship can only go so far. My biggest brand opportunities on my blog have thus far come from relationships I’ve built with PRs – both agency and in-house. That’s what networking is about – meeting and talking to people who may send amazing paid opportunities your way because they’ve gotten to know you better. In person. While PRs may not have a ready-made budget on hand to pay you for a sponsored post or opportunity, they can be your conduit to the brand or company you are wanting to work with. Respect them for the job that they do for their brand or brands and and the respect will flow back to you in equal amounts.
Pheww … now that was one hell of a mind dump for the end of the week. I really do hope it helps as you navigate the world of PR as you continue to create great, consistent content on your blog.
These Saturday blogging posts have always been about sharing things that I’ve (and other bloggers – thank-you to all those who have contributed in this space so far) have learned since we started blogging. Everything I’ve learned has been “on the job”, from Googling a dumb question and from other bloggers.
I know of very few industries where this happens so openly and freely.
Speaking of sharing, I started this no-rules linky here for that very purpose. To keep the flow of information about blogging flowing between bloggers. If you’d like to link up, add your post in here. Where it says name, use this format: BLOG NAME: Name of Post. That way we know straight up where the post has come from and what it’s about.
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Blogging for an e-book and a cause
Must buy! This is an amazing collaboration that has culminated in 32 parenting bloggers sharing their tips in The Things They Didn’t Tell You About Parenting ebook. You can read the back story about the ebook here and you can buy it here. It’s just $4.99 with all proceeds going to Foundation18, established by humanitarian Cate Bolt. This seriously should be handed out to all new parents. Would save many a grey hair and lost night’s sleep … well maybe not the sleep bit.