Keep Calm and Blog On

Build your blog before you hope that they will come

Allison TaitLife 42 Comments

I don’t work with brands. It’s a personal choice and I’m happy with it. It’s not because I have a deep-seated aversion to it. It’s not because I think that bloggers who do are not ‘authentic’ or ‘honest’ or whatevs. It just doesn’t work for me and my blog. I blog for different reasons. I know why I blog. It’s not to write reviews and sponsored posts.  (If you’re not sure why you’re blogging, then it’s probably a great idea to sit down right now and write down some reasons.) 

Having said all that, and having worked in publishing, dealing with advertisers and PR people and all that goes with that, I have a couple of things to say about working with brands.

Keep Calm and Blog On

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Firstly, I never get upset when PR people email me with a review or sponsorship request. Yes, it’s quite clear from my blog that I don’t do them, but you know what, they’re just doing their job. They’re trying to reach as many bloggers as possible in the hopes that something will stick. It’s not the most efficient approach, but PR people are learning how this all works, just as bloggers are.

If you get an email that gets your name wrong, or offers you a product that really doesn’t work with your blog, simple send back a polite email thanking the PR person for their interest, explaining that it’s not for you ‘at this time’, and wishing them luck with their campaign. It’s a small world. Networking begins everywhere.

Secondly, the bloggers who are working regularly with brands are offering something different. They have huge followings for a reason. They are not interchangeable with the next blog. They are setting trends, not following them. They don’t copy. They never write posts wondering why other people are doing better than they are – and they never have. I know because I’ve been following them for years.

Your blog is your calling card. Yes, be authentic and raw and honest and all those other great things, but be aware of how you’re presenting yourself. Brands are represented by professional people. They like to work with professional people. Be professional. It does matter.

On that note, feel free to blog as raw and honest and authentic as you like, but pay attention to your spelling and grammar. Again, it matters. It really, really does.

Lastly, build it before you hope they will come. Before you even consider approaching brands, spend some time blogging your heart out, building your community, working out what works for you and what doesn’t. Blogs with great foundations have something to offer brands. Bloggers who work regularly with brands now have put in a lot of free hours to get to that point.

A blog can happen overnight, but a blog community? That’s a whole different kettle of fish. And never forget that your community is what the brands are after. Those are the people you ‘influence’. That’s what a brand is buying when they pay you for a sponsored post or review.

And when the time comes, make sure you’re really happy to give that influence away to that particular brand.

Have you sat down and really thought about why you blog? If you are blogging to create a business or a little money on the side, have you thought about what your blog and community have to offer brands?

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Allison Tait

 

Allison Tait is a freelance writer and author who blogs at Life In A Pink Fibro. She worked on staff at magazines such as Vogue Australia, CLEO and House & Garden, and has been writing features for magazines, newspapers and online for more than 20 years. She blogs because it is one of the few places left to her where writing is not work.

 

 

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Editor’s note:  As regular readers know, I DO work with brands and include sponsored posts and advertising on my blog. I’m upfront about that and all sponsored posts will always be labelled as such. I didn’t start out that way but I’ve always worked with PR agencies in the fashion and beauty industry since my time as a journo. This never stopped when I entered the digital world. I just kept writing about fashion and beauty – and they just kept emailing me ideas. Not all ideas are good ones but I will always reply if the email is addressed to me personally. If it’s a good idea, I’ll either email the PR back straight away or I’ll file away in a folder for later.

For many PR people it’s been an easy transition into the world of digital. For many more, they still don’t really know what to do with us.

I actually don’t need PRs to source content for my blog – the ideas about what to write about are all around me – even product specific ones like the dress that Mrs Woog bought this week and the sales snowball that resulted from our posts. We alerted the PR as to what was happening after we’d published and the site had crashed but we’d had no prior conversations with Seed. Wonder what they think of us now … a couple of crazy ladies who managed to sell them out of their black tube maxi dresses in two days?

There is no doubt that a blogger – or group of bloggers – can have an incredible influence over their readership. I don’t take this lightly. I respect my readers and work from the primary aim of writing fun content that is useful and contains information that helps women feel good about themselves. I also only recommend products I’m happy to put my brand to.

And on that note, Jacki James from digital agency Zuni wrote this week about bloggers influencing her spending habits and how blogs and businesses can create than influence for themselves. Her husband might not be so happy with me but I thank-you Jacki. I do.

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Have you blogged about blogging on your blog this week? Want to link up your posts here?

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Comments 42

  1. I love this post, the voice of reason from Allison and also the two perspectives. I also want one of those tube dresses. I had a look everywhere today … I need to get one online you say? If there are any left!!! Thank you both. xo

  2. This is a great post..I also don’t work with brands..it’s not that I don’t want to persay, but I just don’t have the time to give it fully. I do, however, love and enjoy the blogs that do brand and pr stuff and have great admiration for them x

  3. Great information. Love it. I know why I am blogging… because I love to write and I love life. One day, I may make money out of it…But if not, I will still write about the things I love. Thanks for the reminder to be true to one’s self and to know yourself.

    Mwah,
    B

    1. I believe that’s the only premise to come from with blogging … except if you’re a photographer then you’re loving photography and life. If we all remember that then our blogs will continue to be the best they can be because we love what we’re doing!

  4. Great post Al & Nikki. I’ve often been confused about my blog’s mission statement but at its core I’ve never forgotten the fact I started it for my sanity and for my son’s posterity. That honestly was all that mattered, not PR’s, not brands.

    Sure its evolved over time and I admit I do enjoy that side of it as well but I often like to remind myself of the reason’s I even began in the first place. It makes me feel more authentic.

  5. Great piece. I jump around a lot with my own blog, which really comes down to the time I have on my hands at the time and the items that PR send my way at the time.

    But PR and advertisising are only two tools that we use with blogs, they are so much more flexible than that and our influence and community can be chatted with in so many ways about so many things.

  6. My blog started as a marketing strategy to be the conversation piece for our events. Now it feels like another limb or another child, but without the OB and child care fees. I learn every day. This year I started working with brands for the first time. It’s an interesting time as I test the water but am enjoying trying something new. You and Alison are two writers I look up to. Polar opposites but exactly the same if that makes sense. xxxx

  7. What a great and timely post. It’s important to remember what are blog is, why we are doing it and just because you have been offered something, it’s up to you to agree. I was recently made an offer and it was a good one, but I hated the feeling of being bought. So I sent them an email about what I would be comfortable with. I may have blown it, but I know that I have made the right decision. In the meantime, I’ll just keep doing what I enjoy. Rachel x

    1. Rach, it’s ok to be “bought” but you will only feel comfortable if it’s on your terms – I offer my terms, happy in the knowledge that if they’re not accepted it was not meant to be a good fit for my brand. Sounds like you’ve worked that out already!

  8. The other thing to consider apart from tha quality of the product is the experience that the reader will get. I heard Pat Flynn mention on his podcast that he turned down what could have been a very lurative offer because the company added a freebie to the shopping basket that they later charged for – I know if that happened to me I wouldn’t trust the company and I would lose a lot of faith in the blogger too.

    Thanks for the great post Allison, lots of things to think about there 🙂

      1. Yeah, it was a first month free trial or something, but what really struck me was how well Pat researched the product and that he put the readers first, that is something that makes me go back to a blog! 🙂

  9. Thanks ladies, for a brilliantly written article. What I love about your blog Nikki, is not only the beauty/styling tips you give but also your willingness to share blogging and tech information/ideas etc. You’re an inspiration to this newbie blogger!

  10. A great post as always Nikki. As you know, I come from the ‘other side’ and I love that you get that PRs are learning at the same time as bloggers. It’s an exciting time for both industries, but tricky too to find a balance that works for clients, agencies and the bloggers. Hopefully one day we’ll all get there!

    1. I do – and you’re one of those PRs who I’ve known and loved since my journo days! I love how you’ve started blogging and will be able to bring a new perspective to this giant learning curve for all of us!

  11. I blog because I love writing. I like to think that I was blogging (writing) before I had any readers and will continue to do so because I find it so cathartic!

    Deb

  12. Great post – Thanks!

    I’ve always blogged with the thought that no company will want to be promoted by me until I have built an audience. Sometimes I wish there as a quick way to make that happen but I know it has to be slow and steady.

    1. It has been almost four years for me Tonya – I don’t believe there is a quick way – it’s a matter of building that audience and that community – and then if you want to work with brands, be proactive about approaching the ones you really want to work with. Put yourself on their radar!

  13. Informational, easy to read and honest. Thanks for a great post, Alison. I was again reminded by your words that a blog is an online persona, a calling card, and how important it is to be clear about what you stand for.
    Nikki, your editor’s note was also really helpful. Particularly the bit about your blog’s mission … “writing fun content that is useful and contains information that helps women feel good about themselves”. Says it all, and I think is indicative of why you are so successful.
    Thanks to you both.

  14. Nikki,

    Nothing wrong with working with brands and also click-able links through affiliate programs – some people still seem to get miffed by it, but the easy way around is to *tell them*, just like you do.

    Perfect 🙂

  15. What a bloody awesome post, Al. Thank you for writing it so succinctly. Love everything you said. I’m branching out in a few areas this year … I kind of have to. Plan on doing it as mindfully and honestly as I can.

    What really gets my goat is companies with serious coin who offer a pittance to bloggers, and keep getting away with it. It’s not fair to the blogger.

    1. Thanks Eden – I’m watching on with pride and interest as you branch out. Blogging is really still in its infancy here in Australia and, as I said, brands and PR people and agencies are still working through how it’s all going to work for them. Bloggers need to think about how it’s going to work for bloggers as well. At some point it will all, hopefully, intersect in a happy place.

  16. I do love my Saturday morning blog info read. And THIS was a goodie.

    For me it was a great reminder that working with PR’s and brands actually comes down to us and that we can’t be sitting around waiting for a great opportunity to drop into our lap. It turns out, that blogging has similar rules to life afterall. Sigh. What an amazing writing Ms Alision is, I could read her all day.

    Thank you both!

    AND congratulations to you and Mrs Woog on this ahhhhmazing demonstration of the power of a blog {ortwo}. I know I have one of those Seed dresses winging its way to me and I had no idea the brand existed.

    1. So true – it’s just like life Mel – you can make happen what you want to make happen (geez that’s deep for Saturday morning!).
      And yes, just got notification of my dress coming through too! Can’t wait to see how you style yours up!

    2. Thanks Melissa! I’m blushing as I type… Bloggers who work hard at what they do, think strategically and come up with a bit of a game plan of their own will be way in front, I think. And, yes, that little demonstration (Seed dress) of the power of blogging had me in awe!

  17. Oh I know I have been influenced by reading blogs and then making purchases. I can imagine how some bloggers must be pestered by marketing groups. How does it fit in with the people you have signed up with to have the ads in the sidebars (like nuffnang)?

    Oh, I don’t think I am going to be pestered anytime soon, unless the marketing guys have rural stuff like stockwhips, cows or RM Williams clothes! However a new Toyota landcruiser or Volvo 4wd would be a nice gift to test out! They wouldn’t see me as a big selling strategy only having 20 followers, not a daily poster and all, LOL!

    1. LOL Jodie – I’m sure there’s a stockwhip market out there! And you’re the girl for it. The advertising/editorial equation works like this – companies pay for advertising space – either in banners (through Nuffnang or separately) or they pay for sponsored posts – which is in the editorial section and marked as a sponsored post.

      I obviously write about a lot of different brands because in recommending styles and offering advice, people what specific product information. Unless it’s marked as such, I’m not paid for these recommendations – but I may have found out about the particular product via a media release from a PR company. They may also have sent me a product to trial (which I will disclose as well). When they do make contact with me or send product, they know there is no guarantee that I’ll post about their product. It’s the same with mainstream journalism. I make a decision on what I’ll feature based on what’s best for my readers – will they get something out of it?

  18. Guilty as charged! My wardrobe and beauty routine has benefited immensely from your influence Nikki. And if Mrs Woog says a tube dress rocks them I’m jumping on that bandwagon too!

    As I mention In my blog post, the key drivers for me are trust and relevance, and a brand catalog and website just can’t offer that to the same extent as a blogger. I hope your readers find the tips on how to use their blog content strategy to drive purchase useful. Thanks for the shout out.

    For now hubby is far too distracted by the footy season, we are safe from his wrath for now 🙂

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