Blogging: How to work with PRs and brands

How to work with PRs and their brands (part 2)

Nikki Parkinson Life 45 Comments

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.

Blogging: How to work with PRs and brands

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.

Trialling beauty products is part of my daily and weekly blogging schedule

Trialling beauty products is part of my daily and weekly blogging schedule

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.

You may be invited to events and launches organised by PRs

You may be invited to events and launches organised by PRs

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.

Share and learn blogging tips from other bloggers

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.

[inlinkz id = 10]



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.



  • She’s Sonic

    Thank you for writing this post, especially for those of us that are newbie bloggers like myself. There’s certainly a lot to know and learn. This is one post I will be re-reading over and over again. xx

    • Thanks Sonia. I’ll also update it as I think or see things changing – and they have a lot in 12 months.

  • Something to aspire to Nikki. I HOPE one day I can put all these tips into action. Thanks for being so generous with your experience.

    • No problems, and if that’s your aim then it will happen!

  • The Beetle Shack

    This is GOLDEN. Honestly, thank you!

  • Super post Nikki!  Just gave it shout out in the Part Time Probloggers group on DP.

    • Thanks on both counts, Nic … this had been bubbling in my head for a while!

  • A really nice post and really speak our mind out as bloggers who want to work together with PR
    Thankfully I don’t normally get “surprised gifted items” but it’s probably understandable because tech/gadget samples are normally very expensive. So it’d be funny if I say I don’t want to review/post about it even when they have already sent a sample across.

    As you said, being “spammed” with hundreds of press releases make us have to filter them out for our readers, not to mention the “boring”ness of the press release unless if you add some voice into it or rewrite it (which I normally did if something caught my eye)

    I just wish that PR people wouldn’t call me about a press release I got and whether I plan to post it on my blog (thankfully this happened rarely)

    • I think how PRs work is very different across different niches Michael – and yes I’d imagine you’d have to return review samples? Whereas for beauty, they are offered and sent out. Sometimes I get sent some fashion items, sometimes PRs contact me because of the outfit posts I do. Definitely knowing what is “normal PR procedure” in your niche is a must.

      • Depends on the brands but at the moment I can keep all the samples that I’ve been reviewing (I usually asked first for the first time to confirm this).

        I’m still working full time so I just can’t be bothered managing return couriers especially since it’s not my office. And I guess think of it as a “compensation” in all the time we take to write the review, nurture our blog, market the post, take photos, editing, etc (you know the drill! :))

        • Absolutely should not have to return – have had some tech approaches where this has been expected of me so I declined.

  • Thanks for this Nikki! Heaps helpful!

  • One day I’ll stop hearing crickets when I email back with my price!

    • Veggie Mama, more often than not I get crickets or no budget because they are the PR company – sometimes they play. Mostly it’s all about relationship building.

      • I know, dude. That’s why I say “one day”! Plus it’s always a nice bonus when they play ball 🙂

  • So helpful!! I have just started getting some pitches here and there and would like to approach some people myself, but softly, softly… love the generosity of bloggers!!

  • Thea

    Nikki, your professionalism is the thing that keeps me coming back to your blog. Your background in the media certainly helped you to be clear, to yourself and others, about the way you have evolved blogging into a business. Every so often, I read comments where people complain about their favourite bloggers becoming too commercial. Personally, I see no problem with wanting to be part of the ‘New Media’. The fit between reader and blogger is the important part of the relationship. As you say, being true to your own voice, and valuing it, will keep your readers engaged.

    • Thanks so much Thea. I appreciate your opinion. The nature of my blog means that it will always appear commercial – whether that’s paid for or not. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I’m all for diversity and each to their own.

  • Really great tips Nikki.  

    What I like is the consistency of what you do – then every PR gets treated with the equal amount of time/respect regardless of what brands they work for.  Then they also get to know your ‘rules’ and can shape future briefs around it.

    • Thanks Jo. It also streamlines my workload, having clear and supplied guidelines.

  • Glitterwalloffame

    Very well said Nikki.
    @Deborah, you may need to be more flexible at the beginning e.g. You can’t demand for travel cost, but if you can’t make it to an event, send a response either way.


    • Very true! And I never demand. Increasingly it’s offered so I politely request if it’s not.

  • Great post Nikki! Very useful for a old-timer, but beginner like me!

    • Thanks Deb – the first PR one I did last year is a good start too.

  • Nikki

    You must write an ebook about this.  Absolute MUST.  This is great advice from someone with a wealth of experience. 

    But the feeling that really stood out in the post is that you are a business woman who RESPECTS your business and the PRs and the businesses they are working for.

    Write the book Nikki or even better – run an online course and teach these skills. They are so needed in our industry


    • You may have just planted a seed there Ainslie! Thank-you!

  • For someone who has no business background, let alone one that has anything to do with marketing or PR, this post is SUPER helpful!

    Thank you!

  • Thanks, Nikki. I love that bloggers are so happy to share info like this! I find myself wondering what others are doing as I work things out so this post is “gold”. 

    I’m learning to set clear guidelines about what my time and blog real estate are worth, so thanks for reinforcing that. It can be so easy to think “wow! They want to advertise with me!?” and not ask enough in return.

    • Oh, fantastic, Crafty Mummy … yes, clear guidelines really do help when the requests come in. I review these every 6 months depending on my traffic stats but having them in place saves a lot of thinking and time wasted.

  • Excellent resource, thanks for a great post Nikki.

  • Brilliant post Nikki. Especially the part about who the budget actually lies with and the sour grapes comment. Digital footprint people. 

    Now to convince CEO’s to give more budget to PR instead of the marketing dept and media buy dept.

    Love & stuff
    Mrs M

    • Thanks Maria. What I see happening is that PR companies have had to build blogger engagement into their briefs and pitches to clients. It’s a different kind of engagement so that may take the form of blogger events or blogger sponsorships. The tricky thing is that companies engage PR companies to garner free editorial on their behalf so with bloggers now on the scene they are working to being more of a conduit between the blogger and the company. And all of this would be stratigised well in advance of a product launch – just as advertising is.

  • LISA Mckenzie

    Interesting I’m not a blogger but a lover of blogs ,You are kept very busy a lot of eggs to juggle Nikki,between family and work!

    • It is busy, Lisa but it’s something that I love doing … I’ve said before that it’s the best “job” I’ve ever had and that makes it all possible. x

  • shoppegirls

    Thank you Nikki. I receive emails here and there and half of the time just delete them, mostly from the US or UK. You have made me realize that I should add the content. But you also made me realize that I should to make it work for me and my blogs also. Thank you for being my constant inspiration. I value all you have written and am constantly evolving ans I also need to work harder than I am to make it in the blogging word. I get lazy not because I do to have the time but because I procrastinate for too long. Thank you V x

    • Oh thanks V … it’s really important to be clear in your own head what your guidelines for your blog is but content always comes first!

  • Penny

    This is great nikki. Very helpful. Especially the advice around Giveaways. I’m getting more offers for them now and always feel bad about not accepting them because I run a monthly tip Tuesday comp too but will do up a competition guideline to help with that. Thx.

    • Thanks Penny. It got to the point that I had to establish a system with my giveaways that worked for me and still gave back to my readers. As brands were paying for sponsored posts, I could no longer offer an exclusive post just for a giveaway. I have my guidelines set up on a pdf doc so easy and a time-saver to email this in response.

      • CaAtherine

        I thoroughly enjoyed this post and love generous sharing of information. As a new kid on the block I’ve got heaps to learn. I concur with Penny – I’m definitely getting on to my competition guidelines. Big Thanks Nikki

        • Thanks CaAtherine … getting guidelines together for all aspects of your blogging helps you to get clear on your goals and then be better able to answer any inquiries you get along the way.