We’ve talked before about best practices for pitching journalists and bloggers when you have news to share, but what should you do when your goal is partnering with a blogger to promote a product or brand? I reached out to a few lifestyle bloggers to see what they had to say about pitches, priorities, and PR people. Read their advice below.
First, A Little Bit About the Bloggers
I interviewed bloggers from Hither and Thither, OhDearDrea, PopCosmo, and Small Fry Blog. According to Moz, the bloggers had Page and Domain Authority scores ranging from 34-54. Most have at least a few hundred linking root domains. Each of the bloggers had between 6K and 16K followers on Pinterest, 1K and 5K followers on Twitter, and 2K and 40K followers on Instagram.
Advice on Pitching and Partnerships
The bloggers talked about how many PR people screw up the basics - getting names right and making sure the blog is a fit for what they’re pitching – but they spoke more deeply of professionalism and authenticity. They don’t expect fake compliments about being a huge fan of their site. “Just be honest and be direct. We’re both professionals.” said Ashley from Hither and Thither. Bloggers expect you to respect their time, value the audiences they’ve built, and to be straightforward about your intentions.
What makes a good PR pitch stand out?
Ditch the mail merge. Personalized messages go a long way to earn bloggers’ trust. You can still use templates to save time, but you should do research and customize each message before sending.
“A concise, simple pitch combined with a personalized approach.”
- Small Fry Blog
How do you decide to work with a company you’ve never heard of before?
It’s easy for big brands, like Target, to partner with bloggers. It’s much more challenging for smaller brands to stand out. When I asked bloggers about what makes them want to work with new brands or brands they’ve never heard of, the overwhelming response was fit. They want a good fit, not just in the traditional sense of “Would my audience like this?” but fit in terms of aesthetics and brand values. They also appreciated the brands that compensate them for their time.
“If the product or service is relevant; if I haven’t already covered the same product/service by another brand;and if it’s clever. Sponsored posts are of course most enticing, because they value my time and support me to continue to grow the audience I’ve built.”
- Hither and Thither
“Branding and style. Secondly, I do my research. If it’s not a quality company, I can’t promote it.”
Have you ever gotten unreasonable requests from PR people?
When working with bloggers, understand that they know their audiences best and understand that they’re doing you a favor. Try not to force them into a rigid promotion plan, and be respectful of their time.
“I’m not a blog that promotes-promotes-promotes— I like things to be thoughtful and planned out— or things that are incredibly fitting for my life. It always feels a bit off when I’m contacted from companies (big and small, but especially the big ones) asking for a lot of free or trade work. My blog isn’t one big ad— no one would stop to care about it if it was. What I write is valuable, to me at least, so I don’t like when companies act as if it’s not.”
“Unreasonable… no. But if you’d like coverage free of charge, be clear about: “would you be interested in sharing this with your readers?” Don’t pretend like it’s a fabulous opportunity to hand out free advertising, even if I might be interested in arranging that.”
- Hither and Thither
“We just had a PR company repeatedly asked us to promote an event in a city where we are not located. And we had another PR company that kept sending the same request over and over. We wanted to work with them and responded, but they never answered.”
- Small Fry Blog
What do you expect from the PR people you work with?
Blogger expectations for PR people are very reasonable. They want you to respect their time and do your research (a theme present in almost all of the interview responses.) They expect you to be reasonable, too. Putting posts together is a lot of work on their end, especially for beautiful, photo-heavy blogs like these.
“[I want] respect for my time. Also, it’s nice when others are mindful about how quickly they send a follow-up email: I’m not in a traditional office (most bloggers are not), so if I don’t get back to you that day please don’t send the follow-up the very next day. Give it at least three, ideally a week, unless it’s terribly time-sensitive. Also, a pitch that doesn’t require a reply does not warrant a follow-up email.”
- Hither and Thither
“Firstly, to know who we (Popcosmo) are. We are not just a teen site, although one of us is a teen! (Our blog appeals to moms, teens and everyone in-between.) With such a wide demographic, both moms and daughters visit, but a lot of 20-30 year olds love our site and are huge fans of our #ChicChat on Twitter… but some PR folks just see read the latest story and don’t check our “About” page. It’s obvious who takes the extra 2 minutes.”
“[I expect PR people to have] an understanding of the business. I want to work with companies that know the business well. Companies that don’t just see a large number, without looking in the engagement. And companies that understand that yes, maybe hashtags are useful and catchy, but different blogs and audiences work different ways— so there needs to be a flexibility at times.”
“Flexibility, respect for the work, a genuine knowledge of what our site represents and promotes. One thing that is frustrating about blogging is that some companies want to put all their emphasis on clicks, and conversion etc. But, that same company is willing to pay top dollar to grace the pages of a magazine where they have no physical proof of any conversion at all. They’re paying for their presence. And their paying for taking up a page in that magazine. In a way it should be the same for blogging. Taking up a post or a day on a blog is worth something in and of itself. You can’t always track success for that kind of promotion.”
- Small Fry Blog
Bottom Line: Be Professional
Bloggers understand that you’re a marketing professional and not just a fan of their site. They’re professionals, too. Every blogger I interviewed said she spends at least an hour on every post she writes (in addition to the time spent taking and editing photos) and even longer on posts that are sponsored by brands. Be open to bloggers’ ideas about what will work on their sites and what will resonate with their audiences.
Additionally, think about how you can make these partnerships even more valuable. All of the bloggers I talked to mentioned monitoring traffic/pageviews, and many talked about having specific social media goals. You as a PR person have a lot of power to drive traffic via social media and promotion. If you can use your brand’s channels to promote their posts, you’ll help them meet their own goals… and everybody wins.
About the Bloggers
Here’s a little more about the bloggers I worked with and where you can find them.
About: Children’s lifestyle blog
Run by: Nicole, Emily, and Jenna
Instagram: smallfryblog -37K followers
Twitter: @smallfryblog – 4K followers
Pinterest: smallfryblog – 14K followers
About: Lifestyle blog (for teens and moms)
Run by: Mother-daughter duo Kim & Chloe
Instagram: popcosmo -2K followers
Twitter: @popcosmo - 4K followers
Pinterest: popcosmo - 7K followers
About: Lifestyle blog with a focus on natural living
Run by: Andrea Duclos (Drea)
Instagram: ohdeardrea -30K followers
Twitter: @ohdeardrea - 2K followers
Pinterest: ohdeardrea - 4K followers
About: Lifestyle and travel blog
Run by: Ashley Muir Bruhn
Instagram: ashleymuirbruhn -2.5K followers
Twitter: @ashleymuirbruhn - 2K followers
Pinterest: ashleymuirbruhn - 10K followers
Learn More about How to Pitch
Check out our previous post (by @kevin_raposo) on how to pitch journalists. If you’d like to see a certain group featured in our next round of interviews, or if you’re a blogger and have opinions to share, please get in touch: Stephanie@BuzzStream.com