How to Work with Bloggers: Top Tips for Your Marketing Team

Last week we covered what bloggers can do for your business and how they can be a valuable part of your marketing strategy, targeting your key audience, being a trusted voice and directly influencing purchasing decisions. Once you have seen the value of working with bloggers, the next step is working out how to approach them, and how to get them on board with your marketing team. Here are our top tips for contacting, recruiting, and working with bloggers.

Contact them correctly

That first e-mail sets the scene for your possible on-going relationship, so don’t make it seem like you just want to work with blogger(s), any blogger(s) and you don’t really care!

The ‘Dear blogger’ e-mail is lazy, and rather rude. Do at least try to figure out their name first, or go down the ‘Hi…’ route, which is at least a little better! And make sure you get their name right, don’t use someone else’s or call them what their e-mail addy says – e.g. my name isn’t ‘Lse’! Their first name will be on their blog somewhere, probably quite prominently.

Be friendly, but not obsequious, ask how they are, make some personal comment or compliment, be a human being. If you want to really make a good impression, find out their name and read their blog a bit. Don’t pretend you’ve been reading for ages if you’ve only just followed them on Twitter, but comment on a recent post or two, and be genuine.

Oh and don’t give the half pitch followed by a ‘let’s get on the phone and discuss this’. Often we don’t get to work time till 9pm, we have masses to do, and small people running around. E-mail works best, at least it does for me.

Get to know them

If you really want to make a good impression, and ensure your e-mail doesn’t get deleted, get to know the blogger a bit. Interact with them on social media, leave a comment on their blog (no links please!), really read what they publish and get a feel for their voice.

That way when you do pitch your idea or product it won’t be a cold call, and they will be more inclined to want to hear what you have to say. Weeding through hundreds of approaches a week is hard work, and if a name stands out it helps. This is particularly important if you are pitching a big campaign.

And finally, be sure that this is the blogger you want. Get to know their unique voice and way of writing, and make sure it is the right fit for what you want. Don’t then re-write their entire draft post, or send corrections after publication because you don’t like the style of it.

Plan ahead

Think about the timeframe you are working to. If it’s a seasonal campaign, contact the blogger well in advance to garner a place in their editorial schedule. If you want them to create a recipe with your ingredients, pitch at least a month before your campaign week, and make sure the right ingredients and information get to them well in advance.

Be realistic about how soon content should be published, especially if it’s unpaid. And please don’t chase every five minutes, we have lives, families, paid work to do and more.

The same with events, we need to know as far in advance as possible, even if all you can send is a save the date or an e-mail sounding out interest. Make sure a proper invitation does follow though!

Know what you want

Have an end goal in mind before you approach the blogger, so that you can work together to figure out the details of the collaboration. You don’t need to have a whole campaign strategy in mind, but do be sure of what you want the outcome to be. One blog post or five, this week or in 3 months’ time, lots of photos or lots of words.

Be specific about you want, and then talk to the blogger about how you can make it happen. They know what works well for their audience, but need to know what your goals and vision are to make it work. Oh, and we love unique, creative and interesting campaigns, rather than just regurgitating your press release. (Just don’t tell us the budget went on all that stuff and now you have nothing left!)

Pitch well

How to avoid immediate delete:

Fit the product to the blog/ger. Don’t ask the mother of a teenager to review nappies, or a dad to review nursing bras (both true stories!). Don’t pitch about maternity products to someone who has just miscarried, or ask an autism family to a big, noisy event.

Be polite and respect what they do. Don’t act like you are doing a blogger a favour sending them your free app code/pasta sauce/jumper.

Try to make your pitch personal, effective and interesting! Writing about your product when twenty others are doing the same isn’t much fun, but a campaign which involves three bloggers and a great deal for both sides will get an immediate bite.

If you’re new to all this, an open ‘we are X and we’d love to work with you’ approach to a blogger is fine. We can help you figure out what could work and suggest ideas, but in that first pitch, ideally, we want to know who the brand are and what the product is; exactly what you want us to do (blog post, competition/giveaway, blogger outreach, social media, freelance contribution etc); the timeline; and what the compensation is likely to be.

Don’t expect them to work for free

I really hope you’re sitting down because we need to talk. I’m afraid bloggers don’t survive on freebies, or drop their writing knickers for some ‘free’ exposure on your social media channels (loving those messy metaphors!)

However much free pasta sauce you send me, my mortgage company aren’t going to accept that as payment, nor the council, nor the electricity company, nor the water board. For many bloggers this is their job. They invest long hours and lots of effort in creating their site, building their audience, growing their influence and creating their social media profile and reach. Why oh why would they give that to you for nothing?!

Oh and please, please, please do not refer to the review product you are sending them as ‘free’. We may not charge to review a £500 camera or a holiday, but a £2 bottle of hand wash? Is it really free when hours will be spent trying it, photographing it, writing about it, promoting it, creating exposure and sales for you. Our time, effort and influence has value. Free product?! I don’t think so.

I know it’s come as a shock, but yep, just like you, bloggers do expect payment to do their job. As I’ve written before, blog and social coverage isn’t the same as the editorial you ‘earn’ from newspapers and magazines, because their writers’ wage bill is covered by the advertising your company also places there. Bloggers need it direct, then we can keep working and keep helping your marketing machine.

Here's why bloggers don't work for free.

Create an on-going relationship

Be friendly, be chatty, be personal. Some of my favourite PRs are those who took a chance on me when I first started. They’ve helped me out when I’ve needed, and I’ve helped them. They understand what I do, how I work, and they are appreciative of it. In return, I do them favours and prioritise work for them when necessary.

Creating those on-going relationships that work for both of you is surely the very essence of PR. And when readers see an on-going relationship, from a side bar ad to a giveaway or sponsored promotion, followed by social media campaigning, they know that we really do think that product or company is good. Company, PR, blogger and readers all win.

Bloggers love people they work with regularly, people who are friendly but professional, and who get what we do. This works perfectly because we can produce great content for the company, interesting content for our readers, and sales for the product, all with a smile on our faces. If we ‘get’ you and you ‘get’ us, let’s stick with it and make the most of it!

The take away

So, you want to engage a blogger and their audience? Come up with a great idea, identify the best blogs for it, pitch it to those bloggers in a friendly and personable way, and be professional about expectations and outcomes. It could be the start of a beautiful relationship!

5 key points to ensure your e-mail is read and answered by a blogger

1. Tailor the e-mail to the blogger, and get the names right!
2. Be genuine, be friendly, and be honest.
3. Be clear about who you are, what you want, and why.
4. Don’t undervalue a blogger’s time, effort and influence.
5. Offer a mutually beneficial relationship: what does the blogger get out of it, not just you client?

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