Sorry, I Don't Work For Free: Why You Should Pay Bloggers

In the third part of our blogging guide for PRs and marketers, we're looking at why bloggers might well ask that you pay them for the use of their time and influence.  Having looked at why bloggers are good for business and how to approach and work with bloggers, addressing the question of why bloggers should help you is the obvious next step. I receive a number of e-mails every week from people who, genuinely I believe, think I will be happy to work (i.e. provide my time, service and influence) for a box of tea, a jar of jam, or even, that favourite of all bloggers, in exchange for shares on a company's social platforms.  Be honest, would you work for that?

With these e-mails I can always see how my promoting the company will benefit them, garnering attention, promotion, links, sales, etc, but how exactly will it benefit me?  Give me a better reason than a 'free' jar of jam for giving you my time, my influence, and quite frankly, my effort and attention.

Why should you pay bloggers?

Bloggers spend a lot of time building their own brand, their relationships with their audience, and their social media influence and reach, plus time on coding, SEO, photography etc etc.  Why should they do that and then promote your baked beans/jumper/toy for nothing?

Too many people (brands, PR firms, ad agencies) still believe that bloggers blog just for fun, that it's a little hobby.  Bloggers with a strong and committed readership work hard to build their audience, to engage with them, and to build their platforms, making them attractive, useful, search engine friendly, and the same with their social channels.

For many of us, blogging is our job, a job we dedicate a LOT of hours to, not just writing posts, but promoting them, building up and maintaining communities, working for clients and much more.  Somehow we fit this in around other commitments, such as other jobs, community or charity work, elderly parents, young children, families, and myriad other commitments.  It is not unreasonable to expect to be compensated for our time, time spent doing our job (blogging) - and yours (gaining awareness for your client or product).

Bloggers are digital influencers, and with an increasingly digital world, they are becoming a key part of your marketing team.  Their audience are your target market, your customers, and bloggers are a direct and authentic link between you and your customer.  You can read more about this here.

Influencers can be anyone, from celebrities to the person next to you at the supermarket, all of them impact on purchasing decisions, whether we know it or not.  Bloggers are often reported to be one of the key influencers (top 2 or 3) on purchasers, for everything from can openers to holidays.

A social media survey by BlogHer reported that 70% of online consumers learn about companies and products via blogs, not adverts.  Directly influencing consumer action, 61% of online consumers reported having made a purchase based on bloggers' recommendations.

Blogger outreach is a great way to get your client's story or product/service in front of the right demographic.  Bloggers will increase your client's brand exposure, they can change brand perception, and they directly affect consumer purchasing decisions.  Why oh why would they ever offer all that for free?!

But we don't pay journalists

No, you don't, not directly.  Journalists are paid by their papers or magazines, which are funded partly by subscriptions and purchases, but largely through advertising.  It's no coincidence that their 'best buy' pages often contain products from advertisers to be found elsewhere in the magazine.  I should also point out that many niche magazines, e.g. Mother & Baby have a lower circulation than blogs such as the one you're reading!

If you're PR-ing a story rather than a product, you may be even more mystified about why bloggers want to be paid.  For exactly the same reason: we're doing you job for you no-one else and there is no reason we should do that for free!  Those journalists earn a great salary regurgitating your press release, bloggers don't.  So, with the best will in the world, I am not going to tell the world about your client (who is paying you, of course), unless someone covers my time and the benefit your client gets from my work and reach.

To be absolutely blunt, if you want access to these digital magazines, you simply have to start thinking about how to monetarily compensate bloggers for what they do.  Move on from the 'cash for comment' objections, and stop applying old media paradigms to blogger outreach.  This is a whole new world and it needs a new approach.

Bloggers offer brands value, knowledge and influence.  It's time to encourage your clients to recognise that working with bloggers isn’t free, and to start getting them to allocate budgets that allow you to engage meaningfully with bloggers, treating their time, knowledge and reach with respect - not just offering them 'free' chocolate/toy/shampoo!

What should I pay for?

There's no definitive answer to this one, it depends on every case, and every blogger.  Some bloggers may still offer promotion of your product in the traditional 'earned media' way, i.e. you send them something, they blog about it, tweet about it etc.  Great.

Other bloggers, with bigger audiences and more demands on their time and reach, such as myself, will only offer this for something like press trips or high value product.  The only way to find out is to ask but, please, whatever you do, never refer to anything you are sending out as being 'free'.  The time and effort that a blogger puts in to photographing, trying, using, writing about and promoting your product is not free.  That product, if they accept it, is in effect their payment.

Remember, what you are paying for is their time not their opinions, so even paid reviews should be genuine and list any flaws as well as what's great.  (See above re. the 'cash for comment' attitude.)

You should also expect to pay for social media mentions.  Yes, it may only take a few minutes to compose and send a tweet, but building social networks and communities takes time and effort, and that reach is worth investing in.  The time it takes in this case is irrelevant, you are paying for the blogger's level of reach and influence.

How much should I pay?

Again, no absolute answer here.  Get a feel for the blog, approach the blogger well, and find out how they work.  Ask if they charge, ask for their media pack and rate card, and go from there.  Just make sure your client understands there needs to be some of their PR/marketing budget behind this.

Just make sure your approach is to offer a win-win situation for both sides, don't assume that anyone will offer their time for nothing (or for a couple of social shares!).  You need to offer adequate compensation: two crates of pasta sauce, not one jar; payment; a year's subscription, not one magazine, etc.  Bloggers time is valuable, show that you value that.  (And no, having the opportunity to give something to our readers isn't enough, you are still benefitting way more than us.)

Ask yourself one question

If you don't know what to offer or how to approach this thorny question, ask yourself one thing: would you work for what is being offered?

One blog post with research, photos, social promotion etc, takes approx. 3-5 hours.

So, ask yourself:

Would I go without half a day's actual real money pay and accept coffee/nappies/comics/everlasting thanks instead?

How many half days of 'pay' like that could you manage before the bailiffs were at the door?

Like you, 'free' product, thanks or the 'chance to meet X celebrity' doesn't pay our bills.  For example, as much as the girls love receiving new toys here, it won't buy them new shoes, pay the mortgage, or put food on the table.

These bloggers whose reviews, promotions, reach and social media influence you want are investing heavily in creating their space and readership, in building the kind of customer relationships your client dreams of.   They have a real connection with their audience and maintain vibrant, engaged communities.  Would you offer all that up for a bottle of shower gel?

Would you spend an hour or more writing an article, plus time taking photographs, time spent promoting on social media, and more, for shower gel?!  Around three hours work for shower gel.  Wow!

Would you really accept product as payment for your services as a PR or marketing person?  Would your mortgage company take it in lieu of that month's payment?  For many bloggers, this is their job.  A job that often involves working long into the night or early mornings, up to 60 hours a week.

If you want a bit of this space, and some of those hours, I'm afraid you're going to have to pay for it.

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