In the beginning, it is perhaps true to say that blogs started out as no more than geek to geek or as self-indulgent diaries. In recent times however, with influence from the US where ‘mommy’ blogs are treated with elevated respect, British bloggers are making a new name for themselves.
As the BBC summarised last month:
“There is an immovable force in the blogosphere. They come in their thousands, and command dedicated followings who trust in their every word. They are the so-called mummy bloggers.
“They provide a discussion and support network, but for advertisers they are the holy grail: popular, trusted – and worth paying for.”
In short, more and more people are accessing blogs, as opposed to printed media, for information, advice and a sense of community, and more and more people are blogging. According to a recent stat in SHE magazine UK, there are now 133 million blogs on the web that all vary wildly in subject matter and standard. On average, 900,000 blogs are posted worldwide in any 24-hour period.
As their popularity increases, so too do the number of requests from marketing and social media agencies who wish to tap into the blogs’ target audiences. One such example is Universal Pictures, who recently invited bloggers along on their press trip for the release of ‘Despicable Me’. Universal’s Head of Digital, Doug Neil, said:
“We believe that the parents can be big influencers for us, and helping to sell the film and get their interest in promoting the film to their audience…We are seeing that the blogging community has lots of influence over what films they recommend and they like.”
Whilst bloggers and PRs can work in harmony, this is not always the case. Bloggers have been known to publicly name and shame PR companies, and the corresponding brand, that do something wrong in their approach.
Back in July for example, Gary Andrews, broadcast journalist and writer, published a blog disparaging of the shameless PR pitches he had received during the World Cup. This blog makes a useful read for those PRs who are keen to avoid making the same mistakes, and highlights just how much PR approach is key to making or breaking blogger relations.
Developing Blogger Relations
At an informal blogger session for Cohn & Wolfe employers, two so-called ‘Parent’ bloggers kindly came in to share their experience of blogging and working with PRs, offering useful insights into the different approaches necessary for PR companies to reach out to bloggers, as opposed to journalists.
The first speaker was LuLu Campbell, a hilarious individual and mother of three. Lucy describes herself as an ‘accidental’ blogger, a heartbroken divorcee who turned to blogging to find solace and support from the ever-present online community. From these origins, Lucy’s Family Affair’s Blog has, unbeknownst to her, become hugely – if accidentally – influential, getting high volumes of traffic daily.
The second speaker was Maria Jose Ovalle, PR Consultant and part-time ‘mummy’ blogger combined, who originally began blogging in order to gain insights about bloggers to feed back to clients. Maria now continues writing her blog – Mummy’s Busy World, as a hobby, and writes from the unusual perspective of her little boy.
Lucy gave the following tips to PRs:
- Address the blogger by name (your approach should be personal)
- Don’t pretend to have read the blog; it’s ok if you haven’t, just don’t pretend
- “What’s in it for me?” – If approaching on behalf of a brand, you should offer something that benefits the blogger – unless they know you or particularly love what you have to say, why would a blogger do you a favour for free? Journalists are paid to feature products or events, bloggers are not
- Don’t send press releases – summarise the most interesting points for that blogger in a couple of paragraphs. Your tone should be conversational, not overly corporate or formal.
- Treat each blogger as an individual (after all, it is their unique voice that you are seeking)
Another point discussed was the importance of targeting blogs correctly. PRs are notoriously criticised for their ‘spam’ emails, and bloggers are no less sensitive. It is therefore important for PRs to do their research first, and also to check that the blogger is open to PR proposals before inundating them with new product launches and the like.
Whilst agreeing with many of these points, Maria additionally supported the view that, in some cases, bloggers could be ‘educated’ by the PR agency on how to work co-operatively with PRs. She suggested that firms hold Blogger Workshops for those who want to learn how to maximise their readership or understand what site stats are desired, etc.
The Future of Blogger Relations:
Whilst the present notion then is that the key to good blogger relations is a personal and tailored PR approach, new suggestions of workshops for both bloggers and PRs on how to work peaceably together offer hope of a brighter, more straightforward, and naturally amicable future.
At the end of the day, blogger relations are no trickier than journalist relations; the conclusion I took from a recent PRCA event entitled ‘How Not to Piss Off a Journalist’, was that, it’s near-on impossible to never piss off a journalist.
With blogger relations then, as with journalist relations, it is just a matter of researching extensively, using common sense, maintaining professionalism, but more importantly – offering something engaging and beneficial to the writer – be it fun, free, educational, experiential – you name it!