Friday, 10 June 2016

The PR's Guide To Blogging


So for those of you who didn't already know, in my day job I now work in PR full time. I've got years of PR experience from previous roles where it was always a big part of my daily job - marketing, PR, and communications all tend to come hand-in-hand and that's where my career has been based for over eight years now.

In my time I've learnt a lot, and as a fully fledged PR Gal, working with bloggers and press every day, I'm learning more and more tricks of the trade, more insider secrets and more unspoken rules with every passing week. As a blogger too, this has it's plus points and I've got a whole post coming soon with insider tips and specific secrets to help get more exposure for your blog. However this post is dedicated to all the little things that I've learnt as a PR, that will help you work better with brands, build better relationships and overall present your blog - and yourself - in such a way that appeals to the PR's you're approaching.

Firstly - you guys rock. Each and every single one of you is a shining piece of the blogasphere, don't ever let anyone take that away from you, no matter what size your blog. You offer something unique - your opinion. And we as PR's love that. I personally commend every single blogger - I know first hand the time and effort involved in maintaining a blog, so I fully appreciate the work involved. You guys rock.

The Truth
The truth is that there is ONE person who looks at your blog (and stats) and makes a decision on whether they can, will, or want to work with you. More often than not there will be standards that need to be met, and criteria that has to be achieved for bloggers to qualify for certain brand collaborations - that's just the truth and we all know it, it's business at the end of the day, it's absolutely not personal. If we say no, it's not because we don't love your style, it's usually because our hands are tied. I've found some amazing blogs that I now regularly read for pleasure because they are bloggers who approached me for collaborations, some of which I sadly had to turn down. So it's NOT an indication that you blog is of poor quality, or that you're not as 'good' as the next blogger. Far from it! If you are turned down for a collaboration, the best advice I can give in this instance is keep working at it - don't give up! If a brand explain they can't work with you because your blog is too new, or you don't have quite enough followers on social media yet - don't take that as a no, and certainly don't take it personally! Make a note of the PR's details and then approach them again with your updated stats six months later. The proactive approach is actually the BEST thing you can do. We love bloggers who show they are passionate about our brand(s) and it gains you massive brownie points to keep trying.


Approach Us!
Don't always wait for PR's and brands to approach you. We love it when you approach us too - not just for the above reason of showing us that you're proactive and passionate about working with us, but also because we simply may not know about your blog yet, don't hate us - the blogasphere is a big ole' place you know! If there's a brand you literally want to pee-your-pants with excitement about working with, then contact them. The worst that can happen is they don't respond or they say 'no thank you'. And then you're no worse off anyway, so why not?

Emails Count
If you're approached by PR's for a campaign that you're not interested in, then please tell us - don't just ignore our emails! And likewise I reply to every email I get from bloggers as a PR - although admittedly, not always immediately (and that's usually because I'm waiting on further information or something else in order to respond.)  However if you're a blogger (and I'm speaking with my blogger hat on now) then respond to PR's. Not just because it's the polite thing to do, but if they've gone out of their way to email you (and the generic mass-sent press releases don't count - you don't need to respond to all of them) then ignoring the email means we are unlikely to approach you again. Also PR's talk! And we move jobs, who knows where we'll end up or who else we know. Do you want the sort of reputation that is anything but good with PR's?

Reputation
And to focus on that a little more - we do talk to each other, us PR's. Quite a lot actually. Even to our competitors sometimes, for various reasons. If you take product samples and don't review them, or specifically enter into an agreement with us and then let us down, please don't expect us to be happy about it. Reserving the right to not feature our products if you don't like them is fine - I personally wouldn't ever promote a product I didn't like on my blog! So I feel your pain on that one! However, if you've promised us something and then let us down, if our paths cross with other PR's and we find out you've done it to them, well...that's not a great reputation to have in the blogasphere is it? It's like anything in life - if you say you're going to do something and you don't, then you're letting someone down. There are genuine reasons for this, but work with your PR person and communicate - we don't bite! And we'd rather know and understand. We have a set number of samples and a specific, and usually very tight, budget for each campaign. If you take products and don't feature them, that's one vital piece of our launch missing - a piece that another blogger would have loved to have been offered. You'd be surprised how much this happens.


Professionalism
This is a big one for me personally and I find this so important as a PR person too. Remaining professional at all times is VITAL to your blog. You can build up huge following numbers, and have a beautiful looking blog but if you aren't professional what's the value in that? It DOES matter what people think of your brand, of your blog. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If you want to say lots of negative things about people and brands then it's within your right to do that, but understand from our end that we can't be linked to that. Even if it's completely unrelated. And we do look at your social media feeds believe it or not. If you engage in regular Twitter spats, we know. If you say bad things about brands on social media and then write a glowing blog post - we'll know. And lack of integrity by doing this isn't really great for any budding relationship - especially that of a blogger and a brand. I'm not saying that you shouldn't ever give a bad review, I myself recently did a Snapchat series on a brand I felt disappointed in, but I did it to educate my followers, not to 'slag off' the brand. We like honesty - even if you don't like our products! We don't like the opposite, and we don't like people who say bad things on one platform and then good things on another. It just doesn't reflect well.

Practically
When it comes to blogs there are some practical basics that we as PR's look for. Things like an aesthetically pleasing layout - it doesn't need to be a paid for design, some of the free Wordpress and Blogger themes are lovely! But a consistent colour theme, a style to your posts and photos - all these things look good and appealing to PR's. Also, posting frequency is actually far more important than you might think. If you want to work with brands, we look for blogs that update multiple times per week - that's just the truth, don't hate me! If you post once a week or less then we are less likely to work with you, sad but true.

Also - check your layouts people! SO many bloggers - big and small have widgets that don't work, and behind-the-scenes titles, layouts and 'messy' things showing on their blog. I like to think they don't know about it but an Instagram widget that says "INSTAGRAM FEED (DON'T CHANGE THIS TITLE" doesn't look great... Check your blog once a week, make sure your homepage buttons, links and headers all work correctly. Likewise ensure you have an easy to access contact page, preferably with your social media links on it too. It's just thorough and helpful - PR appealing, some would say!


Also I hear a lot of people say they get stuck in a rut with their blogs and it makes them want to give up. But actually the desire to change your layout, to mix things up because you're a bit bored with the same style - it's actually the thing we LOVE about your blog. We love consistency, if you've found something that works then stick to it. Don't fix what isn't broken and take pride if you've established a theme, a layout or/and a style. That's a huge accomplishment. So don't think being stuck in a rut is a bad thing, in my opinion, that's actually a good place to be - consistency = a PR's friend!

Social Media
I mentioned earlier about social media followers, and yes sometimes we do have set criteria that we need bloggers to meet before we can work with them. It's honestly no reflection of you or your blog. However if you're active on social media this looks great to us. So don't worry if you have small following numbers, or if you're a new blogger - if you're active on social media that makes up for it. We live in a digital world and we work with bloggers because they're digital, so therefore it makes sense that we want to work with those people who invest time in being digital.

Then there's the whole buying followers problem. We know when you've done it. You can't hide it and it's very obvious. If you have thousands of followers on any platform - Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, if you've got barely any likes on your posts, it screams of bought followers. Which is worse than low following numbers - so you're doing yourself no favours. If you make the decision to buy followers then be prepared for the fall out at some point, because it will come. I'm not sure of the actual legalities, but if you're sent a product because your social media following numbers reach a certain criteria, when in reality you've cheated and paid for them, well to me that's obtaining something by fraud. It's a big no-no. And it happens more than you think. But us PR's we're like a gaggle of mothers on alert, we have all-seeing eyes. We know...We know everything *said with a big-brother style voice!*


So those are just a few bits of information on blogging - from the inside of a PR's mind! I hope it helps you and gives you more of a practical insight and I hope it's helped to give you a bit more direction when it comes to working with brands and PR's. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments and I'll respond to them all.

Stay tuned (yes, I really did just say that! *cringe*) for part two with insider secrets to help get more exposure for your blog, with specific places and methods to market yourself and stand out from the blogging crowd - coming soon!
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