Mark Twain once said, “Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated”. This could be said of the blogging trend, because pronouncements of the death of blogging have been floating around for a few years now. However, blogging is growing more popular than ever before. Bloggers too, are being taken seriously as true influencers by marketers and are being courted by brands and the PR agencies that represent them. Here are some tips for new bloggers to help get the best out of brand relationships:
- Write only about brands that you care about and believe in. This is the key to building credibility with readers and that, in turn, gives a blogger the influence that brands are looking for. For brands, there is very little value in being covered on by a blogger who will write about anything for a fee. Also, brands are reluctant to invite bloggers to events or give them free products if there’s little chance of follow-through due to lack of interest or enthusiasm.
- Understand what’s expected. This is very important in building long-term relationships with brands, and there is nothing rude about asking “what’s in it for me?” The brand might have a budget to pay an editorial fee or cover expenses, so there is no harm in asking. Alternatively, the brand might be investing significantly in hosting or sponsoring a blogger event and will have some expectations. So it’s best to talk in advance to avoid disappointment on both sides. Should the blogger tweet throughout the event? Should he or she write a blog post before or after the event? Is there a specific hashtag or keyword that should be used? Should the result be a detailed product review, or will a quick brand mention suffice? Bloggers should not be shy about asking questions up front.
- Be honest, but be respectful. Bloggers’ online communities respect them and trust them, so no brand worth its salt would ever expect a blogger to tell a lie. If he or she doesn’t like a product or didn’t enjoy an event, stating that is fair enough. But being respectful and balanced in the report is important too. If a blogger didn’t like the service, he or she should be specific about which aspects were lacking and should include a mention of something positive too, if possible. For example, in a restaurant review it would be fair to mention if the appetizer was served still frozen in the middle. To provide balance, the review could mention that the waiter was mortified, the chef came out and apologized, and the blogger was not charged for the starter.
- Have a blogger media kit. Brands and their public relations agencies need specific information about a social media influence to understand fully the return on their PR investment. A useful media kit will have a short bio about the blogger including some personal information, contact details and the editorial focus. Include also any relevant social media statistics: i.e. number of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, Google PageRank, number of blog subscribers etc. It’s also helpful to include the names of other the companies and brands the blogger has worked with.
- Think long-term. It all goes back to having strong relationships. This is the key to building any business and is important in profitable blogging. See point No. 1…writing about brands the blogger believes in.
- Disclose associations. To maintain integrity as a true social media influencer, bloggers should declare any commercial relationships or associations. Not only is this best practice, in some countries (like the USA under the FTC), there are legal requirements to do so.