I was recently invited to speak at an event run by the Manchester blogging network, WeBlogMcr. The lovely organiser, Holly, asked me to run a session on how and why brands and agencies work with bloggers. The aim was to educate bloggers on ‘the dark side’, dispel some myths and get all parties working together more smartly. Here are some of the key lessons that came out of the workshop...
1. Blogger outreach is nothing new, it’s PR
In its simplest form, PR is all about working with groups of people who influence the target audience of whichever product or service you represent and encouraging them to look upon your brand favourably.
This kind of influencer marketing has existed for decades. Long before the internet ever existed, PRs relied upon journalists and broadcasters with mass appeal and follower numbers to transmit their messaging.
But then bloggers were born - people with loyal followings in quantities that often far exceed traditional media outlets, and an audience ready and willing to make buying decisions based on the trusted opinion of their influencers.
Good bloggers are a PR’s dream, and Google is equally impressed by the power of bloggers, with its algorithm favouring websites that have natural links pointing to them and that gain positive brand mentions.
As a result, bloggers should form a valuable part of any brand’s marketing strategy.
2. Creativity is key
In preparation for my talk, I interviewed some brands and our outreach team here at I-COM and asked them what they look for in a perfect blogger. While this really varies according to the brand and the campaign they have in mind, one thing they all agreed on is that it’s much more fun to work with a blogger who can find a creative way to collaborate, rather than reverting to product reviews (which are still valuable).
For example, this might mean teaming up with a blogger to design a new clothing range, or asking them to find the most innovative use for a particular product and live-stream their progress across their social channels.
Brands are thrilled when a blogger suggests a collaboration that suits them and is a bit different. And when I spoke to bloggers at the WeBlogMcr event they said they love the opportunity to think creatively and hate it when brands or agencies supply them with a strict one-size-fits-all brief.
3. Quality counts, not quantity
In the early days of blogger outreach, brands and agencies veered towards those who have the highest number of followers - in fact, a number of brands and agencies still use this as the main barometer for whether to collaborate with a blogger or not.
But the team at I-COM like to consider the bigger picture and carefully consider the quality of each individual and their followers. The brands we spoke to agreed and said that engagement is far more important than the quantity of followers an influencer has. This was music to the bloggers’ ears, as they much prefer to work with brands who appreciate the effort they put into creating engaging content which inspires their readers rather than being solely judged on the amount of people who might have seen this content.
4. Professionalism and manners go a long way
Both brands and bloggers are in firm agreement that it’s nice to be nice. Members of all parties shared some shocking examples of communication they have had from ‘the other side’.
Emails from brands or agencies saying things like, “Hi blogger, here is a press release we think you will like to share with your readers” will be an immediate turn-off, while bloggers who approach brands with something like, “Please let me know your budget and I will come back to you with some options” will instantly deter agencies and brands alike.
Whereas showing a genuine interest in the recipient of your email will go a long way in building a relationship, which is key to successful blogger outreach for all involved.
Likewise, professionalism is crucial and now that blogging is such a huge industry it is essential for bloggers to consider themselves as a brand and a business. Supplying an inviting and professional media pack was one of the top most sought-after qualities in a blogger from our outreach team and many of the WeBlogMcr attendees have begun creating their own kits to start sending to agencies and brands.
5. It’s not all about the money
There is money to be made in blogging, but not all the time and not immediately. Not everyone is going to be the next Zoella, but that doesn’t mean that bloggers should constantly give up their time and skills for free. At the same time, it would be unwise for a brand to pay a four-figure fee to a blogger that had just launched for a quick Instagram snap that might only be seen by a handful of people.
One of the biggest discussion points at the event was around money and how much bloggers should charge for their time - if anything. Brands obviously want value for money and to stretch their budgets, while bloggers want to be paid for their time, so the responsibility for finding a happy medium often falls to the agency in the middle. The blogging industry is currently completely unregulated and often unruly, which makes this job extremely difficult.
We were all agreed that if a blogger genuinely likes a brand and their products, it is fair to write about them from time to time without any sort of fee attached. Readers like to see genuine content and would get bored with a constant stream of adverts or sponsored posts.
Similarly, brands appreciate seeing bloggers write about their products or services because they like them, not just because they are being paid. And it is clear for all to see when a blogger has worked with a business that is not on-brand purely because they have been paid to do so.
But all were agreed that at some point if the budget is available, it is professional and correct to provide a reasonable reimbursement for a blogger’s time and effort in creating engaging content that benefits the brand they are working with.
For more insights into the way we approach blogger outreach, take a look at this video interview with some of our outreach team.
If you have any questions about influencer marketing or want to know how we can get your brand in front of the right audience, please get in touch with our PR and outreach team by calling 0161 402 3170. Alternatively, fill in our online contact form and we will get back to you shortly.