Lessons Learned From Working With Bloggers
Due to my profession as a freelance journalist, people often encourage me to start my own blog, and I won’t lie to you: I’ve been tempted. Maybe I even opened a WIX account once or twice and dabbled in a post or two. Dabbling it remained, however, as the blog never materialised. There are many reasons why, but the main one is that frankly, after working in PR in both the food and fashion industries, working with bloggers put me off blogging.
Small companies such as the ones I worked for rely on bloggers to expand their reach and popularity, so much of my time was spent drafting carefully crafted canned responses to bloggers, filling in the blank spaces with personal details such as references to previous posts, or to their families, and a seemingly authentic (but actually totally fake) colloquial tone. In each job, I was instructed as a junior employee to approach bloggers differently: “run each email by me, include many personal details, and do your research” said Boss #1 (the foodie), “contact as many bloggers as possible, use a canned response, quantity over quality” said Boss #2 (the fashionisto). Confused, I tried approach 1, then 2, then a combination of the two.
The question is: which approach was more effective? The answer is: there really wasn’t such a difference between the two. So, now the question is: was there more to the approach than the contact? The answer is: yes. In job #1, we were exposing bloggers to our company, in exchange for exposure in our newsletter and general worship over social media. In job #2, we were sending them free products to review if they would provide us with images of our product in action (clue: hosiery).
This is where it gets interesting; if both approaches were just as effective, which was smarter: Job #1 where we invested time, but not money, or job #2 where we invested money but not time? Honestly, from a PR point of view, both were shitty. Because the world of blogging changes continuously, and bloggers themselves are unreliable. As more success stories of bloggers who earn a living solely through their website emerge, more hopefuls attempt the same task, enticed by a lifestyle of talking about themselves and their opinions all day, everyday. This of course, is a catch 22, and actually results in more struggling bloggers blabbering on about their lives. It also means that any blogger who has had a sniff of success suddenly considers themselves to be an internet sensation, and becomes snobby about what they will or will not do, even if you have worked with them in the past.
From this we learn that bloggers cannot be relied upon. Sure, you may flirt over social media, and they may retweet all your ass-licking tweets which you tagged them in, but as soon as a bigger company shows the slightest bit of interest in them, they’re gone. There are no loyalties, sorry. The only thing you can do as a company is to up your game (or your gifts, or your financial bait, if they are not one and the same thing), or give up.
We also learn that you shouldn’t delude yourselves that you have a connection, because you don’t. On the other hand, approach #2 is so insincere that bloggers (who are incredibly narcissistic), will be put off by your clear disinterest in them personally, so won’t reply. The bloggers who do reply have probably had 30 clicks in the past two months and are nobodies, so will do F-all for your brand. Don’t cry because I’m telling you it straight.
So, what can you do? Well, an approach of #1 and #2: attempt to be personal with the bloggers you contact, and put in a few minutes of research before you reach out, then go ahead and like and comment on all their recent social media postings. But do this to many, many bloggers and most importantly, keep your standards. Don’t be tempted to hand out free gifts to those who can’t help you, but understand that if you want to play with the big boys, you better come up with the cash. Unless your company’s concept or product is so unbelievably cool that no one could resist it, you’re probably going to have to pay people to help you. Last of all, pick your ambassador’s wisely: pretty girls get a lot of attention, as opposed to snappy writers, and the mommy bloggers have a LOT of influence, after all-they’re writing to other mommies who are at home all day, tearing their hair out, i.e. vulnerable. Good luck to ya, you’re going to need it.