In mid-September, I had a great day at “Shout All About It”, a fantastic free event for members of the Food & Drink Forum in the East Midlands. As the title might suggest, the day was about getting the story of your brand and product out there.
I’d been invited to speak about working with bloggers, so this is a version of my presentation (hopefully without the technical glitches that gave me a few moments of mild panic on the day).
Bloggers are not scary
What struck me talking to owners at the event was that there was a certain nervousness about approaching bloggers. My experience is that done in the right way, most bloggers will be delighted to hear from you. But if you want to set up your approach in the right way, then here’s my top 10 of things not to do to set both sides up for success.
Don’t spam them
Spam is only good for fritters. And even then the jury’s still out.
So don’t go through the list of the latest and greatest. Bloggers are covering every kind of niche, so someone somewhere will be perfect for your product or story.
Just not everyone.
For example, a vegan blogger is not going to be delighted to receive pork pies. A family food blogger is probably not the right audience for organic baby food.
Just as you’ve taken the time to define your target customer, then there’ll be a blogger out there with a similar readership. You just need to take some time to find them. They’ll be appreciative of the fact you did.
Don’t skip the homework
Talking of taking time to find them, the second don’t is about don’t skip doing your homework. You need to do some research, partly to find the right bloggers, and then to get to know what they do.
Take some time to do some reading, and think about what kind of posts they write. Who else have they worked with? How often do they take sponsored content? What sort of content do they do put out? What’s their style?
Do they write non-sponsored posts? You’re really looking for people that do, so you know they have a real point of view. You want to work with someone who’s not just looking for every commercial opportunity, only the right ones. If you want to get a feel for this, though from a different industry, take a look at British Beauty Blogger. You’ll see a real mix of sponsored posts, and Jane’s research and comments on different topics in beauty.
Knowing all of this will help you make a better approach. While no guarantee of success, it should certainly place the odds more in your favour. And help avoid them hitting the delete button to your first email.
Don’t break the rules
In particular, with this one, don’t ask a blogger to break the rules around declaring partnerships and samples. A gin company once said they would send me a sample to write about it, but I mustn’t say where I got it from, because everyone would want one.
That might be the case, but that’s surely part of the point of coverage!
The more serious point is that the ASA holds bloggers to a high level of disclosure. Any review of a product sample you send should be tagged #gift or #sample or similar. Bloggers have to declare free samples, sponsored/paid-for content, press trips, and hospitality, amongst other things. There are more things considered as ads for bloggers than for the “traditional” press.
And the ASA are watching, as we’ve seen with rulings against brands and influencers, particularly on Instagram. Bear in mind it’s not just the blogger that gets called out if it goes wrong. Worth reading up via the ASA on what the rules are before you start approaching bloggers. Do keep an eye on developments as well, as this is rapidly evolving.
Equally, a good blogger should also know their stuff. But as it’s both reputations that end up on the line, you’ll want to know what you’re getting into. Again, don’t skip the homework.
Don’t be greedy. Don’t be mean. Don’t be naïve.
These three don’ts really add up to the same thing. Working with bloggers doesn’t come free.
At the very least, particularly in food and drink, you need to let them try what you do. The cost over and above just a sample is going to be dependent on what you want to do with them, and how big their readership numbers are for example.
Now, it’s not the cost of the back cover of Delicious or Olive, but if you’ve got big ideas, then there’s probably a cost. I spoke to Becky Wiggins at English Mum, and she works in different ways with different costs depending on what’s involved.
Becky shared that she might feature a product in a round-up if it was something she really loved, but we’re talking a picture and a couple of lines, not a page to yourself, with tweets and Instagram posts. Decide upfront, is your budget beer or champagne?
A bit like the right blogger for you, there’ll be the right blogger with the right costs for your budget. Just don’t think the answer is there’s no cost.
Don’t ignore the small people
Even if your budget is tiny, there will be a blogger who is right for you to work with and fits with your budget. It’s back to doing your homework to find them.
And, a bit like with children, small blogs, if people are committed to them, tend to grow. Back to English Mum, I’ve known Becky since hers was a blog about moving the family to Ireland. She’s now a preferred blogger for Disney Resorts globally, as well as tie-ups with everyone from Sainsburys to Arla and Ryvita.
I shared my own experience as well, having had short shrift from a tea company some years ago. The post that followed got picked up by the BBC and took over my Twitter stream for days. And my blog was definitely tiny.
Don’t send pre-written content
This came from Jules of the Butcher Baker Baby blog. Her caveat was that there are still some blogs that will just take your words and put them straight onto their blog. But for most that’s not how it works.
They write blogs because they like to write. They’ve also got a style and tone of voice of their own. Share all your product and brand story, but respect that they know their readers better and what and how they like to read things.
A blog for the majority of people is a personal thing. It generally represents one person; it’s not an entity like a magazine. People are likely to be fussy about how things sound and look on their site. That is part of what you’re paying for.
Don’t be completely inflexible (or too flexible)
Being fixed in your view of what you want from working with a blogger means you miss out on tapping into their experience and expertise. Of course, you know what you do best. The same applies to the blogger.
It doesn’t mean you have to give them complete free reign or be wishy-washy in your ask. Be clear about what you would like from the partnership but let them give you some ideas on how to get to that result.
Jules shared an example of a brand who laid out very early on that they were looking for two recipes, with two quality images to go with each, and no need to worry about social shares.
What she did after that, they left up to her. They didn’t try to art direct or edit the words. I would say go with where the expertise is. That’s also what you’re paying for.
Don’t waste the effort
This one came from my experiences. I regularly worked with a publisher who rarely got the full value out of the work I did. No sharing of the content or social posts with their network. Not even when I used the author’s or title’s hashtags.
If you’re going to invest in working with a blogger, then milk every moment out of it. Feature it in your channels, not just theirs. Consumers put great faith in third party recommendations, so make it easy for them to find. They really value the perspective, as this quote from AdWeek shows:
“92 per cent of consumers trust recommendations from others, even people they don’t know, over branded content. Seventy per cent say that online reviews are their second-most-trusted source and 47 per cent… consult blogs to keep tabs on trends and ideas.” Adweek
Reviews and comments from others outside of your business help convince customers. So don’t waste your efforts, and cash, in getting those views, and then hope customers discover them by some happy accident.
If you’re a newer business working with a more established blog, then Google is going to like the quality of that inbound link to your site. And if Google sees that link sending traffic to your site, then that’s even better. So the more you do to help more people find that review then the better all round. And the blogger will thank you for it too.
That’s really a win-win.
Ten simple things not to do with bloggers, that would see your approach feel professional and appropriate. Working with bloggers is very similar to working with a journalist. They have posts to fill with content, just like pages to fill. Getting relevant, well-thought-through and fascinating approaches will be a delight.
Have you worked with bloggers? What’s been the benefit to your business, and would you have any more don’ts for the list? The most frequently asked question? How to find bloggers. What would your advice be?