Even as I draft this blog post, I’m still reconsidering even opening this topic up. But it’s a been long time coming. I want to talk about one of the ultimate debates in the blogging community – bloggers and PRs. So I thought I would share some insight from fellow bloggers as well as my own experiences of what it’s really like to work in blogger outreach and be a blogger at the same time.
Yes I am a blogger, and yes I also work in blogger outreach. So I understand both sides. Or so I thought I did. I was under the impression that the knowledge and understanding of both sides would allow me to be empathetic to the bloggers I was working with as well as being able to deliver the best for the client I was working for.
I recall a particular situation from a few months ago, I received an email from a blogger notifying me that she had posted about the campaign she was working on for one of my clients. (To protect the identity of the client and the blogger mentioned, I won’t be giving full details.)
The situation I’m referring to, was when a fellow blogger decided to dedicate a whole section of her hotel review (that I had arranged) to complain about my incompetency! The main jist of it was that, the hotel were not aware of her booking as it was arranged via the central marketing team. Therefore the actual hotel did not expect her as she was booked directly and outside of their usual booking system.
However, I spent a good 2 hours on the phone on a Saturday morning, on my day off, to organise a solution for her. Luckily, the situation was resolved quickly and the blogger got their complimentary stay. I also followed up personally with her to apologise and ensure she had everything she needed. And yet, I was still seen as being at fault by the blogger.
An unfortunate but honest mistake on behalf of my client. But I was the one on the receiving end of the online negativity?
Naturally it was hard not to take it personally, when I’m being called out in an actual blog post. I didn’t rise to it though. I replied back to the blogger and politely thanked her for the blog coverage and that I would look forward to working with her again. Yes, blatant lie. But I was trying to be professional.
So who’s to blame?
This post is not intended to be a finger pointing exercise. But rather to acknowledge that there are learnings to be made on both sides.
In the first instance, yes, PRs working in blogger outreach can be notorious for mistreating bloggers and not providing appropriate remuneration for delivery of activity. I’ve spoken to other fellow bloggers who have an endless list of anecdotes of PRs expecting them to work for free. An even worse situation was when the bloggers of milknews.co.uk were approached by a company, only to be told that their site wasn’t that great. To which the company kindly offered to help them out with, all for a small fee of course.
Then there’s just pure laziness, with PRs not even bothering to check what people’s names are and either misspell them or just address to the blog names. For example, my blog bio clearly has my name, yet I still get PRs addressing me as LDN. I mean c’mon, really?
But what about bloggers?
On the other side you also have some bloggers who can give some of us a bad name. I’ve worked with bloggers on behalf of clients where we asked for a review on their blog or coverage on their social channels. All was agreed and product was sent to them. Then, radio silence. No response after multiple emails/tweets. So despite the fact that they had received the product they refused to acknowledge any communications after that.
Don’t get me wrong, I know some bloggers aren’t full-time and have their regular day jobs. But some professionalism via a simple reply in these cases wouldn’t go amiss. And going back to that* situation, that blogger didn’t have to call me out in her blog post. I was only doing my job and actually wasn’t at fault. But ultimately I was affected by her actions of writing what she wrote.
Firstly on a personal level, but also as my work suffered. As this lead my client and managers to investigate my actions. In reality, this could have had a serious impact and could have even got me fired! But the blogger didn’t think about that when she wrote that up, did she?
So where do I stand?
Being caught right in the middle of the debate and having seen both sides. I think there are lessons to be learnt for both.
Bloggers, if we expect to be compensated for our services, then we should also be professional in our delivery. Ensure we deliver on time as agreed and also respond appropriately to clients and PRs we have agreed to work with. We should also remember the impact of our words and who can be affected by negative write-ups.
PRs, we need to fix up! Stop being lazy and nurture relationships with the bloggers we work with. Know their names, make sure you have something relevant for them. Stop with the non-personalised email blasts. And lastly, if we want blogger outreach to continue to work and for bloggers to want to work with us – they need something in return too.
Will bloggers and PRs always be frenemies?
It goes without saying that there are benefits to having good relationships with each other. The benefits for a brand working with a blogger is clear. But there has to be a benefit to the blogger too. There are things we can do as PRs to ensure that we are delivering for our client but also maintaining good relationships with the bloggers we work with. Samantha suggests that it shouldn’t always be a numbers game and I totally agree.
Another solution is transparency. Being clear from the outset in terms of what you want the blogger to deliver. As well as what they will receive in return is key.
So what can PRs do better?
Reaching out to some of the blogging community has highlighted a few simple things to consider when working with bloggers.
Striking that balance
Let’s face it there will always be friction between the two if neither are looking to achieve the same thing. But ultimately they are. Both sides should care about one thing and one thing only – creating good content to reach their audiences!
In reality though, the goals for each may never be completely aligned, so it’s all about balance. And ultimately both parties need the other, so let’s learn to work better together…
Are you a blogger with your own experience to share? A PR with thoughts or suggestions on how to work with bloggers? Comment below or tweet me at @arcasela
A special thank you to all the bloggers who shared their insight on this topic with me; Iga of igaberry.com, Nadia of Miel and Mint, Ife of milknews.co.uk, Alicia of serenitylifeblog.com and Samantha of samanthacarraro.wordpress.com