Blogger Relations Series: Agencies Talk To Bloggers

08/15/2008

Pulse of the Industry: Blogger Relations Part III

In the spring of 2004, when Diva Marketing launched, social media marketing was not even a buzz word. In the business world of new media blogs were the big deal along with a vague notion of RSS. Podcasts and videos were beginning to find their place as more than just a cool new toy. Flash four years into the Future Is Now and writing a few blogs posts, recording a podcast, taping a video or joining a social network are only a few of the tactics that marketers have to choose from in their social media marketing tool box.

A few surprisDo_not_close_minds_signes have come along with the growth of social media. One big surprise is the extent of influence that people providing the content for blogs, podcasts, vlogs and social networking communities enjoy within their communities. Influenced was/is based on relationships.

Marketers are tapping into that concept and what is emerging is a new strategy that we are calling - Blogger Relations or BR. The halo effect from a post or a video about a brand may be more beneficial to changing perception and encouraging purchasing than a traditional ad or PR campaign.

I was curious to know:

  • Who was doing it right and who was doing it wrong
  • What did agencies want from bloggers and what did bloggers want from agencies
  • and most of all how could we work together for the benefit of the communities

99 people participated in an online survey. Since the research is not statistically valid let's call it an industry pulse check from the people who are involved in the space. Their insights are thoughtful and the learnings they shared significant.

To thank those who kindly gave their time and to help our community understand this evolving industry I'll be posting the findings over the next few weeks. This is part III in the series Part I: Blogger or Journalist Part II: Successful Blogger Relations Strategy.

Blogger Relations On Its Way To Main Stream Marketing

With almost all, 90%, respondents anticipating that they will be involved in a blogger relations strategy within the next 12-months, it seems as though BR is positioned to become an accepted marketing tactic.

Total response: 100% - 99 out of 99
Yes - 90%
No - 10%

Madison_ave Question: If you are working with an agency/social media company ... what do you want to tell Bloggers when it comes to blogger relations?

There has been much written from the view point of bloggers about how they would like to be treated. However, I wondered what would agencies and consultants say to bloggers about their side of blogger relations.  

37 responded
43 self selected they worked for an agency/social media consultant and were bloggers. I don't know the total non bloggers who worked for an agency/social media consultancy.

Responses ranged from talk about values to reminders that we are still early in the game and to be patient to ideas how to work together. According to Drew McLellan, " I think everyone has to find a way to the middle. I don't think posting black lists is right. Nor do I think badgering bloggers is right."

The big take-aways for me were:

  • Concern about values
  • Post blogger relations policies
  • Give feedback
  • Reminder that we are early in the game and are learning together
  • Agencies should be part of the conversation
  • Respect

Values

It was important for that bloggers are real, transparent and authentic. Marc Meyer put it this way, "Be genuine. Think openly. write down any and all ideas. Keep an open mind and be respectful of other people's thoughts, ideas and opinions."

Be real! Even if you aren't (a real person). Genuine emotion and a willingness to share and address all sides of issues will win you acceptance. Also, don't use SEO releases. It just adds noise and devalues the worth of 'real' releases. -  Robert French

Listen first, build on what's there. Do not try to reinvent the wheel. - Katie Paine

Never become self-absorbed. It shows and your page views will immediately plummet. - Jane Genova

Be frequent. Be relative. Be real. - Kim Haynes

What goes around comes around. But always be authentic or you will lose your audience. - Alan Wolk

Be transparent. – Kate Spencer

Be transparent. A good company does not want fake hype as it will be exposed in time and will not have lasting value to either party. * Be fair. It's less important what your opinion is, more important that you evaluate things from your perspective, documented when possible, and handled maturely. * Ask yourself frequently - what's your point? Know that, communicate that, adhere to that. Consistency gives cred; the details are secondary. - Roxanne Darling

Feedback

Most agree that this is a path we are forging .. together. The rules are being defined with each new out reach and what worked today for one blogger may not work tomorrow for another. But what happens when someone makes a mistake or doesn't know the rules?

Respondents asked for feedback and help understanding what individual bloggers want. Dave Taylor put it, " Cut the "new pr people some slack for mistakes, but flakes flacks need to pay attention and respect bloggers too, not just do the same "paid by the # of releases sent out" goofiness."

Be patient - this is an emerging area and we're all trying to figure it out. Don't be so quick to criticize; offer suggestions rather than excoriating us. Anonymous

I have worked with an agency before as the emerging media guy who connects with bloggers. I would want to tell them to give PR people a break and realize that they are NOT EVIL. Instead of reacting like a pissy little child, how about reacting like an adult and helping to educate him/her about how they can do their job better? - Michael E. Rubin

To provide constructive criticism - those of us who are "doing it right" so to speak are always looking to do better, and present opportunities that are beneficial to both the client we represent as well as the blogger - often we are willing to be flexible to work with the blogger to make that happen.
I would love to hear more candid feedback from the bloggers I work with regarding how they'd like to be pitched, the kinds of opportunities they'd like, and what works for them - I'd love to accommodate as best I can, and offer opportunities that are relevant to them. – Anonymous

We want your insights - not coverage on your blog. Give us your feedback. We don't want to influence your feedback - be true to yourself. We don't want to lure you with gifts - try the product, and return if you think of it as a bribe. - Rajesh

Work with us - if we approach you in an offensive/unnecessary way please tell us. it's a new media and the rules haven't been set (yet) – Anonymous

What Do Bloggers Want?

Kami Huyse suggested that, "Bloggers need to be clear about their preferences for companies that want to share information." A solution would be to pick up on Roxane Darling suggestion of posting a Blogger Relations Policy page or as Rohit called it a pitch page.

The more info you can provide upfront somewhere on your blog about how you prefer to be contacted and what topics you are interested in hearing about, the more likely you will get relevant pitches. - Nedra Weinreich

Make it easy for us to learn about you and your likes and dislikes and we can tailor our "relations" to you much better.
Often the information that could give us these clues is hidden and we have to struggle to find it.
If your pet peeve is getting press releases about product launches, let us know in a prominent way linked from your homepage (such as a "how to pitch me" page off your about page) and the good agencies will respect that. When that fact is hidden in a blog post you made 3 years ago, it's almost impossible for your regular readers to find it, much less any agency person just getting familiar with your blog. – Rohit

I want them to tell me what is ok and what is cheap promotion. I want them, since it is their media outlet, to share with me what is appropriate and what is cheapening their space. What incentives are good and what constitutes selling out. – Anonymous

Hugh_gaping_void__blog_consultant Interacting With Agencies

Neville Hobson's response hit's the high notes - "I promise not to spam you and will treat you with respect."

I know who you are because I read you. I know what you are looking for because I understand. Sometimes, I think my agency has some content you might like to see. – Shel Israel

Work with us - if we approach you in an offensive/unnecessary way please tell us. it's a new media and the rules haven't been set (yet) – Anonymous

I think the bloggers need to be easy to access like "standard" media. I wish there was a way to send out a media release enmasse to bloggers. – Carolyn Wilman

Much as a good relationship between a reporter and PR can benefit both parties, so can a good relationship with a blogger. A relationship with us could get you great content. Example, we recently got an interview with someone a blogger was over the moon to speak to, and she would not have gotten that interview without us. - Sally Falkow

It's all about making sure the message or the connection adds value for all parties. - Sherry Heyl

There is a fine line when it comes to pitching a product versus engaging a blogger to discuss the product/service/client with you and their audience. Realizing that there are agencies out there that read your blog for more than just the opportunity to have you highlight a product, that is where the mutual respect comes in. We regularly read your blog because your industry is our client's industry.

Your interests and passions are our client's interests and passions (and sometimes our own, too!). We look for client opportunities, sure. That is our job. But ultimately, we are mostly there to further the conversation amongst you, our client, and all the other interested parties out there. Sharing information and sharing that passion - that is where blogger relations turn into an actual relationship between a blogger, an agency and their client. - Anonymous

It is important to develop highly customized and personalized programs for bloggers and not just a cut and paste program being executed by interns. This could be your most important PR strategy. - Dave Williams

A few comments reinforced that blogger relations is a different game .. one where more than your client's reputation can be involved. The agency has skin in the game too.

We know that our reputation is always on the line, and that keeps us especially rigorous in customized outreach, relationship-building, and being 100% transparent. It's a tremendous amount of risk we take in engaging with bloggers. If a PR person writes a bad pitch to the journalist, the worst that'll happen is the journalist ignores it. With bloggers, the upside's great but the risk is much higher. David Berkowitz

We understand that your blog is your territory and we very much appreciate it when you're willing to talk about our clients there. – Anonymous

Be Part of The Conversation

A few people felt that actively participating in the conversation was important too.

Join the conversation first. - Jay Berkowitz

As an agency it is critical that I blog too - so I have my own credibility and my own space to share "me" and not just my product/brand or service, rather than pushing out tactical messages in-the-cold. This way, when I do have messages to send out, they follow a more natural flow that bloggers are comfortable with. – Dina Mehta

Rich Brook's comment appropriately concludes Phase III of the Blogger Relations Series

You must give before you can expect to receive.

Next up - Phase IV Blogger Relations Series: Bloggers Talk To Agencies

Thanks to the 99 people who kindly responded. The following agreed to be quoted and publicly acknowledged.

Michele Miller WonderBranding
Mei-Li Thomas, No Fear, Just DIVA
Paul Chaney, Conversational Media Marketing
Kim Haynes, Texas Gal Ramblings
Des Walsh Des Walsh dot com
Alan Wolk The Toad Stool
Elaine Fogel, Solutions Marketing and Consulting
David J. Neff, American Cancer Society; Sharing Hope TV
Steven E. Streight aka Pluperfecter (formerly known as Vaspers the Grate)
Nicole Simons, Cruel To Be Kind
Sherry Heyl, Concept Hub, Inc
Ike Pigott, Occam's RaaR
Mary Hunt, In Women We Trust

Yigal Cohen, Linx Analyst and Blogger Relations
Susan Cartier Liebel, Building Solo Practice University
Liz Strauss, Successful and Outstanding Blog(gers)
Robert French, infOpinions?
Cynthia Holladay, UpRight Marketing
Alanna Kellogg, Veggie Eventure; Kitchen Parade
Yvonne Divita, Lip-sticking
Jay Berkowitz, Ten Golden Rules
Heidi Richards Mooney, WE Magazine for Women
Tim Jackson, Masi Bicycles  Masiguy Podcast
Marc Meyer, Direct Response Marketing Observations
Mark Goren, Transmission Content + Creative
Sally Falkow, PRoactive  Leading Edge on the Daily Dog
John Cass Author of Strategies & Tools for Corporate Blogging Blogger at PR Communications

Shel Israel, Global Neighbourhoods
Ann Handley, Annarchy; Marketing Profs Daily Fix Blog
Francois Gossieaux, Emergence Marketing
Erin K Vest, Queen of Spain
David Berkowitz, Inside the Marketers Studio,

Kate Spencer, Fordham University
Ed Gaston, Chrysler
Michael Rubin, Blog Council
Cyndee Haydon, Clearwater Real Estate Tampa Homes
Katie Paine, KDPaine's PR MeasurementBlog
Drew McLellan, Drew's Marketing Minute
Anita Campbell Small Business Trends
Rich Brooks, Flyte
Jane Genova, JaneGenova.com Law and More
Marianne Richmond, Resonance Partnership
Becky Carroll, Customers Rock
CB Whittemore, Flooring The Consumer  The Carpetology Blog
Roxanne Darling Partner, Bare Feet Studios Bare Feet Blog
Dave Williams, Co-Founder, 360i

Tris Hussey, A View From The Isle
Kami Huyse, Communication Overtones
B.L. Ochman What's Next Blog
Carolyn Wilman Contest Queen

Rajesh Lalwani, Blog Works

Dave Taylor, Ask Dave Taylor
Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing
Nancy White, Full Circle
Neville Hobson, NevilleHobson.com
Nedra Weinreich, Spare  Change blog
Dina Mehta, Conversations with Dina
Rohit, Influential Marketing Blog

Prashant, Markitechture
Katherine Malone, Fleishman-Hillard
Randal Moss, American Cancer Society; Community Mobilization
Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing
Merrill Dubrow, M/A/R/C The Merrill Dubrow Blog

Part I: Blogger or Journalist Part II: Successful Blogger Relations Strategy Part III: Agencies Talk To Bloggers Part IV: Brands Talk To Bloggers Part V: Bloggers Talk To Agencies

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Comments

Toby,
This is absolutely amazing collective insights and sharing going on here. Although I skip most posts on social media these days (as Groundswell, Rohit, pals, and experience have taught me so much; And my focus has intensely turned toward green marketing), I tremendously value the conciseness, depth, and substance of this series.
Thank-you kindly :)

Posted by: Mario Vellandi on Aug 16, 2008 2:35:56 AM

As always, Toby, this is a very nice piece. I especially like the comment that bloggers should provide help to PR people instead of criticism. :)

Posted by: Jamie Turner on Aug 16, 2008 7:51:52 AM

@Mario and @Jamie - thanks for your kind words. "Growing up" together in this new way to do business social world, it only makes sense to "learn" together. Next week the bloggers tell their side of the story!

Posted by: Toby on Aug 16, 2008 10:00:55 AM

Toby, I've been eagerly awaiting this next installment. And it is as fascinating as the others. Thanks so much for broadening all of our horizons.

Posted by: C.B. Whittemore on Aug 17, 2008 8:44:16 PM

@CB - Appreciate it. Curious to know if there were any surprises in the feedback thus far.

Posted by: Toby on Aug 17, 2008 9:17:03 PM

Definitely a good read!! Thanks for sharing such a detailed post. Its good to see the perspective of the 'other side' once in a while :)

Posted by: Simon on Aug 18, 2008 8:51:51 AM

Interesting. We actually did this with the Council of PR Firms a while back and we're gearing up for our next iteration.

www.bloggersandpr.com

Posted by: David Wescott on Aug 18, 2008 9:23:06 AM

Great stuff again. I might suggest that you link back to the other posts in the series in each post since this series is destined to be one that we all bookmark and revisit.

Posted by: Kami Huyse on Aug 20, 2008 11:05:31 AM

@Kami - Thanks for the idea to go to past posts and include links to the series posts. So smart! By the way, check out Kami's post on BR http://overtonecomm.blogspot.com/

@Simon - it is good to see all sides!

@David - thanks for the resource. Please keep me posted on the results of your study.

Posted by: Toby Bloomberg on Aug 20, 2008 8:05:38 PM

The site is good.You can give more information about the Agencies Talk.

Posted by: trivaniteam on Sep 20, 2008 11:45:14 PM

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