Blogger Relations Series:The "Brands" Talk To Bloggers

08/22/2008

Pulse of the Industry: Blogger Relations Part IV

Socialmedia_sudoko Social media is growing up .. as an industry and as a marketing strategy. From blogs to widgets to social networks and micro blogging marketers are exploring how to tap into the communication tools that were not developed for business tactics. But were created for communication between and among people. Just people.

Along the way, we (I'm in this deal with you!) marketers realized that the people who were using these, let's call them "tools" - you know what they are .. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, and the zillions of other social networks that are launching daily .. might be an interesting way to reach people who might care about our brands. So we began to read, build relationships and reach out to bloggers who were interested in the topics that we and our clients were .. like cars, parenting, photography, etc. What happened was a new marketing tactic emerged: Blogger Relations.

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

I conducted an online survey among bloggers, agency and brand people. 99 people participated. 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 IV in the series Part I: Blogger or Journalist Part II: Successful Blogger Relations Strategy Part III: Agencies Talk To Bloggers.

Brandalphabet Question: If you are working with an agency/social media company ... what do you want to tell Bloggers when it comes to blogger relations? 29 responses.

Important to people who worked on the client-side were building relationships, values, respect and a willingness to learn what bloggers wanted. We are no longer in the wild wild west of social media and "etiquette" and we should be playing nicely together. One respondent even took bloggers to task for what she considered inappropriate behavior.

The big take-aways for me were:

Relationships are based on communication. Educate us about what you want and need.

Have patience.

Respect

Values are important

Etiquette Is Important - Please Play Nicely

For C.B. Whittemore if you are a consistent participant in the conversation blogger relations happens naturally. "I''m connecting as a blogger. Plus, not that many in the space so formal blogger relations haven't been necessary."

Relationships are based on communication. Tell us what you want and need. More than a ‘campaign.’ Educate. Patience

Tim Jackson feels that the phrase developing a relationship is over used but it "really applies." People like to do business with people they like and trust. As Tim says, "I get many bloggers spreading my message FOR me because they "like me" and don't see me as cramming things into their faces. It's built on sharing and conversation for me."

Blogger relations is not a campaign in of itself. It's a process, and needs to be thought of in broad strokes and in the long term. - Michael E. Rubin

Just like with any relationship, tell those trying to engage you what you want -- what you want to know about and what you don't, how you want to be approached and what annoys you, what you consider valuable to your work, etc. It'll help lower the number of totally off-base pitches and help everyone get what they want. - Anonymous

From the client side, I think we mean well. Sometimes the company is "green" and needs to be educated. Sometimes the company won't learn. The question is how do you differentiate the two? – Anonymous

There needs to be two way education -- and we need to learn to speak each others' language. – Anonymous

Be patient, companies are only now understanding how to handle bloggers. - Cece Salomon-Lee

I want them to know that we respect them, we read them and we want to be a part of the conversation around our Brand. The good and the bad. If we do something bad, tell us. If you do something bad, trust me I will let you know! - David J. Neff

Start a conversation and begin a relationship before trying to sell me. Just like you (hopefully) would in person. – Anonymous

We're listening, and want to talk with them to improve what we offer. – Anonymous
Simply, I believe what I am working is of value to your (the blogger's) audience which is why I'm contacting you. If you agree that it is cool, please spread the gospel. I will reach out to you only if I feel what I want to communicate adds value to your audience. We believe in a mutual exchange/benefit! Prashant Kew

I want to tell them about my company, and myself as its founder. For me, they are one and the same. – Anonymous

Willing to work with bloggers to provide their side of a story.

Respect

Neville Hobson's simple promise should underscore any out reach, "I promise not to spam you and will treat you with respect." Yvonne DiVita reminds us that respect is what opens doors to communication. "That they will always be respected, that their open, honest comments are very valuable, and that there is an open door to communication for and with them."

Another respondent felt strongly that respect is a critical factor to building a relationship and insults do not foster friendships.

Relationships are built on mutual respect. As a representative of my company, I'm committed to showing respect to any blogger with whom I wish to communicate. The reverse is true, too -- for a blogger to insult (not merely criticize) my company and then expect for my company to engage in a dialog with him or her is unreasonable. - Anonymous

Following up on the noise of SEO releases (just for the sake of search engine placement), follow the rules. Don't be stupid! Respect others as you would like to be respected. Scattershot releases and contacts are causing more harm than good. – Robert French

Values

As with agencies values such as honesty and transparency were important to several "brand" respondents. Also appreciated was an effort to represent companies/brands fairly.

Be honest. - Kate Spencer

Please don't masquerade as someone other than who you really are. – Anonymous

If you consider yourselves journalists, strive for accuracy and perspective. We're anxious to work with you. If you have a question, please come directly to us. We're more than happy to give you accurate information. – Anonymous

Just tell the truth, spark controversy, add value to the conversation, avoid trolls and spammers, and be fair to all. Before complaining about a product or company, do all you can to resolve an issue directly with the company. If the company ignores you, or is obviously unethical or uncooperative, then you can rant against them if you feel others need to be warned. - Steven E. Streight

Etiquette Etiquette - Play Nicely Please

Susan Cartier Liebel reminded us that we are no longer in the wild wild west of social media. "There is an etiquette. Failure to follow the etiquette can quickly tarnish your name and your ability to effectively use blogging as a way to promote yourself, your services, your brand."   

Even though blogging is much more casual than writing for more mainstream forms of media, they should act professionally. – Carolyn Wilman

Get both sides of the story - be objective. Tell the story and stop trying to be a tabloid. – Anonymous

Next up last of the series and the bloggers will have the last word.

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

Thanks to Grafiko for the alphabet graphic and to Toroller for the sudoku social media graphic.

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Comments

Thanks for posting this information, Toby. It's very valuable.

Posted by: Geoff Livingston on Aug 23, 2008 3:22:59 PM

@Geoff - appreciate your continued support.

Posted by: Toby Bloomberg on Aug 23, 2008 7:09:51 PM

Valuable information, Toby. Thank you for pulling this together.

As someone who operates on both sides of the conversation, I can see how behavior that is consistent and above board pays off in the long run.

Posted by: Valeria Maltoni on Aug 24, 2008 11:21:38 AM

As always Toby, you do a tremendous job of keeping the conversation going on the power of social media in all of its myriad of forms. In the end, it's all about people interating and talking with others in an open and honest way to make connections on a personal level.

Thanks for your insights and your sharing with others.

Posted by: Wayne Hurlbert on Aug 24, 2008 11:51:12 AM

Toby, as always, a masterful presentation.

You sifted through the silt, selected the gems we can walk away with and be richer for it.

Posted by: Susan Cartier Liebel on Aug 24, 2008 12:17:50 PM

Toby, nice job with this series. I am enjoying the feedback.

I love the message of "mutual respect." Far too many people have lost their manners and become unpleasant harpies ready to jump on the tiniest thing and start criticizing.

A little more tolerance -- and frankly, fun and enjoyment -- would be welcome.

Anita

Posted by: Anita Campbell on Aug 24, 2008 6:13:16 PM

Toby, more wonderful perspective and insight. I just love this series. Thank you!

Posted by: C.B. Whittemore on Aug 25, 2008 12:49:59 PM

Great post Diva :-)

Posted by: Maria Reyes-McDavis on Aug 25, 2008 3:13:34 PM

Good stuff Toby. As for: Relationships are based on communication. We may need to take that a step further. All communications don't build relationships; some tear them down.

It goes beyond meeting wants and needs. We, at least sometimes, must exceed wants and needs and we muct always strive to create great experiences. And remember: communications go beyond the written words, videos and the spoken word to everything we say and do.

Again, great job!

Posted by: Lewis Green on Aug 25, 2008 3:26:02 PM

Love this series, Toby. Thank you for putting this all together and organizing all this great information.

Posted by: Mark Goren on Aug 30, 2008 7:31:48 AM

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