Can bloggers and marketers ever get along?
Chris Lee owns Planet Content, a digital media, SEO and training firm. He was a reporter for IT Week and other outlets before getting into PR, and also blogs at a few different sites, including beer blog theguestale.com and offbeat travel blog www.eudaimoniac.com.
Given his experience, Chris is well-placed to talk about the pitching process of marketers to bloggers and journalists, and recently conducted a couple of relatively informal surveys, to look at both sides of the blogger/PR relationship debate.
I’ve met Chris, and like many bloggers, he is passionate about his beat, making me increasingly conscious about the insipid pint of Carling I was cradling as we talked about his blog.
Chris’ first post on the subject of blogger relations, ‘bloggers’ advice to PRs’, states that the most common complaint was that PRs ‘spam’ bloggers with irrelevant press releases. One of the key takeaways from his post is that bloggers don’t feel that marketers familiarise themselves with the topics and issues individual to them before contacting.
Although there are no statistics in the post, the main advice is obvious to PRs seems blindingly obvious – if you’re not sure if a blog is right to contact about a service or product; don’t. The post ends with the advice from an unnamed blogger: ‘do more blogger outreach! We’re out there writing about your clients’ categories’, something that many in the industry understand, but don’t find (or perhaps, make) the time to do.
Chris’ second post, ‘What PRs really think of bloggers’ seemingly received more responses as Chris was happy to include statistics, making it clear what marketers want from bloggers – client coverage. Personally, I don’t think there’s any shame in admitting this, but how PR and SEO professionals go about blogger relations seems to continually ruffle feathers.
Last month communications consultant and blogger Em Leary was a guest chairperson during #commschat, a weekly topic-led Twitter chat, discussing everything communication and marketing-related. Emily was actually one of the original founders of #commschat, and joined the chat to discuss blogger relations, a PDF transcript of which can be found here.
The debate was followed and participated in by marketers and bloggers alike, with some brilliant points made, from the expectation of positive reviews when providing review products to the assertion that blogger relations is very much in its infancy, and as such, both sides are still finding their feet with regards to expectation. I agree with this to an extent, but also feel that media relations is much more established, yet still poorly done by many, as pointed out by journalists the world over.
Blogger relations was also the focus of this event on the 12th of June, organised by JJ Miller of This Little Lady Went to London, with the main topic questions being: ‘Should Bloggers write for love, or money?’, with bloggers and marketers on the panel discussing paid for posts, an issue that, alongside the presence of no-follow links, I’m not in opposition to.
The reason for my mentioning all of the above is that it’s quite clear that blogger relations is a big, topical issue. Marketers aren’t often targeting appropriately. Bloggers are sometimes telling porkies about their site’s influence in a bid to gain freebies. Some marketers are excessively aggressive with relation to getting links and positive client mentions. These are just some of the problems facing this particular area of marketing, which, if done properly, can be beneficial to both the blogger and marketer.
And here’s the part where I’m going to be relatively shameless – it’s kind of becoming my thing, nowadays – and say that I think I have something that resembles a solution.
Recently, along with fellow PR and blogger Andy Barr, we launched a new service, independently of our agency, as a new business.
We’ve built blog database bloggabase.com to ‘better blogger relations’, by asking bloggers writing about absolutely anything to sign up for free and specify what they will and won’t write about, as well as providing details of their target readers. They can advise as to whether or not they accept guest posts, freebies and payment per post.
We automatically look at certain online metrics, and, when bloggabase launches to marketers, this information will be relayed to provide a way for marketers to approach relevant bloggers to review, write about and promote products and services.
Importantly (though I’m obviously biased), the service will give bloggers the opportunity to report inappropriate targeting. If more than three bloggers report an individual, that person’s account will be frozen and they will be unable to access the blog database for a period of time, giving us the chance to contact them and get to the bottom of the issue.
We’re currently asking bloggers to sign up, and won’t be opening up to marketers until we have 2,000 blogs in the database.
Given that so many are discussing marketing towards bloggers, whether bloggabase can help or not obviously remains to be seen. However, with an estimated 200m registered blogs worldwide and 2.3bn internet users, blogger relations can and should improve and open conversation about it can only be a good thing. The benefits to marketers are obvious, but if it isn’t a relationship based on mutual benefit, it’s just not a relationship worth having.