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Building relationships with bloggers can be time consuming, but if done with integrity it can bring fantastic success to a brand in the way of genuine advocacy. 

Quite simply, if you take the time to engage with bloggers in the correct manner, then bloggers in turn will engage with your brand as part of a mutually beneficial relationship and more often than not, go above and beyond what they’re asked to do.

Setting up a blog is relatively easy, anyone can do it. So if that’s the case, why do blogs have a higher failure rate than restaurants? 

Many budding blogger wannabes start out with lofty aspirations of becoming the next best thing since sliced bread; leaving their boring day job, landing massive brand deals and becoming highly sought after as the voice to be heard. 

The reality for most is far removed from this idealistic dream. Blogging for the majority is a hard graft. You have to build up a solid fan base, find the time to keep it going - for most bloggers this is a secondary activity alongside a full time job, looking after children etc. 

It’s not for the faint hearted.

Blogger engagement

Building relationships with bloggers can be time consuming, but if done with integrity it can bring fantastic success to a brand in the way of genuine advocacy. 

Quite simply, if you take the time to engage with bloggers in the correct manner, then bloggers in turn will engage with your brand as part of a mutually beneficial relationship and more often than not, go above and beyond what they’re asked to do.

Bloggers can be grouped into tiers, similar to traditional media. The tier ones -  the ‘ubers’, ‘supers’ & ‘KOLs’ (Key Opinion Leaders) -  have made it to the dizzying heights of influence stardom, where their blogging lifestyle has often become their main source of income.

With these high-profile bloggers, the key thing to remember is how much in demand they are. Brands usually ask them to be the ‘front’ of or the ‘face’ of a campaign, so there’s tough competition for their attention. Brands need to work with these bloggers in quite a different way.

The tier twos and threes - the emerging bloggers - are generally not full time writers and are often hobbyists or moonlighters, trying to develop and expand their passion. 

They’re usually busy beyond belief, developing their brand and curating their image. They are often pounding the pavements attending events, shows and openings, while typing away, tweeting, checking in, vlogging, and also fitting in their day job.

The ‘payment’ at this stage of the game often comes in the form of canapés, cocktails and great content. So, to make a positive impression on an emerging blogger, it’s key to show empathy and try to offer them a fair value exchange - content and access. Money is nice, but it’s not always expected.

The keys to successful blogger engagement

The key to successful blogger engagement is preparation:

  • Do your research. Arm yourself with a good level of knowledge about the kind of bloggers who would be right to promote your message, then take the time to read relevant blogs, find out what motivates and inspires them, see if they’re ‘warm’ to brands and product promotion.

    There are thousands of blogs out there – putting in the effort at this stage will save time and resource down the line.

  • Quantity isn't everything when it comes to influence, but the most influential blogs typically have a corresponding level of activity on their social accounts.

    There are a number of free online tools available which measure influence, from followers on Twitter to video views on YouTube – it’s a matter of finding the right one for the job.  In addition to the hardline metrics, it is also important at this stage to go one step further and analyse potential influence, exposure, click-throughs and conversions.

  • Blog personality is an important factor to consider, both for tone of voice and style of writing. It is so important to find the right fit for the brand that the blogger will be working with.
  • Consider cultural differences for global blogger campaigns, including language barriers, tone of voice, different customs and beliefs and also time zone differences - everyone needs to sleep! 
  • Address the legal aspect of blogger activity early on. For example, disclosing endorsements in some markets (e.g. the US) is mandatory. So it is important to research this before engaging with bloggers, to make sure that everything is covered off.

Before contacting the bloggers it vital that you have an activity plan drawn up. Make sure you are able to answer any questions they might have:

  • Will the client link back to or promote their blog post (driving traffic)?
  • Can they run a contest to give away the product, driving further interaction from their readers?
  • How many posts are they expected to write?
  • Who is the best person in your company to kick this relationship off?

It is important that the relationship is natural. The people who will be talking regularly need to get on with one another.

Also, remember that bloggers should be allowed their freedom, and if at any point they feel the content is not right for their audience then they shouldn’t be expected to post it – especially as it could mean they lose their audience’s interest because of it.

Bloggers' top 10 hates:

  1. Lack of trust‘Whether I’m working with brands or agencies, I want a relationship built on trust. I appreciate them reading my articles before they are published.’ Angelita M
  2. Lack of time‘Always not enough time for me to digest the brief and study the materials.’ Echo Gu
  3. Lack of knowledge/effort ‘When they don't know our past works and what we made. So would be great if they go on nssfactory.com before.’ Vincenzo, NSSMag
  4. Spam-like emails ‘Please bear in mind, I’m much more likely to respond if you address the e-mail to "Jennifer" or "Jen". I don’t like being on massive databases and if your e-mail looks like spam then chances are I’ll just click delete.’ Jennifer Inglis, The Style Crusader
  5. Getting basics wrong ‘Anyone who sends me an email without saying at least "hello" first, or doesn’t get my name right, gets deleted straight away. Fed with up with PR crap’ Pelayo Diaz, Kate Loves Me
  6. Irrelevant content ‘Almost begging me to post blogs about items that are totally irrelevant to my blog’  Karena, My New Best Friends; ‘I think the agency should seek to know my likes and see if I really identify with what they want to disclose.’ Julia Thetinski, Frescurinha
  7. Insufficient information‘Materials and information from the brands sometimes is insufficient.’ Echo Gu
  8. Assumption‘The assumption that throwing some free swag your way is an automatic expectation to put time and effort to promoting their client.’ Sabrina Bangladesh, The Science of Style
  9. Bartering‘The initial bargain on prices/payment is very annoying. I once wished I had an agent to deal with that.’ Echo Gu
  10. Not following up ‘I've had an experience where I was offered free clothes, and I never received anything. I'm not too fussed about not getting freebies, but the PR was pressuring me to write about their event, when they couldn't fulfil what they said they were going to do.’ Sabrina Bangladesh

Top ten tips

  1. Get their name right – no room for error here; spell their name correctly and start with a ‘hello’.  The basics really do matter!
  2. Know who you are talking to – do your homework, read their work and don’t be so off the mark that a blogger makes a show of you (famous tool manufacturer Bosch approached equally famous pop music blogger Popjustice to see if they'd like to write about their new cordless screwdriver - it didn't work for them and quickly went viral...)
  3. Suitable content – match the right type of content to the right curator.
  4. Speak their language – adapt your style to fit theirs.
  5. Make it simple – they are busy, so make the opportunity clear for them.
  6. Be flexible – bloggers have the luxury of being their own editors - let them put their stamp on it and don’t be too controlling.
  7. Add value – share insights, information and content.
  8. Provide access – give them something they couldn’t have got on their own, including audience reach.
  9. Listen – pay attention to what the bloggers are saying and be attentive at all times.
  10. Cultural sensitivities – be aware of cultural differences when dealing with foreign markets.
Elisa Harca

Published 8 April, 2013 by Elisa Harca

Elisa Harca is Global Client Partner & Regional Director, Asia at Red Ant and a contributor to Econsultancy.

1 more post from this author

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Vicki Day, Director at Pure Sauce Retail

As a blogger this is excellent advice but also if you refer to your blogger team as "Blogger Outreach" STOP IT NOW!

It is an offensive term and really turns Bloggers off

over 3 years ago

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Elisa Harca

Thanks Vicki for the feedback - I'm glad you liked the article. As mentioned in our top tips, we always listen to what our bloggers say, and we're always open to hearing how they would like to be referred to.

over 3 years ago

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Garland William Binns III

Great insight, bookmarked this so I can use this as a resource for my own outreach efforts. Thanks!

over 3 years ago

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Karen

Thanks for the post.

As a network of content creators and digital marketers, (a.k.a. bloggers) we specialize in building relationships and increasing companies' brand awareness. We have a variety of bloggers in our network and so called, "emerging bloggers" are the hardest working writers as you eloquently described. They spend hours researching about companies, reviewing their products, writing in engaging manner, and promote all over the web, whether companies care or not. We have a plenty materials to write about and we don't need "free' content for exchange in "the form of canapés, cocktails and great content." (how insulting!)

But I do agree that you should "make a positive impression on an emerging blogger, it’s key to show empathy and try to offer them a fair value exchange..." but not just "content and access."

And I have to disagree that bloggers think "Money is nice, but it’s not always expected."... Bloggers expect to get paid for their work in helping companies increase their exposure online.

over 3 years ago

Steve Davies

Steve Davies, CEO at Fitch Media

In my experience 99% of agencies reaching out to websites have little idea what they're doing. One of the big gaffes is calling someone a blogger - in most cases it's a condescending term used to describe hobbyists with little or no professional klout. So 'Blogger Outreach' is very bad form unless you're speaking to someone who identifies themselves as an amateur.

Secondly, most 'outreach' actions amount to little more than an attempt at free media coverage - most don't perform any form of research such as checking out a professional's LinkedIn page or viewing their past content, so they're just a train crash waiting to happen.

And if someone is an opinion leader, which you can tell by assessing the authority behind their posts then it's very unlikely that you'll have something 'special' to offer which they couldn't already obtain. In which case the rule of engagement puts the onus on you to offer reciprocity for the value being requested. Yes, that probably means an advertising equivalent value (I.e. money) but if it commercially benefits your client, then don't be surprised that it will cost real cash.

Finally, I have yet to be find someone making an outreach approach who knows enough about the topic they're seeking engagement for.

There's still a very long way to go and it probably starts with making 'blogger outreach' a punishable swear word..

over 3 years ago

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Hugh Anderson, Co-Founder & Director at Forth Metrics Limited

Nice post, Elisa, lots of great points that comms pro's can learn from. I'm really interested by the comments and the disdain for the phrase "blogger outreach". Unfortunately I think this term has got its negative connotations just by its association with the very poor practice of spamming bloggers that has got the PR industry a bad reputation in this area.

We've actually just launched a new tool for "smarter blogger outreach" called Inkybee - so maybe we need to revisit the tagline :) - although we do recognise the issue - in fact, our recent blog post on the subject started with the line "Let’s face it, the term certainly has it’s issues. For those outside PR it probably sounds like somebody being a bit sick on their shoes whilst within PR there are all those connotations of spam and bad practice." (see http://blog.forthmetrics.com/2013/02/07/whither-blogger-outreach/ )

So what should it be called? Blogger engagement? digital outreach? influencer outreach? Blogger relations?

Or maybe we just shouldn't get hung up on the term but instead focus on curing the malpractice?

over 3 years ago

Steve Davies

Steve Davies, CEO at Fitch Media

Hugh, best not to get hung up on the terminology and instead focus on achieving reciprocal value, relevance and impact.

But I'd argue that a term which is so widely misunderstood (such as blogger outreach) should be consigned to 'Room 101'.

If in doubt, go back to the original meaning - perhaps 'media outreach' is descriptive enough without alienating different types of entity by a subjective classification.

Given the goal of PR to build positive relationships, language (and protocol) has to be one of the first elements to get right.

over 3 years ago

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Steve

I heard that a lot of companies just outsource this kind of stuff to consultants and pretend it's the company doing it.

Surely you wouldn't do something like that would you?

over 3 years ago

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Karyn Fleeting, Tinderbox Media

Um seriously, you guys? I author a fairly successful blog - and I don't have the slightest problem with the term "blogger outreach". It is what it is. Blogger outreach, blogger relations - whatever. And yes, I'm happy to be called a blogger!

My days are split between PR and blogging, so I can see both sides. But for me, there is more that rings true in Elisa's post than there is here in the comments.

over 3 years ago

Elisa Harca

Elisa Harca, Global Client Partner & Regional Director, Asia at Red Ant

Thanks, Karyn – the words we use to engage online writers clearly causes a lot of debate, which is always great. From our perspective, we’re always honest with bloggers about who we are, who we’re working with and why we’re contacting them. The bloggers we work with have made it clear that honesty is the best policy, and that’s what we live by - we couldn’t maintain our integrity in the UK and internationally if we didn’t. It’s the best way to get the required results and a positive experience for everyone involved. We also always seek to build some kind of value exchange between our clients and the relevant writers, so that it builds a relationship between them for the long term vs. just that one project or campaign.

over 3 years ago

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Chantal McCulligh, Writer at Writer

LOL! The Top 10 lists here totally nailed it. Yes, get our name and website right. No, we don't want to promote construction materials on our fashion blog.

14 days ago

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