Far too many brands dismiss bloggers as hobbyists added to a low tier on a media list merely to be spammed with marketing emails. 

This is a short-sighted attitude and, rather than a bolt-on, a bloggers’ role in the customer decision journey and as part of a link-building strategy needs to be fully understood.

Bloggers matter. While many brands and agencies have grasped this concept, not everyone is engaging bloggers in a mutually constructive way. Even though blogging has matured, blogger relations is still a massive area for improvement.

Let me tell you a personal story, and if you’re a blogger I hope you’ll nod along to this. I run two blogs in my spare time: The Guest Ale is a beer reviews site with 2,000-4,000 unique visits a month, many from search engines, while Outside Write is a nascent “thinking fan’s football blog”.

As part of a recent internal training session I ran on how bloggers work I showed my colleagues some of the approaches I receive from PRs, having made my way onto various distribution lists over the years for The Guest Ale.

Despite a clear Notes for PRs section, 75% of the emails I receive are not beer-related. These include invitations to visit new Greek restaurants, warnings on the dangers of fad diets, new toy launches, a property expo invitation, cocktail recipes and wine events.

Few of them were personalised and many were certainly not well researched. Worse still, some were addressed ‘Dear Blogger’. #Fail.

Ignore bloggers at your peril

We’ve covered the ‘proactive’ element – reaching out to bloggers. Then there’s the ‘reactive’ element. As a blogger, irrespective of the size of your following, there is nothing worse than being ignored if you’ve written about their product bought out of your own pocket, especially if positive.

A great number of my beer reviews citing a brand go unshared or unfavourited by those companies on Twitter, this includes supermarkets and brewers who have sent me samples in the first place as part of their blogger relations!

This isn’t just bad manners, it shows a lack of good Twittership from those brands in understanding that these people are advocates with spheres of influence.

Bloggers will also think twice about reviewing your products going forward.

How to run a successful blogger relations programme

Rather than viewing bloggers as a bolt-on set of low-tier media, brands need to understand where those influencers fit into the decision making journey of their target audiences.

For example, I mentioned most of The Guest Ale’s traffic comes from search, and I know from Google Analytics, which brands in particular are benefiting, even when reviews are sometimes four years old; my positive reviews fit into the ‘Consideration’ stage of that journey, as those people already entered a branded search to learn more about that product.

Many of those reviews will also form part of the ‘Discovery’ stage as I unveil new beers to my small but engaged community on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and RSS.

As well as being potential advocates in the decision making journey, bloggers can help provide those diverse and authoritative inbound links that Google loves so much, so should form an integral part of a SEO PR strategy.

To summarise, follow this checklist with bloggers:

  • Read the blog
  • Search for your brand, industry space and competitors. Have they written about you/your competitors before? Is there a new angle you can offer?
  • Personalise your approach
  • Understand how the blogger works
  • Be clear on what you want out of the relationship
  • Build database on relevant information and update regularly so you don’t miss-target
  • Research blogger on all social media: that’s a sure way to understand their interests and segue intros
  • Be helpful
  • Offer exclusive content: bloggers want unique content that no other blogs have. How can you help?
  • Share coverage on your social networks

Blogger relations is a long-term programme. Some bloggers will grow and grow, while others disappear. Some may even take up media careers and become even more influential.

They will always remember which brands treated them well, and those who ignored them. Which one will you be?