There is no doubt about it that blogs/bloggers continue to be influential, and blogger relations should be considered as part of a company’s marketing/public relations plan. There is also no doubt about it that blogger relations continues to be the Wild West.
Many bloggers have made blogging a full time job. They are looking to secure advertising dollars for not only digital ads, but also product reviews, Facebook posts, Twitter posts and Pinterest posts. Companies see the value in bloggers writing/posting
tweeting/pinning about their products and services and are willing to pay for coverage.
While the FTC did update its guidelines in 2009 requiring bloggers to be transparent when being paid or given product for reviews, this hasn’t really cleared up the blogger transparency issue. And as more social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) are added to the mix, the lines continue to get blurred.
So while you are seeing “sponsored posts” on Facebook and “promoted” Twitter posts, users and hashtags, this doesn’t incorporate when bloggers are tweeting, pinning or posting sponsored content.
Having a journalism degree and having it ingrained in my head that advertising and editorial are always kept separate (although we can debate that too), there is a very interesting ethical discussion all us PR and marketing practitioners should be having with bloggers about this.
While journalists pride themselves on the separation of editorial and advertising, bloggers have a different motive, and in the end it’s the consumer that will likely suffer.
The landscape of blogger relations and product review campaigns is changing. Through our ongoing work with bloggers – from mommy bloggers to baking bloggers, fitness bloggers, weight loss bloggers, DIY bloggers, and bloggers with diabetes – we have seen a significant shift in how bloggers approach product reviews.
In 2008, we had bloggers lining up to test product. The idea of companies contacting bloggers to conduct reviews was a novelty. Bloggers received free product and often a prize pack for one lucky reader. The giveaways helped the bloggers secure blog traffic as well as Facebook followers and Twitter followers.
Bloggers embraced this. They loved the idea of testing new products or securing an advance review of a product that was not even available to the masses yet. Bloggers even started developing networks to help secure even more product for review.
Then companies started inviting bloggers to their headquarters to educate them, gain product feedback and product innovation ideas. Bloggers loved the special attention from free product to free trips!
Fast-forward to today and bloggers are becoming savvier. They worked diligently throughout the years – with the help of consumer product companies – to build their following. And just like other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube they are determining the best way to cash in. It is not only about free product samples anymore, but also about increasing cash flow.
In addition to more bloggers wanting to cash in on the opportunity, there has been an increase in corporations wanting bloggers to review product. Consider most bloggers are either raising children or hold full time jobs, there is only so much time available to review product and write blog posts.
With the demand becoming higher and higher, bloggers are now more selective with the products they review, and more and more are requiring cash payment for their time.
Yesterday we met as an agency to evaluate this shift and determine the best way to continue to secure quality blog reviews for our clients. We are taking a deeper dive into the subject.
In the upcoming month we will be contacting the bloggers themselves to learn more about their experience and challenges with product reviews. Stay turned for more on the changing landscape of blogger relations.
Earlier this year we shared 8 Ways to Determine a Blog’s Value. Here are six tips to drive more influential blogger reviews:
1. Set expectations. You are sending a product sample to a blogger for review. Develop a personal letter that thanks the blogger for his or her interest and explains what you are asking them to do as part of the review process. Be clear and reasonable, and make sure the blogger understands you are a resource if they have questions or concerns about the product or review process.
2. Content is king. In addition to the letter, include as much information as possible about your product. Good bloggers will share key product features and benefits with readers as part of a product review. Make those details easily accessible and you will likely score a longer, more thorough product review.
3. Secure links to your website. Provide bloggers – in your letter and e-mails– with a specific link where readers can find more information about your product, and ask them to include that link as part of the review. Also, think about other ways to drive blog readers to your website. Provide a separate link for bloggers to share that leads to creative ways to use your product, or ask bloggers to direct readers to your website to search for specific information and then post a comment to the blog post about something interesting they learned.
4. Strategize to secure multiple posts. Think beyond the simple blog review post and consider ways to secure ongoing coverage with a particular blogger. Offer a product giveaway to one blog reader; this will often result in a second blog post about your product when the winner is announced. Ask the blogger to write a preview post setting up a problem and letting readers know they plan to try your product as a solution, then write a post about the product itself.
5. Use contests to secure prospect data. Instead of – or in addition to – promoting product giveaways on individual blogs, establish a larger contest that uses blogger product reviews as a vehicle for engaging a larger Internet audience. Ask multiple bloggers to announce a prize that requires consumers to provide contact information on your website. This is a great way to reach potential new customers and secure information for future communication.
6. Ask bloggers to get social. Simply ask bloggers to post a link to their product review on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and ask permission to post links to their reviews through your own social media accounts. Both your product and the blog are exposed to larger audiences this way.
I received a request from a blogger for product for her son’s 7-8-year-old baseball team league tournament (see below). Is it ethical for this blogger to be asking for product in return for advertising on her site? Is this a good marketing opportunity?
“What I am wondering about is if you think that there is anything that you or a company that you represent might be able to offer some sort of sponsorship for the kids in our tournament. Specifically, but definitely not limited to, I would like to be able to offer some kind of token to each team and preferably each player regardless of a first place finish or a last place finish. Actually, those that finish in the top will receive team trophy’s, however, as I’m sure you realize, at the ages of seven and eight, the kids like to have something tangible themselves.
“As with any requests that I make for help, you will have full reign to guide me in advertising for you. I have 6 blogs with a PR 3 and 5 with a PR 2. You can have 3 months worth of ad space on every blog, or just the ones you are interested in. I will write blog posts directing traffic to you and I can use Twitter, Facebook and Whrrl as well to promote your company. If you can help me, I will do what you need me to do to make this work.”
By Jennifer Manocchio
We are seeing more and more requests similar to the one you received.
Just this week we received a blogger product request for a client that manufacturers outdoor wood sealer. We had already provided this blogger with product to reseal his deck, and now he is asking for more product to do his stairs and porch. At $80 a gallon, this isn’t a cheap investment.
Unlike media, there is no code of ethics for bloggers when it comes to asking for product samples. And there is certainly no separation of editorial and advertising content when it comes to blogs.
The only government mandated requirement from the FTC is that bloggers clearly let their readers know they received a product sample for free when writing a post about that specific product. We see some bloggers doing this and others who either don’t know about the FTC ruling or don’t care.
In the case of this specific request, if you have a product that directly targets 7-8-year-old boys and/or their parents, you have reviewed her blogs and feel the content is relevant for your brand, double checked the page rank to ensure the information she is giving is accurate, checked her authority on Technorati, and visited Compete or Quantcast to determine traffic, and the results are favorable, this could be a good way to gain some exposure.
But I warn you to proceed with caution and ensure this blogger is following the FTC guidelines. See our post “The Impact FTC Guidelines Have on Blogger Relations”.
Our company is getting 4-5 requests a week from bloggers for product samples to test and a second product for a giveaway. Should I be sending all these bloggers my product? We are a small business and have to be selective who we send product samples to.
By Jennifer Manocchio
The good news is that if you have bloggers coming to you requesting product samples, you have already generated some awareness in the marketplace. We have typically seen an increase in blogger product requests after media exposure or a targeted blogger campaign.
You should definitely be selective with blogger samples. According to a Technorati study, the average blog has only 6 readers! Yes… 6 readers! Therefore, it is important that you research each blog prior to sending product samples. You certainly want to be sending product to a blog that reaches your target audience, is credible and has a significant number of readers to make the largest impact possible.
Following is how we evaluate blogs to determine the credibility, reach and impact.
1. Review the blog: Ensure the content is relevant and tasteful. Take a look at how the blogger conducts product reviews. This will help you determine what to expect and to ask for any alterations you see necessary (including a link to your web site, retail locations, etc.). Also, some blogs list the number of views or followers. This will give you a good indication of reach.
2. Technorati: Visit Technorati and conduct a search on the blog to determine the blog’s authority. The authority is simply the number of other web sites linking to that blog. The more web sites linking to the blog, the more credible you can consider the blog.
3. Track Unique Monthly Visitors: Free tools like Compete and Quantcast can provide estimates for the number of unique visitors a blog receives each month. The only caveat to sites like these is the free versions do not provide estimates for blogs hosted by WordPress or Blogspot.
4. Other Social Media Sites: Conduct a general Google search on the blog or blogger to determine what other social media sites he or she is involved in. If he or she uses Twitter, Facebook, etc. and has a good amount of followers, that can certainly help increase the reach of your product/brand.
You can usually see immediately if the blogger posts reviews on other social media sites. If not, simply ask if that is possible as part of the product review.
5. Google Page Rank: Determine the page rank using the Google Page Ranking tool. A higher page rank will help influence organic search engine optimization.
Also, if you are short on product samples, consider declining the product for the contest or providing a discount or coupon for the blog readers instead. While the product giveaway will likely increase exposure, bloggers will still consider covering a product without a giveaway.
Need help sorting through all the blogger requests or want to launch a strategic blogger relations campaign to increase brand awareness, increase relationships and increase sales, contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.
How do you establish a spokesperson as an expert among media and bloggers?
By Jennifer Manocchio
This is a strategy we often use for clients to help increase brand awareness for a company or product, establish credibility and differentiate themselves from their competitors. It is a process and does take time.
The key to positioning a company spokesperson as an expert is to first identify what areas he or she is truly an expert in and identify what makes him or her an expert. For example, if he or she is an expert in the cleaning products industry, identify what specifically he or she can discuss about cleaning products. Can he or she discuss chemical make-up, cleaning tips for specific surfaces, marketing, packaging or distribution?
Additionally, be sure to provide solid credentials to support your spokesperson as an expert. This can include how many years he or she worked in the industry, education, accreditations, training, workshops/presentations he or she conducted and past media who have used him or her as a resource.
Second, create a biography using the information you have gathered that identifies why your spokesperson is an expert and what makes him or her an expert. Third, let key gatekeepers like influential media and bloggers know he or she is an expert by sending them the biography.
But it doesn’t stop there. It is imperative to continue providing the media and bloggers with relevant information for their audience related to your spokesperson’s expertise. This can be accomplished a number of ways, including contacting media and bloggers with your expert’s opinion on recent news or events, sending media and bloggers tips or industry trends your expert identifies or comments on, and responding to media and blogger resources like ProfNet, HARO and PitchRate when your expert can be a resource. You can also schedule interviews with media and bloggers when your expert is attending industry shows/events, but be sure to give the media and bloggers a reason why your expert is worth their time. This is where dedication and continuous communication with the media and bloggers will pay off.
The most exciting aspect about establishing your spokesperson as an expert is the more exposure he or she receives, the more credibility he or she gains and the easier it becomes!
Have questions or want to learn more about establishing your spokesperson as an expert? Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.