Tips for Bloggers on Working with PRs

by Sally on October 13, 2010

bloggerThe vast majority of the posts I read about bloggers and PRs are really about PRs. They’re lists of what PR execs should and shouldn’t do to engage with bloggers, how to approach bloggers, how to not offend bloggers, how to work with bloggers on Twitter. You get the idea.

This isn’t that post.

This post is about bloggers. And what they need to do when they want to work with PRs.

“But I don’t want to work with PRs, because I’m all about the purity of the creative expression,” you might say.

That’s great. But there are growing number of bloggers who want to work with brands, whether that’s through advertising or sponsorship or reviewing new products. And I think that’s okay, on the basis everyone should blog in whatever manner they choose, providing they’re not bullying anyone or being less than scrupulously honest about their commercial relationships.

If you’re a blogger and you want to do reviews, ads or sponsored posts, then there are things you can do to help the blogger/PR interaction run more smoothly. Here are a few tips, based on my experience of working with PRs and bloggers. I’d love to hear yours too, in the comments:

Make it easy for PRs to find you:

Have a contact form or email address on your blog,  or perhaps a link to a Twitter account.

Make it easy for PRs to find you #2:

Sign up for Technorati, join the Tots100 index, list your blog in media directories, ensure you submit your blog to Google.

Be clear about boundaries:

If you don’t take advertising, or you don’t want to receive press releases, then say so on your blog. It won’t stop everyone from contacting you, but it should reduce the flood, and also means you’re justified in being cranky when some PR ignores your stated preferences.

Be prompt:

Don’t wait 2 weeks to respond to a lunch invitation and then be pissed off when there’s no space for you . PRs need to deliver a certain number of bums on seats for their client, and if they don’t hear back from you, they will find someone else (before anyone points this out, I am dreadful for doing this, and I apologise)

Get the facts:

When doing a review of a product, make sure you agree upfront what’s going to happen and how. PRs won’t always think to tell you that they want specific links or anchor text, or a specific sort of image, so make a point of agreeing this when you accept a review or sponsored post: “So, this will be 500 words and include this link and this text, and this image”.  It will hopefully save a lot of to-ing and fro-ing later. When talking about sponsored posts and ads, always agree payment and payment terms (how quickly an invoice will be settled) before doing any sort of work.

Be fair:

Sometimes things go wrong. An item you’re reviewing breaks, or gets lost in the post. The PR promises something for Monday, but then they’re off sick and it doesn’t materialise. Sure, you could write a scathing review or bawl someone out on Twitter, but you’re not achieving much except damaging a working relationship. Give someone the opportunity to fix a problem before ramping up to Defcon 1.

Follow-up:

If you write a review, drop a quick email to the PR with a link. A week before an ad runs out, email the brand to ask if they’d like to renew. After attending an event, if you have some feedback, send the PR who invited you a quick email.

Don’t gossip:

Don’t ever send a PR agency an email claiming that Sarah so-and-so is a complete unprofessional hag or home-wrecker, and should be avoided at ALL costs. You think it makes you look principled and important? It doesn’t. Unless you’ve got some hard evidence to back up what you’re saying, it just makes you look like a bitch. Far better, when asked about a blogger you don’t rate, to say, “I’ve heard great things about Sarah, but I also really rate Jane and John.”

Anything I’ve missed?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Eleanor October 13, 2010 at 12:01 PM

Thank you Sally, it’s very, very useful and also motivating (from a PR perspective) to have someone giving both sides of the ‘how to’ coin here. I’ve become kind of depressed recently about all the sniping I come across about us PR folk getting it constantly wrong. We do drop some howlers sometimes, but we all want to do our job better and hate annoying people we’re supposed to be creating relationships with!

The point about replying to communications from PR’s is really important to us – the dreaded ‘follow up calls’ are horrible to do, especially as you know that if folks haven’t replied to your mail or voicemail, they’re probably not interested, but ‘convention’ (which I am determined to break with clients because it shouldn’t be about volume, just substance on both sides!) says that we have to be able to give a definitive outcome on EVERY interaction. Measurable results, you see.

Therefore, despite how busy journalists and bloggers can get, a short ‘no thanks’ by email is really useful to us. Like bloggers, we don’t like one way conversations either.

Thanks for posting!

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Diane October 13, 2010 at 7:39 PM

Eleanor, I can totally see what you’re saying about getting a concrete answer to every query, but if I replied to every press release I was sent I’d have no time for any other emails — and I know I get far fewer releases/requests than someone like Sally. I think it’s important for PR to realise the value of quality interactions and targetting the right people. (I get iPhone apps news every day, despite never writing about it, for example…)

Having said that, I’ve developed some sympathy for PRs lately — I’m not sure the “name and shame” culture which is prevalent in social media is always helpful, especially as someone will quite often tweet their frustration yet not actually provide feedback to the person they’re whinging about.

I’ve been saying Sally should write about this for a while, because she’s trained PRs for years and has a lot of experience as a blogger and journalist. A lot of bloggers seem not to understand the pressures PRs are under, or how to handle approaches etc.professionally and I think if they want to be treated like professionals, they really need to get a handle on all of this.

All of which is to say this is really helpful Sally, thanks! I love what you say about getting the facts and being clear about boundaries. Money is so tempting, but it’s important to establish whether something’s a good idea from the outset, and turn it down if need be.

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Sally October 13, 2010 at 8:13 PM

I think replying is important to an invite or opportunity IF you think you’re going to want to attend.

Otherwise, as Diane has said, it’s simply not always realistic to reply to everything. At one point last week I had over 2,500 unread emails and if I spent a minute replying to each one, that would have been four days doing nothing but responding to emails – and the problem I have is that as I’m trying to deal with emails, more emails are coming in.

That said, I will try and respond if I think I’ve been sent a personal communication, rather than a spam release.

With regard to sniping, I find it a bit depressing too. I sometimes get a bit depressed by seeing yet another blogger complaining about how insulted and appalled they are because some poor account exec has failed to meet their needs immediately, but I suspect some of that attitude comes about because they simply don’t understand how PR agencies and PR/client relationships work.

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Alex October 13, 2010 at 2:12 PM

I have to say Mum bloggers can be a pretty daunting group to approach. Hopefully we’ve got it right so far but especially when we started contacting parents last year we had a constant fear we were about to do something wrong and get pulled up on it on Twitter !

Thanks for the tips Sally, this and some of the other PR advice articles have been v helpful

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Sally October 13, 2010 at 8:15 PM

Surely not as daunting as a tech journalist, Alex? I think most PRs get it right most of the time, and being pulled up on Twitter is just not on – but as I explain a lot in training workshops, you have to remember that most bloggers have no professional contract with PRs, they simply don’t care if you never speak to them again, and they also (perhaps) lack the understanding of PR to realise that calling out an AE is beyond pointless.

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Eileen October 13, 2010 at 8:24 PM

Thanks for writing this – it’s really useful for someone like me with a new blog where I hope to eventually do more reviewing and the like.

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Bumbling October 13, 2010 at 8:52 PM

Great post. I think it’s true – if bloggers want to be treated professionally, they have to act professionally.

It can be really daunting for a blogger with no experience of this area to set out what they expect, but at least that way you won’t be disappointed, and you’ll find out quickly what is and isn’t possible. Setting those boundaries is possibly the most important, and most difficult area here – but if we can improve on that, everyone wins!

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Carly October 13, 2010 at 9:22 PM

Great post…I wrote one a few days ago on the exact thing you mention in your opening (advise for PRs http://www.mummysshoes.com/2010/10/mummy-bloggersmaking-money-and-some.html)..whoops I am obviously a predictable and typical mummy blogger :-P

But I must admit I would be daunted if I had to approach mummy bloggers as Alex said. Women in general when in big groups are scary but a group of mummy bloggers is something else, I have found anyway! I am currently working on a 6 month social media strategy and campaign for my first ‘parenting market’ brand..there is a lot more to think about then when approaching the technology or agricultural sector, which is what I have done in the past.

And I definitely agree with the ‘don’t gossip’. Great post!

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baglet October 14, 2010 at 9:14 AM

Great post! I’m just about to start / add to a thread here about blog promotion & you gave me the links for google /technorati so many thanks!

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Mary Poppins October 14, 2010 at 11:25 AM

Super Post Sally, I agree with everything you have said. For me tis about building up a relationship, that is both professional and friendly, with maybe a little dash of banter thrown in here and there. I have always had excellent relationships with PRs , is very much a two way thing, imo.

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Zoe October 14, 2010 at 6:19 PM

very useful post – Thank you Sally :-)

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Maria @verybusymama November 6, 2010 at 12:27 AM

Thank you for this! I always say don’t slate PRs! As you know I’m a blogger and a PR and I know there is a growing fear of approaching parent bloggers, We cannot continue to give ourselves a bad rap. Bloggers need to become PR saavy just as PRs are learning to work with bloggers.

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