On Thursday the 29th October I had the pleasure of facilitating a panel at Performance Marketing Insights Conference in London. The panel was around blogger engagement and outreach and I was fortunate enough to have three, big ticket, fashion bloggers on my panel.
The first was Hannah Gale, a former journo from the likes of Look, Metro, InStyle, Marie Claire and many more. Her blog is HannahGale.co.uk. The second was Shannon Kovaks, ex Cosmo, Red Mag, and Essentials magazine. The third panelist was Josie Fear, aka FashionMumblr.com and Josie is ex Mulberry PR and holds a degree in fashion as well.
I should point out that my notes from the talk are all in my head as I was not able to write anything down!
There were a few really interesting take-aways from the session, especially around reaching out to bloggers and the mysterious area of payment for posts and asking for links. After a few words about brands really needing to make sure that they are ready to reach out to bloggers, i.e. have good content ideas and a clear plan on what they want to achieve from the campaign, we moved on to how to actually find them in the first place and what platforms and databases are they on.
I, of course, plugged Bloggabase (a blogger discovery platform I co-own :-)) and all three said that the only database company they had discovered that listed their detail was Gorkana. Hannah and Shannon because of her former journo background, but Josie did not use any. The clear message from this is that they like to be discovered because of the quality of their blogs and the communities that they have built, that makes them attractive to brands. Hannah’s blog also ranks highly in search engines for terms that brands would use when doing blogger identification work, so it shows how SEO savvy the modern day blogger needs to be.
As a slight aside, talking about SEO, it was clear from talking to all three that whilst they are aware of search engine optimisation, they don’t really chase the rankings, this caused a considerable shudder from a room full of affiliates! None of the bloggers I spoke to have got SEO packs on the back end of their websites for example and they all made a point of saying that they never write the headings with SEO in mind. They would rather write a more natural looking title. A lesson for all wannabe bloggers there.
The overall takeaway on how to find bloggers is to Google about, cross reference against the content on their site and basically do your due diligence.
When looking at how best to approach bloggers the clear stand out method was email. Hannah told a brilliant story about how she was approached by a smaller brand via WhatsApp, this made me really cringe on behalf of PR people everywhere! I suggested that more bloggers were asking for Twitter pitches but the clear path is email and a really well thought out pitch. Also, as always seems to be the case, there are agencies out there just getting it wrong and breaking their mail merge, for instance Josie regularly gets emails that start “Hi Mumblr,”. Ouch!
Take away number two: use email to contact bloggers in the first instance.
I asked about one of the biggest bugbear of PR land, the fact many bloggers don’t have their phone numbers on their blogs, making it hard for PR folk to get in touch and move the outreach campaign along. The reply, in short, tough! The bloggers, much like journo’s, are strapped for time and don’t have the hours in the day to spend fielding calls and pitches from PR folk. Stick to email, don’t call unless you are invited to.
Take away three: Don’t call unless you are invited to
We moved on to how the copy process works once you have agreed to commission a post with a blogger. Many agencies seemingly not only suggest post and content ideas but also go on to offer to write the posts. The latter suggestion is a big no no. Bloggers want to write their own copy rather than post a regurgitated version of a press release. This also led on to one of the biggest surprises for me, everyone on the panel said that they offered copy approval before making a post live. This really shocked me, allowing brands to amend areas.
This also revealed that brands can be OTT with amends and it can lead to the copy not reading naturally, as in, there is always going to be the odd slight quirk to any story and making it read like a puff piece is going to stick out when compared to other posts on the blog. Brands need to be careful with this and not be too demanding. One further note on this subject, it is clear that bloggers take a professional level approach to their videos, Hannah had mentioned her high end video and camera equipment and the video posts do take lots of time, so brands need to be careful when asking for edits on videos because of the time taken to shoot, edit and upload.
Take away four: brands can ask for copy approval on posts, but don’t make them then read unnaturally.
Links came up next and I expected a right old bunfight but it was really simple in their eyes. They don’t mind adding links, if they don’t it is usually because they forget. If you ask for them, once the paid piece is up, they don’t mind and they will add them. It is clear that there is still some confusion as to the need to add follow or no-follow links and the general rule seems to be that if it involves hard coding to add a no-follow link, then they are probably not going to do that. Some brands do specifically ask for no-follow links, which I find odd, but is probably born out of a fear of triggering a Google Penguin penalty for looking like they have bought a link.
Take away five: if you have paid for a piece, fine to ask for a link if one is not given.
We moved on to what extra’s brands may get when paying for a post or content and the basic rule seemed to be 2 tweets, a Facebook mention and maybe an Intagram post. Instagram was a hot topic and because many bloggers have a much bigger profile on Instagram nowadays and they have their own “style” of shooting on their, there is an anticipation that they should get paid extra for promotion on Instagram. I am inclined to agree, having seen the lengths they go to in order to make their Instagram snaps look so good! I thought this may be a good time to see if the bloggers I was chatting to worked hard to grow their own newsletter databases but it is clear that they don’t really need to as their social channels pretty much act as their distribution channel for new posts and content.
Take away six: if paying for a post, you can expect to get Twitter and Facebook mentions on top, don’t assume you will also feature on a bloggers Instagram account though, that may cost extra.
The next topic that I expected to be contentious was paying for posts, do you have to pay for everything? The answer was clear, if you want them to advertise on your blog via a post, it is no different to an advertorial in a magazine so yes. It is also clear that brands that they naturally like and are interested in may get away with paying less but if you are a smaller, lesser known, or harder brand to promote, you have to expect to pay the going rate. Knowing there was voucher business in the audience I used this decor as an example. The clear message was that they are not a natural fit for the blogs and the content so more work would go into making the content sit properly and it is only right, and I agree, that they pay the going rate.
Take away seven: if you are not a mainstream brand, or a brand they already love, you are going to need to pay full whack. If you are a brand they love, you have more wiggle room.
We pretty much ran out of time there and fielded a few questions from the audience around product profiling and alike. One question that stuck out was a PR saying that they feel bad that they only really speak to a certain blogger once a year when they need something and should they try to do more in terms of keeping up. Every nuance of my body wanted to scream “yes” so I was pleasantly surprised when the bloggers said “no” and they did not care as long as what was being pitched was good and relevant!
All pic creds: Giphy