So you might remember a while back we organised the #CTMeetUp?
One of the main reasons for having the meetup was to gather together some bloggers and a few brands/PR/marketers (let’s call them “Brand Representatives” to make this easier OK) and have a little chat about the things that have been annoying both parties for a while. After the chat we got all the bloggers to complete a little questionnaire about their blogging experience – I’ve already written about these findings here:
As you can see that everyone was rather vocal about their good, but mostly bad experiences. But it’s so easy to “complain” when you’re not aware of everything that has to happen on the other side. So it’s only fair that we let the Brand Representatives have their say too. I interviewed 5 different people from varying companies – from PR Companies to those that work with a single brand. This is what they had to say:
What surprised you the most about the feedback that the bloggers gave?
- Michelle: The passionate response! I was not expecting such polar opposite responses.
- Jana: I didn’t realise that bloggers were inundated by emails from brands, and that it annoys them. I can understand that mass emailing is unacceptable, and where I have worked, we have never sent out mass emails to bloggers or influencers. Sending a ‘dear blogger’ email is not cool, and we’d never do that. What bloggers sometimes don’t understand is that advertising and PR agencies have a lot of campaigns on the go at any given time, and sometimes don’t have the time to tweak every email. That doesn’t excuse a ‘dear blogger’ email, but bloggers also need to understand the agency situation.
- Sifiso: Some of their reluctance about being asked to share their sites stats. I think it’s important that they understand that brand custodians are accountable for every cent they spend on paying for brand exposure and if they can’t account with stats what they spent the marketing budget on, it makes their jobs a lot more difficult
- Lee-Ann: I think it’s fair to say that I was initially a little taken aback by the feedback given, but after listening carefully to the nature of the discussion it became clear that there were a few very specific areas and issues that were close to their hearts.I don’t believe that the feedback was necessarily of a negative nature; I rather felt that it provided a good basis for better communications and an opportunity to build mutually beneficial relationships between bloggers and practitioners.
- Shakirah: I think how they receive a lot of free products, and then feel they need to write about them, even if they don’t want to. I would presume an agency / company would research a blogger before sending product, so what they send would probably work within the given blog genre. I think even if they don’t want to write about them, taking a picture and either tweeting / instagramming it, would be sufficient (if agreed upon) and keep all parties happy!
What do you look for in a blogger to consider working with them?
- Michelle: A number of things! I like to read their blog and try figure out how well their ‘brand’ would marry with any of the brands that I am working on. I also look at their reach and influence. When looking at this information I do take into consideration how long their blog has been active. I also like to familiarize myself with the type of content that they are producing and love chatting to the bloggers about who their followers are. I strongly believe that any partnership should be mutually beneficial not only for the blogger and the brand but also for the readers.
- Jana: For us, it’s about finding the blogger or influencer that best matches the brand. But try and explain that to a client who is looking for numbers, and are only interested in the ROI. Mostly, I look for bloggers who are nice. I can’t stand high maintenance bloggers with egos – really, there are too many of them out there. I like to work with a blogger who is interested in understanding what we are doing as a brand, and appreciates the effort that goes into a campaign. It’s all about relationships for me, and if someone treats me like a bitch, I will not approach them again.
- Sifiso: Shared values with the brand. That way it makes the content a lot more authentic and the blogger will display a genuine passion for what they are writing about.
- A unique point of view
- A visually appealing blog layout
- A dedicated readership
- Shakirah: Social media following, and also that the readers / fans can relate in some way. Ultimately the client needs to be happy with the chosen person / people, so they need to work well with the brand in question
How important are the stats to you?
- Michelle: This is a tough question to answer and I won’t lie I am a little afraid to answer it! On the one hand I do understand that the value of a blog can definitely not be measured by its stats alone. But on the other hand, I do need to report back on all of my campaigns and demonstrate ROI in a quantifiable way. So to answer your question, yes they are important because I need them to motivate for the budget spent on affiliating with a blog.
- Sifiso: They are very important, as I mentioned, brands need to know that they are communicating on a platform that gives them great ROI. But one other thing I think is important to remember with stats is that it’s not just about reach, but also the correct audience and engagement levels of that audience.
- Lee-Ann: This is always a little tough to answer. Every strategy’s “Big Idea” is formulated with targeted goals and objectives in mind. These goals usually include brand reach and product awareness. Blogger stats play a crucial role in creating brand awareness by exposing a larger market to the planned content. The use of stats needs to be tempered by the fact that the quality of blog content and following is just as important.
- Shakirah: As above, it depends on the client needs, but if reach and awareness of the brand / campaign is what is required, then yes, stats are important.
Which of the metrics are the most important to consider (i.e Facebook fans, Twitter followers, blog view ets)
- Sifiso: On social media channels like Twitter and Facebook number of fans and engagement rates are important. On the blog, time spent on the blog, number of pages visited by the average user and the bounce rate. These stats give a marketer an idea of how engaged people are on your platforms and how useful they find your content.
What is the hardest part about facilitating a brands needs to a bloggers needs?
- Jana: Educating clients remains at the forefront of challenges. Some brands just want to know how many people we’ll reach and how many influencers they can get on their database. But our clients are pretty good at listening to us and following our advice. We will source the blogger or influencer lists for them – we look at a blogger’s following (obviously), their lifestyle, if what they say is relevant for our brand, and if they would benefit in some way from our campaign. It’s nice to put big names behind campaigns, but someone with a following of, say, 500 people can have just as much impact if they’re passionate about a certain brand/product.
- Shakirah: Probably keeping everyone happy and on the same page
How effective do you find advertising through blogging?
- Jana: Can’t comment on this. From a reader point of view, I can maybe mention that I do notice the brands that advertise on blogger pages, and if they’re relevant, I can see that the blogger works hard at his/her platform. Blogging is damn hard work and so much effort goes into it, it’s nice to see when a blogger is rewarded by relevant brands advertising on his/her pages.
- Shakirah: It depends on the client, budget and blog, however if KPIS are met, then highly effective
Let’s clear the air on this one, if a blogger is given a product, do you expect them to post a blog on it? Are you satisfied with just an Instagram or Twitter post?
- Michelle: No, we cannot and do not expect it but we do hope that you will post about it. We really appreciate any exposure given to us and understand that sometimes a product may not resonate with a blogger or the content strategy of their blog. When bloggers become selective about what they will give exposure on their blog it just means that we need to work harder to tailor our product send outs better.
- Jana: It really depends on the nature of the execution. If a lot of effort went into a beautifully executed blogger drop – and not just something like a coffee mug or a bar of soap – we hope that bloggers will reciprocate. It’s not about the platform they choose, but about the sentiment. If we know, for a fact, our brand is in line with what the blogger writes about, and we put something really special together for them, we expect them to get excited, whether it’s through a blog post, a few tweets, or Instagram posts. I don’t want to put an amount on it, because that’s not what it’s about. If they post one beautiful Instagram, for example, and others comment on it, and you see the blogger comments positively on the comments, that shows me that we got it right and that it’s not forced. There’s nothing worse than a fake blog post. Then I’d rather they say nothing at all.
- Sifiso: Obviously every brand wants the best return for their investment so definitely blogging about the product would be first prize, however I think an honest authentic post about the product whether it be a pic on Instagram or a blog post gushing about the product is the most important thing, hence it’s important that brands pick bloggers that have shared values with their brand and are passionate about their products in order to give themselves the best opportunity for the best content
- Lee-Ann: It is most definitely acknowledged that blogging is a free speech environment. From a PR point of view the need is to combine the bloggers natural creativity with the needs of a client. Therefore first prize would be a meeting of the minds, where the blogger believes in the product and the client trusts the blogger.
- Shakirah: Ideally a blog post is always a win, however, if they’d Instagram or tweet about it, that is also a positive. The only issue I could see with that which could make a blog post more beneficial would be if they didn’t have a high following on either twitter or Instagram
What happens if a blogger didn’t actually like the product that was given, do you still want them to write about their experience?
- Michelle: There are different ways to post about a bad experience. This is not really something I feel comfortable advising on. What I will say though is that bloggers are people of influence and what they have to say can have a huge impact on the success of an organization. It is up to the blogger how they want to use that influence.
- Jana: This has never happened to me, so I don’t know. My guess is that we would probably run it past client to keep them in the loop. There’s nothing preventing a blogger from posting anything, so if they really didn’t like a product, they should go ahead and say what’s on their mind. As a brand we probably would not respond to that blog or share it on our platforms.
- Sifiso: That’s a tough one, I guess that depends on the reasons they didn’t like the product. And if they don’t like the product, for them to give the brand the opportunity to engage with them to find out why they didn’t like it and if there’s anything they can do to change their perception.
- Lee-Ann: Once again, reflecting on my answer above, we must acknowledge the freedom of speech when referring to written media. Blogging is about freely expressing personal thoughts with likeminded people, where PR is about providing a client the best possible opportunity to market their product. So clearly this is not an environment of hard and fast written rule, but rather opportunities for constructive expression and mutual respect.
- Shakirah: We wouldn’t ever send anything to a blogger without doing research beforehand to ensure they do have an interest in / care about what was sent
What other feedback would you like to give based on the discussions you had during the course of the event?
- Michelle: That we love to hear back from bloggers about their experience of our brand’s products and services. We find this information invaluable. Also I was saddened to hear what a bad reputation the PR industry has among bloggers in South Africa. Please don’t keep quiet and rather guide us! If we do something that irritates you tell us to stop. Or if you have a particular request or idea please talk to us. Not all of us PR people are bad and not all of us are good but do give us the benefit of the doubt and we may just surprise you.
- Jana: I just want to thank you for the lovely goody bag you provided 🙂 And although I’m not a blogger, I felt guilty for not taking a pic of every single item and tweeting about it. So, I get it. People who follow me know I don’t talk about mascara and chocolate, so they would immediately see through my tweets. I talk about books, my MA studies and graffiti. And sometimes my grumpy cat. I did give her the owl, though, so maybe I’ll take a pic of the two of them. 🙂
- Lee-Ann: It was a wonderful opportunity for discussion leading to a deeper understanding of these relationships. The discussion clarified issues that may be misunderstood. It was certainly a light hearted and enjoyable social experience.
- Shakirah: While the discussions were so interesting and useful to us from an agency side, and while I understand that some of the bloggers who attended blog to just write about their thoughts and lives, and others are doing it to try and make a living, they just need to remember we are the middle people between them and the client, who will always have business objectives at the front of mind, so there always needs to be a balance between keeping all parties happy.
Any tips that you could give bloggers when approaching PR to work with them?
- Michelle: If you are approaching us then you have probably already thought about why your blog would be a great partner for one of our brands. Tell us why you think that! Explain why you think your followers would be interested in hearing about our brand. If you don’t we will have to try figure this out for ourselves and let’s be honest you know your blog and it’s followers better than we do, even if we are one of your biggest fans.
- Jana: Good bloggers are really lucky in that they can mostly sit back, while agencies would come to them. If you are passionate about what you do, and have a unique way of writing, and have a following to back it all up, you are most probably going to be approached by an agency at some point. We are constantly updating our blogger and influencer lists, and are always looking for new, fresh faces. The same ones become boring and expected. Also, I would recommend bloggers to focus on one thing that interests the sweet crazy out of them. It’s fine to have many interests, but try and keep the blog posts focused, then the right brands are more likely to find you. There’s no such thing as Googling “food bloggers in Cape Town” and finding all the gems. So, keep building your profile and doing what you love, and the right people will email you – and you personally
- Sifiso: Treat your platform like a media channel in terms of making sure you have all the stats that brands will require to make the most informed decision about working with you. Try putting together a professionally designed media kit that gives brands the information they’re looking for. Focus on the value that your blog can deliver to brands, brands want to work with blogs where their products will be well received. The most important stats are how engaged your users are as opposed to just pure numbers. Smaller brands that are great fit for your readers can be great to work with. And lastly try to focus on long term relationships with brands that you trust and you’re passionate about, that way your content will always be authentic and will serve both your readers and the brands you work with well.
- Lee-Ann: See stats as an opportunity rather than a threat, bloggers can use the PR function as a platform to broaden followership and access relevant content and we would encourage bloggers to increase their knowledge of the PR function to their own benefit.
I don’t know about you but I found those answers to be a lot of food for thought. What do you think?