Bloggers are quick to complain when PR’s behave in a way we don’t like, but here’s the kicker – we drive them nuts too. Quite often, in fact.
Which leaves us with two choices: either we all continue to get aggravated and spout off via secret Facebook groups and anonymous Twitter accounts. OR… we get more honest about how this industry works from both sides, and start to understand each other a little better. Makes sense, oui?
I was a journalist for over 20 years, but had never peeked into the PR world until I started working on client social media campaigns two years ago. I had a crash course in the basics, and quickly figured one thing out – it’s really not as easy as it looks.
It gave me an instant empathy for ‘the other side’, and an understanding of the pressures and restrictions they’re under. Oftentimes the PR is tightly wedged between a rock (the client) and a hard place (us). They are utterly bound by what the client has signed off on – whether that be budget, campaign idea, or who they want to work with.
Or it might be time that’s against them. Yes, of course it’s always nicer to receive a personalised email, but if a PR has one hour to compile and contact 30 bloggers, that’s just not going happen. They’re not being lazy, or disrespectful, they’re just doing their job as best they can, under less-than-perfect circumstances.
It really is a constant juggle for them, keeping all sides happy, and sometimes we make that job even harder. I spoke to several PR’s from different companies about what bloggers do to make their lives awkward.
So let’s start with the things we do that seriously annoy them, and why, and what we can do to keep them avoid creating conflict (remember this is from the PR point of view – I’ll be following this up with a post from the bloggers’ perspective).
• DON’T BE GREEDY
If an opportunity is too low value for you, don’t come back with unrealistic demands. Budgets are obviously tight, so just say no thanks and move on. Alternatively, if a PR offers a high value item, bear this in mind if you’re also intending to ask for a review fee.
Blogging is still a young industry, and clients are still coming around to the idea of paying for coverage – either in cash or kind. It’s quite likely the PR has already battled to get the product for us to keep (traditional press usually return the item after testing and photographing it). Unless you have a readership that rivals a traditional magazine, asking for payment on top could only serve to get you on the ‘pushy blogger’ list.
• USE ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPHY
The beauty of blogs is their authenticity and personality.’We want to see real people using the product,’ one PR revealed. Readers want to feel as if they’re taking a peek inside your actual life; they’re not going to feel that with generic product shots.
• DON’T SPAM YOUR BLOG WITH IRRELEVANT PAID POSTS
If you choose to monetise your blog, more power to you. But make sure the subject fits in with your usual content. Or, if it’s not your usual topic and you make the decision to run it anyway, find a ‘hook’ that makes it relevant. If you have a parenting blog and a carpet company approaches you, theme your post around ‘How to Kid-Proof your Carpets’, or interior design for kids’ bedrooms.
• CRACK DOWN ON SPELLING, PUNCTUATION AND GRAMMAR
Traditionally PR’s are used to dealing with trained journalists, and expect blog writing to be at a certain level. Mistakes not only look bad on the blogger, they can reflect badly on the client, and make them look unprofessional (if a magazine printed paid advertorial with ANY kind of mistake in it, there’d be hell to pay!).
If you know this is a weak area for you use one of the grammar and spelling checkers available online, or ask a friend to proof it for you.
• STEER CLEAR OF FAKE FOLLOWERS
While it might be tempting to pad out your numbers to make them look impressive, this is a big no-no. Not only is it just plain deceitful, but it’s also pretty easy to figure out. Remember: quality is always better than quantity.
• DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
When it comes to events, PR’s are used to contacting journalists in bulk, and often with a few days’ or hours’ notice. Those who are interested reply, those who aren’t, don’t; it’s not an insult or a personal slight it’s simply the way the industry has worked up until this point. They understand (or are beginning to) that bloggers often can’t work with such tight turnarounds, but it takes time to figure these thing out, and then to implement changes.
• AVOID RUNNING TOO MANY COMPETITIONS
They’re not saying don’t regularly run great, well-run giveaways that draw traffic and create excitement on your blog, rather, don’t fill your wall with post after post of low-value prizes. Think laterally; if you have a paperback and a box of teabags, bundle them up as one prize and post it as ‘Mummy Me-Time’ giveaway. Always try to put at least one ‘regular’ post in between.
• NEVER GHOST THE CLIENT
You don’t have to accept every opportunity that’s offered to you, or any for that matter, but if you DO accept a product or event invitation then you need to honour that commitment.
‘I have lost count now of how many bloggers will take a product for review, and then you’ll literally never hear from them again. I’m talking about them straight up disappearing,’ one PR told me.
Which puts them in a predicament; their boss is breathing down their neck, but if they keep emailing the blogger they get accused of harassment. Rock, meet hard place.
Every blogger knows what it’s like to take on a post, then find themselves utterly overwhelmed with life/kids/the regular job. But do let your PR know, because they’re the one facing the awkward questions. And, trust me, it is excruciatingly awkward sitting in a boardroom while the marketing manager demands to know why that post they were promised – the one they paid for either in product or money – hasn’t materialised.
But it doesn’t just stop at an angry boss; the PR might miss their monthly performance targets, which could affect their pay. Their company may decide they don’t want to work with bloggers anymore, as they’re too unreliable. Or – worst case scenario – they lose the contract altogether, because the client blames them for not delivering on coverage.
So, what should we do if we bit off more than we can chew? Hold your hands up, and tell your PR: ‘I’d rather a blogger would just tell me if they don’t like the product I’ve sent them, or the event I arranged for them to attend, this way I’m not wasting time chasing them,’ one confided in me. ‘I’d rather be told to ‘eff off’ than to have to play a guessing game; checking their blog in annoyance because they’re posting other stuff, whilst still pretending to be AWOL.’
They feel frustrated, as there’s nothing they can really do at this point – if they keep emailing they risk being accused of harassment; if they ‘name and shame’ the blogger, they and the company both look unprofessional (think: the numerous #Blaggergate scandals).
‘It’s simple,’ she explains. ‘ If you don’t like the product I won’t make you write about it, just please, let me know.’
Have a question about the way PR’s work? Leave me a comment, and I’ll get it answered for you!