It's been almost two weeks since I attended Savvy Blogging Summit with my Empower MediaMarketing colleague, Jessica George. We were asked to speak on building better relationships between brands and bloggers.
Empower's done more than a dozen different outreach projects for clients -- online and offline. We posted our presentation at the Scoop.It page we created for the event.
We learned as much as we taught at #sbsummit. The attendees had to apply to attend and were focused on improving their blog. This translated into a passionate crowd that helped reinforce a few points during our presentation and conversations with #sbsummit attendees.
Make it Easier:We extol the need for a community relations approach with bloggers over a media relations approach, but we don't identify any direct ways for a blogger to contact a brand.
Bloggers are more than familiar with being pitched. We've even counseled them on creating "About" pages and sporting badges if they're "PR Friendly." But bloggers aren't familiar with seeking out like-minded brands. Perhaps we need a page on brand sites for bloggers -- much in the way we have newsrooms for the media. If we're taking a different approach, we should have a designated way for direct contact to the right people (agency or brand).
Broadcast vs. Engagement: It always seems to come back to this topic. If you understand social media is an engagement tool and not a broadcast tool, it's easy to understand how the best bloggers for an outreach project may not have the biggest audience. We don't need the biggest audience, we need the right audience. With the right audience, brands can gain insight into how they can better meet customer needs. And they'll build loyalty throughout their interactions with these bloggers.
After identifying a handful of #sbsummit attendees my employer has worked with in the past, it was reassuring to see that these bloggers were chosen due to relevant content and a high level of engagement. Of the #sbsummit attendees, none of the bloggers we worked with previously had the highest level of reach.
Need a specific example of the potential of relevance over reach? Kosher on a Budget is a well-differentiated blog written by Mara. And in addition to the obvious kosher brands, Mara also knows which mainstream consumer brands have gone to great lengths to gain kosher status for some of their products. But some of these brands are more focused on other niches, tapping the gluten-free consumer perhaps, without realizing the full benefit of their investment in kosher. If they'd like a group of consumers as fiercely loyal to them as their gluten-free consumers -- they should contact Mara. She's got a relevant blog with a loyal readership. And regardless of audience size, I can't think of anyone better to help a mainstream brand do with their kosher products what they're already doing with their gluten-free products. Disclaimer: we cooked up this idea in a quick conversation after I finished my presentation.
Owned Media Opportunities:Tapping into the right niche of bloggers to help create content owned by the brand is an under utilized opportunity. Who better to create content that will resonate with brands' target audience than its most loyal, well-informed customers? This is not paying for a post or a product review on a blogger's site. This is tapping bloggers to fuel your next content project. It's akin to hiring freelance writers and requires full disclosure. Media outlets are already tapping into this at a local and national level. And as more brands become publishers, this is a bigger deal than brand, blogger or agency yet understands. This is due in part to brands and bloggers defining relationships to date, for the most part, as an exchange of access or free stuff for content. We've watched this approach derail some time ago.
The PR Disconnect: One of the big disconnects between bloggers and agencies can be paid media. Many bloggers are treating their blog as a business. As a result, they'll be discussing paid and owned media opportunities with brands. Most PR people conducting outreach are used to working primarily with earned media. In fact, if they've got a media relations background, odds are good they've only worked on earned and owned media opportunities. Any suggestion of paid media can create confusion and incorrect assumptions between the agency and the blogger. But not only do PR people need to get used to this concept, they need to account for it in the budget when planning outreach projects. This is not a free exchange -- free stuff for free content.
2nd Moment of Truth: A brand and a blogger may be perfectly matched. But a poor initial pitch, or disconnects like the one above, can prevent any relationship from being created. Bloggers and brands should give each other a second chance. One attendee told a story of a bad pitch that turned into a business relationship. So instead of the first moment of truth, perhaps we need to put more weight on the second moment of truth when building relationships between brands and bloggers.
The Hypocrisy of Silos:Many of the #sbsummit attendees focus on saving money in some form of another -- from living more simply and being frugal to tapping into coupons, promotions and other deals from various brands. But to mention TLC's show "Extreme Couponing" was the rough equivalent of saying Voldemort to a Harry Potter fan. Why? The show single-handedly has marketers putting all coupon bloggers, savings bloggers, frugal living bloggers into a single, unseemly bucket.
The week we presented, Ad Age's cover story even warned marketers to "beware the coupon mom." But to make such a general, sweeping statement based on the extreme of one "reality" show is foolish at best. It's akin to journalists letting a few PR people making bad pitches color their view of the entire industry. Looking at the attendee's blogs, I saw a more common theme of home, family and wholesome living. The bottom line being that agencies need to spend more quality time developing a targeted list of bloggers. There are many facets to any blog. And while they may have a primary focus, they cannot always be placed into a single silo.
All of the above are either opportunities or reminders of what's keeping brands, agencies and bloggers from doing something bigger, better and more effective for all involved. Needless to say, Jessica and I really enjoyed being involved with the event.