As blogs turn into mainstream media and PR reps are bombarding email boxes like its Hiroshima all over again, there are quite a few lessons to be learned in how these relationships can help, and hurt, the products that are trying to promote.
Today alone I have received nearly 10 pitches ranging from specialty invites, PR releases, product pushes, reviews, and giveaways from a variety of sources like talk shows, newspapers, and other websites. And while this relationship needs to be nurtured and mutually beneficial to both parties to work, its time for PR to establish professional and ethical accountability for blog promotion to continue at this rapid pace.
From my point of view as a blogger:
1) If you know nothing else, know my name. Its not Mrs. MomDot, its not “Hi”, it’s not “Dear site”, It’s Trisha. You can find that in my About Us page and low and behold, right on the side of my blog with a big old picture that says TRISHA on it. It will take you 10 seconds, which is the same amount of time I take to read your email, so we are even. I sometimes get Dear Bridgette or Dear Alicia, but those are forgivable mistakes since they blog here too. You would not walk into a magazine and call the head of the media relations “Mrs. Magazine”. Please take the time to know me and I will take the time to know, and consider, your pitch. Double check your work. If you write “Dear Susan” on my email, I not only no longer feel special, I think you’re sloppy and wonder why would I do business with you.
2) Do not pitch me products that clearly have nothing to do with my target audience. This is not only a complete waste of your time and mine, its a waste of your clients hours. While I don’t want to be holed into a “mom” only world where product pitches are spit up rags and strollers, I am clearly not your avenue to talk about car wax. Targeted pitches not only help you, they help me.
3) Email me back timely. If you offer me a product and I accept the giveaway or review, do not ignore the next follow up emails I send-especially if I have your clients product in my home and I have a question about them. I have been offered products or giveaways, accepted it for the site, to never ever hear from the rep again. Then when you have something you REALLY want me to push, I am going to decline because I can’t trust you. I know you’re busy, but my time is also valuable. A quick “will get to you next week I promise” email is all it takes to know we are still connecting. Remember, in most cases you’re not paying me for my writing skills, so killing me with kindness is a great way for me to work with you.
4) Follow through on your promises. If I run a giveaway for you and I have to email you for 8 weeks after wards to get the product to the winner, our relationship is hitting a brick wall. All my visitors know is that I am running a contest. They do not realize that you are sending out the prize. Therefore if you don’t send it, its me that gets the bad reputation for it. Please do not make me blog that its your fault. It makes baby Jesus cry .
Tips to help PR reps work more effectively with blogs:
1) While I realize that not everyone is an expert with SEO, make your pitches work for you. Let us know what keywords your client is after so we can write our posts more effectively. If I ask you what keywords your client wants, don’t say “huh?” This is your craft, please learn a bit about it. Working with a blogger is quite different from working with a magazine or newspaper. One of the reasons companies want to work with bloggers has much less to do with the audience they have and much more to do the manipulation of search engine results. Until Google finds a way to punish reviews and giveaways as sponsored posts, and oh yes they will, this is a very inexpensive way for a company to get in the top 3 pages of search engines.
2) Its OK to ask for References and Referrals.
- Ask your established bloggers for referrals. Anyone can be a blogger. Even people in jail have blogs. Just because someone opened a website doesn’t make them a good fit for you. You don’t even have to own your own hosting to be a blogger (or put in any investment at all), just head over to Blogspot.com and open a page, put up some pretty colors and soon enough we have another ‘social networking’ expert on our hands. Nothing to lose for the random person-except your product being sold on Ebay. There is no resume to fill out, no education to be had, nothing to tell you if a blogger is the right fit. We carry a list of about 300+ bloggers that we love to recommend and work with and that list is growing. We also host an Online Opportunities Network where bloggers exchange PR information-the good and the bad. If you want to pitch products and releases there, let me know and I will get you an account. Until then, make sure you dive into your Rolodex and ask those you trust who they trust. Most bloggers know someone they can recommend. It saves you time, and your products can get to the best promotion possible.
- Ask for references. Just because a blogger has a lot of pretty buttons on the side of their blog advertising businesses, doesn’t mean they are a good blogger. Ask them for references of past PR reps or businesses they have worked with, ask them for past feedback they have received, look over their posts to find out if they are good writers. Check how frequently they have spelling errors or grammar mistakes. Do you want a blogger saying “This is a grate product”! I didn’t think so.
3) I recently talked to a PR rep last week whom told me that bloggers get “offended” when she asks for their statistics. RED FLAG. A blogger should never be offended. Blogs with all sorts of stats are great to work with. In fact, stats don’t always indicate a great blogger, its just part of the bigger puzzle. But while stats do not make up the entire reason why you should work with a blogger in the least, you should be able to have access to them if you are sending out a product. Many bloggers do not know the difference between page views and unique visitors. Page views are almost always higher by double. Make sure the stats you are getting are the ones you think they are.
Stats you should be aware of when working with a blogger:
Technorati: These are online blog ranks only. “Authority” means how many blogs are linking to you in the past 6 months. Rank is what # you are out of blogs that are ranked on the net. Bloggers have to register their blog on Technorati for it to rank. For example, MomDot has an authority of 670 (blogs linking to us in the past 6 months) and a rank of 3,282 at the time of this post.
Alexa: This is an old way of doing stats, but many PR companies still use it quite frequently. Alexa is ranked out of ALL websites on the web, not just blogs. Anything under 100K is generally very good.
Google Page Rank: Ah, the mystery number that Google makes up. There really is a scientific explanation Google tells us regarding your page rank. They redo them every 3 months and range from 0-10. This is how important they tell you a website is and used to determine your ‘worth’ on the net. The higher the page rank, the more value the links and posts are to the search engines. They have nothing to do with visitors at all and are simply search engine based on how many sites link to you, how you link your own information, SEO, etc. etc. Basically a good blog can have bad SEO and never have a great PR. Google is pretty tight on it, so a “2″ PR is pretty acceptable on a blog. 5 is phenomenal. 7 is Dooce.
Unique visitors vs Page Views: One visitor can put off 25 page views in a day if they are searching a site. Every time a page loads for a visitor, it counts as an additional view. So you coming to my page was one and clicking on this post to a new page was one. You just gave me 2 page views so far but your one person. Therefore you want to know the difference between how many real people came by as opposed to how many pages they checked out. Both can be positive for different reasons. But if a Blogger tells you they have 100K visitors, make sure its not page views or you may be slightly disappointed.
Comments: I am including this here because comments are blog gold. This will tell you how well visitors are relating to the blogger. This doesn’t really count for giveaway or contest posts. Check out their regular posts and see how others react, what their average comment count is, and if they respond and interact with their commenter’s. 10 comments per post is a great average.
4) My best PR reps are the ones that work with me on things other then asking me to talk about some new shoe that hit the market. They refer me to their clients for consulting, they offer me interviews if they need an expert, they ask my opinion on an upcoming campaign. They provide a RELATIONSHIP that is not just based on what I can do for them, but rather what they can also do for me. Then, when they really need something, I trust and want to help them back.
5) Get a twitter account. Its a great way to put pitches out, get referrals, references, and keep up with the bloggers that you work with on a consistent basis. (we are @momdot). Twitter is where its at right now -as much as I hate to admit that- so stay current.
Need more advice? Need a blogger? Contact me Trisha@MomDot.com