Posted by & filed under Blogging.

16185149128_a4db78e711_zIf you hope to earn an income from your blog then you owe it to your readers and your sponsors or advertisers to take pride in your writing. That means paying attention to quality.

I’m not talking about your writing style, because that’s more of a personal judgement and something that you’ll develop with time and experience. What I want to focus on in this article is making sure avoid stupid mistakes that can irritate readers at best, or completely destroy their trust in you at worst.

When I was a young journalist I had a very arrogant approach to writing. I knew I was good, and I refused to accept that I was capable of making mistakes, so I’d often hand over articles to editors having never proof read my own work, insistent that it was ready to publish. But as I got older and more experienced, I’d sometimes read back stuff I’d written previously and be horrified by the number of mistakes that I’d made.

Even with modern spellcheckers, it’s still very easy for spelling errors and grammatical mistakes to slip into your blog posts. Sometimes you can either miss or repeat a word, lose your train of thought halfway through a sentence and skip onto the next one without finishing, or accidentally type completely the wrong word.

Proof reading is important

So my first tip for quality control is to always, always, always read back your own blog post before publishing. Sometimes when you feel like you’ve written something great you’re just so excited to share it with the world that you want to hit the publish button right away, but it’s good to get into the habit of sitting on your posts for a little while.

If you can, leave it for a day, or at least a few hours and come back to it later. This stops your brain from going into auto-pilot and reading back what you think you wrote (while the intended words are still floating around in your head) rather than what you actually wrote.

When you’re checking specifically for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, it’s good to try and detach yourself from the actual meaning of the article and focus on the mechanics of the language. You can do this in different ways; I prefer to scrunch up my browser/word-processor window so that it only shows one line at a time and read slowly, word by word, so that it doesn’t flow and I have to focus on checking for mistakes. Another trick is to read the blog post backwards, start with the last sentence, then the second to last, etc.

Get your facts right

Once you’ve proof-read the post and corrected any errors, it’s also good to fact check it. If you’ve made and non-obvious claims or listed any facts or figures in your post, are you sure they’re correct? Again, this is an area where many writers make mistakes because they’re so confident in the truth of the point they’re making, they never bother to confirm that it’s correct. A quick trip to Wikipedia can stop you from looking stupid.

So you’ve made sure that there are no silly grammatical errors and you’ve double checked your facts and figures. Chances are that while doing that you’ve shuffled a few words around and made a few tweaks on the fly, and this can often disrupt the overall flow of what you’ve written. So it’s a good idea to do one final read for style, to make sure everything sits together nicely, reads well and flows properly from one paragraph to the next.

Professionals make the effort

At this stage you’re probably thinking that this all sounds like a lot of extra work; are you really going to spend time reading back your own blog post two or three times before you publish it? But the real question is; how serious are you about your blog? If you’re just doing it for fun, then fine, maybe you don’t need to apply a professional level of quality control (although personally speaking, I’m embarrassed if I even make a mistake in a Facebook post or text message). But if you’re hoping to become a professional blogger, your writing is your product, and you owe it to yourself to make that product as good as it can possibly be, so why wouldn’t you spend a little extra time to guarantee the quality of each post?

Posted by & filed under Blogging.

62072228If you want to be a heavyweight blogger, public relations people can be your best friends.

To build a successful blog you need great content, which often means being able to review the hottest new products, getting access to news ahead of other bloggers, and being invited to the best events. You also want to be able to build great relationships with companies in your market, because they might be able to help with sponsorship and advertising opportunities.

PR people can help with all of these things – if they trust you as a blogger, they are more likely to provide you with these kinds of opportunities. But there can be problems with the PR/blogger relationship too. New blogs which are not well established might find it hard to be taken seriously by PR execs, because they do not stand out from any of the hundreds of other small blogs.

The other problem might be that a blogger gets too many irrelevant or badly thought out pitches from PR people, so they become disillusioned with PR execs and start to see them as annoyance.

Ultimately, any engagement between a blogger and a PR exec can be seen as a business transaction. The blogger has a commodity that is valuable to brands, an audience (and the ability to influence that audience), while the brand has something the blogger wants, such useful information, access to review samples, invites to events. To work successfully together both sides of the relationship need to understand this balance.

So here are some tips for bloggers to build good relationships with PR execs:

Be Realistic 

If your blog is new, or you have a small audience, don’t expect PR people to treat you like royalty. By all means drop relevant PR execs an email to introduce yourself and let them know what you’re working on but, until you’ve put the work in to establish your blog and build an audience, they’re unlikely to take you seriously.

Be Open

You’ll earn the trust of PR execs more easily if you can be open with them about the size of your audience. While your social media following is public and easy enough to measure, your blog traffic is not visible to PR people, and this matters a lot. When dealing with old media, PR execs always take into account the circulation or audience size of a publication or broadcast channel. So it makes sense that they like to know how much traffic your blog gets.

Be Honest

If a PR pitches a story at you and you don’t want to cover it, give them an honest reason why – it helps them give feedback to their client so they can come to you with something better next time. Equally, if you feel you have to write a negative or critical article about their client, it’s professional to give them a little warning before you publish along with clear reasons for your criticisms. You don’t need to compromise on your integrity, and all brands know that negative articles sometime happen, but a good PR will appreciate your honesty about it and it will help improve the relationship in future. Also, if you do write a negative post about a business, it’s a good idea to give the brand a right-of-reply by offering to publish their comments responding to your criticisms.

Be Courteous 

Remember that PR people are often under a lot of pressure to deliver results for their clients and work to tight deadlines. So respect their time, don’t miss calls or meetings with them and, if you must cancel a meeting, try to give them as much warning as possible ahead of time. If you tell them you’re going to publish an article on a particular date, stick to your promise or just avoid making the promise in the first place. The PR has probably told their boss or client to expect the article on that date, so if it doesn’t appear then they look bad.

Be Punctual

If you get invited to events, make sure you show up and show up on time. A lot of time and effort goes into organising PR events, and when people drop out at the last minute it can really cause problems for the PR exec – this is rock-solid guaranteed way to get yourself black-listed.

Good communication is at the heart of all this. You don’t need to bend over backwards to keep PR people happy, but remember that they’re just trying to do the best job they can for their employer and you’ll make it a lot easier for them if you give them accurate and clear information whenever you deal with them. If you can help make a PR person’s job easier, then there’s a very good chance that they’ll want to keep working with you in future.

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Before social media came along, Public Relations was a fairly straightforward job – you had a little black book of journalists who were relevant to your client, and you worked hard to maintain good relationships with them. Most journalists worked in a similar way and followed the same set of rules.  

public relations and bloggingThen blogs came along and the world got turned upside down. All of a sudden it wasn’t just professional journalists who could influence the audiences your clients want to reach, but these strange new creatures called bloggers. Practically anybody could be a blogger, and quite often A-list bloggers wield a degree of influence that old-school media can only dream of. And to make matters more confusing, even though they might do a similar job to journalists, they work in very different ways.

The long-established rules for PR/journalist interaction do not apply to bloggers. If you approach bloggers in the same way as journalists you’re likely to struggle, so you need to know what the new rules are.

Bloggers don’t see editorial and advertising as separate things

In the old days journalists did not talk about advertising. Coverage was based purely on the merits of the story, and advertising or sponsorship deals were seen as entirely separate in order to maintain editorial integrity.

That’s not the case with bloggers. Many of them are trying to run their blogs like small businesses, and see no reason why brands shouldn’t pay for the privilege of being featured. They don’t have separate teams running the commercial and editorial sides of their enterprise, it’s usually just one person trying to make a living out of writing a blog.

So lesson one is to understand that it’s normal for bloggers to ask for payment or some kind of commercial deal if you want them to write about your client.

Most bloggers have day-jobs

Although some high profile bloggers have managed to make a full time job out of blogging, most of them work on their blogs in their spare time alongside a full-time job. This means that it can be tough for them to take calls during office hours, and it may take them a while to respond to emails. PR people are often working to tight deadlines and are used to being able to get hold of journalists quickly, but with bloggers that just might not be possible. They have jobs and lives that can get in the way of running their blogs.

Also, they might not be able to come to events during the working week. So if you’re trying to organise a PR event and you want bloggers to attend, you might need to consider evenings or weekends.

Not all bloggers want to work with PR execs

Almost all journalists accept that working with public relations people is a fact of their professional life, and strong relationships with the right PR execs can help them get good stories. Bloggers don’t work in the same way. Sometimes they just write about what they want to write about and do not wish or need to engage with PR people, so learn to take no for an answer with good grace. A big hint is if they don’t include any contact information on their website.

Bloggers don’t always want to share their traffic stats with PR people

Traffic stats are a sensitive topic for any online business, and many choose not to share the number of visitors their blogs get. Obviously if you’re trying to set up an advertising deal with a blogger, then they will almost certainly need to share their stats with you as part of that agreement. But if you’re simply putting a PR report together and your client demands to know how much traffic a particular blog gets, it simply might not be possible to get that information.

There are some third party tools which claim to estimate the monthly traffic received by a website, but take it from us, they’re almost always wildly inaccurate. Where web stats aren’t available, you can use a blogger’s social media figures as a good indicator of their popularity. A blogger with a high number of Twitter, Facebook or Instagram followers is likely to be getting a large volume of web traffic to their site as well.

Bloggers are all different

Journalists typically work in similar ways and that makes it easy for public relations people to understand the rules of engagement. But bloggers are all different, they all run their blogs in their own way around their own schedules, with their own rules about what they write about. So this is the final lesson: while we can offer some general guidelines for PR people to work with bloggers, ultimately they’re all different and no single set of principles can be rigidly applied to them.

The bottom line is that you’ll need to apply some good old fashioned PR relationship building with each blogger in order to understand how best to work with them.

professional blogger

Posted by & filed under Blogging.

The first thing you need to know is that it’s completely possible to earn an income from blogging, there are plenty of people who do this and it’s an achievable goal.

The second thing to know is that it’s not easy and it’s not quick.

In this article we’ll discuss the various things you need to do in order to build a blog that earns money, but the most important things you need are patience and consistency. People often get excited by the idea of launching a blog, but often they run out of steam for two reasons:

  • It’s hard to keep coming up with ideas for new posts all the time
  • They’ve been working on the blog for a while and it’s making no money, so they get disillusioned

If you’re starting a blog with the goal of turning it into even a micro-business, you have to accept that it’s likely to take time before you start making any kind of money, never mind enough to quit your day job. Why? Because the main thing a blog needs in order to be profitable is an audience, and it takes time to build a regular audience.

Bloggers typically earn money by running advertising on their sites, or by endorsements or sponsorship deals with brands, and they only work if your blog is able to influence an audience. The best bloggers are able to influence large numbers of people to favour certain brands or products, and that’s what enables them to make so much money.

The audience is all important

If a makeup manufacturer knows that a particular beauty blogger has an audience of millions of women who trust her advice and recommendations, then it’s going to be very worthwhile for that company to set up some kind of deal with the blogger. The manufacturer could pay the blogger to personally endorse or promote their products, or they could simply buy advertising space on the blog, ensuring that their message was seen by all of the site’s millions of visitors.

So does this mean that you can only make money from blogging if you are able to build a huge audience? It certainly helps, but it’s not always completely necessary. It’s just as important to have an audience that’s focused on a specific topic. A blog that has millions of visitors but covers a wide range of generic topics might be less valuable to advertisers because it’s hard to say what all of those visitors are interested in. Whereas a blog that’s tightly focused on a topic such beauty will have a very specific kind of audience, so advertisers know that the vast majority of visitors to the site are highly likely to be interested in buying beauty related products.

Large audiences will always help you to earn advertising revenue, but making sure your blog stays focused will also make a big difference.

A smaller, focused audience can be more lucrative than a larger, more generic one. If you were blogging about personal finance, for example, a lot of people might come to your blog looking for information on mortgages, credit cards, or personal loans, and the advertising rates for those kinds of products can be very high. So even though a personal finance blogger is unlikely to get a very large audience, the advertising revenue could still be significant.

Work hard on crafting your blog

8623879284_1c0aa4f9a9_oSo now we understand the importance of having the right kind of audience, how do we go about building it? There are no shortcuts. As somebody once said, there is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs.

To get a regular audience, you need to regularly and consistently provide content that they find valuable. You want your audience to enjoy your writing so much that they will come back for more, and when they do come back for more you need to make sure that there’s some fresh content for them. This means writing good posts and writing a lot of them. How often should you write a new post? As often as possible without compromising on quality.

Successful bloggers have the following qualities:

  • They write well, in a style that their audience enjoys.
  • They are full of ideas, and they work hard to constantly find new things to blog about.
  • They have inhuman discipline, they force themselves to write regularly, even when they don’t feel like it.

If you want your blog to be a business, you have to think of your blog posts as your main product, and you need to keep manufacturing that product to meet your customer’s demand, otherwise your business will fail.

Make no mistake, writing is hard. A lot of people have a few good ideas for blog posts, but to consistently keep churning out good quality articles several times a week for years on end requires a lot of willpower.

This is why it’s important to write about something you love, so that you won’t get bored and will find it easier to keep looking for new ideas.

Now that we’ve established that the only path to success is to write a lot of good stuff and never stop, what next?

Find an audience for your blog

Sadly even the most talented of writers is not guaranteed success. In business terms, you’ve created a great product but you still need to find a way to let people know about it. This is where social media can help. Set up a profile for your blog on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and any other social channel you like and start sharing your content there – this should help you find people who are interested in what you have to say.

Make friends with other bloggers, enter blogging competitions, submit your blog to online directories. Writing a lot of good content is hard work, but promoting your blog and finding ways to build the audience is even harder. It can take a long time, and it’s difficult to stay motivated when you’re writing a lot of blog posts but struggling to get any readers. This is what separates the winners from the losers – the ability to keep plugging away for months, even years, while you slowly build up a regular following.  Most bloggers quit because they underestimate how much time and effort is involved in succeeding.

How to actually make money from a blog

Let’s assume you’ve got a successful blog with lots of regular visitors, how do you start making money? The easiest way is to use Google’s AdSense programme, which will place adverts on your website that are automatically targeted to your audience based on your site’s content and their interests. This is great because it requires little effort from you and is a good way of ensuring that visitors are shown adverts which they will find relevant. This is important because AdSense pays you whenever somebody clicks on an advert on your site, and people are more likely to click on adverts that they find interesting. Payments can be anything between a few pence to over £10 per click, depending on the advertiser and the topic. Some topics, such as personal finance, can pay very highly, whereas most ads will pay at the lower end of that range.

For most moderately successful blogs, AdSense is by far the easiest way to start making some money. Amazon’s affiliate scheme is also a good place to start – this enables you to earn money whenever you send somebody to Amazon and they buy a product. So, if you write a lot of product reviews, you could include links to the relevant Amazon product pages and whenever your visitors follow those links and buy the products, you will receive a fee. The earnings can vary, but typically you will start by earning 4% of the value of the sale.

There are lots of other online advertising platforms and referral schemes, but these are the most widely used by bloggers and some people with popular blogs make a lot of money from these schemes.

Once you reach the next level, where have a very large audience, then you might be in a position to set up sponsorship or endorsement deals directly with brands. Doing this requires some business sense, because you need to be able to find brands to work with (or if you’re lucky, they’ll come to you) and negotiate the agreement with them. A-list bloggers often work with agents, such as Gleam Futures, who help manage all of this stuff. However, unless you’ve got a serious audience size, an agent won’t be interested in working with you.

So to summarise, in order to achieve your dream of becoming a professional blogger, you need to:

  • Write new posts as regularly as possible
  • Maintain a high standard of writing quality and original ideas
  • Keep your blog focused on a specific topic
  • Work hard to promote your blog in social media and other channels to build an audience
  • Be consistent and patient – it takes time
  • Use advertising networks like Google AdSense or Amazon Associates to start earning money
  • When your blog is big enough, start looking for direct partnerships with brands in your market
  • Consider working with an agent when your blog becomes really successful