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.
Then 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.