Blogging tips: working with PRs - the PRs share their tips

One of the most discussed topics of #bbloggers chats has to be around working with PRs and brands and how as bloggers we can best do that. Rather than give you my own take on things, I've asked some PRs to share their own thoughts on the subject, covering everything from how to approach them and what to avoid.

I hope you find the post useful - for me, it's great to hear things directly from a PR perspective and really understand their thoughts on blogger relations and how these can be improved. A massive thank you to all of the PRs who kindly took part, it's much appreciated!

Blogging tips - working with PRS

As a PR, what are your favourite parts about working with bloggers?

"Meeting different people who have a new perspective and a genuine enthusiasm for products."

"One of my favourite aspects of working with bloggers is observing the limitless creativity that is put into so many of my favourite blogs. Also just conversing with women who have such a profound knowledge and genuine appreciate for the art of beauty."

"I love working with bloggers as they are honest, hard-working and review from a consumer’s point of view. A lot of them have become friends as we share the same interest in beauty!"

"Bloggers have a refreshingly different approach to talking about products and the beauty industry as a whole – they have a genuine passion for it that extends beyond traditional shopping pages. As a PR, working with bloggers opens up a whole new world of opportunities for the brands you represent, not least because they are not restricted to column inches! The last few years has been a lovely time of getting to know a completely new area of the media, and growing up and shaking down together :)"

"Creativity and freedom  - I love the fact that bloggers have the freedom to create their own editorial agenda and can be very honest in their reviews. I have some great relationships with bloggers and would consider many as friends. It’s great that we get to spend time with some really great people, probably one of the best parts of my job!  I understand how much work goes in to creating a blog. Some bloggers are extremely passionate and I love this. It’s great when you talk about a launch and they are genuinely as excited as you are."

"Seeing blogs grow - It’s great to see blogs grow and growing with them. So many blogs have started small and are now hugely successful. It’s great to see the success stories along the way."

"After a long time in PR I still get excited when a great piece of coverage lands on my desk. I love the speed that bloggers can turn things around so you get to see the coverage quickly. It’s also great to see the very tangible effects that blogs can have e.g increased web traffic/sales."

"Seeing the wealth of creativity and passion that people put into their blogs on a day to day basis."

And the worst bits? 

"The lack of knowledge can sometimes be frustrating especially if you are working with a brand which is quite technical. There is a lot of discussion on how a product smells or the packaging, rather than how effective the product is. Also, the influence that certain bloggers have can be frustrating. If, for reasons known only to themselves they take a dislike to a PR/brand, that’s it. They just will not cover the products and other bloggers will follow, for no reason."

"I feel there is a sense of entitlement with some bloggers who don’t understand that a PRs role is to service their client and a brand’s best interests and not their wish lists. If you have a blog whose core readership is the average  15-18 year old student and you’ve requested a £60 moisturiser from my client how am I professionally justified in sampling to you? Unfortunately brands/agencies have set a precedent that has become hard to navigate by accommodating such requests – perhaps for fear of negative reprisals on social media. That’s just not something I stand for."

"Whilst this is not the case with all I feel many blogs have become too monetised. Whereas with the establishment of the UK beauty blogging scene this was not the case and there was far more variation in brands being given exposure."

"It’s often hard to manage bloggers' expectations, especially new starters. It is easy to forget that  PRs have to work to a (paying) client brief and we have to respect their wishes, we don’t have access to endless samples or budgets."

"There are a lot of exceptional bloggers out there who really ‘get’ PR, but on the flip side there are a lot who don’t appreciate the fact that we are ultimately doing a job, and that job is to get the best possible coverage for our clients, manage their expectations, and also manage their budgets! Having to gently let down bloggers when we can’t provide samples or an invite to an event is always sad, and similarly the shopping list emails are incredibly frustrating…"

"Lack of rules/ Changing rules  - There are no rules as such and everything changes so quickly. I try to get it right but it is so easy to get it wrong and upset people and something relatively small can get very big very quickly. As a PR it is really hard to keep everybody happy all of the time. The rise of social media means things are very transparent ( which is a good thing) but it is obvious when somebody hasn’t been invited to an event and sometimes people get upset. 99% of the time, this is not personal. We have limited budgets to work with and have to make decisions based on what we need to achieve for the brands that are paying us to do a job. I love reading blogs and part of the charm is their honesty but sometimes reviews can be scathing and not very fair. I haven’t actually experienced this myself but have seen other brands experience this and the reviews aren’t always written in the most professional manner." 

"Money, money, money  - Not all brands have lots of money. I think people might be surprised to hear about the kind of budgets some brands actually have.   For some, even samples are a huge investment and every sample has to count. Sometimes bloggers don’t understand or respect this which can be frustrating." 

"It’s oh so quiet – sometimes samples are precious and limited. If we have provided a sample at a meeting or event it would be great to get some feedback. It can be quote frustrating having to chase and be that annoying PR who has to follow up. We appreciate that some bloggers get sent a lot and can’t possibly review everything. Sending product and getting no review or feedback can be really frustrating. Even if you aren’t planning a glowing review just keep us posted how you’re getting on so that we can update our clients.  Again, I appreciate that some bloggers receive a lot of product that they are not expecting to receive. If you’d prefer to not receive lots of parcels and would rather select what you would like to be sent then just let us know and we can keep a record."

"Some clients still don’t consider bloggers to be as important as traditional press ( I know, I know) so we have to try and convince them otherwise. We are definitely getting there but it doesn’t help the cause when bloggers write posts that are littered with grammatical, factual and spelling errors." 

"The battles – there are definitely circles of friends amongst the blogging community. Where you have friends, you also have enemies (or bloggers who don’t see eye to eye) . It can be quite tricky when arranging events. We don’t want to offend but it can make our job much more difficult. Our priority should be doing a good job for our paying clients but we often spend our time navigating the blogosphere to avoid awkward situations."

"New bloggers that start blogs purely for samples. Thankfully, I can spot it a mile off, but we have countless emails along the lines of 'I've just started a blog, can you send me some samples?' I find it contributes to bloggers being given a bad name when there are some amazing bloggers who pour their heart and soul into their blog and who work so hard on their space of the internet."

Lots of bloggers are keen to work with brands and PRs - any tips on how you prefer to work with bloggers? And what sort of things do you look for when you're looking for new ones to work with?

"Personally, I like to work with bloggers as if they are journalists and send them products for specific features as well as launches  and not just ad hoc. Some bloggers have started sending through forward features lists which are quite useful, however, we do have concerns sometimes when it comes to product testings as not all (skincare) products are appropriate for every skin condition."

"I personally seek out a lot of the blogs I work with as I still enjoy the process of discovering new voices. The content of your blog and social media is far more appealing than stats for me – something I know a few PR professionals will disagree with. I’m a huge believer in quality over quantity as I feel it resonates better and fosters more dialogue and brand appreciation."

"A point of difference for me; I find haul videos to be truly rubbish as products and brands get lost in them and have no lasting impact with a viewer/reader. I’m also unlikely to sample to a blog that does not update regularly as it’s unlikely that there is a dedicated following attached to it."

"When I receive emails with a shopping list of products they go straight into my junk box. If you’re reaching out to a PR it’s about an ongoing relationship. Suggest a product you’re interested in trying and build it from there."

"As a PR we need to justify every sample we send to bloggers, having access to blog statistics, e.g followers, unique users/views enables us to do this – also making your twitter and Instagram handles easy to find so we can support you back and tweet or regram your posts – sometimes I spend ages hunting for these."

"We look for quality over quantity, great pictures, links to stockist websites (to convert traffic into sales) and promotion across all social channels."

"I actually don’t receive samples to send to bloggers (or, often, press), so bloggers that are open to working with images where possible is always helpful at the moment. Whilst it’s always lovely to catch up face-to-face, the majority of PRs are under constant time pressure (particularly agency-side), so email efficiency is often best!"

"I always try to treat people the way I would like to be treated and most enjoy working with bloggers who are polite, professional and friendly. I appreciate that it works both ways and that PRs are not always friendly back."

"I personally look for personality, a fun writing style and engagement in the comments section."

How do you feel about being emailed directly from new bloggers? What should they exclude/include in their email? 

"I have no problem with being contacted by new bloggers. It is difficult for us to keep up with the number of blogs out there so it is appreciated. However, there is nothing worse than being sent an email from a new blog which basically says, I have a blog, send me loads of products or I have a blog and I can make people aware of your products. Don’t do a round robin and show an interest/knowledge of the brands the PR represents. Start by asking to be added to a mailing list."

"Receiving emails from new bloggers is great. There are so many blogs out there that it’s hard to keep track of all of them. Shopping lists get no love from me – it’s actually quite insulting and suggest you’re out for whatever you can get. Information on you and your particular interests in beauty are great. That way going forward I can ensure that I always update you on specifics things I reckon you’d like."

"We love new bloggers reaching out to us but they have to be realistic in what they can expect from PR’s – don’t be disappointed if you only get images and information, if you are that interested in the product you will go out and buy it!"

"Include a link to your blog – if a blogger doesn’t do this I immediately delete their email without reading."

"Please don’t include a shopping list…it’s a massive turn off."

"I love having emails directly from bloggers – I think it’s a great chance to forge genuine relationships, both professional and personal. It’s always helpful when you hear from a new blogger for the first time, to know their stats / page views, and whether they are keen to hear about affiliate schemes – that sort of thing."

"The worst type of email to receive is the dreaded ‘shopping list’! Brand samples are so limited, and we really do have to prove the return on sending them out. Bloggers that come to you saying that they deserve to receive a product (or sometimes an entire line) purely because they’ve seen that another blogger has received are particularly hard to deal with – it’s so important to remember that a PR’s decision to send a product out isn’t a spur of the moment thing, often the recipients need to be signed off by the brand!"

"We get lots of emails from new bloggers and there are new blogs being created daily. It is really hard to keep on top of all of them so emails can be useful. However, I would advise bloggers to think about what they include in their introductory email. A really long email which features a shopping list, lots of spelling errors and doesn’t include a link to the blog, or any keys stats/info about the blog is a sure fire way of resulting in a PR ignoring you. This doesn’t help anybody. In the same way that PRs should be targeting bloggers in a considered way, bloggers should be doing the same with brands and PRs."

"Try and put yourself in the shoes of the PR. Send a clear, concise email telling us why we should be reading your blog, who else reads your blog and why our brands will want to be featured on your blog and include recent stats.  Sometimes we won’t reply straight away but we do save the details and may get in touch when we are working with a brand/on a  project that is relevant to your blog and readers."

"Blog stats and whether their blog has a niche or not. It's always nice to see passion too!"

Any blogger relation horror stories you'd care to share? 

"The first blogger event we ever did turned into a nightmare, all because of one blogger who didn’t even stay for most of the event. She then proceeded to write a scathing piece, saying that there should have been a chance to experience the products (there was, she didn’t stay for it); being rude about the owner of the company and commenting about pregnant. It turns out her main gripe was about the food and drink."

"I remember a few years back there was the blog post circulating that a blogger had written criticising PR practice and rather patronisingly explaining “How best to work with bloggers”, like we’re dealing with mythical unicorns. Needless to say said blogger did not have to deal with the issue of incompetent PRs as often as they were  rightly dumped from a good few media lists. I found the gall of the post simultaneously hilarious and enraging. Imagine if the tables were turned…"

"Bloggers telling me how to do my job! One continuously argued with me, suggesting I target a wider pool of bloggers to spread the sample allocation – they couldn’t understand that I hadn’t been briefed to do that and that the ‘bedroom bloggers’ as opposed to the higher calibre of beauty bloggers that we were targeting weren’t going to make a difference to sales/traffic which was the clients brief."

"I've had a few. Other than the one mentioned above where we get emails from new bloggers wanting samples, the other story that comes to mind is when a blogger thinks they're entitled to samples. I once had an email along the lines of "I saw you gave so and so samples and I have bigger stats so how come I wasn't involved in your blogger outreach?" Stats do help, but they aren't the be all and end all."

As a blogger it can sometimes be easy to forget that you're under pressure from clients as PRs - what can we do to make things easier for you? 

"I think the biggest help is sending though coverage links. It is impossible to remember/keep up sometimes and we always tweet coverage too so there is a benefit too."

"I feel some people are so unaware of the pressures PRs are under; from clients, journalists, bloggers, other brands etc. It used to make my blood boil whenever I saw #PRFail on Twitter. We’re all here to work together and enjoy our roles and it’s important to understand people are human they make mistakes."

"I never expect anything from a blogger in return for a sample (unless they are being paid) As a PR I am amazed so many bloggers have full-time jobs and then find the time to write amazing posts. Sending coverage links is always a godsend, but as it’s my job I believe PR’s should be taking an active interest into the blogosphere; subscribe and read posts -  discovering coverage for yourself…don’t just rely on it."

"I don’t believe at all in chasing bloggers, as a PR I send samples in the hope of getting coverage but I don’t believe you can chase or demand coverage on a ‘goodwill’ relationship….you don’t owe us anything!"

"Simple things like active links to stockists, I LOVE it when bloggers include their latest stats / links to coverage / links to social media in their email signature – it makes things instantly simpler! Particularly as clients or brands can request this kind of information on the spur of the moment, and it’s so helpful to have it to hand. And any time they can provide details of click-throughs to the product featured, that gives us PRs a measurable result of working with a blogger, which is absolutely invaluable if the relationship is to continue!"

"Thank you for noticing. I love my job but it can be really stressful as we often have pressure from every angle. Most bloggers are really great and it is so helpful when they send links. I would love to be able to read blogs all day every day but I just don’t get the time and it is very easy to miss things so links are super helpful, ideally before they are promoted via social media so that we can give our clients the heads up before they actually see it. We love to share coverage with them and it can be really disappointing if they’ve already seen it."

"I never want to be the chasey PR that hounds you to find out if you’re planning to cover something but it’s great when I get feedback and updates along the way so that I have an idea if you are going to feature something or even if you really don’t like something. At least I can be prepared. As I have mentioned above, we really appreciate if you can try and put yourselves in our shoes sometimes. Even if you are super busy a very quick reply, even to say that you haven’t had a chance to try it yet, is way more helpful than a wall of silence."

"Bloggers who are polite professional and friendly will always be appreciated. I completely understand that some PRs do make this quite tricky at times." 

"Sending over links is always helpful!"

How do you feel about bloggers charging for reviews/tweets/coverage?  Do you feel that this is the future or something you'd prefer to avoid? 

"Definitely prefer to avoid this. The very foundation of PR is that it is free and although we are generous with products, we don’t have budget (or history) of paying."

"I get it, everyone’s out to cash in on this great opportunity whilst they can but if these sort of things become common place it kills an industry that was embraced for its integrity, and non-bias. And then who wins? Not all brands have bottomless pockets to throw money around left, right and centre. I personally don’t want to see an industry where independent brands have no cheerleaders because the  big conglomerates have bought the stadium, the players and the spectators. How dull."

"I have really mixed feelings on this subject, I do believe charges should be monitored and why shouldn’t people make a career out of blogging. However we are sent extreme costs and I wonder how bloggers can justify the amounts they are charging for a tweet or a blogpost (especially when they differ so widely from person to person but their statistics are so similar)."

"I think a great way for both brand and blogger to benefit is an affiliate programme, the blogger receives payment for traffic pushed to a retail site and commission on purchases, the brand wins as hopefully they’re getting more traffic and sales – mutually beneficial."

"I do think it is the future and unavoidable, I would like to see guidelines put in place for charges, at the moment people are abusing the system and will give it a bad reputation for everybody – I also encourage the use of #AD and highlighting when a post has been sponsored."

"Hmm. I feel conflicted about this. I think the visibility that some blogs give is worth paying for, as the ROI can be directly equated in advertising terms. However I do think readers of blogs still appreciate product placement that is completely unbiased (and un-sponsored), so I don’t think that is going away any time soon. I think brands are seeing the value of this more and more, so I am still keen to work with blogs that offer this type of coverage."

"I appreciate that the landscape is changing. For some clients paying for content is a realistic direction, but to be honest for others it is not, in the same way that some clients simply do not have the budget to pay for other forms of advertising.  I believe there should be a balance of paid for activity and genuine posts on a blog as the honest posts are what are at the heart of blogging. It goes without saying that anything that has been paid for should be clear for the reader to see. To uphold the integrity of the blog,  it makes sense to me that bloggers only agree to paid relationships if it’s the kind of brand/product they would have been interested in featuring any way and the majority of the time this is what I see."

"Going forward it is really important that bloggers who are charging for sponsored posts etc. behave in a professional manner, especially if you are working independently rather than being with an agent. You need to be very clear up front about what the post will and will not include so all parties know what to expect."

I'd love to know your thoughts on this post - have you picked up any new tips?


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