This post is the second in a series called “Brand to Blogger Relationships – Prepare to Win or Plan to Fail, You Choose.” I’ve collaborated with a respected public relations & social media relations colleague and friend, Susan Wells. We write with you in mind, because we are you. We are public relations professionals, we are moms who blog, we represent women who work in an office and work in the home, we are brand conscious and we care to make a difference. Perhaps that difference will simply be that we’ve started the dialogue from our unique perspective. We invite you, no, we strongly encourage you to share your feedback and share this series with those you feel can benefit. We will share both sides of the powerful industries of PR and social media, most especially the blogging community. The first post, How Do Bloggers Connect with Brands? - is on Susan’s blog Hands And Feet.
I’ve been building relationships in the communications industry for nearly three decades. The best, most successful relationships build over time and are not a one-way stream of communication. Yes, some are an immediate connection, but not usually without groundwork. We each bring something unique to the union. As cliché as it sounds, first impressions really do count. Think about the characteristics of some of your best relationships, professional or personal. Consider what first impressions you had and if they weren’t the best, how did the dynamic change to encourage you to learn more about the person or the brand?
In the public relations and blogging community, more common thread exists than some imagine or consider. I’m now in the fortunate position of having solid relationships with both sides. To illustrate this, I’ve chosen two of my favorites:
peanut butter and chocolate (specifically, hazelnut spread). Some will argue they don’t belong together or they don’t need each other. I think the two can form the ideal union even if not the perfect fit. I believe the same about public relations professionals and members of new media, bloggers. With 52% of consumers citing blogs as having a major impact on their purchasing decisions, I think we should pay attention to how best to work together.
A rule I follow in my business relationships is we have our jobs to do, let us try to do so with mutual respect. Some of the most sound relationship advice I follow comes from my 91-year-old grandmother.
- Treat others as you wish to be treated. Respect our time. We have a lot going on, many of the busiest, most successful bloggers receive upward of 25-50+ pitches from PR reps or brands on any given business day. Even those with a modest in box claim to receive 5-10 such pitches a day or a week. PR pros might have 5-10 clients(brands) or more they manage. Plan your communication in advance. If written, make it as free of error as possible. Be brief. Include ways in which you can be contacted, with time zone information made very clear. If we have to hunt for the best way to reach each other, chances are we’ll move on to someone who makes it easier. There are stories of coast to coast calls that don’t thrill the receiving party, most especially if they are to a home office. Easy fix.
- Stand out in a crowd. In the right way. Wouldn’t you rather be on the ‘best of’ verses the ‘worst of’ list? Be creative to grab our attention. How do you want to represent yourself? What would you like the person on the other end of the communication to remember about you or your client? Form letters don’t impress. It is fair to assume the bulk of the content will be the same if you’re reaching out to more than one person or brand. Create a personalized lead and sign-off paragraph, customized to the blog or the brand. Do the same with a call, but always ask if the caller has a few moments for a pitch/idea sharing, if not, get a time you can call back. If possible, and this is important, address by name, not ‘Dear PR Rep or Mommy Blogger.’ That generic salutation will likely get your email deleted or show up as a future blog post or discussed in a forum.
- Make the first impression yourself, don’t send someone else to do that for you. This is directed at the PR professionals/firms. Many bloggers talk about being approached by interns or junior staff members. I fully support internships, I’ve designed and managed many successful programs. We all have to start somewhere. There are many ways interns or less experienced PR reps are instrumental in the success of a brand to blogger relationship. The first attempt at communication is not the best use of their budding talent. Bloggers and PR pros have told me when they receive a pitch riddled with typos and poor grammar, it is clear to them that their professionalism and what they can bring to the relationship is not being valued. Either way, they don’t rush to cover what is pitched. I could fill a blog post listing companies or brands who have failed miserably because they weren’t manning the store. Know how you, your client or your brand is represented. The best way to do that, especially in the first moments of a relationship is for you to handle the communication. Interns/junior staff can follow-up.
- Learn a little about me (or the company/brand) to make me want to learn a little about you. A universal complaint I’ve heard from bloggers is the same I’ve heard from journalists (and shocker, many are one in the same) ‘know a little about what or whom I cover.’ It’s called research. Do a little or assign an intern or less tenured staff member. It will go a long way toward a more positive relationship. Read some of my stories/blog posts. If you’re reading, make comments. It will help me get to know a bit about you. Learn my name, know how to spell it, find out how to pronounce it, or at least make a good faith effort. Find out the best times of day or week I can take a phone call or respond to an email. Follow me on twitter, like my fan page on Facebook, connect on LinkedIn and don’t let it stop there. Once connected, interact! This extra effort will fill in a lot of blanks and prevent poor communication. Idea: host a meet & greet online, make introductions, ask for links to favorite stories or posts, talk about your niche, interests, upcoming campaign needs, editorial calendars, seek ways to work together.
- Never burn your bridges. That PR person or blogger you ignored three months ago could be in charge of the brand ambassadorship of your dreams or social media campaign for a fortune 500 company in the future. If you speak ill of someone, especially online, it has an infinite shelf life. If you promise something, deliver. Or communicate as to why you can’t or have to modify. Don’t allow a misstep to dictate your work or lack thereof in the future.
What is a tip I’ve not shared that has worked well for you in forming a solid professional relationship?
Suggestions for additional reading:
Mom Spark article about poor pitches