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Lifestyle bloggers & PRs: Guidelines for working together

I've heard a few bloggers discuss their experiences with PRs lately, and thought this would make a good post where I share my own thoughts and guidelines.
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To be clear, it’s not a bloggers VS PRs post (we can’t be competitors when we’re playing different sports!). Rather, it’s simply how I think we can best work together.

The thing is, the whole blogger-PR relationship is still relatively new. Bloggers who haven’t had media experience are contacting publicists who deal with some of the most-experienced media professionals around. Publicists who are still getting the hang of this whole “blogging thing” aren’t sure which blogger to work with and why. And that’s fair enough, right? After all, their job is to get the best, most-valuable exposure for their clients.

My thoughts? Patience, respect and understanding is the best approach for both parties.

So, these are the guidelines I follow, and the way that I feel I deserve to be treated as a blogger. Remember, this isn’t a post on bloggers VS PRs (I have some wonderful friends who work in PR). It’s how we can work together as one big happy family.

My guidelines for bloggers…

  • Take the time to properly introduce yourself to a PR agency. Provide information about yourself, your blog, and your contact details.
  • Before requesting samples, simply ask that you’re included on any blogger/media databases. Show genuine interest in their agency and brands.
  • Learn the traffic lingo and take the time to explain your unique visitors, page views, subscribers and more. “Hits” and “followers” are ambiguous words.
  • Politely respond to PR e-mails in a timely fashion, even if the pitch or request isn’t suitable.
  • Always RSVP to event invites, even if you can’t make them.
  • Review requested product samples in a timely manner. Give the publicist a time frame in which to expect to see coverage.
  • If you decide against reviewing a product you requested a sample of, return it to the publicist in the same condition provided.
  • Share the reviews with the publicist. A quick e-mail is all it takes. It makes their job easier, and puts you in a good light!
  • Never feel pressured to write a positive review.
  • Never feel pressured to take down a negative review.
  • Think carefully about the wording of negative reviews. Yes, your honest opinion is allowed (so long as it’s not defamatory), and your readers will appreciate your truthfulness. However, there are negative reviews and there are scathing reviews. Before hitting publish, ask yourself: How do you want your readers to view you? Do you hope to work with that publicist or agency again? Think of this as an opportunity to really work on your writing skills. How can you get your opinion accross in a professional manner while still letting your blogger personality shine through?
  • Acknowledge there are limited samples and event opportunities. Not all bloggers can be recipients of all goodies. Work hard and you’ll get your turn.
  • If you get turned down on your request for a product or invite, turn the situation around. Look at other options or angles and enjoy learning from the challenge!
  • Always treat the publicist with respect – even if they’ve done something that makes you think they don’t deserve it. A tell-all on blogger forums isn’t needed.
  • Remember: You’re not Anna Wintour. ;)

My guidelines for PRs…

  • Set a standard for bloggers you’re providing samples to. If requesting analytics figures, make sure all bloggers provide stats from the same analytics tool (e.g.: Google Analytics) to make it a level playing field. Comparing stats from one analytics tool with another is like comparing apples with oranges.
  • Provide a blogger-outreach document or page on your website. Explain what you’re looking for when working with bloggers, so the guidelines are clear from the get-go.
  • Learn the traffic lingo. “Hits” and “followers” are ambiguous words.
  • Spend a moment reading a blogger’s blog before contacting them. Learn what their blog is about, and see what kind of pitches would suite their niche.
  • Learn a blogger’s name and use it. “Dear Blogger…” does not a good relationship make!
  • Is your pitch really a pitch? Sending a press release to a blogger telling them that they should encourage their readers to “Like” your client’s Facebook page (and describing it as an “awesome” opportunity) really isn’t press-release worthy. Or an opportunity. Or awesome.
  • Treat bloggers as you’d like to be treated: with respect.
  • If you want a product (that a blogger didn’t request) returned, this should come at your expense of postage or courier.
  • Keep in mind: You never know which blogger is about to make it big time. All it takes is one good link from a big site!
  • Thank the blogger for any coverage. A thank-you e-mail can be sent in under 30 seconds.
  • Reconsider requesting a blogger’s negative review be taken down. You can’t do that with print or TV media, can you? If you’re disappointed about the angle of the review, contact the blogger and see what you can do to keep the relationship on a happy level. Perhaps the sample you provided was simply a bad match? Perhaps the press release was promising outcomes the product didn’t deliver on?
  • Remember: You’re not Anna Wintour’s publicist. ;)

Is there anything else you think belongs with the guidelines? Whether you’re a blogger or a PR, you’re welcome to throw in your tres pollie $0.02c :)

30 Responses to Lifestyle bloggers & PRs: Guidelines for working together

  1. Another Blog Stylist gem! I wrote two posts about this topic earlier in the year because I think there’s a lot of education needed on both sides.

    I was lucky that I came from the traditional side of media and bought a lot of contacts with me.

    The biggest step now for PRs is to work with key bloggers and the clients they represent to create sponsorships and ambassadorships that help link those brands to the massive word-of-mouth audience in the online world.

    A handful of PRs are already pioneering this in Australia, which is great because bloggers (unlike journalists) do not receive a wage from their writing. The US model shows that that is possible and Australian brands are starting to make in-roads with that model.
    Nikki @ Styling You recently posted…Summer relaxed style on a budget. (Yes, it is possible.)My Profile

    • The Blog Stylist says:

      Thank you Nikki! Yes, it would be lovely to see the US model travel across the pacific faster, but it’s nice to see the changes and acceptance of bloggers grow!

  2. Renee Creer says:

    Great post – all excellent points. What I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is your first PR point on how PRs (and brands) need to set a standard. However this should not just focus on ranking or evaluating bloggers, it should include how you will provide product and offer experiences. This becomes very important when you’re dealing with high cost products. You need to know what you’re prepared to offer and do before the situation arises. Cheers, Renee

  3. Great post Bree. It is about being clear on expectations and being polite and professional. It makes such a difference and helps build real working relationships.

    I had no idea what to do when it came to PRs and brands when I started blogging, and I’m still working it out now.

    I would love to see more bloggers working with brands and creating a sustainable living from the blogs.
    Christina @ Hair Romance recently posted…Ten of the craziest hairstyles from NYFW runwaysMy Profile

    • The Blog Stylist says:

      Cheers Christina! I can’t imagine what it must be like for a blogger to contact PRs without prior experience in doing so! Daunting I guess? Hopefully my post will make it a li’l easier :)

  4. Veggie Mama says:

    Excellent post with some incredibly handy tips for both sides! I’ve seen a lot of coverage on this at the moment, but I’ll be bookmarking this one. As someone who is only just starting to think about maybe moving in this direction (having a baby is insane! I seem to be emerging from the fog now, haha) it’s interesting to see that there is real opportunity for a traditional journalist like me to put my knowledge of old media to good use with the new. It’s a fascinating time to be a blogger. Thanks for sharing!
    Veggie Mama recently posted…Sweetcorn risotto with haloumiMy Profile

    • The Blog Stylist says:

      So true, Veggie Mama! Almost daily I am hearing of more and more opportunities opening up for bloggers: samples, events, sponsorships and trips. Pretty sure exciting blogger times are full-steam ahead!

  5. Caitlin says:

    AWESOME post as always love. As a former fashion and lifestyle PR – turned blogger, I couldn’t agree more with everything you have said. One more thing is to remember that PRs are there to provide information on a brand (and garner it free publicity), generally they are NOT the marketing department and cannot make decisions on sponsorship, advertising or
    sponsored posts, don’t get mad at them because they can’t pay you.

    Remember, everyone is on the same side, and we are all just trying to do a job and talk about something we love ( bloggers and PRs alike)

    • The Blog Stylist says:

      Thanks Cait! Great to get the feedback from another PR too. And that’s so true – PRs aren’t marketing departments. An excellent point!

  6. Love this article Bree, especially as I sit on both sides of the fence – my day job is in PR (in travel/ tourism) and as you know, my other love is my blog.

    In my day job, I must say we are definitely still navigating the waters when it comes to approaching bloggers and working with them on generating exposure that is mutually beneficial. The biggest challenge across the industry seems to be “valuing” the exposure (as we’d do with traditional media) which is another kettle of fish entirely!

    Love Cait’s point about the distinction between PR’s and those in marketing too, so very true and something that still comes up a bit. Thanks for a fantastic and very useful article, great insights in the comments as well. Rach xx

    • The Blog Stylist says:

      Thank you Rachel – I’m so grateful for the PR feedback on this post, you’ve all mentioned some really good points!

  7. Great post Bree. And great to see you commenting Renee, since I think your team are one of the best PRs out there in terms of blogger outreach. I love that you always provide your blogger outreach guidelines with every pitch.

    I think that quite often bloggers are seen as the poor mans media (this is purely my opinion, having been a blogger for 4 year) but the tide is turning as bloggers gain more traction. That said, for bloggers to be taken seriously they need to behave seriously. For someone who has never worked in media or dealt with PRs, I can imagine contacting a PR for the first time would be incredibly nerve-wracking, and I have heard so many horror stories from my PR friends about bloggers who email saying ‘I write a hugely popular blog, send me freebies’. Sorry, but you’re making it hard not just for yourself but for all of us.

    At the same time, if PRs want coverage on my blog that I work hard on, please treat me with a bit of respect. A generic group email about your product won’t get you coverage. Knowing that you sent the same sample to 25 other bloggers won’t get you coverage either – I don’t want to have the same content as everyone else. I might not be Cosmopolitan or Marie Claire, but I’m not desperate!

    [Plug] I have been working as a consultant to beauty brands on blogging and I’m happy to talk to brands who have questions – who better to talk to about bloggers than a real life blogger!
    Elise @ Stuff That I Bought recently posted…Revlon are actually pretty good. Who knew?!My Profile

  8. Thanks Bree – love this. Very useful for us that are really ‘feeling’ our way through the world of blogging and trying to get the best exposure. I appreciate every word of this!

  9. I think one of the hardest things for bloggers not coming themselves from a media or PR background is that they don’t have a senior staff member to walk them through all the things like this, train them up on the correct etiquette and terminology, or to introduce them to the correct contacts etc..

    They also might not have developed the tough skin that anyone working in media needs, and it can be very easy to take things to heart when you first get turned down (unlike us old bats who’ve been turned down 100 times, and barely remember sending the request in the first place…).

    I think Ms Bree you (and THS) are like that lovely senior staff member, now if only you could manage all the intro email for us…. ;)

  10. Hi Bree,
    Great post! I have a media background as well so luckily, I’ve been able to keep a lot of my contacts and stay on media lists for magazines and websites I freelance for. As far as making new contacts that’s purely for the blog and not a magazine story however, I have encountered some of the barriers a lot of others comment on, and I’m in the states. I think this will change over time but I think it’s important to remember that when approaching a new PR contact, whether you’re a magazine editor or a blogger you always have to introduce yourself and your publication to them. Why should they care? What is your media outlet about? Are you doing a review, a trend piece? And of course, sending a quick thank you email and link to the story once it’s live (as you mentioned) always helps.

    I’d also recommend that whenever possible, try and get some face time to forge good relationships. Whether it’s introducing yourself at an even they’ve invited you to or scheduling a quick coffee to learn about what clients they represent, face time never hurts and will keep you top-of-mind.
    M @StyleSizzle recently posted…Designers for Target: Good idea or bad idea?My Profile

    • Bree says:

      That’s an excellent tip re: inviting the PR to coffee! They do this for so many journalists and media professionals – I think if I was a PR, I’d thoroughly enjoy having the tables turned for once!

  11. time4beauty says:

    I’ve had a great experience with on brand. It was hard to get in touch at the beginning, but later they were so nice providing nit just samples but a detailed guidance and overview of their products, answered million of my (let’s admit, sometimes stupud questions), never pushed me about publication dates, manner in which I do my reviews. It is always a great time. And even when I didn’t liked some products and posted about it they still remained nice and asked as you adviced – what can be do to be better next time.

    Actuatually I haven’t buy alot from the brand before, but the PR people who contacted me are so enspiring, so exited with their products that I did start buying more, looking for new launches myself.

    Unfortunately I have both contrary experince when the brand I loved treated my badly. And it’s not about samples, but about breaking their promises, ignoring and so on, while officialy stayin “polite”, that I just stop buying from them, though I did it a lot before. I always have this feeling that I was bad treated when I come to their counter.
    time4beauty recently posted…Неделя Бюджетных Покупок: Sephora Nano Lip Liner – #20 Real RedMy Profile

  12. time4beauty says:

    And by the way – the tips are really great. I wish I ken at least a half of them when I was writing my first email to PR. And even now it’s such a stress sometimes that I’d rather spend some budget on the product than write an email. Still things are changing, bloggers mind is changing, PR’s mind is changing and I’m happy to see this.
    time4beauty recently posted…Неделя Бюджетных Покупок: Sephora Nano Lip Liner – #20 Real RedMy Profile

  13. [...] Я бы не отказалась от парочки. TheBlogStylist пишет про отношения блогер vs. PR. Я стараюсь избегать этих тем в своем блоге, т.к. от них [...]

  14. Amber says:

    OH how I love you for this! These are all the things I’ve wanted to say about the sensitivity (and importance) of blogger and PR relationships, but could never find the right way to express it.
    Amber recently posted…The Lipstick League — week of 1.2.12My Profile

  15. I just came across your site today and love it. I work full-time in PR and have a personal blog as well, so I really appreciate this article from both sides!

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