Brands and Bloggers:

The three things to consider when planning blogger outreach

Claire Wood, Associate Planner at The Leith Agency, on what brands should think about when partnering with bloggers.

I write a blog. It has one follower. (Not that I have an issue with that.) So I should declare a vested interest in the topic of how brand or campaign owners can make use of blogs to reach an audience in a way that can be more credible than communications from the brand direct.

I experienced this first hand a couple of years ago when our sister PR firm, Stripe organised a launch event for a Scottish Government campaign encouraging parents to think about the impact that their behaviour, when they were driving, would have on their kids. They invited bloggers who wrote about family life along to the event and received a bunch of really positive coverage on the back of it. So I was curious to see how things had moved on. If at all.

The most obvious change. Film. All over the place. You’ll know all about vloggers. And I’m bursting to go and see Jamal Edwards at this IPA event later this summer. So now, you’re likely as not to get bloggers who write a bit and film themselves. Hybrids.

Fashion and luxury goods still seem to be bloggers’ favourite bedfellows. Make up brands, clothing labels, jewellery, watches. Now department stores are in on the act. Pretty things have sold this way for all time. I can’t profess to have spent a lot of time in this world but the professionalism of a lot of this content is disconcertingly impressive. Or just disconcerting.

Many of these type of posts engender lively discussion. Though it’s hard to tell how much of this is inspired by genuine admiration and how much is optimistic flaunting. Look at the number of comments that include a URL in response to Essie’s film about her latest spring / summer haul. (And does her hat look weird?)

And there are slicker versions of this sort of stuff. This lass obviously means business. Alongside being incredibly successful, she sits on the British Fashion Council’s Blogger Advisory Panel so she must have some care for ethics. No wonder when this sort of short or long form product placement is such enormous business. Business Insider estimates that tween vlogger, Bethany Mota earnes over $40,000 a month from her videos alone, and Zoella’s debut book, Girl Online, sold 78,000 copies in its first week, becoming the fastest ever selling novel (despite being ghost-written).

Image: Penguin

Case studies outwith the fashion sector are harder to come by. The Harlem Globe Trotters used blogger outreach to great effect when they were touring North America in 2013. Dylan Richter, their Digital Marketing Manager, ultimately managed to contact over 300 family-orientated bloggers and estimates an ROI of 10:1 for the coverage this generated.

Easier, obviously, when you have an event that’s likely to inspire interest. Or a product that serves a purpose. What I like so much about this post is it feels like Kacia is really trying to write something her readers will enjoy — as opposed to just selling something. She’s invested a lot of effort in this. I like Method already. A great deal. But this showcases their cleansing properties as much as the environmental credentials.

Where blogger outreach really comes into its own is when the ask is big. And proof of the point of the request is crucial to persuade people to make the effort.

Change 4 Life partnered with mumsnet to reach mums with kids who also wrote blogs and invite them to take a challenge: to reduce the sugar in their family’s diet substantially over a two week period. No mean feat for anyone but especially tough when you have sulky kids sat around the table.

But this sort of evaluation is far more convincing to my mind than this. But then I love cake so maybe I’m harder to persuade than most.

The Next Web have written a fun post about the six do’s and don’ts of (effective) blogger outreach. (“Avoid starting an email with Dear Sir Or Madam…” Well said.)

For me, there are three simple rules if you’re thinking about involving bloggers in getting your campaign message out and about:

1. Check they’re interested

My blog’s about theatre. If a theatre company invites me to an exclusive preview event, I’m there. (Thanks, NTS, for all the times you have.) If the Harlem Globetrotters got in touch, I’d have to say thanks but no thanks. I’m even worse at writing about sport.

2. Accept they might not like “it”

We’re into PR land here. If you ask them what they think, assuming they’re an individual with their own mind, they might be frank and it might not be pretty. ‘Be careful what you wish for’ stuff.

3. Make sure you have a purpose

Change 4 Life wanted to show that reducing the sugar in your family’s diet was easier than you might think. Method wanted to show that they were clean, pretty and good for the world. What’s your purpose? And why might that audience be interested? Can they buy the thing / make the change you’re asking them to? And if the answer’s yes, fire on.

May the best blogger outreach programme win.