From Pear Analytics Article

Open Letter to Bloggers and PR Professionals

I love marketing and promotions. I probably should have had a career in Public Relations. I did take a few courses on top of my Communications minor but then got distracted by children and social media exploded and that was even more distracted, so here I am.

Where am I? Oh yes.  I love marketing and I love marketing concepts used in social media.  One of those concepts consist of using bloggers for outreach.  I am a personal or “lifestyle” blogger too and therefore am on a LOT of mailing lists when it comes to the various PR firms out there.   This means I get a variety of pitches…personal and directed at my blog, general blog outreach and say it and spray it press releases.

I find all to be useful even the ‘dear blogger’ one’s AND the say it and spray it releases. Many bloggers don’t and get a little miffed if the release is not directed at them directly.  This, in my opinion is foolish.   The general press releases are just that…..information to you and all the other media that they are trying to  reach.  They are not trying to piss off  bloggers.   They are not trying to lure you into doing free work….it is just that: Information that might be of use to you and your site.  Nothing more and nothing less.   In fact,  I have use these general releases to contact the PR firms and collaborate on a more personal campaign when the event/service/product was a good fit for my site.   PR firms LOVE bloggers who come to them with big ideas.

Which leads me to the main point of this post.  As a blogger I am in a lot of groups and forums that consist of brand friendly bloggers.  I am part of the Digitally Yours team where one of our main goals is to create an even playing field for brand/blogger relations.    Brands and bloggers can do amazing outreach together  and there are some amazing PR professionals out there and brands who trust them who have wowed bloggers and there are the outreach campaigns that seem to just piss of the bloggers.

The anger seems to rise mostly when a blogger feels ‘used.’  This feeling comes when they feel they are being asked too much for “free.”  Free is a weird word when it comes to bloggers and blogging as most are happy to have service, events or products as payment.  But many of the top review/brand bloggers only work for dollars and this is where PR and bloggers tend to get into hot water.  But it is still a very fluid word and its definition changes depending on the blogger you talk to.

When I am on blogger forums I seem to spend a lot of time explaining what a PR firm actually is and what they are supposed to do for a brand versus an inhouse marketing team for example.  PR companies work in the “Earned Media” world.  Earned Media is where the customer or blogger becomes the marketing and word of moth channel for the brand.  This includes word of mouth (social media channels), reviews and viral content.     This is why you get a general press release in your inbox.  It is not to piss you off…it is a general announcement going out to their media list.    PR  does not generally pay for promotion.  That would fall under marketing or advertising or “Paid Media.” PR firms would rather create awareness campaigns that a blogger can be a part of….this leads to much more impartial marketing for the brand.   

The biggest thing PR agencies have to remember is that a blogger is not a professional media business or journalist (mostly) and that when approaching a blogger, probably a brief explanation about what YOUR place is in the grand scheme of marketing for the brand is and why you want to work with that blogger.   A lot of the forums I frequent are filled with bloggers trying to decipher what the PR person is trying to get them to do and if they are being ripped off or not.      I think if the PR firms could take a moment to show WHY they value that blogger – for their site or their social media channels and then be happy to negotiate a bit (some $ are nice), then bloggers would be understanding of what part of the great marketing machine that they are now part of.  Conversely I think any blogger that is keen on working with brands for product or monetization needs to take some time and do their research about social media marketing   Find out what a PR firm does and why a brand hires them.   Find out where and why YOU as a blogger might be important to a brand or agency and then create your niche….make yourself a marketable commodity and in demand.

Knowledge is power.

From Pear Analytics Article


11 thoughts on “Open Letter to Bloggers and PR Professionals

  1. Great post Kerry. It’s good for both marketers and bloggers to remember that blogs are not necessarily staffed by professionals trained in media and media business models. Many bloggers run their sites for passion; they aren’t making huge dollars from their work. As a result, what seems like a standard request to a PR firm can easily feel like overstepping in the bloggers’ world, and sometimes is.

    On the flip side, blogging is so powerful because of it’s authenticity. We all need to be mindful of how we are compensated for brand-sponsored posts and promotions, and be careful to protect our integrity and the authenticity of our voice. It’s not an easy thing to do; many a magazine has compromised editorial integrity when faced with advertiser pressure.

  2. Kerry, as the co-content editor (with Heather Yaxley) of the PR Conversations (not-for-profit, global collective) blog, I feel your pain about untargeted news releases. I’m Canadian and Heather is based in the UK, yet we continually receive really bad pitches, primarily about consumer products and services from American agencies, who obviously haven’t done their research about what we write about…

    —which brings me to my second point: What you are classifying as “public relations” is actually marketing communications or brand publicity, primarily as “pitches” to traditional/mainstream media, and now to “social” media writers.

    For me public relations is about organizational “reputation, value and relationship building.” And it is most definitely NOT a small corner under The Big Marketing Tent. Done properly (including the support of senior leadership) the focus, intent and outcomes of public relations is a very different animal from simply promoting and helping to “sell” stuff.

  3. P.S. Here is the definition that the Canadian Public Relations Society (since 2009)

    “Public relations is the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communications, to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals, and serve the public interest.” – Flynn, Gregory, Valin

    You can find more about it via the much-read and commented upon (guest) post by Terry Flynn on PR Conversations:
    A defining moment for public relations

    1. Hi Judy…
      I was ‘defining’ it as PR because as a blogger that is who I see given the task of outreach to bloggers. The scope of the outreach done by the majority of PR folks has been narrow and imo not fully utilizing the power of “reputation” media or 3rd party endorsements.

      While I totally agree that it is hard to deal with bloggers as they are all so different and there is no cookie cutter approach that can be used over and over……the key is working WITH the strengths of that blogger and bringing them into the strategic ‘awareness’ plan that is being utilized for that brand or product campaign.

      I stress that bloggers who want to work with brands and agencies need to learn the biz and the lingo too so that they can see beyond the free stuff.

      I am not against PR in anyway and love the people in the business that I have met…but I continually see the same issues NOT being solved when it comes to outreach and how to connect with bloggers in a way that will give their clients more bang for their bucks.

      Does that make sense?

      1. If you had called this post:

        An Open Letter to Bloggers and MARKETING Professionals

        I think it would have made perfect sense, particularly as almost all of your concerns relate to (contracted) marcom agencies–even if they put “public relations” in the firm’s name, the vast majority focus on marketing communications (not things such as issues and reputation management, crisis communications, internal/employee communications, government relations, community outreach, etc, all of which tend to forum a huge part of the remit or bailiwick of the in-house PUBLIC RELATIONS staff).

        I think that’s a huge part of the general public’s misconceptions about what constitutes “public relations”–as I wrote for PRSA’s (PRSay) blog in January 2013:

        The PR vs. marketing debate

        In the Public Relations and Communications Professionals LinkedIn Group (with almost 98,000 members), a discussion arose on “whether PR should be under the marketing umbrella.” The vast majority of global participants registered an unequivocal “no,” with articulate arguments for the ideal focus and reporting structure for PR.

        Is this a trend for 2013—an educated pushback on marketing’s encroachment? As one participant stated, “Also bear in mind THAT CONSULTANCY PR IS A MILLION MILES AWAY FROM IN-HOUSE WORK.”

        1. Perhaps I need to be clearer then..the majority of outreach to bloggers right now is not in-house but agencies hired by brands. That is who I am in contact with and who most of my compatriots are in contact with too. Hence my posts angle. A lot of us think that it should be the brands in house marketing doing the outreach and NOT PR…perhaps we agree on that…

          1. my thing is a little different.

            there is a huge difference between “traditional” media marketing and social media marketing.

            in my opinion companies which deal in both should generally separate them into two entirely separate budgets (and depending on the size of the company two separate staffs)

            the one real issue I find a lot is that those who deal primarily with traditional media often have very little understanding of what a blog is and why it is used or how.

            there are exceptions of course as there always is.

            that said, the vast majority of my contact is actually directly to the PR contact identified in press releases or whatever direct contact I can establish.

            while some deal directly with PR mostly, I actually find I tend to deal inhouse more often then not.

  4. “I love marketing and promotions. I probably should have had a career in Public Relations” << actually you should probably had a career in either marketing or promotions, not PR. This is part of the problem with the whole communications industry today – the majority of people working in it don't understand the difference. Is it any wonder that non-comms people don't either?

    Public relations is about building relationships; marketing is about getting publics to take action on your behalf [because they want to] and publicity is about awareness [spray and pray].

    "PR firms LOVE bloggers who come to them with big ideas." Of course they do – they're being paid to come up with the big ideas and if somebody else does it then they still get paid!

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