How to work with bloggers

A lot has been said about how bloggers should work with brands, but I don't think there's a guide on how brands should work with bloggers. I've been blogging for eight years now; I've been handling the social media marketing and PR of fashion retail (as well as, recently, food) brands for about three of those years. I thought I'd talk about what I've learned during that time. :)

But why now? Last night I received an email from what sounds like a very expensive skincare brand. The person promised me about P26,000 worth of products and services in exchange for a positive review. Oh, dear. Wrong move. First, I don't care how expensive your product is because that's not the main reason I would agree to review it. Second, I don't guarantee positive reviews (or a review at all, for that matter).

Now I sound like an asshole, but let me explain! If you're a brand looking to successfully work with influential bloggers, you have to understand what motivates them. It can't be denied that some bloggers are just looking for an easy freebie or a free meal. They don't care about their blogs and by extension who reads them, but they do care about what they get out of the gig, short-term. I don't advise that you work with them because you will not get the kind of exposure your brand deserves.

There are bloggers who do it for money. Hey, if it's a fairly popular blog then you can be sure that the blogger has invested a lot of time, money, and effort in it! The blogger has every right to ask for compensation to feature your product or advertise your site - and you have every right to say no. It's up to you to determine the value you can get for that kind of partnership. Is he/she influential to your target market? Is the content good? How's the site traffic doing? You have to study that before agreeing to pay the blogger's rates. This transaction is fairly straightforward.

And then there are bloggers who do it simply because they love it. They don't ask for any compensation and willingly feature products they love - with or without swag from you. They pour in hours of their time blogging, going to events, and for what? Because it's fun. But that doesn't mean they don't know what they're worth. If anything, you have to be more careful about how you approach them, because bloggers like this don't need anything from you whereas you need something from them. (Although they also accept ads and sponsored content from the right brand).

These are bloggers I love working with the most. They are more honest and have a loyal reader base! So, here are a few simple tips on how to work with passionate bloggers. :)

1. Do your research before approaching the blogger. Read the blog. Is she someone you want writing about you? Will she appreciate your products based on what's posted on her blog? Get to know the person behind the website so you can see how you can best work together (if at all). Stick to the right niche and don't waste anyone's time and inbox space. Have to mention this: I personally dislike it when brands send unsolicited emails with more than 2MB worth of files, ugh.

For example, don't approach a beauty blogger about a beer campaign. Don't contact a food blogger about reusable baby diapers. Yes some bloggers have more than one niche, but you get the drift!

2. Prepare your press release and set up your social media accounts. You have to "sell" your brand to the blogger, that is, convince her that you're worth a feature. Make sure all the information you can provide is available to the press and the bloggers. Write kickass copy and have a professional take your product photos.

3. Be as generous as possible. Not because bloggers are greedy and entitled, but because this is the best way for you to showcase your products. Give them as much as you can so they can sample what you have and get a better grasp of what your brand is about. 

This is also a nice way to build a long-term relationship with them. You don't want just one blog post about you. You want as many as possible. So send them something new regularly and offer to host their giveaways.

4. Don't expect a positive review or even a blog post in exchange for the stuff you gave. Remember that their blogs are just for fun, and they write when they have free time. You are essentially asking them a favor to spend a few hours of their lives to try your products, photograph them, and write about the experience. You are not the only one asking for this (unpaid) consideration.

Most bloggers eventually feature what they get as they do appreciate your effort of reaching out to them. But be patient, don't bug them over email/mobile, and stay classy.

If they don't write about you then let it be and chalk it up to experience. Your product might simply not be a good fit with the blogger. If you can, ask politely why there was no post and use that feedback to further improve your brand. It's better for her/him to not write about you versus posting a negative review.

If you get a negative review, do not take it personally (it isn't). Do not mouth off in public. Bloggers who review products need to be honest, because that's the spirit of the medium. If you only want good words about your brand, go to the first two types of bloggers I mentioned above. :) They will accommodate you.

5. If you don't know how to do all this, hire someone who does. Don't know the right bloggers to approach? Don't know what fair rates are? Don't know how to make a media kit? Get an agency or a consultant with experience and save yourself some grief.

And that's it really. Whew, that took the wind out of me! If you own or represent a brand too, would love to hear any insight on this!