A Possible Model for Blogging and PR Campaigns

Bloggers and PR people are caught between the proverbial financial rock and the ethical hard place.

Whether or not this is the case, paying and accepting money for reviews on a blog are seen as damagingly prejudicial or, worse yet, a potential legal liability.

And yet, many talented bloggers spend hours establishing, building, and maintaining their blogs. They have integrity and care about the blogging community and their focus topics–but they also aren’t just giving away their hard work for free.

We offer clearly marked, paid advertisements, but companies want the editorial reviews. And if they can get the editorial milk for free, why pay for the banner ad cow?

For many smaller companies, they are simply interested in sending a product for review and that is a completely acceptable deal. You pitch, the blogger accepts, and they either review or get back to you if there is a concern.

In this post, I’m talking primarily about larger corporations that are seeking a wider campaign.

First, let’s start by being honest. Some bloggers are just in it for a quick few bucks, some companies just want the in context links, and some PR people just want to be able to fill in that their campaign reached x number of glazed over eyeballs.

Fine.

If this is you, just skip the rest. Continue on as you were.

For those of us who care about genuine word of mouth campaigns, let’s consider how to move forward.

Instead of sending a press release to thousands of bloggers, regardless of their quality or relevance (I’ve received some, uh….ummm…”adult themed” press releases for my parenting product review blog), try something different.

  1. Research the right blogs that are a fit for your campaign.
  2. Invited a select number of quality, relevant blogs to join your campaign.
  3. Demonstrate your respect and appreciation for the expertise they bring to your campaign.
  4. Provide something of value to them and their readers.
  5. Ask them to share with their readers as appropriate.

Lee Fit Ambassadors is a great example of this type of campaign. Lee selected 25 Fit Ambassadors, including myself and my co-editor at Mamanista, who write about topics relevant to the type of affordable fashion Lee represents. The Fit Ambassadors will have the opportunity to test out various new Lee products throughout the year. In return, they request you share your thoughts on a couple of the products with your readers. They also offer you a number of giveaway pairs to distribute to the bloggers’ readers.

PR people can also use social bookmarking and corporate blogs to share posts, offer bloggers opportunities to guest post, hire bloggers as consultants, identify expertise and invite these expert bloggers to participate in your communities as such, and invest in the blogging community by sponsoring events.

How can you trust that these bloggers will take the time to give you valuable feedback and share with their readers as relevant? Well, you DID do your research right? You chose quality and consistency over page rank and numbers? You showed an interest in the bloggers’ work?

Choose the right bloggers for your campaign, recognize their expertise, value their time, and engage their audience and you will have a great return on investment in your word of mouth campaign.

And if you want a tightly controlled message delivered on your schedule…then buy an advertisement.

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2 comments

  1. I have to disagree with you, here.

    I don’t think editorial coverage should ever be influenced by offers from any company, whether represented by a PR firm or not.

    PR reps may give away products or services to familiarize others with such products or services, but gifts should never obligate coverage and coverage shouldn’t come solely as a result gifts.
    If so, then your content would be advertising driven. And then it should be a blog of advertising.

    Content should come from a genuine interest.
    I recognize that blogging is still new territory, but it is at least a cousin of journalism.
    And journalism ethics requires that coverage is not contingent on payment or services.
    I studied journalism, where ethical coverage was hammered into me. And I worked professionally in PR, where I did research my pitches and gave very little to reporters except honesty and a good story when I knew I had one.
    I love reading blogs and getting real opinions on things and fantastic ideas.
    But if it all becomes driven by gifts and business deals, then how will I know if the review my blogger is giving me isn’t biased? How will I be able to trust?

  2. Amy–Allow me to clarify. It should never be a quid pro quo. There should be no strings attached.

    When I say “offer something of value” that does not mean cash or expensive product. It means don’t waste people’s valuable time with spammed-out press releases of no relevance to their blog. It means build a relationship.

    I thought that was clear but I guess it wasn’t.

    We are not disagreeing.

    As to journalism…remember journalists are paid. While there are several layers between them and the revenue generation, I, too have studied journalism and know that revenue concerns DO influence content in many ways, even if it is subltle and unintentional.

    At any rate, journalists ARE paid…so how do bloggers ensure their time/effort/skill/expertise are all valued?