Blogging & PR Relationships

Stephanie Precourt blogs daily at Adventures In Babywearing. She is also the Managing Editor at 5 Minutes for Parenting. Please welcome Stephanie as she touches on the fragile PR/blogger relationship. This one is sure to encourage comments!

Ah, the blogger/PR relationship. It can be a touchy subject these days. Just as no two bloggers are alike, not everyone agrees with how reviews and advertising on blogs should be done. Mommy Bloggers are a target market. Possibly one of the biggest. Because when someone in our online entourage says something, we listen. And that has more power than any magazine or commercial you’re going to fast forward during TV tonight.

How do you want your voice to be heard? How do you want to be approached about product reviews?

You first must understand that what you have to say is worth something. To each other, as friends, we share freely. But when companies want to cash in on this “something special” that we all have, we have to wise up. The idea of a free box of cereal bars or bathtub cleaner might excite you for a while, but is it really worth posting about on your blog- where your deepest thoughts and rants and raves make their home? Decide if that is the feel you want for your blog, and- if this is something important to you- determine how it might affect your readership as well. And then, how much is it really worth to you?

I feel the best way to maintain the feel of your blog as well as your integrity is to be mindful of what you agree to review or put in your sidebar. It should accurately represent you and your blog. One of my personal guidelines is that the products or advertisements must be something I honestly would consider buying or recommending in real life.

Understand that although you might be getting a free product or payment of some form, you are also doing a favor for that company. Recently I had an encounter with a business owner who was less than respectful to me about featuring her product. The entire time we spoke- in person!- she kept implying that she was doing me a favor by allowing me to review her product. Truthfully, most often we are not going to earn what is really worth our time to try out a product, form an opinion, and then type up a blog post. The belittling nature of this person toward me was enough to make me not want to even consider her product. But at the same time, it also reminded me that she was probably not familiar with just how to successfully work with and understand bloggers quite yet. And also, just as my blog is my product and important to me, she most likely felt the same way about hers.

This brings us to another issue: respect. You will see many heated blog posts all around the blogosphere bashing the PR folks and their unprofessional pitch emails and/or behavior toward Mommy Bloggers.

One thing I definitely think is so very important: just as we demand respect as Mommy Bloggers, we must also show equal respect to the people marketing us. Many times they are Moms just like you- and possibly unfamiliar with the blog world and how it all works. They make plenty of mistakes, too. I’ve received many an email pitch addressed to the wrong name or “insert blog name here.” It’s up to you how you’d like to handle such situations. I often choose to use the power of my voice to positively guide and direct the person so that they can have a better understanding of how to reach me.

Don’t be afraid to ask for more. Ask for an additional product to giveaway, or turn it into ad revenue by offering ad space in your sidebar. And don’t be afraid to say No. If it’s just not something you are interested in or worth it in the long run, then let them know. I’ve been contacted about products that clearly weren’t consistent with who I am and what my blog is about, so I’ve let the PR person know. Often this is a wonderful way to inform them about just what you would be interested in reviewing. So next time they will have something more “you” to offer.

Some bloggers want to be contacted and pitched to, but don’t know where to start. I encourage you to check out marketing programs geared toward Mom Bloggers such as Mom Select. Be bold and contact companies directly that you’d like to work with. Most company websites have a contact page where you can easily let them know your interest in working with them. Be prepared to provide traffic statistics and how many readers you have. If you are interested in putting advertising on your blog, consider groups such as Blogher Ads or Google Adsense, both of which do not discriminate how big or small your blog may be.

Remember that cultivating the blogger/PR relationship can be a wonderful thing for both sides. A mutually appreciated partnership can go a very long way. It has taken me to Disney World and, later this week, all the way to Blogher in San Francisco. If you are pleasant to work with and value yourself, you never know where future ideas and opportunities might take you… which can lead to just about anywhere these days in the blog world.

10 Responses

  1. Janice (5 Minutes for Mom) July 15, 2008 / 12:48 am

    Great insights Steph – I totally agree with you. Respect is so important in all relationships on this planet – isn’t it? From children, to spouses, to PR reps, respect is the way to go. :)

  2. Jennae @ Green Your Decor July 15, 2008 / 5:29 am

    Very, very helpful post. I have had some contact from PR reps, but most were form letters or related to products or services that were irrelevant to my blog. I signed up for Mom Select, and appreciate your tips.

  3. DesignHER Momma July 15, 2008 / 7:01 am

    great article. I think reviewing and working with PR companies can really be a “win-win” situation if done properly.

    Us moms do love getting “free” product, but is it really “free”? I feel my time and energy to review and then provide a thoughtful response in a post is exactly free time.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love reviewing product, I just love being respected for it.

  4. Kim @ What's That Smell? July 15, 2008 / 7:45 am

    Thanks for the great article.

    I have trouble seeing the perspective that I am helping them too, so this definitely helped.

  5. dolly July 15, 2008 / 8:40 am

    great post, stephanie. there’s definitely a wide range of expectations from PR reps toward bloggers. like you, i try to be very discriminating about which products i choose to review, and to provide an honest review (areas for improvement, and reasons why i do love something). if i wouldn’t use it, think it’s unnecessary or possibly harmful for my son or me, then i kindly decline.

    i’d love to hear about how you built up a relationship with various companies to earn trips! now, that’d be a great follow-up post!

  6. Ashleigh (Heart and Home) July 15, 2008 / 10:40 am

    Great tips, Steph! I’m just starting to get PR contacts, and have been feeling a little lost!

  7. To Think Is To Create July 15, 2008 / 1:21 pm

    Great post! I think it’s important for those of us that are dipping a toe into this whole PR world, to always remember our “brand” when accepting any pitches. Working with the right people can definitely be a win-win, but not sticking with your brand and who you are will make you feel under appreciated and not respected. It’s all a balancing act, but a great one when done the right way!

    `Arianne

  8. Stephanie July 15, 2008 / 2:24 pm

    This is an excellent post.

    I find myself turning down more offers for reviews than I accept these days. I want to be sure to maintain the integrity of my blog and to think of my readers instead of just scrambling to get free products. It’s a tough balancing act, but slowly I’m finding my way…

  9. pickel July 15, 2008 / 2:56 pm

    I turn them down as well. Or, I tell them I will look at the product and go from there. Often times the product sounds good in type and I just can’t give it a bad review.

    I am also very wary about giving my address out. Make sure you are emailing or talking with a legitimate company.

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