In this post our blog PR expert Lesley Singleton looks at the ways in which bloggers and PRs can work together and enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship.

My name is Lesley, I am a PR and I want something for free from bloggers. Shock horror! Allow me to explain…

I’ve been working in PR and the media since the late nineties but never have I seen a more dramatic shift in the media landscape than over the past couple of years. Print circulations have fallen, established magazines have closed (Reader’s Digest, anyone?) and the web has never, ever, been more prolific in terms of news and opinion delivery. We no longer just consume the news; we create it, engage with it and dramatically shape other people’s opinions with it.

The purest example of this is blogging. Millions of us blog on an infinite number of topics, there are awards for every variety of blogger, which ultimately act as a clever PR tool to get more people engaging with said blogs. And we’re all consuming multiple blogs each week on topics close to us, on both a personal and business level. When something makes us smile, we blog about it. If something winds us up beyond belief, we blog about it. Our musings instantly reach our tens, hundreds or thousands of devotees… and a good PR campaign cannot afford to ignore such a fast-paced, widespread phenomenon.

But increasingly this seems to be a bone of contention and I’m often shocked by the way some bloggers seem have a ‘closed door’ policy for approaches made to them by PRs. Now, please don’t get me wrong; I know from speaking to many bloggers that there are some less scrupulous PRs out there who don’t do their research and that this is the biggest gripe – top complaints are of cold approaches by someone who hasn’t even read the blog they’re hoping to see their client featured on. I’ve even heard of some PRs not bothering to find out the name of the blog author. As with approaches to any media contact, I find this unacceptable and won’t even attempt to justify it. But I have also spoken to some bloggers who feel that PRs are callous, “only after something for free with nothing in it for me” and it is this I want to discuss further.

Firstly, as a PR, I am looking for something for free. To generalise somewhat, my clients pay me to generate editorial exposure for them – not advertising. How I achieve this means getting creative, thinking laterally and creating news which journalists feel is of enough interest to their readers to subsequently write an article. In turn, journalists are given material, products, prizes, samples and ultimately copy and content to shape accordingly for their readers. It’s no big secret that PRs and journalists have a love-hate relationship but there is an understanding from both sides that a mutually respectful relationship can reap mutual rewards. For me, I feel this should be no different for the PR/blogger union.

There are many things that a PR can offer a blogger in return for some exposure for their client, some of which you may not be aware of:

Review products – a PR can give you access to exciting new products, relevant to your blog/readers/lifestyle, which you can test out. You’ve then got at least one blog post of content for your site… ideal for one of those days when you’re perhaps facing a little writer’s  block

Competition prizes – again, although we tend not to have a cash budget to purchase space, PRs often have access to prize products. So you could run an exacting competition via your blog, giving your loyal readers even more than usual… you can tweet about the competition, promote it on your facebook page etc. and in turn attract new visitors and readers to your blog

Hardcore news and information – perhaps if you regularly blog about a specific issue, such as breastfeeding, a PR with a relevant client will be able to offer you appropriate news, research findings, statistics etc. which would make a really interesting and informative read for your subscribers. Again, this can boost your visitor figures and help you avoid that clichéd blogging pitfall of “me me me”. In addition, if you’re having an off-day on the blogging front, you have some ready-made content which will keep your site fresh, up-to-date and keyword-heavy

Feedback and comment – on occasion, you may be blogging your dismay about a certain product or service. But before you do, wouldn’t it make for a better blog post if you could actually include a response or feedback from someone representing that brand? If your supermarket delivery was below par this week and you intend blogging about it, a simple email to the press office can result in a great response which will make your post more meaningful and possibly less ‘ranty’

And in the spirit of keeping this blog post well-balanced, non-ranty and fair (!), I want to flag up the simple yet golden rule that I feel all PRs should follow (and, in fact, which I think a LOT of PRs already do): READ THE BLOG YOU’RE PITCHING TO. A PR should know the blogger’s name, what they like or dislike and have a clear idea of why their client is relevant and appropriate to this particular blog. They should be aware of what the blogger has written about in the past three months at least and whether they already have an opinion of the client/brand or any competitors.

In return, all I’d ask is for bloggers not to tar us all with the same brush. The vast majority of PRs are talented, targeted, do their research and genuinely feel they have an angle for you. I’m also aware that there are many bloggers who are open to PR pitches and some even have a helpful guide on their site for PRs who wish to pitch to them. Based on a conversation I had recently with a blogger who’d been inundated with PR pitches and felt she couldn’t keep on top of them all, here are a few pointers you may find useful when looking at pitches:

Only reply to the ones you’re interested in: PRs won’t be offended if you don’t reply to say thanks-but-no-thanks (we generally have quite thick skins!) and we understand that your time is as precious as ours

Remember that a good PR will follow-up: if the PR really thinks it’s a good opportunity for you, they will come back to you to see if you’re interested. Take a couple of moments to hear them out and if you still think it’s not for you, just say so. A good PR knows when they’re beat!

Bounce some ideas around: maybe you like the brand or product, but don’t particularly like what the PR is suggesting? Let them know and try brainstorming a few ideas together – you might have a perfect way of weaving the brand into your site that the PR hasn’t considered so turn the pitch around and see if you can get it to work even harder for your blog

Feel flattered!: the mere fact that you’re being pitched to by a PR means that your blog has been noticed and deemed influential and important enough to be featured on a PR plan somewhere

My final piece of advice to bloggers is feel free to say no, but don’t be afraid to say yes. You aren’t selling your soul; you’re simply helping to shape an ongoing relationship which really could be beneficial to you both.

To find out how Lesley can help you with your PR, please visit www.lsmedia.co.uk or email [email protected]