The Brand Blogger Connection


Maria Niles
Doug French
Kevin Brown
Stephanie Quilao
Anna Lingeris
Denene Millner

Maria: Let's have each of our panelists introduce themselves

Doug: Hi. I'm Doug French... a dad blogger for 10 yrs now and founder of Dad 2.0. I'm talking about the fun time we had with Huggies last year. And the real positive impact those meetings have.

Kevin: I'm with the Huggies brand. We had a situation when some dad bloggers had a situation last year and how we dealt with it. Your a business and we're a business and I look forward to talking with you.

Stephanie: I'm Stephanie. I've been blogging since 2005. I work primarily with healthy wellness and food. I'd like to share the mobile aspect.

Anna: I'm Anna and I work at Hershey's. I spend the majority of my day around all of those delicious candies. All the social media channels go through my team. My job wouldn't be possible without all of you in this room.

Denene: I'm Denene and the found and editor in chief at a blog that examines parenting and race. I've written also for Parenting. I'm going to talk about the relationships I've built with brand and how I formed them. More importantly not compromising my self and the great experiences by staying true to the message.

Maria: Doug and Kevin...How did your relationship come about?

Kevin: A year ago we started a new program to get moms and dads to put Huggies to the test and we shot a series of commercials in which real dads and real babies appeared. We showed loving and capable dads and their babies. Very quickly a group of dad bloggers got very upset and ended up in the mainstream media and we knew we had an issue and need to address it. Doug's conference was the same week and we went there and sat down with the people who were railing on us on their blogs. They listened. We listened. We made some changes and now we have good relationships.

Doug: The Dad2.0 summit grew out of the Mom 2.0 summit. It was serendipitous timing. We got a call and asked if the brand manager of Kimberly Clark could talk to a group of bloggers. You're not going to get a better discussion that an brand manager talking about what customers are reacting positively or negatively to. Dad bloggers are growing. We are engaged and involved and capable. You can tell the ideas of the nation through their advertising. And as a father of boys... the way we communicate as people... whatever stereotypes we try to over come are important. Face to face is so important. How can we find a common balance? Blogging in not New Media... It's media. Treat it as such.

Maria: Thank you. That's a very specific example of what brought you together as brand and blogger. Kevin and Anna... when there isn't a crisis... what's the best way to approach a partnership?

Anna: I'm more than happy to answer. Have patience but be resilient. It might take more than once but bring forth your best ideas. It's a mutual experience. A working relationship. That's how it works. If you want to reach me... tweet me. Don't send and email or call. Find brands on their press section. You'll find the direct person on the press release. Find different ways to do that. Don't call and give them five paragraphs about you. I had to find cool ways to pitch a story in media... find a cool way to pitch your idea to me. You've taken the time tell me why we're a good fit. Be unique.

Kevin: I would add to be forward thinking. From a brand perspective... we're planning 2014. Ask what we have coming up. We're a huge brand. We want things to work together. We look at bloggers as media... just as print and television and you can do something that no other media can... a one on one conversation. It's a really important part of our channel but it has to work together with what we have going on. Be patient... it could be 6 or 8 months out.

Anna: Yes we're planning 2014 as well. I can't plan what I'm wearing Monday let alone 2014. I'm putting together things and it happens quickly. we're eventually move at a rapid pace.

Kevin: We rely on our agency as well. I can't read all of your blogs. Edelman and their team tell us who to approach. They really pay attention.

Maria: Most brand have agencies and partners and that's an important note.

Doug: As a counter-point to the 6-18 months out... but speaking as a parenting bloggers... if there are motivations and you pitch it right... you can get something to happen. Last fall... we formed a Movember team to raise money for testicular cancer. We raised about 20K dollars. Norelco called on Thanksgiving and put together a campaign called Stachtactular and sent an additional 15K because of this great campaign. It's not common that it happens this quickly... but it does happen.

Stephanie: Weight loss is always big in the new year. One way to get things moving faster is telling the brand how you can sell product. Your conversion rates, your network... if you have media connections that improves your sell-ability. In the healthy living and food area... January is a huge season. Things can happen really fast. And with conferences like BlogHer you can get face to face with a brand. Really talk to the brands and meet their agency people.

Maria: Denene? You've had a number of successful partnerships with brands. You also have a very focused audience. How do you pitch to brands?

Denene: I've never pitched a brand. I think brands come to my blog because my audience is African American Mothers. And we're an elusive group apparently. What I found is brands have always reached out to me and partly because I was working with Parenting magazine... but also that they are attracted to the passion and the professionalism. No shenanigans... we're talking politics and children in school. My 20th book comes out on Tuesday. So the voice that you find in the posts on My Brown Baby is really strong. Brands come because they are looking for that voice. I've worked with brands thru voice and personality. Dove was looking and a person repping the brand wrote and was interested in finding a woman who had a tween daughter that could write about installing confidence in their daughters. I gave her the names of four different African American women that fell into that category and said if they don't work out.. come back to me. She had all of us to write an essay and they picked mine. My essay went onto the Dove website. I never once had to mention soap. It was about instilling real confidence in my daughters. Don't Fret the Sweat was another. I did that for a year and again... I never mentioned deodorant or stinky kids. I talked about talking about sticky situations with teens. Sweat inducing moments... the message through the deodorant.

Anna: We're giving you guys a lot to think about. I'm going to try and break it down. But we do integrated campaigns... where a blogger is part of a campaign. There is also media outreach campaigns. We want to show you what we're doing closer in with that. There are two different things. A year ago, I sent 10 families on a summer road trip across the country. We had a promotion that we had planned 4 years in advance. We road tripped them to national landmarks. Those 10 were far in advance... but other bloggers helped to amplify and ramp it up as it was happening. That was shorter term. A lot of that media relationship work can happen faster... like what I do for Halloween.

Stephanie: Tagging on to Denene, stay true to your values. Most of the foods I promote are organic foods. Some foods have high fructose corn syrup and those brands aren't a good fit for my brand. And readers might ask if I'm selling out now.

Kevin: From a brand perspective, I agree with Stephanie 100%. We approach bloggers with authenticity. A blogger that's a cloth diaper enthusiast doesn't make sense for us. Maintain your authenticity. You'll lose readers and we won't gain anything either.

Doug: Never forget you can say no. We've said no to a number of things. Blogging is media + personality. Not every brand gets it. They want you to parrot what they have to say rather than investing in someone who has a voice. The whole idea of creating a voice they can't control is hard... build that kind of trust. Integrity is more important than anything else. You don't need to take every pitch.

Kevin: Remember that you are a brand; you've worked hard to build it. We don't own our brand; our consumers define that relationship. And bloggers have that 1 on 1 communication. We can't get that with any other media. It's really critical. We want your audience.

Maria: Stephanie can you talk a bit about brand building? It helps bring value to your brand partners. You're using mobile and that's the future.

Stephanie: How many of you have started explaining your brand to mobile platforms? I've had 3 active blogs since 2005. I relied on ad networks but I got to the point I decided that there was too many middle men. I like pitching brands. I like developing a personal relationship with them. When iPad and iPhone came out... people started looking at sites on mobile phones. Like half of the Olympics are being watched on mobile. If you're relying on banners on your sidebar, does that translate to mobile? Look at your blog on all mobile devices and see if your advertising is showing up. And depending on your platform, it might just default to mobile viewing. On Wednesday, I launched a new book and an app. I'm also looking at developing my blog to a magazine on iPad. You can approach brands with all your mobile offerings. You can say you got early in, not just your blog but maybe and iPad magazine and apps.

Maria: Thanks Stephanie. Any questions?

Audience: I represent a brand. I'm always interested in understanding what turns off bloggers from brands.

Maria: How about, what are the awesome words that brands use that makes us want to work with you?

Doug: How about... Dear Mommy Blogger? You can tell who's lazy and who's really working. There is research out there. When you see brands doing that research. First of all, "Dear Doug" is a great start. And mentioning past posts. Do some research on what our voice is. I think a lot more brands are realizing this. People realize that "feel free to share with your readers" is a spam filter. Conferences like these, not just for dads and moms, more discussions like Kevin and I had; everyone is becoming more professional.

Anna: Most of the room here is bloggers and brand reps. If you want to reach out to the brands, don't reach out and say "Dear Company." We have respect for you and you have respect for us. Keep it short also, but it's a 2 way street. Some of you probably want to do more work. There are a lot of great agencies out there and there are some not great teams out there... so don't hold one bad email against that brand. Know that we do take it seriously and we are listening.

Stephanie: Dear Stephanie... here are three bullet points why my audience will love your product. That's it.

Audience Question: How do you talk about monetary compensation?

Doug: Right as Dad 2.0 was about to hit, the book Know Your Worth was coming out. Being professional in terms of knowing your readers and your metrics. You're going to find a middle ground.

Kevin: Be transparent. This is a business relationship. Talk about compensation up front with the value that you bring the brand. You should be compensated.

Denene: My Brown Baby doesn't have a very large audience but a niche audience. I created a sort of media package... who's reading... most popular posts... how long are they staying... who is covering it in the media? I don't let anyone else tell me my worth.

Anna: Everyone wants an answer: a 15sec commercial is pretty standard. In blogging there's no agreed upon line, but every agency and every brand isn't going to have the same approach. I worked really hard to get here, just like many of you have turned this into a career. What do you stand for and what do you want to do? If you're a part of an extended integrated campaign... content is created for our Facebook Page. Those are paid... that's content. But if you want peanut butter cups for Halloween... that's not going to come with a paycheck. In true transparency... not everything is paid. But if you're writing my content for me... that is paid.

Denene: If I get that email about peanut butter cups, I say here is what I can do for you and I give them a larger campaign with examples.

Anna: I just wanted to be clear on that.

Doug: If you don't have a large audience, that's not necessarily important. You could be an ambassador both offline and on. If you come across as a representative of a brand, being yourself is your brand.

Stephanie: High conversation rates are a great bonus.

Kevin: If you can show a new level of engagement with your readers. If you have a small but niche... high value audience and can show you're showing videos and other things... that's great.

Audience Question: I'm with the NYC dads group. What's your position on P&Gs Thank you Mom? (Where is Dad?) Thoughts?

Doug: Well any ad campaign is based on research. I like P&G as a group. They are still very tied to approaching moms. Dad blogging is now growing. Some dads can let it roll off their backs and some get angry. I hope that P&G comes around... they are very mom-centric now... but there is potential there.

Audience Question: When it comes to compensation, what is considered fair compensation?

Anna: Coming from a brand perspective... it's between you and the brand. There's a lot of different components. I don't have a magic answer. What is the brand asking you to do? Tips for 5 weeks for these themes? Maybe start with an hourly rate. It's a conversation but start with what the brand wants you to do.

Denene: I have a very specific price list. If you want tweets here is what it costs you. If you want it on facebook... where is the cost. It is a conversation. If you want things beyond my price-list... we're going to sit down and talk about how my time will be compensation. Talk and negotiate.

Audience Question: Would a brand tweet back with ... "Send me a proposal"?

Anna: Be prepared for a conversation. I hate long documents. I love bullet points. But be prepared for a conversation.

Audience Question: I have ongoing relationships with pharmaceutical companies... they have different policies. Sometimes the brand does something I'm not comfortable with and I have conversations... but how do I tell them that I can't support this in an ongoing relationship.

Doug: Maybe the ongoing relationship stops at that point.

Stephanie: Or say... " how about this instead"? Stay true to your values.

Anna: I disagree a bit... have a conversation with them. Not every relationship is easy. Don't just cut them. Share your concerns with them and ask to sit in the next time they build a campaign. Don't end it because of one bad campaign. It's about respect.

Audience Question: How do you feel about Public Service Announcements.

Stephanie: Case by case. I have to be passionate about it.

Denene: Same here. I did a campaign with the March of Dimes and spoke about pregnancy. That's a passion of mine. I'd write about it anyway. I don't charge them for that. When I'm approached about a campaign like that, it here and it's really a case by case basis.

Doug: I'd like to mention Hand to Hold a place for premature babies. My nephew was born at 1 pound and Hand to Hold was supportive of that.

Maria: I'd also like to say, the cause reached out to me by name and referenced past posts I've written. So... thank you everyone! Enjoy the rest of the conference!