PR and Marketing: From the Other Side

BlogHer Original Post

My feelings on the always-blossoming relationship between PR people and bloggers, has been well documented on this site. In case you've missed it, it comes down to marketers finding people in a certain niche catering to the demographic they hope to woo. Offers are made, usually in the direction of more influential and well-read blogs, to have a product reviewed in hopes of garnering some traffic and buzz for the brand. I’m sure there is an exact science to all of this and it’s a numbers game at best. Some companies are far better at their half of the relationship than others. The problem usually arises when bloggers are treated as a PR mule as opposed to a real person who will undoubtedly write about their experiences. Good, bad and ugly.

Last year, BlogHer Contributing Editor, Elise Bauer wrote a great piece listing the DO’s and DON’TS of marketing to bloggers. For example, DO take the time to read a site and learning the blogger's name. This is something that has been stated over and over again yet for some reason it doesn’t resonate; all I’m saying is that ‘NoPasaNada’, while far more creative than Heather, it is not my name:

Why is marketing to bloggers a good idea? Inbound links from blogs improves Google rank, which increases traffic from search engines. Exposure from bloggers can land a company's website on a social bookmarking site like Digg orDel.icio.us, driving thousands of new visitors to the site. But bloggers are a more fickle bunch than most traditional media people. Marketing to them appropriately can yield great results; approaching them the wrong way can backfire.

This is surely nothing new. And it’s guaranteed that not only will a blogger write about it on their site, but there are often emails exchanged among friends complete with laughter and general ‘WTF?’s because more often than not, it seems as if the PR folks are not listening and not respecting the blogger or the content of the blog. So the only recourse is to tease and laugh maniacally. Immature, especially from someone who doesn’t get nearly the number of pitches as her friends? Perhaps. But after telling someone explicitly how to do something 147 times and then having that person (entity in this case) do it for the 148th time, then there might be a little animosity there.

The latter is so not the point but instead a brief digression while I do a little laughing because there have been some excellent PR queries. In general though readers are very well aware of what has been offered for review; food products, cars, trips (oh my!). Quite recently BlogHer Contributing Editor, Pam Mandel, was offered a trip to Martinique:

Okay, here’s the deal. The whole thing is a marketing program for whoever is handling Martinique tourism these days, isn’t it? They contact me and offer me Martinique-esque swag and a shot at a trip to the island. I tell you and off you go to the website, and they get your email address and send you stuff about the island and all of a sudden, you’re thinking, huh, Martinique! There’s an idea… It’s clever marketing, a little back door media through an unconventional channel.

Let me repeat: A trip. To Martinique. And as Pam said, a product of the Martinique bureau of tourism which reminds me of a similar campaign that Amsterdam had going on a few years ago where they sent a group of bloggers to the Netherlands in exchange for some kind words about Amsterdam tourism:

We're part of a group of bloggers who are being flown over and put up for five nights in exchange for an interview and ad space. Not a bad deal at all, if you ask me. What's particularly awesome about this is that no one is being asked to hide anything. We can loudly proclaim that WE CAN BE BOUGHT and not feel dirty about it at all. Not even a little bit.

It’s not just the idea of a trip that bloggers find appealing and in Pam’s post about Martinique she brings to light that it’s not like she needs to be sold on a visit to a tropical location. Though I’ve never been offered such, it’s safe to assume that what kept these bloggers intrigued and willing was the pitch. It’s all in the pitch. Let’s be honest, it’s a great way to drum up tourism for a rarely visited country: By having REAL people visit and talk about the country as opposed to a picturesque couple on display at a travel agent’s office only for a visitor to find out that Mallorca isn’t all that stunning in March (true story; it’s not). What I am most interested in now is the process from the other side. Everyone has heard ad nauseam how bloggers feel about being pitched to and how. But now I wonder how an entity, whether it be the bureau of tourism for Martinique (or Fiji) (not that I’m hinting or anything) (really) or a company of any size goes about their choosing and their pitching and formulating a plan for reaching out to their respective demographics.

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