So, You Want to Have a PR-Friendly Blog? 7 Tips to Making It Happen
Whether or not a blog is PR friendly is up to the individual blogger. Some blogs are filled with sponsored posts, ads, and product reviews, some bloggers have a strict policy about keeping their space 100% free of PR related posts, and most others lie somewhere in between the two sides of the spectrum. What's great about having a blog is that you can make it whatever you want it to be, and there is room in the giant sea of blogging for everyone.
At some point or another, every blogger is faced with the decision of whether or not to work with public relations firms and brands. I don't really have a strong opinion about it, as I think there are pros and cons either way, and it really is a personal choice.
That being said, I have chosen to work with PR agencies and brands every once in a while and I have found the experience to be (mostly) positive. If you are interested in having a PR friendly blog, here are some tips on how to make the most of it:
1. Make it obvious. Have a PR/Advertising page on your blog. Make sure your contact information is easy to find- the top is probably a good place. Tell a potential client a little bit about yourself and your family (if you have one). Hey- tell them about your dog (or chickens...) too! I recommend including the ages and genders of all available product testers. Include information about your lifestyle, hobbies, and interests.
While I don't recommend specifically ruling out promoting any product or service (you never know), you might also want to use this page to communicate that kind of information too. For example, if you are morally opposed to reviewing pink flamingo lawn ornaments, then by all means- say it!
2. Flaunt what you've got. Let them know that you have more to offer than just a blog post. You are a social media maven! Let the PR firms know how you will help promote their products. Yes, you will blog about it, but you have much more to offer. Maybe you have a huge Twitter following, a gaggle of Facebook fans, perhaps you do a ton of networking or love to attend blog conferences. Some bloggers even have private Facebook groups that they use to share information and promote each other's work. All these tools and skills are what PR firms are looking for and you are the person they want. You just have to make sure they know it.
In return, make sure that they hold up their end of the deal. They should be tweeting about your review/giveaway, linking up to you on Facebook, and promoting you in every way possible. It's a two way street and don't get fooled into thinking they are doing you a favor by sending you some free stuff. Bloggers and brands should have a symbiotic relationship and it's about working together to promote greatness (ie: their amazing product and your incredible blog).
Once you decide to work with a brand, you must remember that all the work you do for them, as well as the way they conduct their business, is a reflection of one another. For example, if they take forever to ship product to your giveaway winner it's going to make you look bad, so make sure both sides are clear about each other's expectations and responsibilities.
3. Got ads? Some blogs are piled high with so many ads that it's a total turn-off, and some blogs get it just right. Start paying attention to the blogs you like that also take ads. Don't be afraid to copy their layout. When a blog uses its ad space correctly, it is very effective. I adore the way Cup of Jo handles ad placement. I had some ads on my blog, but they are a lot to manage and I don't really have the right space for them right now. It's something I will consider again, but I am focusing my time on other projects right now.
If you want to start taking ads on your page, I highly recommend checking out this page over at Harper's Happenings and reading this post by Little Miss Momma. Mandy (Harper's Happenings) does a great job of showing a potential advertisers exactly what they will get and I love that she puts all her stats out there for everyone to see. Hey, if I had her numbers I would do the same thing! Ashely (Little Miss Momma) wrote a great post about how to figure out what to charge advertisers. I love that she admits that she took free ads until she had built up enough readership to start trying. It's a great idea!
4. Don't sell yourself short. Please, don't work for free. Ok, I take that back. Only work for free if you feel that the opportunity is so unique and will provide you with so much exposure that you don't need to put a price on it. For example, if The New York Times contacts you and wants to feature some of your work for free- DO IT. Most PR pitches aren't that fabulous though.
I'll admit that I have written PR posts for free. The first time a PR company contacted me to write for them I felt so honored. I thought, "Wow! My blog is finally getting noticed and I have hit the big time!" Many of you are probably laughing at this. The reality is: Most PR companies throw out pitches faster than Michelle Duggar pops out babies. It's like fishing- they cast out line after line until someone bites.
If you decide to request a fee for your talent and hard work, what you decide to charge is up to you. I charge drastically different prices for different posts, but most of that material is freelance work that goes on another site (be on the lookout for a separate post about freelancing from me later) I think it's a good idea to keep your prices flexible and adjust your rate sheet to each potential job. I have charged anywhere from $20 to $150 for my services. I've even taken gift cards and coupons for free diapers (don't judge- those things are expensive!) in lieu of cash.
I wish I had an exact formula for you, but it's just a matter of trial and error. I once quoted a company $100 to write about something because I totally didn't want to, and I never thought they would pay that, and they did. The lesson: You just never know until you try.
More often than not, I accept product/services in exchange for promoting a product. I have to say that I am not 100% comfortable with the idea of outright charging for a PR post. I think it diminishes the trust value you have with your audience. You should be writing about and promoting a company that you love because they have awesome products and services, not because they sent you a check. Again, that's just my opinion.
I do think it's important to test a product or be familiar with a service before you write about it, which is why I think product in exchange for promotion makes the most sense. Also, don't be afraid to honestly review a product. If something is really, really not a great product or service then I recommend contacting the company and telling them that it didn't really work out that well for you. You'd be surprised at the lengths they will go to find a better product for you or try to come up with a solution to make it a better fit.
While I don't recommend slamming a company on your blog (you don't want to get a bad reputation), I do think it's important to be honest. Using some good old fashioned constructive criticism skills seems to be the best solution. When I review a product, I like to highlight all the positive qualities it has and then make suggestions on how to improve it. You can read my review of the Baby Bjorn Comfort Carrier if you need an example on how to do this.
Side note: Familiarize yourself with the FTC regulations for bloggers and make sure you use proper disclosure when posting sponsored material.
5. Be selective. If a company contacts you, don't be afraid to tell them that their product or service isn't a good fit for your blog. You have worked very hard to build a community of readers that know and trust you. Don't go and waste all that on a sponsored post. You should also be aware that you may lose some trust with your readers if you write too many sponsored posts. It's all about balance. Each blog is different and what works for one may not work for you.
Also, don't be afraid to counteroffer. I once had a company offer me free product for a year of free advertising. That was not a deal I wanted to make. After some negotiation, we came to an agreement that we both felt comfortable with. Remember: The deal has to work for you too. It's ok to turn down offers, as there will surely be better ones in the future. Just be nice about it. You never know what the future holds.
6. Take charge and make it happen. Maybe you want to have a PR friendly blog, but the right opportunities don't seem to be coming your way. Like most things in life, sometimes you have to make things happen for yourself. If you love a company or are dying to try a new product out, then go ahead and pitch to them!
Tell them how much you love their company, how their product will change your life, and that you want to write about it on your blog. Ask them if they want to do a reader giveaway because you just know that your readers will love their stuff just as much as you do. Tell them all about your readers (Alexa helps with that) and let them in on your stats. Let them know why you are the person they want to work with.
This is the perfect time to brag about all your blogging accomplishments. You also might want to sweeten the deal by offering them a few months of free ad space. I like to ask companies if they want to offer my readers a discount in exchange for ad space on my sidebar. See the Play Outdoors discount code and ad on my right sidebar? Yep, that was my doing. Now go buy something from them real quick. I'll wait right here....
7. BE PROFESSIONAL. Not only is it just the right thing to do, but there are a number of other reasons to consider maintaining professionalism. 1) You never know when you might be called upon to work with a brand again, so don't let your bad attitude come back to bite you on the ass. Errrr, I mean rear end. 2) It gives blogging more credibility. If we ever want PR companies to place value on our services, and treat blogging with the respect that it deserves, then we need to act the part. 3) It's a good habit. You'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar and I think the notion that you have to be a big bitch in order to gain respect has got to go.
I could go on and on about this, but most of what you do is going to take some trial and error. Every blog is unique and each blogger has the freedom to make the decisions that are right for them. Good luck and happy blogging!
*If you want more awesome blogging advice, tips, and guidelines, check out MomComm, A Belle, a Bean, and a Chicago Dog, and Kludgy Mom. They are my go-to girls for all things blogging. They really know their stuff!
What else am I missing? I know you all have something to say about this, so let's help each other out by leaving more tips in the comments below.