On of the favourite topics for bloggers to chat about is how we work with brands. We natter about which brands are good to work with, which aren’t, which work with the same bloggers, which ignore us – not to mention our Tots100 Parent Blogging Benchmark Survey, which looks at the relationship between PRs and (mostly) Mummy bloggers.
A couple of months ago, Aaron Huckett of Publicasity told us about his experience as a PR exec working with bloggers. That seemed to go down well, so we’ve bullied Jed Hallam of advertising agency VCCP into telling us about his role, and how he works with bloggers:
Okay, The Sun is read by millions of people a day, while my blog is read by 100. Why are brands interested in me?
There’s an increasing body of evidence that proves what we’ve all known for years – people trust people more than they trust the media – and brands are starting to understand this. It’s quite a big shift from the old model of communications where a brand could sell a story into The Sun and hope it reached the right audience. Whereas now, brands have the opportunity to actually work with that audience and create something smarter and more responsive to needs.
Can you tell us about how you work with bloggers – as in, what’s your job?
I’m the communities director at VCCP Share, which is the social/PR/experiential hybrid team that works within VCCP, which is an integrated advertising agency (but you’ll probably know it more for its advertising output – Compare the Meerkat and building O2 as a brand). My job is to figure out how brands can reshape themselves, their products and communications to fit with this new networked model. So basically, I help connect people with brands, using social technology.
What would you say are the main challenges for a brand working with bloggers?
First, moving away from the broadcast mentality where agencies pepper bloggers with emails and demand coverage, like a blog is a newspaper. Brands are having to face the challenge of becoming more understanding of human behavior rather than media behavior – it’s quite a shift.
Second, brands need to understand the difference between a blogger, a community and online media – every one of these are a set of humans, but each have different rules of engagement, which can be difficult. The most important thing is to understand who matters and how to talk to them like a human – some bloggers (very rightly) don’t want to be ‘outreached’ – they want to blog for their audience without interruption.
When you’re looking for blogs to work with what do you look for – stats, scores, comments, no swearing…?
Scores are a great place to start, and can help prioritise research, but influence and authority is so hard to automatically calculate. Your blog could have five readers, but if those five are CEOs of huge multinationals then that blogger has a significant influence. In general, I’ll look for a decent amount of traffic (in context), lots of interaction and/or a demonstrable level of authority. Also, nobody should discriminate on swearing…
One of the common concerns bloggers have is that they want brands to know they’re OPEN to offers – what’s the best way to do that?
The best way for bloggers to connect with brands is to reach out to their agencies through other social networks (Twitter is a perfect platform for this) and not be afraid of building relationships with different agencies. Agencies will usually work with a variety of different brands, so there will always be opportunities to speak with new brands. There are also, of course, wonderful people that connect bloggers to agencies such as Sally…
When you work with a blogger and offer them the chance to review something or go somewhere, how upset would you be if they didn’t write about it?
I’d be more upset that they didn’t like the product! Seriously though, it’s my job to connect brands and products to people that will like them and have an opinion of them. Posts can be put on hold (or not written) for a whole host of reasons, but I like to think I build good enough relationships that people feel able to say if something isn’t right for them.
Do you blog yourself? What’s your blog about? How does it help you do your job better?
I do blog, I have done for about four years now, and I blog about advertising, social and business (shock horror!). I’ve always used my blog as a bit of a public notebook – it’s quite nice to know that people could see your thoughts, so you have to refine those a little bit more than you would usually. That doesn’t stop me from veering into the odd ramble now and again though…