As much as bloggers and influencers get irritated when agencies and marketers send them pitches that are irrelevant, lacking in info or completely generic shotgun approaches, so do PR’s when content creators show the same lack of understanding or even common courtesy.
The relationship between PR agencies and content creators doesn’t have to be difficult. At its essence, it’s a two-way street – we have clients who want to build their profile, reputation and brand awareness; you have an audience interested in your opinion and content.
So, before you hit “send” on your next approach to a marketer or PR, consider this free advice from the inside.
(And, in the meantime, I’ve consulted a bunch of bloggers on what they want from PR’s and marketers. It works both ways!)
Make it easy to find you
Ensure your About section is complete – at least let us find your email and website addresses there, and your handles on Twitter or Instagram or whatever your chosen platform is (on handles though, see below). Don’t point potential business contacts to your personal Facebook profile where we can see what you had for your last Sunday lunch and how you celebrated your granny’s 85th birthday, because it has no relevance to the task at hand. If you don’t have a professional business page, then don’t include your personal one. Simple. Facebook is not for everyone, we get it. Neither are Twitter or Insta. Include only what is relevant to someone who might want to work with you.
Social media handles
If you’re there, but not really there, then don’t supply your social media handles. If you’re pitching as an Instagrammer but haven’t posted anything in a month, how serious are you about working with us? And yes, we get those too. No lies.
Instagram, Twitter, the social media universe
Make sure, if you have a blog, that your blog’s URL / link is in your bio – back linking is particularly important and saves us a whole lot of time looking for your content to see if we might ‘click’. It also looks more professional. Broken links, error messages – not so much.
Websites & Blogs
“Life is an orange beetle” is a cute name for a blog, but it gives us no idea of its purpose and what your content is focused on. You could be writing about anything, or everything. Or maybe you only write about beauty products but also happen to love orange beetles – we don’t know and don’t want to waste time guessing.
So, make sure your purpose beyond orange beetles is clear on your blog, and it’s highly advisable to categorise your content and posts in the navigation bar or menu, and to tag your posts. This not only helps us PRs and marketers, but your audience too! Whether as a potential client or potential reader, if I’m looking for food and wine content, for example, it’s frustrating and time consuming to scroll through all your posts in date order to find it.
And again, your bio matters. Sure, introduce yourself, tell us you like butterflies and cupcakes, how many children you have and that you love the feel of sexy silk on your skin, but please, (a) tell us more about your content and focus, and (b) give us your name as well! It’s really useful to know who we are reaching out to when we want to send you an invitation, a proposal, a suggestion that we might like to work together. Make it easy for us to do that.
If you have a website, you can have an email address. No need for a Yahoo or Gmail account. It is not a prerequisite, but it does leave an impression of professionalism if your email address is linked to your website. For example email@example.com just looks so much more businesslike than firstname.lastname@example.org. Not a prerequisite, but a nice touch indeed.
Manners still matter in the 21st century. You’re looking to start a business relationship so, firstly, find out who you are reaching out to (that’s what Google is for) and address your prospect by name. That shows that you’ve taken the trouble to do some research and see if there’s likely to be a mutual interest, that you’re not doing that old shotgun approach (it’s as irritating to us as it is to you, trust us on this).
Hi Zelda, Dear Zelda, Hello Zelda – those all work for a first email. Save “Hey you” for friends and lovers.
The right stuff
One of the bloggers I consulted on what bloggers expect from PRs outlined how they approach PRs and brand managers – and it’s a solid approach.
When I reach out to brands my goal is to send a communication that essentially leaves no questions unanswered by the end.
When I send a prospecting email to a PR I haven’t worked with before, I will be doing it because I’ve researched that they have clients relevant to my audience and I believe we can all mutually benefit. I will ensure I have an actual name to address on the email (a simple phone call can clear this up if not obvious on social media/website).
I will offer quick info. on the following: How I came across them, who I am, my career background, what my blog and audience is about and why I feel there is potential opportunity to collaborate.
I will attach my media kit and some quick links to previous posts on socials to show evidence of our mutual interests.
If I am approaching a brand/PR with a specific idea I have for collaboration, I will additionally spell out clearly what I would like from them – describe my idea for the content and the goal of the collaboration. And I spell out exactly what they will get in return (x posts on FB, a blog post, x posts on Twitter etc).
This way, the PR or brand is able to already make a fairly informed high-level decision without having too much guesswork and relentless back and forth emails. Tweaking of the proposal takes place to ensure both sides are happy.
This is what we want, what we like, and what stands out for us. Tweak your approach so that you stand out above the noise.
A simple design that looks professional and provides your contact details are all that’s needed. If you write an email without signing off with your name, then we don’t know who you are or how to respond – and the chances are we won’t bother. And yes, we get this a lot, too.
Please save the hugs and kisses at the end of your email or message for your fur babies. Unless we are also friends in the actual, real, living world in which we braai at each other’s houses or have been on a road trip together – then by all means you can xoxo all you like.
Check your spelling & grammar
Does this really need to be said? If your own communication is sloppy and full of errors, am I going to want to put my client’s brand in your words?
Just do it.
Real life scenario provided courtesy of Suzy*: “Hey there! Please let me know if you would like to see my media kit??” (Yes, I do, Suzy, so why not include it in the first place? It is a time thing for us, you see…). PR company responds and asks Suzy for said media kit. Suzy then replies a day later with the following: “Hey you, I have 1875 followers on Twitter and 173.5k on Instagram. Hope this helps. Cheers, Suzy.” Really? Yes, really. So many times, we don’t have enough fingers and toes to count.
And yes, an actual media kit is a GREAT idea. Don’t ask us if we would like to see it. Rather ask us our email address so that you can send it. Keep it informative, relevant, and concise. Pay attention to design – this is your brand story. The basics are your name, name of your blog or site, contact details, your URL/s and handle/s, what you do and how you work. Give us an idea why we would want to work with you by talking about your approach and your audience; supply recent, verifiable stats; and share some past successes. There are plenty of great examples and templates on the web for inspiration.
And then, when you pitch, please attach it, don’t be shy.
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Now we’re in business
Notify the PR if a promised product drop was delivered (“thank you” wouldn’t be out of place either). There is often a long logistics chain between you and our client who dispatches the press drop and in these days of Covid, delivery chains are often unpredictable. If you take the time to acknowledge delivery, it saves us time from following up with our clients and couriers and bugging you to ask if it’s arrived yet. There are lots of variables at play, so make it easy for us to work with you.
So, we’ve done the deal and you just spent the weekend on a gorgeous wine farm, spent time with the owner or winemaker, eating, drinking, laughing, sharing, singing and all those wonderful things that make you #liveyourbestlife. Great! But the courteous thing to do come Monday, is to send a simple thank you email or message. It costs nothing and we know your mother raised you to say thank you. If three or four days go by and you cannot find three minutes to write a thank you note to a brand or a PR company because you are “sooo busy”, then you should get off the roller-coaster and take a break.
And if it was an awfully horrible experience, then please tell us what went wrong. A PR worth their salt is always open to constructive criticism and it won’t ruin the relationship. We’re here to improve our clients’ businesses and our own services. Your suggestions are always welcome.
Hold up your end of the deal
If you agreed to a trade exchange, then deliver on your promise. If you visited a place or experienced a product or a service, don’t take a month to create the content. We really don’t expect it to be delivered within 24 hours, but there are content creators who take this seriously and care for their reputation who will always deliver content within a week or so. Write the post or review while the experience is still fresh in your memory. The longer you leave it, the harder it becomes. And the more likely we are to bug you (and we don’t enjoy that), because our client is bugging US – “we hosted so-and-so six months ago, and we’ve seen nothing…”. (Chances are very good that we won’t be inviting you anywhere again.)
And for the sake of everyone’s sanity, get the info you need while you’re at the destination. Sending a request two weeks after your stay for info on our client’s farm or restaurant or hotel, the wine, the winemaker, the chef, the menus, the history, the specials and promotions, and photographs is just lazy.
Of course we’re always willing to supply extra info, but let’s all just be reasonable and don’t expect spoon-feeding.
Tag, share, like, comment – we love the feedback
Social media is all about sharing the love, building the audience, widening the reach – so please, yes go ahead, tag the PR and the brand in your posts. Tag the other bloggers who were at the event with you. Tag the journalists. Use the hashtags we suggest. It all helps us to help each other.
A simple “no thank you” will do just fine. Ignoring an invitation? That’s just plain rude. The PR and the brand have both thought enough of you to extend an invitation. They may not align with what you have to offer; you may prefer not to work with them for whatever reason; or maybe you’re just busy that day. You don’t have to provide a reason, but a simple response goes a long way.
When not to respond
If there is a call for participation in a campaign involving, let’s say, food and wine bloggers, don’t waste everyone’s time by pitching if your main focus is on beauty products or fashion or if you are a mommy blogger. It does your reputation no good.
The last word
Stay on top of your game
Bloggers and influencers are taking over the media world – Covid is killing print faster than you can say ‘rona – so now is the time to up your game. If you haven’t yet, learn how to create videos, stay on top of the latest social media developments such as Instagram reels and TikTok, teach yourself how to create beautiful content and impactful videos.
There are loads of free apps, online resources, masterclasses and so on where you can learn to master the latest social media and content creation skills, so not knowing how or not having the cash is no excuse.
Show that you are serious about blogging, content creation, or influencing others, then you’ll be taken seriously by us and our clients.
Bottom-line from my engagements with fellow PR people and bloggers alike – professionalism never goes out of style!