During BlogWorld 2010, travel PR professionals John Forest Ales and Terri Maruca sat down with moderator Stafford Kendall to talk about how to get noticed by the travel pros. While I didn’t get to attend this session live, I’m loving my virtual BlogWorld ticket right now because in listening to the panel, this is relevant for bloggers from every niche who are interested in working with companies to do reviews.
Getting noticed by professionals, whether it be the PR company for a hotel that can give you free accommodations or a publisher that can send you a free book relevant to your blog, comes down to one thing: Build a relationship so you both give and take.
You might have a million readers a month, but a lot of bloggers are popular. Unless you have a relationship with a company, the PR person you contact may not know who you are. Or, they might know who you are, but 99% of the time, a PR rep can’t give you free stuff to review. They have to take your request and go through multiple levels to get it approved. A busy restaurant owner probably doesn’t have time to read blogs. They have no idea that you’re a respected expert within your community…yet. If you start to build a relationship, it doesn’t matter if you have ten readers or ten million readers – if you connect to the company, you can show them what you can do for them in terms of promoting their brand. Sometimes, having a small dedicated group of fans looking for something extremely specific is just as good for a company as having a larger community.
When building a relationship, something that is super important is considering what is right for your blog, not just what you can get for free. John and Terri noted that bloggers can sometimes come off as demanding and unprofessional, and often it’s hard to see through the noise of people who don’t actually care about the brand, but rather just want something for free. Let me tell you a bit about my own experiences with doing promotion and reviews while at BlogWorld.
I knew I would be in Las Vegas a day before most people, so I decided to contact some PR agencies with the hopes of doing a few restaurant reviews here on the BlogWorld blog. My thought process was that by highlighting a few places to eat, more BlogWorld attendees would go to those places specifically. The perk for me was getting to eat at some awesome restaurants. The perk for the restaurants was reaching a few thousand people in town for the weekend. Ultimately, I worked with Kirvin Doak Communications to review Border Grill for lunch, Tender for dinner, and Mix for drinks at night. Some of that worked. Some of that didn’t work. All of it was about audience.
First, let me tell you want did work – Border Grill. The food and drinks at all three locations was fabulous, and Border Grill was no exception. But it wasn’t just about my good experience that made this work for a BlogWorld review. Other things that came into play that made this an awesome option:
- Border Grill was right by the conference location, so most people had to walk past it on their way back to their room. Convenience is the name of the game. They had been seeing it every day and possibly wondering about it, so a review solidified for them the need to stop in and check it out. Tender and Mix were both more out of the way, so if readers wanted to take my recommendation, they had to do a little hunting.
- The price was right. Bloggers have McDonald’s budgets, so while Border Grill might be a justifiable price for a professional,at $20 – $30 minimum for a meal, this is a splurge for the average BlogWorld reader. Tender and Mix, while being adequately priced for the quality and service, were just not possible for many people. Had my food not been comped, I would not have been able to afford either of these locations, and I know a lot of other bloggers were in the same boat.
- Border Grill fit a range of readers’ needs. The atmosphere made it comfortable for readers wearing jeans or readers wearing suits – which was important, considering that some groups had both types of people. The food was also palatable to a wide range of people. It was Mexican, but not in a Taco Bell type of way. I felt comfortable recommending it to everyone I met, without a disclaimer of any kind.
While at BlogWorld, I know that my personal recommendation of Border Grill was responsible for at least three parties of 6+ people eating there or ordering food there, and since BlogWorld, I’ve gotten a few emails from people who traveled to Las Vegas for other conferences but remembered my review and checked out the restaurant. For every person who tells me they ate there after reading my review, there are probably ten people who also did, but just didn’t let me know. Did the restaurant get their money out of offering me a meal there? Absolutely. Tender and Mix? Probably not so much, unfortunately.
Border Grill met the readers’ needs here at BlogWorld extremely well in terms of convenience, price, and range. Again, this extends to non-travel reviewing as well. Will your readers ultimately take action due to your review? Is the product convenient for them? Is the price right? Does it meet the needs of a range of your readers, not just a small fraction of them?
That’s how you get the pros to work with you. Should I review restaurants again next year for BlogWorld, my approach will be different. No matter how much I want a free meal at Tender, it just isn’t a good option for BlogWorld readers. A less expensive burger joint makes more sense. And showing that you’ve done that kind of thinking about your request is what makes a PR rep want to work with you. You’ve not just in it for free stuff. You actually want to promote what they’re doing. Free stuff is just a perk.
When you approach PR companies with any kin of review request, work to build a relationship. Don’t ask what they can do for you. Ask what you can do for them. Be receptive to their ideas, but be prepared with a proposal of your own – and one that has the ultimate potential to show them the biggest return on investment possible for the company. If you deliver for a company, they’ll want to work with you again and again, which is awesome not just for you, but also for your readers.
Thanks to John, Terri, and Stafford for a great panel!