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Five Tired Tactics for Blogger Outreach

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If you’ve seen Christmas Vacation, you know the scene. Clark Griswald has been anxiously awaiting his bonus. Then it arrives, but instead of cash he gets enrolled in the Jelly of the Month Club. So yeah. He loses it.

It is just as appealing for bloggers to get paid with stuff.

Yet many companies and firms doing outreach to bloggers avoid cash like it’s infected. It doesn’t even make sense from a bottom line standpoint. How many man-hours did you (or your firm) waste reaching out to hundreds of bloggers to get just a few nibbles? Did you pay your firm thousands, none of which actually reached a blogger?

Firms, are you including a component of paying a blogger when you propose an outreach campaign? I will no longer handle any blogger outreach campaigns unless there is pay for the bloggers. Let’s just say I haven’t been doing much blogger outreach.

I recently submitted a query on Help a Reporter Out seeking firms and companies that have paid bloggers cash in any fashion (advertising, spokesblogging, sponsored posts or writing posts for the company, consulting, whatever), offering to highlight these case studies on my blog. Usually, when I submit a query there I get bombarded with replies. I received three replies, and one wasn’t directly paying bloggers (it was a forthcoming pay per click advertising type of program).

Here is the secret to wildly effective blogger outreach: pay the bloggers actual money. This isn’t a new concept. I hear it repeated at every blog conference I attend (in fact, it was the subject of my panel at the recent Blog World Expo), I see bloggers posting about it, I see active conversations about it on Facebook and Twitter.

Still, I see the same pitches repeatedly in my in-box offering nothing, little, a possible chance to get stuff, or stuff in exchange for advertising and promotion.

I keep witnessing the same tired tactics for blogger outreach:

Reviews

I want to first say a couple of things. One, reviews are editorial and I don’t believe a company should pay a blogger cash or anything beyond providing the product to test in order to get a review. It ceases to be a true, unbiased review at that point. It can be sponsored content and disclosed as such, but it shouldn’t be called a review.

Also, I am not suggesting companies stop seeking reviews from bloggers. But the lion’s share of pitches I receive are seeking reviews. It should just be one piece of the pie. It has been so overdone, despite the fact that many bloggers do not do reviews and many lack the time it takes to properly do many, if any, reviews.

Sure, seek out reviews as one part of the blogger outreach. It shouldn’t be the default. I wonder how the PR+advertising investment (time, energy and money) into seeking reviews compares from traditional media to new media. I’m betting there is a huge disparity.

Contests

Blog contests have become so over-saturated in the space. Unless the prize is high dollar or highly appealing, these contests can just become part of the noise. Beyond that, it takes an awful lot of time to run, maintain, promote, follow up and do all the demanding tasks that a contest requires. Also, a contest is a promotion. Perhaps if you will seek out contests as part of blogger outreach, offer an outstanding prize and pay the blogger for the work and promotion.

What’s even worse is pitches asking bloggers to promote a company’s own contest, not even offering a contest hosted by the blogger. Unless a blogger runs a site about contests, I can’t imagine a reason for them to do it.

Payment in Gift Cards and Products

I’m sorry, but what is the deal with this? It seems pervasive lately. Why pay in gift cards or products instead of cash? I know that many times, providing the gift cards or products is cheaper. Even if that is the case, consider offering bloggers the option of cash (even less cash) or the gift card or product. No one wants to get paid with the Jelly of the Month Club.

Ambassador Programs

I am generally fine with the concept of ambassador programs and spokesblogging. What is less appealing is that these programs often offer very little for the blogger, but ask for promotion on social networks, blog posts and badges (ads) on their sites. Sometimes, the best that is offered in return is a link from the company’s site (sometimes a new microsite that gets no traffic). It is great to create ambassador programs, but pay your ambassadors.

Payment in Contest Entry

This has to be the most boggling of all of the tactics I’ve seen. The blogger writes a post in exchange for the possible, perhaps, maybe chance to get something (not cash, of course, but a prize of product or gift card). I’m not even sure what else needs to be said about that tactic.

Here’s the thing. Companies and firms probably don’t know when their pitches are tired. Most bloggers don’t reply to the bad pitches to tell you what’s wrong. Instead, companies hear from the few bloggers who do reply and get the illusion the outreach was successful.

This really isn’t rocket science. If you want success getting promotion in new media, the money needs to trickle down to the bloggers you want doing the promotion.

Kelby Carr has been social networking online since 1984, building web sites since 1994, blogging since 2002 and tweeting since 2007. She runs an annual blogging and social media conference, Type-A Parent Conference (formerly named Type-A Mom Conference). She also runs an online hub for digital moms and dads, Type-A Parent, is reinventing journalism at Investigative Mommy Blogger and blogs about social media at KelbyCarr.com.

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21
  • Kris Cain

    So many good points made in this posts. I know we (Kelby and I) have talked about these very things before. I could not agree more. I turn down or just shake my head at so many emails because of bad pitches.

    I recently spoke about it at a panel full of toy brands. I think this information REALLY needs to get out there to all.

    • Kelby

      Yes, Kris… we bloggers do keep talking about it. I sure wish it would filter to the companies and firms. Whenever there is one of these posts, the comments are all bloggers saying “amen” and no or very few comment from the corporate side.

      I am so glad you got to speak on this to a room full of brands.

  • Aimee

    Very good points. Maybe if the people running the campaigns ran blogs themselves, they would better understand the time and effort (and yes, even cost) that can go into running them. Some of us just do it for the fun, but getting a little cash on the side wouldn’t hurt.

  • Someone

    AMEN! Kelby, always right on the nose!

  • BuenoBaby

    The next junk proposal I get in my inbox will have your post attached as my reply.

    I’ve only been blogging for 15 months now and I’m shocked at what companies [including “pro-mommy” web sites] ask of me for NOTHING. I know I’m not alone in this.

  • Nikki

    Oh for the love of Mary I’m linking this on my PR page! Thank you Kelby for finally putting it in words that I think every PR firm and blogger can understand!

  • Lisa

    Every PR firm needs to read this. I love when they get snotty when you say no though. I always wanted to write back and ask if they get paid in product. :)

  • Deb Ng

    Sing it, Kelby. You totally summed up my frustrations with blogger outreach by PR People. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  • coffee with julie

    This post is bang-on!

  • Jessica Smith

    I’ve been on both sides of this fence, both the pitched and the one doing the pitching. And I’ve always been very passionate about finding ways for bloggers to monetize. In fact, I wrote a post about paid spokesbloggers recently on my blog – and that’s not just lip service. I’ve negotiated a few large spokesblogging deals (and by large, I mean five figures)for clients so I believe I can speak from experience.

    For some people, their blog is considered a personal blog and not a means for making money or building a business. So this comment is not geared toward those bloggers.

    However, for those that want to treat their blog like a business…I think you make some good points but I think there’s one major factor not addressed in your post above. And that’s AUDIENCE. What do your readers think if all those posts are paid? Does it increase your credibility? Because, really, when brands and PR firms pitch you, the smart ones are targeting you because you’ve got a strong point of view and a responsive, trusting audience.

    There’s one thing we agree on and it’s that reviews should never be paid. But then again, if it is paid, then it’s not really a review now is it?

    In my opinion, if a brand is going to pay for a post and make the investment then I say we take a page from what traditional media (this is includes what magazines are doing both in print & online) is doing and make it an advertorial where the company provides the content and the blogger fully discloses that it’s paid and it’s the brand’s content.

    If I’m going to pay a blogger for content, I want to know what their track record is for sales conversions, outclicks to sponsored content links, and other stats. I’ll do my homework, but that data is not one that is easily found.

    I think folks like Mashable.com and MomBloggersClub.com (and Jennifer’s associated sites) are both great models for monetization…and they never, ever forget their AUDIENCE.

    • Kelby

      I definitely believe bloggers cannot forget their readers or they have nothing to offer anyone, companies or readers. Also, sponsored posts is only one small way to pay a blogger. There is also advertising, consulting, writing for the company site or blog, being a spokesblogger, being on an advisory board, doing blogger outreach for the company… I think these conversations focus way too much on sponsored content when that isn’t necessarily the best model for anyone and/or it is only one of many possible routes to paying a blogger.

  • Maggie McGary

    Amen! What I don’t understand is that brands ARE willing to pay cash to agencies, just not the people doing the actual work: the bloggers. I’d like to see how many agencies are willing to work for a gift card or jelly of the month club. If the “influencers” are the important part of the equation, and there is actual cash money to be spent, why are they not getting any of it?

  • Sara at Saving For Someday

    Your points are all well taken. However, when I wrote about ‘Will Blog For Anything But Cash’ I got a lot of backlash since, as a ‘new’ blogger (I’m not sure what that means or how it is defined) I’m supposed to mind the hierarchy and be a bottom feeder and take whatever dregs are left over. I guess that’s the model that ‘current big bloggers’ started with and so new bloggers shouldn’t dare ask to be compensated with anything less than product.

    How I see it though, we’re talking currency. It’s like dealing on the black market. So long as there are bloggers who will blog for stuff the brands will just keep moving to them. Sure, the metrics may not support any benefit for the brand but those metrics can easily be massaged or even made up. Who is to know what my pageviews unless I tell them? Self-reporting doesn’t create real numbers. No one knows how many people come to a site unless the site-owner discloses that information. Many people inflate their numbers.

    Longevity alone does not make a blog a good fit for a brand or a promotional program. There is so much more to it. And, I’ve seen the minimal effort many put in to their sponsored posts.

    There are great organizations working hard to get bloggers cash, but what they get in return often does not justify the cash spent. And when brands see the drivel presented as a post they’ll choose not to do that again.

    • Kelly

      I tend to disagree that brands learn from this, some do not. Of course these are usually the ones that don’t “get it” anyway and are hiring someone who is pushing an agenda that involves payment to them-not for the bloggers.

      Particularly, in the case of the blog for a chance type promotions the brand is excited to see x# of blog posts, x# of twitter mentions, etc. whereas real metrics might look more like- # of clickthroughs, # of sales, search ranking, etc.

      I do agree with you thought that there can be frustration as a new blogger to know how to get from being “new” to earning a decent income. The steps are just not clear, mostly because there are multiple paths to success in blogging.

  • RoShelle

    These are really great points but how much does a blogger expect to be paid? What $ amount for traffic or click throughs? This would be good information to have as well. I don’t want to sound silly offering something to low.

  • Nancy D. Brown

    Amen, Kelby,

    As a professional travel writer and blogger, I also have a day job as a PR Director. Unfortunately, blogging doesn’t pay my mortgage, health insurance and, to date, UC Berkeley doesn’t accept gift cards or “a link back” to their website as a valid form of payment for our daughter’s college tuition.

    While I’m on my high horse, it would also be nice if Huffington Post paid bloggers for editorial content.

    Google Page Rank (mine is five by the way) also doesn’t pay the mortgage!

  • soultravelers3

    Yes! So right on Kelby ( as usual). Thanks for making it so clear and saying it again! It isn’t rocket science, is it?

  • Kelly

    Thank you for writing this! I have been having a crisis of blogging “faith” if you will lately because of the sheer number of pitches in my inbox that are asking for free content, paying me little, or offering product or gift cards. (And really how are gift cards cheaper? This boggles my mind)

    As someone who works on the PR side on occasion too (doing blogger outreach for companies) my partner, Julie, and I always make sure there is a pay component for our bloggers, but we continually here the same refrain “Why do we have to pay them?” This is usually an indicator that there are people willing to work for free for the company, but what we have to show them is sometimes free is what you pay for.

    Also AMEN to the chance to win for advertising point, I think so many new bloggers don’t realize that’s what they are doing, and that there are even the opportunities to be paid.

    In my opinion if you go into blogging wanting to make money, you should build your audience first before you start working with brands. Look at it as an investment of your time in a business.

  • Yossi Barazani

    Hi Kelby,
    I hope you don’t mind if I take this opportunity to present a new way to connect companies with bloggers.

    I am the founder of Publishedin and we are trying to help businesses/companies and online publishers/bloggers to connect and benefit each other.

    Publishedin automatically transform links from online publishers to businesses into relations, and allows businesses to reward publishers through Publishedin Reward-Per-Click™ program.

    How does it work?

    Publishers continue write and link to products and services as they normally do. When visitors click a link, Publishedin reports a referral to businesses. Businesses reward publishers through Publishedin Reward-Per-Click program.

    Businesses get connected automatically to all publishers who have link to them. Businesses can start Reward-Per-Click program, promote their business, increase quality traffic and acquire new customers.

    We are currently in private BETA but you can read more on our blog blog.publishedin.com
    I would be happy to hear your opinion.

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