February 2012

Hopefully, you caught the first post about how to develop your brand as a blogger, and I wanted to focus on a different part of that process: the blogger/brand relationship.

As someone who gets pitches both as a blogger and as a brand representative, it’s easy to tell when someone is taking themselves seriously, respecting your time and is reasonable as well as fair and balanced. These are the five key things that make a difference when you’re first starting to build that relationship – all are necessary, no matter which side of the fence you’re on!

Here are the tips!

1. Do your research. It helps to know who to email – there’s nothing more impersonal than an email that is addressed for “To Whom it May Concern.” I hate it when PR people send me impersonal messages, and it’s the same for getting emails from bloggers inquiring about our clients. If you know the brand, look for press releases with the marketing contact. Or go onto LinkedIn. Spend a little time and you’ll see the results. Research makes success.

2. Be honest and transparent. Share your stats. Ones you can back up with proof. Tell them from the first email what you’re hoping to do, whether you’re contacting to get on a mailing list or asking for product, because getting that out in the open empowers the representative or employee to take steps to give that to you. Introduce yourself and then share these following things:

  • Your site URL and how long it’s been active.
  • Where you live
  • How many visitors you have monthly (both UVM and Pageviews)
  • Facebook/Twitter followers (only IF you plan on sharing something through social channels. Otherwise, wait until they ask.)
  • Why you contacted them specifically. For example, what about that specific brand is right for you and your demographic?
  • What you want
  • What they’ll get

Which is the perfect transition into the next tip!

3. Give more than you take. I hate getting emails from a company that are all about their new Facebook giveaway, and telling (not asking) me to post about it on my site. And then there are the people who send the email again and again and again! And to think that they wonder how this style doesn’t work!

The same principles apply for bloggers who want to start a relationship, which implies two things: mutual benefit and continued support on both sides. It’s as simple as the last two bullet points; if you can provide value, they’ll want to work with you again and again. Show them just what you are willing to offer in advance, and don’t focus only on you/your site.

I often use this analogy: you’re at a bar with a handful of friends, each buying rounds as needed. The last person, right as their turn comes up, mysteriously has a phone call… leaving the first friend to pick up the tab. After a while, no one invites that person around anymore because it was a completely one-sided relationship.

4. Be calm. I know you feel like it’s been ages since you got a response. Like you, the person who found your message in their inbox may be swamped with work. Or maybe they’re going to bat for you and getting what you need.

But, maybe they just meant to respond and didn’t. You can and should absolutely follow-up, but I prefer to wait three weeks unless it’s very time-sensitive.

5. Spell Check doesn’t catch names. Make sure you do. This sounds so silly, I know. And for those of you with common or phonetic names, you’re probably confused. But nothing shows a disregard for the relationship itself like incorrectly spelling someone’s name (unless you call them something else altogether. THAT is bad, guys!) – so check, double check and then maybe do a quick Facebook stalking session just to be sure. It’s worth it.

What would you add to this list – either as a blogger sending out the first email or as a brand representative receiving it?

Love,
Jaime

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After yesterday’s presentation for the Social Online Conference, I was left feeling like I had opened a Pandora’s Box of unanswered questions for some of the viewers. So, instead of increasing the confusion, I wanted to kick off a series here about becoming a better blogger… and make it more focused on section by section improvement.

When I am reaching out to a blogger, there are a couple of things that I keep in mind to determine whether or not they’ll be a good fit for my client. Creating a brand is one facet – and one that I know from personal experience is both dauntingly terrifying and extremely rewarding to master on your own.

I’m not asking you to become a web developer here; there are still more things that I don’t know than those I do. But a couple of core ideas – as well as the tools to implement them yourself – will save you time, help you make more money and, above all, allow you to better connect with your readers and focus on content first.

What is so unique about your site? At the end of the day, there’s one big, HUGE selling point for your site: YOU. Is it easy for readers and PR companies alike to find out who you are? How does your site show that you’re not only a credible source, you’re also likeable and friendly? And – most importantly – how can we contact you? When you’re thinking about implementing a new design, you should never undervalue how important it is to be visible on your site. People cannot get to know you without you telling them who you are, and nothing is more frustrating than having to go on an expedition to try to find a single email address.

How does your site reflect your brand? Whether or not you think so, you and your blog are a brand. (You’re also a business if you make money… but that’s a different post.) Does your site reflect the future you want to have? Does it even reflect your present? Take the time to flesh out what your brand looks like, and you may find that there are some things you’ll need to change sooner rather than later

Are you a conductor or a corrector? Conductors lead the symphony, while correctors hang back and clean up the mess left behind by the chaos. You can be a conductor and lead your readers into sharing your content, staying on your site and even interacting more. Or, you can hang back and make sure that when things go wrong, you’ll be there to pick up the pieces. Conductors are in the forefront of the action, so you’re taking more of a risk. But, with more risk comes more reward – you want to let your readers and others around you know that you are able to provide them with what they need, when they need it (and in the way that they want to digest it, too).

Does your site pass the two-second test? That is to say, when a new visitor comes to your site, do they see what you want them to? Where is your eye drawn and directed to within the first two seconds of the visit? One of the simplest tools for directing the eye is contrast – things like pulling your sidebar color all the way up to the top of your page will direct the eye to the center and down.

I’ll touch next on SEO tips for bloggers, but I want to leave you with this thought: if your site were to disappear tomorrow, would the void be filled without missing a step? How do you want to make your mark on the world, on or offline?

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