Last month saw one of the periodic incidents where a disagreement between blogger and brand relations caused it to go mini-viral among the blogger community and those working in outreach. I have read a lot into the #BloggerBlackmail situation and for the life of me still can’t make up my mind as to who’s side I am on, both seem to have valid points and both seem to be in the wrong. My conclusion to it all is that neither side came out covered in glory, both seemed, in my opinion, a little petulant and a lot wrong.
Regardless of this, though, there is a lot that bloggers and brands alike can learn from this and other similar situations that have arisen in the 20 years since the first blog and the last five since the blogger and brand relations seemed to really start to build. What is important for brands to realise is that blogging is an unregulated industry, anyone can be a blogger, anyone can call themselves an editor and all bloggers seem to different ways of working. What is clear is that no matter how many precautions you take, you won’t get this right 100% of the time. Brands will still get on the wrong side of bloggers and bloggers will still surprise brands by being unprofessional and failing to deliver what was agreed upon.
Below are some tips for brand when it comes to working with bloggers, some of these may seem very basic, but you’d be surprised at how many of these are missed by some big brands and agencies.
Always get an agreement in writing.
This can just be an email detailing all of the points when it comes to what the blogger will deliver, as long as they reply and agree, you’re well covered should they fail to deliver. It doesn’t mean they always will, but does mean that you have the high ground when they don’t. Create a basic template that you can just re use and send to each blogger you work with, explain that it’s nothing personal, but the way that the company works.
You have no rights when it comes to asking why deliverables are late if no deadline was specified in the first place. You can include deadlines with the main agreement, or just have them agreed to separately, again though, make sure to get them in writing.
Agree on timings for social media posts.
Often when working with bloggers, brands will have a certain about of instant social media coverage included as part of the campaign. Make sure to specify rough times (of day) that you want thee posted. All too often a blogger will be working on a campaign for a destination and tweet at a convenient local time, which is more like the middle of the night for the UK, where the target market resides.
Keep any grievances off social media.
If a bloggers does let you down, and they will do from time to time, don’t air this in public. This should be something basic, but it’s amazing how many PRs or those in marketing that take their anguish to social media on personal accounts and even sometimes on business accounts. Remain professional, this shouldn’t need to be said, but it does.
Kind of a follow on from the above, when a blogger is hard to work with, be professional in all emails with them, don’t lose your temper, even if you see them as a friend. I have seen emails from brands to bloggers that are more similar to what you’d write to a friend from the pub. This gets worse when you get angry, bloggers are a VERY gossipy bunch and these emails will get shared, remember that.
The blog is a business.
The blogger you are dealing with runs a business, bare this in mind when you speak to them and approach them in the same way you would any other business.
These may seem like basic tips, but they do need to be considered and very often are not.
Now, for the bloggers, you may feel that brands and agencies are the ones that always seem to be in the wrong, but that is very far from the case. Here are a few pointers to be considered when working with brands.
Your blog is your business.
In the same way brands have to act professionally when they speak to you, you have to do the same when you are speaking to them. You ate writing as a representative of a business, not as yourself.
You have to justify why you are worth money.
Yes, sometimes a brand will come to you asking for too much for too little, but it’s up to you as a blogger and as a business to demonstrate why you are worth the money, trip, product etc. Don’t think for a second that just because something takes two days you should be paid for two days of work, it would take me two days to pain a bathroom, but if what they need is the kitchen tiled, I won’t get paid for that time. Show them where the value is, this is exactly the same when you are pitching or have been approached.
Define what you’ll be doing.
An agreement from the brand is just as important to you as it is to them, make sure everything, and I do mean everything, is outlined. This can be a minimum, personally I love working with bloggers who over deliver, but you have to have everything that is included in the collaboration noted and agreed upon. If you then decide to do more than this, that’s great and the brand will love it.
When aggravated, count to ten before posting.
There are some big Facebook and groups for bloggers out there and it is understandable that sometimes you’d want to post about brands that have messed you around or offered something unreasonable. Don’t. Despite what the description of the group may say, the brand will see this, either directly or a friend will share it with them. I cannot stress just how terrible it looks to have a bloggers posting about how a brand ‘only offered them X’ or similar, it’s petulant and looks terrible not just for you, but for all bloggers. As bloggers, you want and deserve the respect of the industries you work in, this is one of the quickest ways possible to lose that.
Advice is great, demands and condescension is not.
As a blogger, you may feel your way of doing this is the best way. One of the things I love about this industry is the advice available to everyone. I posted when I started writing this article for some advice on what to post and have had five responses in the 40 minutes it’s taken me. What is not good, though, is sounding demanding, whether it be to a brand or another blogger. Take the example of being paid, you may feel bloggers should always be paid for their time, but it a different blogger wants to do a trip or write an article for free, or less money, that is up to them. As well as friends, these people are essentially business rivals, the lines get blurred but are still there. Some of what I have seen when it comes to ‘advising’ others comes across as demanding, condescending and pretty close to bullying. You may say that what the blogger is doing damages the industry and undervalues your work, but it doesn’t have half the negative impact of the way they are treated for the work they chose to do.
These are just some pointers and I expect that most people reading this will already be doing all of these and may well have some to add. As I mentioned at the top of this post, you’ll never stop having bad experiences, it’s inevitable in any form of business. Just a few days I had a difficult situation with a blogger, it was a new one to me and something that I don’t think either of us were in the wrong for. This is par for the course, but hopefully these tips will help to minimise the bad feeling that can sometimes surround blogger brand relations.