Bloggers + Brands: Four Ways to Find the Perfect Match

Does your brand have a blogger relations strategy? Considering that 77 percent of Internet users read blogs, building relationships with bloggers certainly deserves a place in your marketing strategy.

After all, well-respected bloggers can exert more influence on readers than major news providers – especially when it comes to niche communities. Research shows 81 percent of consumers trust blogs as a source of information and 61 percent have bought something recommended on a blog.

But, as always when exploring a new medium, this poses a challenge for marketers. How exactly can you and your organization reach out to bloggers without looking like spammers or hacks?

Start with Research

To get a blogger’s perspective on engaging with brands, I spoke with Karen Putz, the voice behind DeafMom  – a blog focused on deaf parenting and other deaf and hard of hearing issues. Her first piece of advice? Make sure you have a firm understanding of the blogger’s work before you reach out. Putz says it’s pretty obvious when companies don’t put in this time upfront.

“I have received requests from brands who have not done their homework – they have not read my blog nor bothered to take the time to understand who I am and what I do. I’ve been contacted by companies who ask me to support audio or video products which are not captioned – thus, they are not accessible to me or many of my readers. But, some of those companies have willingly provided access and we’ve worked together.”

If the task of reading blogs all day to “get to know” bloggers seems a bit daunting, prioritize the list into several tiers. Focus your time on the first tier and keep the others on the back burner. While you read, keep a file of ideas on how you might partner with the blogger.

Plan your Approach

Before the pitch, consider where your needs and the blogger’s intersect. Think about how you might contribute valuable content, or how you might give them a unique opportunity. “Make sure your product/company is a good match for the blogger and that the relationship and outcome is mutually beneficial for both parties,” recommends Putz.

Your collaboration may go beyond the printed page. The British Heart Foundation gave top UK bloggers a chance to design window displays in London. Coach showcased bloggers in their advertisements. Other brands have taken bloggers on the road to live events.

“A great relationship with a blogger can pay for itself over and over with brand loyalty and social media exposure,” says Putz. “For example, the Tommie Copper company has supported me in the past when I was injured. I will often come across someone on Twitter who needs pain relief from an injury and I recommend this product to them.”

Be sure to also check out the blogger’s website to see if they have guidelines for brand partnerships, such as mommy blogger Rage Against the Minivan provides here.

Ready, set, pitch

It’s time to make first contact. Here, personalization is key. Blasting out the same press release to 50 bloggers is unlikely to garner a response. As Brian Solis puts it, “The traditional press release has no business in blogger relations. You’re going to have to put things together as building blocks in order to help someone tell a story.”

Write a personal introductory email to the blogger through his or her preferred method of contact – whether that’s email, Twitter or a contact form. Take note of common etiquette for blogger relations, such as never pitching via a comment on a post. (Mr. SocialPR spells out four other surefire ways to anger bloggers.)

In your note, clearly state your thoughts on how you might work together in a way that benefits both parties. Include your contact information and close with a request to speak further.

Think before you mention pay

Paying bloggers for brand coverage is a hotly debated topic. Some bloggers feel no need for compensation if the brand’s contribution adds value for their readers. But for others, receiving a fee is essential. (Hey, bloggers gotta eat, too!)

In some cases, brands send freebie products for bloggers to review or give away to readers through a sweepstakes or social contest. This is especially prevalent with mommy bloggers, who are often great resources for families looking for new products or advice on successful methods of parenting. Since some of these popular blogs have hundreds of thousands of readers, sending a free product can be a simple one-time investment that may result in big sales down the road.

The important thing is to never assume a blogger will respond to offers of compensation or free products. If you do enter into a monetary agreement, clear it with legal, and set clear goals from the beginning so you can benchmark for success and justify your budget internally.

Worth the Plunge

As content marketing continues to be an essential strategy in 2013, take advantage of opportunities to bring bloggers into your editorial strategy. If the value is there for the readers, they’ll be happy to work with you, too. As Putz says, “I like working with brands where the support is mutual and it is a win-win situation for both of us.”

Has your organization worked with bloggers in the past? Share what techniques worked for you in the comments below.

Subscribe to the Shoutlet blog in the right sidebar to get regular insights on industry news and social media best practices.