Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King
23
comments

Better Practices When Contacting Food Bloggers

posted by in Miscellaneous

laptop typing
Photo credit here.

Suggested guidelines for PR agencies, brand managers, and restaurant owners.

This is a post that needed to be written. While I can’t assume that I speak for the majority of (food) bloggers, I feel that these are relevant points that need to be raised.

Having started Dessert Comes First in 2005 when most people didn’t even know what a blog was, it’s interesting to see how this medium was ignored then recognized to market various brands. Since then, I’ve become increasingly stunned and stupefied by the rather “creative” ways employed by various groups to get [their] events/products/restaurants blogged about.

Because the very nature of what they do is personal, bloggers foster a connection with their readers, something print ads or viral videos can’t do. Thus, the evident necessity of tapping them as an advertising medium. It’s a misconception however that food bloggers can and should provide free press, and unfortunately, it’s this mindset that dooms most potential partnerships from the get-go. Old PR guidelines don’t work with bloggers, and what might work for one certainly won’t work for all.

Here, my tips on cutting through the clatter to communicate more effectively with food bloggers.

1. Know the blog and the blogger’s name.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been called Lory Balatazar, Loree Baltasar and my blog referred to as Desert Comes First or Desserts Comes First (already grammatically incorrect). If you’re going to get in touch, read the blog first and get the blogger’s name right. This is so basic, it’s not even funny. And quit it already with “Dear Food Blogger,”.

2. BE SPECIFIC
I use all caps above because I can’t stress this enough. On initial contact with a food blogger, you must be clear about the campaign’s objective and what you want/expect. Try to avoid sending out letters like the following one I received:


Hello, we are from XXX. We’d like 1 blog post + 1 Instagram post about our product.
Thank you, and looking forward to your immediate response!
Best regards,
XXX

After scraping my jaw off the floor, I think about how nice it would’ve been had I been apprised of the actual product (this particular company has several), the timeline of proposed partnership, the compensation for said work, among many other missing points. “Feeler” emails like the one above are sent out to ascertain a blogger’s interest, but what’s actually given doesn’t give (me) much to be interested about.

Be clear about what you want. Do you want a product review? Do you want me to develop a recipe for you? When is the deadline? Unstated expectations often result in disappointment, not to mention irritation.

3. Keep an open mind.
PR agencies, don’t be limited by the client’s campaign brief. Most are sent down from the regional office and are (unfortunately) not tailored for local use. You’re hiring a blogger because of his/her talent and your belief that they can compellingly tell your brand story in his/her own distinctive way. Cultivate new pull strategies for a blogger to be more effective at selling your product. Thus, depart from the cookie cutter mindset.

A list of DON’Ts:

• “Tell your readers to ‘Like’ our Facebook page” (boooring!).
• Dictate what he/she should write. This is why so many bloggers’ sponsored posts sound the same.
• Force the blogger to link to 25,000 things, and insult them even more by demanding they use certain keywords and/or phrases. A skillfully written article will trump all pre-determined keywords on its Google authority page.

DCF adheres to a rigid set of standards from which I will never stray. That said, I truly appreciate those brands that allow me creative freedom. Minola is one such excellent example. They were pleased with the fried chicken recipe I developed for them, and it was all because they respected my decisions and non-negotiables (more on this below).

A brand benefits from a minimalist and open mindset. The more contrived a blog post is, the more it loses its impact.

4. Compensate fairly. (And what credibility and relevance have to do with it).
There are two questions I ask myself when I consider taking on a job, both on and offline:

#1 If I do this, will it build or take away from my credibility? If it’s the latter, I don’t care how much money is involved, I won’t even consider it. After nine years, the primary goal of Dessert Comes First remains the same: to share my stories about food. Occasionally, I also talk about brands I use and like, and whether or not those stories inspire brand love, well, that’s ideal, but not imperative.

#2 Is it a match to who I am? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t earn much because most initial proposals die at #1. If I had to say it, my batting average is probably 1/20.

When contacting a blogger, you must be upfront, and more so especially when it comes to money. Spell out your requirements and expectations, and either a) ask the blogger what he/she charges for the scope of work or b) lay out your available budget. Ex-deals can suffice also, but it should have some monetary value; several thousand pesos of GCs for meals in a single restaurant is just plain ridiculous.

What I bring to each of my jobs is experience, years spent honing my craft: writing, recipe developing, baking, styling, and shooting. As a photographer’s apprentice, I observe, assist, and do some heavy lifting. I am paying my dues so that I can tell better food stories through my photos.

Whichever blogger(s) you choose, offer a fee commensurate to the work involved and the skill set they possess. And no fair flooding a food blogger with food. We’re good at other things aside from eating.

5. Don’t assume.
PR agencies, brand managers, and restaurant owners all have their reasons for contacting food bloggers, the so-called group of online influencers. There are so many bloggers sharing personal food stories to their respective audiences, people who relate to that blogger and trust him/her. Find the blogger that is a fit for what you need.

As I’ve said, credibility and authenticity are paramount for me. Among other things, I don’t accept restaurant invitations because I want to be objective and pay for my meal. I also don’t do random mentions of products that are sent to me nor do I do announcements. This is a blog, not a community billboard.

And don’t – not even for a second – broach the idea of sending me the press kit and expecting me to fashion a post out of it even if I didn’t attend the event. This is highly unprofessional and insulting. The following is something I received just last month.


Thanks for the reply, Lori. Despite your absence, would it be possible for us to request you to still post a blog about the event? Will email you press kit if ever.

Finding the blogger you need is possible but effort must be exerted. Bloggers can be beneficial brand partners provided that a potential partnership is viewed with patience and respect by both parties.

23 Responses to “Better Practices When Contacting Food Bloggers”

  • I can’t believe people who email you misspell your name! They are basically sending a business letter. Would they misspell a cover letter to a prospective business partner? I find this very insulting. There’s an About Me page, how about reading it?

    Don’t worry, Lori. Readers can sense whether a blog post has been ‘compromised’. Readers know their bloggers especially if they’ve been following it for years.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    I appreciate this comment, itskayemiranda. Thanks a lot.

    [Reply]

  • Yes. Yes. Yes. We agree with pretty much everything in this.

    Also, on the other end, we bloggers need to maintain a professional composure and attitude. If you are the kind of blogger that accepts invites for food tastes, write in a fair and balanced manner, and possibly discuss with restaurant owner in private what can be done to make things better for them. (Can’t count how many stories about how some have actually brandished their blogs and pestered restaurant owners for invites, with the threat of writing bad if they don’t. What a disgrace!).
    We should not look at the task/product/invite granted to us as the end product. Personally, the mutually beneficial relationship between the agency, the blogger, and the readers/followers becomes one of the main objectives when writing.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Lynne-Enroute.com-
    I’m more than aware of the stories about some bloggers throwing their weight around, yes. Ultimately, the blogger-restaurateur relationship is a two way street where respect and professionalism must co-exist.

    [Reply]

  • Hi Lori, the RFM banner ads cover some of your content in the articles. The design is also ugly and ruins the beautiful blog design you have.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Hi Dorreen,
    Those have been up just a few days and we’re still tweaking the design. It looks different depending on the browser used.

    [Reply]

  • Thank you Lori, for writing and sharing this!

    Amen!!

    [Reply]

  • I totally agree with this post, Lori. Oftentimes, some (not all) PR agencies make it seem like you owe them something, or invite you to some event without providing what you should expect.

    But really, it’s ridiculous that they’d expect you to write about an event you didn’t attend.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    michymichymoo-
    Transparency and being straightforward are key.

    [Reply]

  • Amen to this post! Makes perfect sense.

    Better practices will be appreciated by Food bloggers.

    Thank you Lori for this! :)

    [Reply]

  • See?

    There’s a way to send this message
    to our friends in the P.R. industry
    without frothing at the mouth : )

    Cheers Cuz!!!

    [Reply]

  • Just an avid reader of your blog here, but I’ve also seen other food blogs and can easily see when they’ve been paid for their posts.

    It turns me off when I see blog X, blog Y and blog Z post about the same product within days of each other. And yes, they use similar terms that were probably force fed by the client. I automatically close the page, or remember the brand and veer away from anything related to it. Because honestly, it reeks of a lack of class to insult the readers this way.

    I commend you for your 1/20 batting average. I’d rather have 19 great food posts, rather than 15 posts about how great this resto or product is, then see pretty much the same food shot from another angle posted in another blog since blog x and y dined at the same resto at the same time. Sometimes tuloy, I catch myself feeling deja vu because their posts are so similar haha.

    Sorry for the lengthy post, but keep up the good work, Lori. :)

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Jek-
    I hear you and can probably guess which trio you’re talking about. I think the burden rests on both the bloggers and those who commission them for their talent to be responsible and professional. As for my low batting average, Ive been accused several times of being “difficult.” It is what it is. And no problem on the lengthy post, I like hearing from my readers.

    [Reply]

    Didi Reply:

    Thank you for this comment Jek! :)

    Warms the heart that there are readers know how to discern.

    [Reply]

    sunshine Reply:

    “several thousand pesos of GCs for meals in a single restaurant is just plain ridiculous.”

    THIS.

    I’m glad that you aren’t one of those bloggers who can be bought for a few free meals… and i really admire you for that.

    Like Jek, I’m disappointed that some of the blogs i used to follow have gone this route…. and you’ll see duplicate posts from the rest of their circle. I also just close the page and don’t read the blog anymore.

    I know that when you write about a restaurant it’s from an honest-to-goodness paying customer’s point of view. Keep up the good work Lori

    [Reply]

  • Your suggested guidelines actually sound like the ones for jobhunting. One would think that having gone through at least an interview to be part of the company they work for, these people would know better.

    This post (specifically #3, #4, and #5) also reminds me of those little posts I see online on how people should re-think how they view artists. Art takes work, whether it’s someone’s profession or even if it’s just a hobby. The good ones have poured a lot of time honing their craft. They are also as good as they are because no one micromanages their creativity. More people should recognize that.

    While art is creating something out of nothing (well, technically, there is still a medium), your example under #5 gave me a laugh.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    sigh-
    I completely relate to your sentiments. I share with you now a quote from Neil Gaiman. This one never fails to bolster me:

    Do what you love. The one thing that nobody else has is you: your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. You, as an artist, will be alone at sea, sending out messages in bottles. Eventually, some will float back — containing job offers. Even if they don’t, keep making good art.

    [Reply]

  • Hi, Lori! I’ve been reading your blog for several years, and one of the reasons I keep coming back to it is that it’s so different from other local food blogs. I love that your primary focus is still the food and not the establishment. I don’t cook, but for some reason, I enjoy your recipe posts too!

    I usually check your blog in the morning. It’s already part of my “pre-work” ritual. Another thing I like is that I’m kept in surprise as to what your next post will be. And it’s always a pleasant surprise!

    So now I know why some food bloggers write their post about a restaurant almost at the same time. It’s the PR machinery at work! For what it’s worth, I’m happy that you stay away from these restaurant invites. Somehow, I’m comforted by the idea that DessertComesFirst remains unbiased.

    It’s so different how we review restaurants here in Manila. I read Frank Bruni’s autobiography, Born Round, and I was amused at the pains he took just to disguise himself while he checked out a new restaurant. And 1 visit wasn’t just enough for him! Before he can write his review, he usually makes at least 3 visits. (And the New York Times gave him credit cards with different names printed on them!)

    DessertComesFirst will always be my favorite food blog. Because that’s what it is — one person who writes interesting posts about her passion for food and sharing them honestly with her readers.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Thank you, Peter S., for your kind, kind words. I’m thrilled and flattered. I hope DCF will always have something good for you, and I enjoyed Frank Bruni’s book immensely too.

    [Reply]

  • Gosh, this is so spot on and expressed all my frustrations with the e-mails and invitations I’ve been getting. I feel like most of the time media and ad people feel like THEY are doing US bloggers a favor whenever they send their super impersonal and vague proposals to us. It’s like they’re assuming we are so hungry for paid content that they don’t have to say much about who they are and what they want us to do, that they need only to dangle a proposition and whatever compensation and we would jump at it and say yes. Some of them with their pre-written introductions even immediately send press kits and “request” that we publish a post copy-pasting their PR Release. Uh no way! It’s insulting! They don’t seem to understand that most of us actually blog because we like it, and if we get compensated for writing about something we legitimately enjoy and care about then that’s just a bonus. Blogging is personal and I take every one of these bad e-mails personally. I remember the names of those people (and their companies) who do it right, and especially those who do it so so wrongly. Ugh. A pet peeve: Those who don’t even make an effort in the simplest act of knowing what my name is. I almost always don’t give these people a response!

    Sorry this turned into a rant. I’m a fan of this blog and Ms. Lori is one of my food blogging idols, but I do believe this is the first time I’m commenting because the topic hit a nerve!

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Hi Clarisse-
    PR people are not the enemy, and neither are the brand managers and restaurateurs. It’s just that blogging as an advertising medium is still new so patience and understanding is needed. I hope my article will provide some clarity for everyone involved.

    [Reply]

  • Well, to be quite honest, I think your blog and quite a handful are the only ones left that hasn’t been tainted or joined the bandwagon. Food blogging has transformed into a ‘job’ and not as a hobby. Food bloggers have been popping here and there simply because of the lure of free meals and loot bags.

    I also think a full disclosure should be practiced.

    [Reply]

  • Thank you for your post! I love the quote from Neil Gaiman =)

    [Reply]

Leave a Reply





Heads up! You are attempting to upload an invalid image. If saved, this image will not display with your comment.

Top 10 Books of 2013

Follow Us

Followgram