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!
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.