Before the advent of social media, when a new product or service hit the market, a press release went out to reporters, and the public would (hopefully) read the newspapers and magazines that featured the company. How easy that sounds. Around 2007, social media started becoming more mainstream and soon, blogs went from being online diaries to vehicles for amplifying messaging by brands to a target audience. Mom blogging was born and marketing and PR was forever changed.
Having served time as a mom blogger, I can attest to the flooded inbox with requests to review toys, attend events, wear new clothes, board a plane to Atlantis and test drive a new washer/dryer. I attended several conferences throughout the years, including the ubiquitous BlogHer where not only did I meet some of my very own bloggy idols, but learned new tactics and techniques for making it all work. Clearly it hasn’t taken long for brands and PR to figure out that bloggers provide a valuable service – it’s well documented that there’s no sales tool like word of mouth. Combine that with the fact that moms control a big chunk of household spending – and getting new products/services, etc. into the hands of influential moms became a no brainer – and a great use of resources.
But along with the awesome opportunities (say swag three times fast!) came daily frustrations: requests for a review of a product based on nothing but hi-res images, compensation in the form of a “chance to win” a fabulous prize, the hope that a blogger would endorse a brand or product she’d never heard of and never experienced. The frustration was palpable on social media (hell hath no fury like a mom blogger scorned), shadowing the feeling of value and replacing it with the notion that brands were taking advantage of bloggers.
* Communications agencies (PR/marketing, etc.) can control how they work with bloggers to create a balanced relationship:Solid client communication. From the outset, it is the job of the agency to set expectations with clients. Big name bloggers with highly trafficked sites are being compensated for their time. Brands should expect to remunerate bloggers with a gift card (or some other method of payment) if the product they are sampling is below say, $100 in value. There are exceptions, but the expectation should be set prior to agreeing to execute a blogger campaign. Blogging is a business, and bloggers should be regarded and treated as professionals both by agencies and brands.
* Solid blogger communication. Bloggers provide a very important service that can be pivotal in leveraging a brand's consumer-facing image. That said, providing all the information the blogger needs to write an informed and balanced review or endorsement is on the agency/brand. Providing images, deadlines, links and a reminder about the FTC disclosure (bloggers must disclose that they are part of a paid campaign), is helpful and a professional way to conduct a campaign. Relationships within the mom blogging community are just as important as client relationships – and should be treated as such.
Bloggers have a role in keeping the trains moving on time as well. When bloggers opt-in to participate in a campaign, accept a product or service, and then can't find the time to write their review, it’s not just unprofessional, it’s problematic. It happens - the campaign seems interesting when it arrives in your inbox, but once it hits your doorstep, life happens. Maybe something more compelling has taken precedence. Or you simply don't feel like blogging. Or maybe you decide to take a vacation. Maybe you just hate the product and can’t find one redeeming thing to say about it. Talk to the agency person. Writing an objective review where you cover what's great – and not so great about the product – is the agreement. But to ignore it is to breach the “gentlewoman’s agreement” implied when opting into participating. And as a professional, living up to your end of the deal is part of the package.
Blogging has become a mainstay of the PR/marketing world and it’s critical that brands and agencies work to cultivate a symbiotic relationship with bloggers. Expectations are important to manage and creating a bridge where brands and bloggers feel a sense of value is the secret to a long and healthy relationship where once there was none.