Read the rest of the 'bloggers guide' posts here
I only ever intended to write 10 posts for my 'blogger's guide' series, which will have hopefully given an insight to newer bloggers on elements of blogging that aren't so often talked about. I want to use this one to talk about public relations and self-marketing, which is something that I've struggled with often through my blogging career so far. For the final post I will be surmising the series so far and also looking at other ways in which you can make blogging work for you.
PR, or public relations, is a vast topic that I won't attempt to cover in one short blog post, but the key to building a successful blog relies very much on your ability to communicate with and become attractive to PR agencies and brands. I mean this in the most un-obnoxious way; of course, if you are only interested in blogging as a hobby, and don't want to make it into anything more than that, then you can post whatever you like and network as much or as little as you want to, and that is absolutely fine. If you do want to build a contact network, however, and have opportunities to work with external partners, you can take steps to improve your chances of making this happen.
In my experience, agencies and PR companies have a job to do, and that job is normally to spread information and garner interest in a product or campaign that they have been instructed to hype by their client. As a blogger, you have a certain amount of reach and influence, and you can both benefit from striking up a working relationship. You may be lucky enough to have an agency or brand reach out to you, or you might want to contact a brand you think would make a good fit with your blog. There are ways to go about this, but there are some things that I've always tried to keep in mind when doing any of them, which I'll outline below.
If you see a brand and you want to work with them, the best thing you can do is get in touch with them directly. You might tweet them, create a post about why you like their brand and product so much, or simply send them an email. You're making a pitch to the brand to ask them to work with you, and this is an important thing to get right. If I decide to approach a brand, I research the company thoroughly, and have a look at bloggers they might have worked with in the past. If my blog is of a similar ilk to those used before, there's no reason for me not to also throw my hat into the ring and see if they would like to work with my website. I always tell a brand what I can offer; not down to individual statistics (but if you do have a particularly high following on a social media platform this is definitely worth mentioning) but they ways in which I feel I could benefit their brand by working with them. I do have an idea in mind of the sort of post I'd like to put together, but I'm always careful to be realistic; if you are a new blogger with a small following, a 'wish list' type post to begin with, maybe in exchange for a discount code, is a good place to start. I think that there is a lot of interest in becoming a blogger 'for the freebies' and actually, this isn't a huge part of what working with a brand is about; you can help to build your readership by working with bigger companies and this in turn will give you greater clout going forward.
It isn't practicable to expect to work for free, and this is where the edges begin to blur a little. If you are blogging as a hobby, should you expect to be paid? If this is the case, how then can you turn your hobby into a job? Again, I can only offer up my own opinions and share my experiences within this field. I've found that after 6 years of hard work, I am at a point where I am able to turn down projects that I feel don't perhaps suit my blog or simply don't sit within the remit of the blog's content; but at the beginning I really did take every opportunity. This meant for about 5 years I would post content to build my portfolio, and this has led me to work with some incredible national and international brands, which has lent my blog greater influence and allowed me to take part in more lucrative campaigns. It's a bit of a snowball effect; once you start rolling, you can build on your successes and in turn make your blog a must-visit destination.
Be respectful when working with PR companies and agencies. If you get the chance to take part in an amazing campaign, thank them. Turn the post out in good time and share it over your social media. Drive them to want to work with you again. Build your network of contacts by proxy; and by professionalism with regard to the way that you conduct business through your blog. At a recent blog club meet up, a business owner shared that she had sent out samples of her products to many bloggers and not one had reviewed it, posted it online or mentioned it on their blog. Even a thank you email, a small touch that takes only a minute, will have agencies and PR remembering you and earmarking you to work with in the future. Market yourself and your blog by your actions, your manners and your professionalism, and you can continue to make your blog reputation work hard for you.