Social media and the mainstream press might embrace different agendas, but there is one thing the two mediums have in common, besides a goal to inform and entertain. Like traditional media that have historically relied heavily on advertising dollars for generate income, bloggers are becoming increasingly entrepreneurial and actively court brands to advertise on their blogs or to submit products “for review.”
There is one problem: when bloggers became mainstream, many initially wanted to be treated like journalists. They wanted to receive the same content, the same information and ultimately, the same professional respect that public relations reps and marketers give to the likes of the editors at the New York Times. This is all great, but now, things are different
Now that bloggers have seem some of their peers rise to the top to achieve book deals, television shows and high-paying speaking opportunities, every blogger wants to be seen as a business. The line between advertising and publishing just became blurrier. Now, I’m an advocate for brands compensating bloggers for paid campaigns when the timing is right and when it makes sense for a specific brand. I’m also an advocate for brands thinking twice before they pay for placement in any media channel, new or traditional.
Thebigquestionis:Whatisthereturnonmyinvestment?Brands and marketers ask this question all the time, but it’s time we start asking it out loud. There is no formal training to become a blogger so while there are many amazing blogs run by consummate professional businesspeople, some bloggers have no marketing background or knowledge whatsoever. This is perfectly fine, but if they are asking a company to compensate them from their marketing budget, they should be prepared to sell the brand on how it will impact their marketing plan. If you are considering buying advertising and you approach a publication, they will be prepared with a sales kit, case studies, concrete examples of how they can help your brand meet its goals.
To give you an analogy, when I started my first job, I did PR for a large bridal company that had 33% marketshare in the wedding gown industry and advertised heavily in most large publications, particularly those targeted to brides. Therefore, we received a lot of phone calls from press who wanted to work with us, so many that we had an entire email and telephone hotline devoted to the calls. The first question we asked was: “can you confirm that this is a positive story for our client?” We wanted to guarantee that if we spent time and effort fielding a media inquiry that we wouldn’t get slammed by a reporter or editor who happened to be a disgruntled bride that hated the company. We also wanted to know how to respond, because we might route the inquiry to a different company spokesperson if it needed to be addressed at a higher level.
Today, the media landscape is different and public relations professionals are constantly faced with giving clients or bosses recommendations on whether they should pay for a placement, something that never came up five years ago.
It’s just as important to vet a paid media query carefully, especially if, as a public relations professional, you aren’t the person who is in charge of advertising. Earned and paid media are separate entities, but they do occasionally overlap and when you are faced with a paid media inquiry from a blogger, it could be worthwhile to ask: what kind of return on investment can I expect from this? If you’re looking to acquire more users on your app, tell the blogger that goal. If you want traffic to your website, ask them how they can support that.
If a blogger can tell you who they are, why they are different than the other blogs in their category and why they are a specific fit to work with their brand, it’s worth taking their call. If you ask them to tell you: “what is the return on investment for me?” they should be able to give you exact metrics and a case study before you give them even a dollar. And if they don’t know what a “return on investment is” it’s probably worth a polite pass.
Thoughts on new and traditional media, current events, life in Chicago and the occasional small Chihuahua photo.