I thought it was high time to write a post addressing our, as bloggers, love-hate relationship with PRs and brands. Those of you who blog 'seriously' have probably had your fair share of experience with companies; and our relationship with them isn't always an easy one. Saying that, not all companies are bad, in fact, a lot are really great. I've also experienced the 'other side' in this relationship (I'm currently interning in a PR company) so I do understand where PRs are coming from at times. Nonetheless, I've seen so many posts written by bloggers about how to approach PR companies; so I thought I'd write one addressed to them - about how to approach us. This post isn't intended to criticise either side; just to create an understanding to make our relationship easier. So, PRs, here are some things us bloggers would like you to know.
1. Blogging is a business like any other
It may surprise you to know that most of us bloggers aren't actually made of money, and blogging is a very expensive occupation. We pay for new outfits every week, for beautiful blog layouts, to hire professional photographers - none of which come cheap. Blogging is an extremely competitive industry, like the fashion industry in general, and there's always pressure to thrive and be the best - which often means spending a pretty penny. For many of us, blogging is a source of additional income, much-needed to pay not only for the expensive cost of living in London, but for all the additional expenses listed. My favourite quote from one of my friends (Beth) when she asked for payment from a PR company and they refused was 'sorry, I didn't realise I could pay my landlord with freebies. I'll just give him this bracelet to pay for my rent!'
It's not wrong for bloggers to ask for compensation - they are essential advertising a product and doing a service. You wouldn't ask a magazine or a celebrity to post for free - why is it different for bloggers? Having seen some of the page prices for a variety of publications, many bloggers I know actually have a greater reach than a lot of smaller tier publications, and earn a lot less from brands and PRs.
2. We don't necessarily NEED your product; which is why we need to be selective
A lot of the time I, like lots of bloggers, am offered things I don't necessarily need, and companies need to understand that while we're grateful for the attention and recognition, we're probably not desperately in need of some teeth whitening products, keychains or extremely cheap, poor quality clothing. We know you're trying to promote your brand, but please don't act like your product is the be-all-and-end-all of life; and that we should be massively grateful to even be considered by you - it's demeaning. One of the things that annoys me most is that in this case, as soon as a lot of smaller bloggers (who actually often have much higher engagement) ask what a company's budget is, or explain their rates, the standard PR response is as follows:
"We're sorry, we do not have the budget to cover blogger compensation at the moment."
Fair enough to a lot of smaller companies and start-ups - trust me, we completely understand. But I've had multi-million dollar companies tell me they don't have a budget to pay bloggers (not goimg to name and shame), which is obviously complete rubbish. Usually, my rule is that I will still post an item on Instagram or my blog if I really love it and could see myself buying it anyway; but for the most part, it would be a lot of time and effort spent for very little compensation.
3. Don't pester
Understand that we are well within our rights to politely decline a collaboration; and please don't keep e-mailing us if we do so. Just like if a blogger reached out to a PR company, or even if anyone applied for a job, and didn't receive a response, you wouldn't keep sending angry e-mails asking why they don't want to work with you. A follow-up email is fine, we're all busy and often miss the first one - but if you've sent two and received no response, please accept the hint, as most people would!
4. Keep it personal
SO many times it has happened to me and other bloggers I know where we've been sent a blanket email completely irrelevant to us, or addressed to the wrong person. Having worked in PR I know how many emails go through the inbox and how difficult it is to be personal. It's true, there's SO many people to speak to. But I do believe in selecting a few and making personal pitches; most of all with bloggers. Yes, there's lots of people to speak to, but I also think it's great to be selective and for brands to really target the bloggers they think most suitable to their look - so that no one's time is wasted.
5. Don't demand and dictate
So many times I haven't been given any compensation for a collaboration and have been demanded so much of - made to go out my way to a certain place to take a certain photo, been told what to wear and not wear, been told how to have my hair and nails, been told what time to post and exactly what to write in my caption. With all due respect to these brands and PRs, I believe the bloggers themselves know how best to handle the blogs and Instagrams they have spent so much time curating. Trust me, we have apps, we have Instagram Analytics, we know when the time for best engagement is. Bloggers work so hard to create a certain image and brand, so the last thing we want is to be dictated to.
6. Don't be rude
Maybe this one seems a little obvious, but I've had SO many companies be rude to me and my blogger friends. So many companies simply try to take advantage of newbie bloggers; those that are less experienced. I know several people who have declined collaborations and been sent stuff anyway (this has also happened to myself) and then received angry emails saying "why haven't you done your post yet?" It's horrendous what some companies think they can get away with! Or, bloggers have asked for one thing and received something totally different; then had PRs demand a post. It's crazy to demand that when you've been sent something you didn't ask for, and didn't even want!
Have you guys ever had any bad experiences with PRs? Is there anything else you want PR companies to know? Let me know in the comments.