I started my social media work as a blogger myself, so I understand both sides of the field. I know what it's like to pitch a company for ad space or a compensated review. And I also know what it's like to evaluate those proposals on behalf of a company. I've organized blog campaigns with dozens of bloggers, serving as a go-between for companies, asking bloggers for corrections or additions to their sponsored posts.
Over the years, I've seen companies make a lot of mistakes when it comes to working with bloggers. Sometimes I'm in a situation where I can educate and affect change. Other times, my hands are tied and I can only stand back and shake my head with disappointment.
One big piece of advice I have for working with bloggers is to trust them.
Bloggers Probably Know More Than You Do
If you aren't a blogger yourself (and 9 times out of 10 having a company blog is nothing like what these bloggers do), realize that bloggers know a lot more about blogging than you do. They also probably know a lot more about social media and search engine optimization in general.
So when you get highly granular about what you want in a blog post from them, trust them when they push back. If they object to something, there's probably a legitimate reason. They know how something like that has flopped in the past. They know how their audience responds. They know best social media practices, and they are trying to give you the best possible experience.
They are also trying to protect their authenticity as a blogger, nurture the trust they have developed with their readers, and build their base of quality, evergreen content. Those aren't selfish things. Those are smart things. If they lose their audience and sacrifice quality of content, then how can they reach people with your message?
The best situation for a blogger-company relationships is when it's a win for both sides. You get excellent exposure, a traffic spike, new sign ups, (whatever), and the blogger gets engaged readers, traffic via social media, hits via search engines, and yet another piece of quality content on her site.
Trust the Blogger's Slant
This is the biggest point of contention between bloggers and companies that I see. A company typically desires a review post that features the company name in the post title and is exclusively about their product or service.
There's a place for a straight review post. You do need those! However, if the blogger you are working with wants to get creative and write a broader post using a unique slant that will resonate with her readers, let her do it. She will skillfully weave your product into a post that will reach more people than merely those who are searching for a review.
You see, online readers are savvy. Even very faithful readers of a particular blog are likely to pass over a post they know is a product review unless they already had an interest in that product. If you want to reach the broadest possible audience, being a bit more indirect is a solution. Let the blogger tuck you away in the folds of her post instead of shouting your name from the rooftops. It's more authentic to causally mention you in the context of a problem solving post that is meeting her readers' needs versus crafting a post that is meeting only your needs as a company.
If you demand that the post be exclusively about you, realize that a lot of people will breeze over the title without clicking. They automatically think, "I don't need that. I don't want to read an ad." But people will read things that solve their problems.
Scenario of 2 Potential Blog Post Titles
Unique Slant: 5 Ways I Solve This Huge Annoying Problem (That Everyone in Blogger's Audience Faces)
Product Review: Client's Product is Awesome, So You Need to Buy It
The product review may very well explain how the product solves that huge annoying problem. But the title is screaming, "This is a review! You are going to be sold to! Don't click!" We all know that people love to buy, but they don't like being sold to.
When you let a blogger use a unique slant instead of a straight review, then you are allowing your potential customer the option to buy instead of being sold to.
Trust the Blogger's Images
Most bloggers appreciate it when you send over logos, YouTube video links, product images, screenshots, etc. They can incorporate those into their posts and repurpose them into unique graphics as best fits their needs. But don't require that a blogger use a collection of images. Offer and let them choose.
Again, readers are savvy. They know the difference between a company product image and a photo that a blogger took. Sure the quality of your image may be superior. But that personal, homey touch is what engenders trust and authenticity. Let the blogger take her own photos and make her own graphics. She knows what works on different social media platforms. Trust her experience with images.
Trust the Blogger's Words
If there are key facts you want conveyed, do point those out to a blogger. Keep it minimal, though, and never require a cut and paste of an entire chunk of text. Readers will spot what is written in the blogger's voice and what is written in your voice. As soon as their beloved blogger's voice stops, their defenses go up.
Hopefully you are working with an array of bloggers. This means that you don't have to rely on one writer to portray a complete picture of your product. Each blogger you work with will share a different piece of the puzzle, focusing on what stuck out the most to her.
The idea is to pique interest so that potential customers head over to your site where you answer their questions, overcome their objections, and seal the sale.
A blog post is not a substitute for your own website. It's merely a channel to get people there. And blog posts can't sell your product.
Trust the Blogger's Feedback
If a blogger approaches you with negative feedback and backs out of the agreement to post about your product or service, receive it as a gift. Don't get defensive. Instead ask for constructive criticism that you can use to improve your site, your product, your customer service, or whatever is lacking.
Unless there is some personal crisis, when a blogger backs out of a project, this is a red flag that there's a problem with your product. You can learn from it and grow or you can get ticked off and alienate the blogger.
Let me warn you, you do not want to anger a blogger. Tread carefully. What you started as an effort to boost your brand could backfire in a negative publicity situation if you handle it poorly. Although very few bloggers would post negative feedback openly on their blogs, they certainly do share their opinions in private Facebook groups, in blogging networks, and at social media conferences.
If you have had negative encounters with bloggers and then find that you can't get any bloggers to agree to work with you, it is likely that you have a bad reputation among bloggers in your niche.
Once I arranged a blog campaign with 20 bloggers that turned into this kind of disaster. Nine of the twenty had such a bad experience that they refused to write a review. (They didn't want to write a negative review but couldn't honestly write a positive one. So they wisely wanted to back out entirely.) These nine were experienced bloggers, many of whom were experts in the niche of the product they were to review. These were women I trusted, so I knew that there were some huge issues with the product. When I approached the client, however, I was faced with total denial and some very ugly accusations.
Instead of trusting my bloggers' feedback (which was written professionally and in detail) and working to improve their product, they chose to alienate my entire blogging network.
Blog Post Versus Advertisement
If you truly do not want to capitalize on a blogger's voice and unique creativity, if you truly want a way to reach her audience with your exact message, then ask what an email to her list would cost. You don't really want a blog post. You just want to reach her readers with an ad. There's nothing wrong with that necessarily. But don't mislead the blogger by asking her to blog about you. Actually you want a cut and paste advertisement.
When you agree to work with a blogger, trust her slant, her words, her images, and her feedback.
Obviously there are slacker bloggers who have no integrity or follow through. Trusting them is not a good idea. Unfortunately, you don't know their true level of expertise or work ethic until after you've agreed to cooperate. I've been burned plenty of times myself by bloggers who didn't do what they promised or who did it half-heartedly. But I've also worked with amazingly creative and hard-working bloggers who over-delivered and knocked my socks off. Bottom line, it's worth the risk.