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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Tips for emerging bloggers: How to ensure smooth interaction with PR!

Most emerging bloggers- bloggers who have begun to see occasional success with their blogs- financial or otherwise- often go through a middlemen- mostly a PR agency while they work for a brand. Very few get to work directly with brands. This post shares some advice and tips on dealing with PR agency/middlemen. Note that my suggestions are largely focused on part time bloggers who usually work on opportunities that come their way and not actively chase brands for business. I am not that experienced or qualified to advise full time professional bloggers who would have usually mastered the art of pitching new proposals to brands and working their way through complex PR mechanism to get real money.

Disclaimer: Idea of this post is NOT to show PR in bad light or make them sound like enemies of bloggers. Idea is to highlight things that can go wrong so that bloggers are mindful of what might be happening on the other side, so that a smooth interaction can be ensured between two parties (blogger and PR) and a long relationship can be built.

Understand that PR people may not be the decision makers:  Lots of things change or go wrong- brand may not accept your quote, you might not get selected for a  FAM trip or a blogger activity, there could be delays in some activity (say payment or ticket booking) and so on. While we tend to get upset with the PR person for these outcomes, we need to understand that they are not always the decision makers. Decisions are taken by someone else and these folks are only coordinating with stakeholders. Getting mad them when things don’t work in your favour doesn’t help anyone. Instead try to understand what went wrong and try to close the conversation with a positive tone.

If it is not a definitive YES, then it is mostly NO.
There will be instances where someone approaches you for an activity but half way through communication stops-Lot of things could have changed on the other side that we are not aware of- brands may cut budget which means now campaign needs to have less bloggers or dates/rules/selection criteria might have changed or simply you were not shortlisted or someone decided you are not good enough for this campaign. PR person who approached you may not be at liberty to disclose all the details. Where possible try to find out what went wrong- may be networking with other bloggers or by monitoring that campaign thereafter (like who all are writing about it etc). Similarly, lots of time PR will be just checking with you if you are interested and if you are free on those dates. This should not be misunderstood as if you are selected. There might be some elimination process after initial shortlist. If you are not selected don’t get mad at PR, learn to move on.

Command instead of demand:
An invite or offer or proposal carriers more weight when brands/PR agencies approach you instead of you approaching them with a proposal. When someone contacts you it is usually easier because they would have set aside a budget and would have done some basic screening to shortlist and consider you. If you try to approach the brand with a proposal, it usually takes a much longer process for brand to see value in your proposal, make provisions in their plan to accommodate it and eventually work things out. Lots of time, unless you have right contacts, your proposal may not even reach the decision makers. So be prepared when you send unsolicited offers to PR and expect them to work with brands in your favor.

Payment delays- This is the single most factor which causes heartbreaks, escalations, angry emails and so on. But understand that PR person would have agreed to the amount based on the confirmation received from brand. He/she can’t be expected to pay you from his/her pocket- actual payment is usually done by someone else- someone at the brand have to sign the cheque, account department has to process it etc. There can be long delays, despite PR person having all the good intentions. Shouting at the PR fellow may not help. Find alternate ways to escalate- like find other people who are affected by same brand, or try finding another employee who is working in the brand to find out what is going on or try shame the brand on twitter/facebook as an ultimate step to make them pay.

Fulfill your part of deliverables. PRs are also answerable to the brand. If say a campaign requires you to do one blog post, 5 tweets and 5 fb updates, ensure that you fulfill these deliverables on your part. May be you have written a detailed and beautiful blog post but haven’t tweeted much- you are thinking you’ve done more than required and you are done. From PR’s point of view, deliverables are still pending from your side because you’ve not tweeted enough.  When in doubt ask for expectations/deliverables before-hand. If you need more time, communicate in advance to set expectation right. Otherwise, ensure that you do not default on your part of post-event work. Your delay also delays PR’s reporting to brand.

PRs may not be social media experts: PR folks specialize in dealing with people, coordinating complex campaigns, promoting something etc. Most are well versed with social media, but there can be a lack of knowledge. For example, difference between blog and blog post is often ignored and we get mails asking for 2 blogs and 5 tweets to be done after the event- wherein they actually meant blog post. Your facebook posts won’t be accessible to them to verify if you have exposed it only to friends.  They might be more inclined towards quantity which is easy to measure and report, than quality. Because of such reasons you might feel this person doesn’t know what he/she is talking about. Give them some room. If there is ambiguity, clear it, if they have done some mistake, highlight in person. You never know who else might be laughing at you for various mistakes you are doing in life.

Pressures of the job: Keep in mind that PR persons are probably more stressed than you and me. On one side they will have brands who won’t release funds on time, who keep demanding more deliverables and results and on the other side they will have crazy bloggers and media people who need to be kept happy and some expect to be treated like VIPs. Despite their best efforts, sometimes things go wrong because too many stakeholders are involved in a complex campaign.  Give them a benefit of doubt in first few instances. If they are intentionally doing something against your interests, you will know after a few incidents.

It is also important to understand what kind of revenue model is in place between the brand and PR agency. In case of most reputed brands, PR agencies get a fixed annual pay and expense reimbursement- in such cases, PR agencies won’t have to take a cut from bloggers’ earnings or campaign funds. This will help them do a very good job. But in some cases, brands give a fixed budget for a campaign and leave the decision with PR agency to execute. In this model, PR agency might have an interest in cutting costs- like paying less to the bloggers or selecting less demanding bloggers so that desired quantity of results can be generated at lower price, even if it means compromise on quality- and pocket the savings. In this model there is a higher risk that those who ask too many facilities or too much money will be eliminated right away, irrespective of quality of their blogs. Be sensitive to these possibilities.

In summary:
  • Never insult/criticize/blame someone on a personal level for matters related to their job
  • Things do go wrong many times- anticipate and be prepared.
  • Be humble and work on your strengths, so that more opportunities come to you

Hope this helps. Do share your experiences and tips.

Also read: How much to charge for sponsored posts * Mridula's thoughts on FAM trips for bloggersLive blogging conferences- tips and best practices * 6 tips for designing successful contests for bloggers *

10 comments :

Arun Prasadh said...

Guess all the points came from your experience. Nice info. Thanks.

Mridula said...

I so agree with delivering your part of the variables but it frustrates the hell out of me when they don't pay on time :D But such is the world!

rupam sarma said...

Thanks for the informative post.

R Niranjan Das said...

While bloggers are always expected to follow timelines, it is never the case with payments.

ವಿ.ರಾ.ಹೆ. said...

Nice tips. ನಮ್ಮ ಟ್ವೀಟ್ಸ್ ಮತ್ತು ಫೇಸ್ಬುಕ್ ಅಪ್ಡೇಟ್ ಗಳನ್ನೂ ಮಾರಿಕೊಳ್ಳಬಹುದು ಅಂತ ನನಗೆ ತೀರಾ ಇತ್ತೀಚೆಗೆ ಗೊತ್ತಾದದ್ದು! :)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

ವಿ ರಾ ಹೇ... ಕಾಲ ತುಂಬಾ ಕೆಟ್ಟುಹೋಗಿದೆ... ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಫಾಲೋವರ್ಸ್ ಇದ್ದಷ್ಟು ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಹಣ ಮಾಡಬಹುದು,, ಟಿ ವಿ ಪೇಪರಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಬರುವ ಜಾಹಿರಾತಿನಂತೆ ಅಂತರ್ಜಾಲವು ಕುಲಗೆಟ್ಟು ಹೋಗುತ್ತಿದೆ

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Niranjan- true.. That is single most factor that causes disputes and fights... Lot of companies have a habit to make vendors wait longer just for their ego satisfaction

@Rupam- Thanks

@Mridula: True.. Life has to go on..,

@Arun- let us just say observation

Aneesh Kumar said...

Any one please say..
How can we earn money from blog?

Prasad Np said...

Rather than showing the PR in bad light this post shows more what kind of constraints PR works under...

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Prasad...

@Aneesh- that is a million dollar question... To start with, keep an eye on blogadda, Indiblogger, blogmint etc.