The biggest mistake bloggers make is asking for free stuff. All. The. Time. It astounds me how blatant some are about it. New bloggers watch established bloggers receive gifts, compensation and the like and assume it’s ok to do the same. Sorry kids, it isn’t. Established bloggers have worked for months (if not years) to get to this stage and it really wasn’t easy. We also (sorry to admit) really hate it when new kids on the block give us a bad name by trying their luck getting some freebies before their blog justifies such accolade.
Only recently I was on a press trip in Germany and a friend who works in PR showed me her inbox. She represents a pushchair brand and begrudgingly showed me 100s of emails she gets a week from women who say (and I quote) “I’ve recently started a blog and would like to review the “X model” in your range. Please can you arrange one to be sent to the following address ASAP.” Let me spell this out as kindly as I can… Product has a cost. It isn’t free. Would you add a person on Facebook (who you didn’t know) and ask them for £10? No. Apply the same logic to this process, in fact it’s not even logic: it’s common manners.
So where do you start? It’s really very simple. Developing relationships with brands is like dating, or developing any modern day friendship. It takes time, effort and consideration. The first “time” factor comes in well before you even consider approaching anyone. Your blog itself needs to be good enough. And by good, I mean it needs to look the part and have a decent following. What you need to remember is that now, more so than ever, PRs and brands have to be accountable. If they work with or gift a blogger they need results. So only approach a brand when you are comfortable revealing your stats and figures. Remember that it isn’t all about unique numbers – if you have a small following but can show (through key words in Google Analytics or similar) that a very high % of your traffic comes through you talking about their brand (called a micro-community, FYI) then that’s often good enough for many.
The easiest way is to send a little note to a PR/brand with some detail about your blog and why you think you could be relevant to them (a media card will go down well too). Perhaps you’ve blogged about their brand before (give them examples), or your style compliments theirs. The most important thing is, don’t ask for any product (NB -press days are a great way to meet people face to face too, you can ask to be included on their invite list in the same email). Perhaps request an online lookbook, or some simple information. This kind of approach will usually warrant a response, in which case thats the first line of communication made.
When you have created the content you discussed in your first email, drop them a quick note saying “FYI, here you go! Hope you like it, I’ve put a tweet out about it – would be great if you could RT.” And so it goes from there… Soon enough if your content is good enough, you’ll be chosen to do something more closely. The reality is that most brands don’t have enormous budgets for social media (that includes blogging…) and allocations for that department come last. Whilst it might feel that everyone around you is bathing in sponsored posts and free t shirts that really is far from reality.
Essentially when emailing back and forth, follow these rules:
. first communication: introduce yourself, show examples of your coverage of their brand or relevant content. send over some basic details about your blog, a media card would be great. anticipate that they will ask for your traffic figures as (to be fair to them) thats the textbook way of benchmarking the standard of a blog.
. second communication: if replied to, send a link to future posts featuring the brand and if you feel its appropriate ask them to push on their social channels. ask to be kept in the loop with any press info or updates, or better still events so you can meet them in person.
. third communication: you may have popped into their most recent press day by now. if your coverage so far is well received, ask for samples. always return them quickly and deliver the content in the timescales you promise. etiquette is they send it out to you, you send it back to them (and cover the cost)
. fourth communication: by this stage you have probably built enough of a relationship, it’s ok to drop them the odd email asking for a retweet on Twitter when you cover their brands, and to say “are you planning any outreach projects this season.”
You’ll notice not once have I suggested asking for a freebie. I guess what I’m trying to say is: have some patience. You didn’t start the blog for free stuff (I hope you didn’t, if you did be ready to be sorely disappointed), so you don’t need it. It’s a lovely bonus when it does happen, but because you feel you’ve earned it. Slow and steady won the race…