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Breaking Down the Relationship Between Bloggers and PR

By Stacey Ross

Now more than ever, bloggers are looking at their platforms as sources of income, and, likewise, brands are looking for cost-effective ways to get the word out. For many of us bloggers, part of our shtick has always been to creatively integrate sponsorship into our blogs. Yesterday's "I heard it through the grapevine," is today's "I saw that on a blog post!"

If we plan to integrate into our platforms brands that are a good fit, we need to be transparent and authentic, and, most surely, we need to uphold FCC standards that require us to disclose our compensation and/or perks.

What I have found quite important, as a blogger and blogger outreach specialist, is to embrace cutting-edge approaches for getting the buzz out. They might involve both online and offline ways of working with small businesses, marketing agencies, or public relations specialists. However, the relationship with the latter is often cause for confusion, which I find important enough to focus on in this post.

The Blogger/PR relationship

Public relations specialists in today's digital era, more than ever, need to provide more exclusives, be very choosy in regards to the right media outlets (both traditional and non-traditional), and constantly evaluate if they are reaching the right audience.

Their choices to work with bloggers offer win-win scenarios: we each benefit from sharing content with our audiences and we partner up to grow our relationships, both in our online and offline worlds. This, to me, has proven to be one of the most professional forms of networking. But the question of compensation seems to be an issue of contention among many bloggers.

Who does and doesn't pay bloggers?

Advertising money comes from marketers not publicists (PR). Bloggers build mutually-beneficial relationships with PR partners, but it is important to recognize that an exchange of financial compensation between the two parties is unusual. (However, they do throw some mean parties every now and then!)

Social media manager Morgan Quinn candidly clarifies the role of PR in association to blogger compensation in TheSitsGirls.com:

“And why don’t they pay bloggers? Because paying for coverage isn’t public relations, it’s advertising. This leads to a lot of disappointment and sometimes anger among the blogging community…. This topic comes up so frequently and there is so much misinformation out there that it seems like a good time to do a little ‘PR 101’ refresher course...”

One reason bloggers mistake PR for marketers or those with a campaign budget is because we frequently receive pitches from sources who don't properly introduce themselves or acquaint themselves with our missions to see if we are, indeed, a match. Another reason is that some newbie bloggers have just never been educated regarding the roles and ethics of PR, an important exercise that will save them a lot of grief.

The blogger influence is a growing trend!

The reality is that companies are reaping the benefits of working with and paying bloggers for brand exposure. They are taking advantage of influential and credible online personalities (that would be us!) who have spent years building clout and professionally engaging in dialogue with the precise targeted networks that companies are looking to connect with. Our platforms speak for themselves.

A blogger who succeeds in monetizing his or her efforts is no different than a radio show or pay-for-play TV host that endorses products during a clear, designated time. So long as the blogger distinguishes sponsored vs. non-sponsored content, he or she can be a marketing force to be reckoned with. (I will even go so far as to suggest that bloggers need to demonstrate much greater transparency than the broadcasters mentioned above.)

The power of word-of-mouth marketing

Today we have new tools for measuring results. Many businesses and organizations are savvy enough that they want proof that their target audiences are being reached. There is less of a “spray and pray” approach, leaving PR folks, bloggers, social media specialists, etc. with an added responsibility to demonstrate what methods are successful at reaching their target audience.

Business owners know that word-of-mouth marketing has proven to be a very viable method of getting the word out. When bloggers share real-life scenarios in which they depict the integration of products or services into their lifestyles, they prove to be very effective.

How about a compelling study? In 2012 BlogHer polled 37 million unique readers and found that 61% of U.S. online consumers make purchases based on recommendations from a blog! What is key is for companies is to find the best marketing strategy to insure that they are taking advantage of authentic and believable voices, eager to creatively and effectively spread the buzz.

A close colleague of mine who is quite successful at blending her unique voice with authentic online sponsorships is Chelsea Day of Someday I'll Learn. Chelsea's compelling voice clearly demonstrates the sign of the times:

“Many writers have transitioned from traditional media to blogging, and they understand the difference between public relations and advertising. But here's the thing: media today is NOT traditional. Newspapers and magazines are dying. Content creators no longer have the benefit of corporations building up platforms for them and doling out a paycheck every month. Bloggers put effort into developing their audience, and they expect to be compensated. Viewing the space as old-school buckets of ‘paid’ versus ‘earned’ completely ignores the value of influencer marketing and product placement.”

Brands today are looking to tell stories and to bring to life areas that elicit discussion, earned media, and of course, a call of action. They have a great impact when they are woven into the lives of relatable yet influential people.

Today’s cutting-edge brands are finding authentic and out-of-the box methods to build awareness and recognition. They are also knocking on the door of bloggers and we are answering!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

Comment by Chelsea @ Someday I'll Learn, posted 2/21/2014, 9:59 AM:

Thanks for the write-up, Stacey! And Carolyn, I agree 100%. Fortunately a lot of PR companies are starting to understand digital influencers and communicate the need for compensation to the company, or building it into the budget directly.
Comment by A Publicist, posted 2/21/2014, 8:31 AM:

I think Chelsea makes a great point. "Traditional" is gone. The truth is, there *are* publicists paying for placement in some industries and frankly, they're ruining it for the rest of us. A lot of the time, publicists hear bloggers compare themselves to journalists or we hear them express their desire to be taken seriously as such... Well, we don't pay journalists either. ;) In any case, this is a great post and I thank you for writing it.
Comment by Carolyn West, posted 2/21/2014, 7:26 AM:

Great article. I totally agree with Chelsea: when bloggers get all these pitches on a daily basis, we don't have a company behind us paying us a salary to sort through them all and decide what we'd like to promote. WE are our own company and if our blogs are worthy of being pitched by PR people, compensation has to come from somewhere. The disconnect is realizing that the budget from this isn't going to come from the PR side, it will eventually have to come from the marketing/advertising side.
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