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The evolving world of blogger engagement

NATIONAL’s Halifax office recently hosted an East Coast Mom Media workshop where some of the city’s top bloggers got together to discuss the latest in digital trends, brand partnerships and strategies for growing their platforms.

As part of the event the team in Halifax hosted a wine and cheese for the group which generated plenty of great discussion around content generation and the better ways for PRs and bloggers to collaborate.

I sat down and asked the founders of East Coast Mom Media, Colleen Anthony (Curtains are open), Heather Nolan (Mmm is for mommy) and Laura Snow (My life in the sun) a few specific questions about the evolving world of blogger engagement.

TW: Thinking about content creation, what’s the best way for PR professionals (and the brands they represent) to support bloggers?

CA: I want to be able to write my own story. So, I just need the details of a project and a few links… Give me a bit of direction, but let me tell the story.

HN: Simply work together. Digital influencers/bloggers will only continue to grow as a network. Within this network, there are fewer ‘rules’ as each influencer is their own unique brand.

LS: Provide images, links and information about the brand/product and the audience they’re trying to reach. Then let me write something in my own voice that fits my audience.

TW: What’s the #1 thing PR people do wrong when approaching bloggers?

CA: The standard pitch that goes out to all is a bit of a pain, though I’ve also built some great relationships that started that way. I think that once a relationship is established, then being clear upfront about budget is probably the best thing. I LOVE when I hear from a PR company that provides a budget up front rather than giving a great pitch and then have to go back and ask “Is there a budget/compensation for this project?” It’s never easy to ask for money. It’s much easier when the PR company is proactive.

HN: Blanket pitches are usually never a good fit for me. Unless it’s a press release, I appreciate them actually knowing my niche (and I don’t mean just quoting the title of my last post and telling me how much they love it). To be fair, I’m sure bloggers do plenty wrong as well.

LS: Asking bloggers to share press releases or write content for free. Sending out a media release or information is fine but don’t ask me to do anything with it unless you have a budget. Also, I would prefer you get to know (or at least look at) my blog before you pitch me on something that’s not a good fit.

TW: How do you plan to build your following, on which platforms are you focused?

CA: My engagement continues to grow on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest but live streaming is the next step. I’d like to work on showing a little more “behind the scenes” type of content and use video to add interest for people coming to the blog to read the story.

HN: I don’t focus a lot on that, although I probably should. I focus on interesting, quality content and hope the rest takes care of itself. That said, I do make it easy for people to follow me on various channels and do ask that they do.

LS: I try to be active and share on all of the social media platforms I have an account with every day. I am always on the lookout for new people who would be a good fit for my community and I often follow them first. I am currently active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram every day. I just added snapchat so we’ll see where that goes next!

TW: Your group refers to themselves as East Coast Mom Media – what do you think of the term ‘mom blogger’?

CA: This has come up a number of times as not everyone who works with us are moms. However, most people who follow us and follow the brands and stories are moms. This term Mommy Blogger has a great amount of negative connotation. I think what people forget is that we’re all business women. Each one of us in an entrepreneur. However, Mommy Blogger seems to have stuck! We use the term Influencer a lot now but again, others find that pretentious. It’s tough to find the word that fits.

HN: It makes me cringe. Not because of what we do – because we are awesome – but because of the way some use the term and some of the ‘ideas’ that surround the term. The term has stuck though, so we own it. Just don’t address your pitch ‘Dear Mommy Blogger’.

LS: It doesn’t really bother me because I haven’t been labeled as a mommy blogger by anyone in a negative way. We named our company East Coast Mom Media because we are all moms. It’s a fact. I am ok with people calling me a mommy blogger, because that’s part of what I am, but, I don’t use it to describe myself and anyone who deals with me knows that I am much more than a mommy blogger. I am a content creator, influencer, storyteller and so much more! I think people realize that about our company as well.

TW: How can PR teams and brands improve collaborations with bloggers?

CA: I think that we need to be part of the budget discussion and project from the onset. Often times, it’s a “oh, we should probably have bloggers promote this too” after everything else has been thought of. There’s a lot more we can do from the beginning with promotion leading up to the big blog post and social media. We can tease a little along the way. We have tons of ideas because we know our audience and our own brands. I think it’s hard for PR companies to convince the brands that we have value so I completely understand what you’re up against. I guess, we’re more interested in hearing how we can help you to spread that word.

HN: I think you know the deal. It’s mainly PR’s job to convince the client. I do think that having expectations laid out is key for both sides.

LS: Think long term. A good brand/blogger relationship takes time and requires effort on both sides. Brands need to communicate with us, brainstorm with us, share our content and make long term goals with us to really see what we can do. Instead of just being the go-between to facilitate conversations between all three parties. The more people collaborate, the bigger and better we’ll all be at creating successful campaigns.

TW: What are the newest ways you are seeing brands being successful with blogger engagement initiatives?

CA: There are some great Instagram campaign examples. Having bloggers actually try things out and sending them off on adventures is great. People love the story. They want to see the product in play rather than just a photo. Recently, Cadbury did a video series about individual bloggers, where they had a bunny acting out a poem that told about the blogger. It was kind of neat reverse marketing and had bloggers then sharing the hilarious video with their audience. They were paid to take part in the campaign but really the brand took a completely different approach and told about the blogger rather than the blogger telling about the brand.

HN: People talk a lot about Snapchat, but I’m still not convinced. I really enjoy Instagram campaigns where the product itself isn’t the focus of the photo, but the product’s story is.

LS: I’m seeing a lot of really great collaborations going on with multiple brands. It makes for more interesting stories people want to read and follow.

TW: What is your dream collaboration project?

CA: Something to do with travel or home décor or sending my child to university or sports. The bottom line is, I’m living my blog so anything that would entertain me or my children would be great. I’d love to be able to take the kids on a few trips every year so finding a company to do that would be great. I’d also love a hot tub in the backyard! I’m also looking at moving, so something where I decorated room by room would be amazing. I think it’s great when brands see what you’re up to and then fit what they’re doing into your lifestyle. My son is going to Memorial University in September and as soon as a brand saw that, they jumped on me to write a post about a student project at Memorial University that will be coming out in the next few days. I think it’s great when brands recognize what you’re doing, and recognize you as a brand as well.

HN: I’d love to be a Travel Ambassador for WestJet doing features on all of their destinations.

LS: I’d love to work on a brand ambassadorship with Ford where I get to drive a leased vehicle for a year. I’d also love to be a brand ambassador for any travel company. Obviously travel is high on my priority list and I’d love to do more of it with my family. And finally, I’d love to work with a brand on an awareness campaign for something that really helps people, a social campaign.