So, once again, we’re in changing times with beauty blogging. If we thought it was over-crowded six months ago, it’s even more hectic now.
Inevitably it can’t all run smoothly and new issues emerge, so this post is aimed both bloggers and PRs.
To begin, I think what PRs are not understanding is the emotional connection that real women feel towards beauty brands. It’s why they write about beauty, it’s why they collect hundreds of lipsticks, it’s why they blog! Because the majority blog from the heart. If you haven’t understood that bloggers aren’t like journos – it isn’t their job to write about your products – then you’re missing a massive connection. Writing about beauty as a hobby comes from a completely different place to writing about beauty for a living.
Bloggers are also highly emotionally connected to their blogs. It’s a representation of their thoughts, feelings and points of view – and for most, people read them! They want to know what bloggers think of products, why they love or loathe them and why readers should buy those products. If you aren’t a professional writer, there is a lot of weight in this. Everything matters in a way that it doesn’t for professional writers.
Equally, I would say that bloggers need to stand back sometimes from the connection – it’s really hard to do, though! PRs are run ragged trying to answer every single email to thousands more bloggers than they were dealing with even this time last year. And, they’re often very unsupported in this, so not taking offence is the best option as very often none is meant.
There’s a huge amount of change going on in PR world at the moment – everyone is moving around and it’s hard to keep up. Inevitably, as soon as a PR moves, they have different clients with different expectations so even if you have carved a brilliant relationship with a PR in one role, it won’t necessarily be in her/his remit to continue that in the next one. It is almost never personal. However, if you do think that you are falling off lists left, right and centre, be pro-active and remind them gently that you are still there and ask how you can work together going forward. From the blogger end, it can be genuinely heart-breaking to lose a relationship with no idea why, and it’s nothing to do with samples.
There’s a huge cut-back on samples; and here we are in a thorny dilemma. It’s crazy to ignore any blogger with a big audience of your perfect target market, but the worst thing you can do is ignore them. If you don’t have information or samples, or you don’t think your products are relevant any more just tell them nicely. It’s so much better to have a reason than no response at all. When you work with products all the time you forget how special they are to the outside world; I have known many occasions where bloggers have simply been dropped with no word of explanation. And usually, they really have no clue why. It ruins their relationship with the brand as a consumer and leaves a bitter taste in their mouths as a blogger.
There are many PRs doing a spectacular job way over and above their remit working with bloggers, and there are some who are doing it so badly as to leave me speechless. Like the one who ‘didn’t like’ the ‘tone’ of a perfectly nice email from a blogger so wouldn’t be ‘working with them going forward’. Erm, hello.. since when was that in the best interests of your client? That’s personal and unprofessional. Some throw out endless emails asking bloggers to report on events they weren’t invited to.. that’s a huge bug-bear, but there’s a new terminology in play presently, often from SMAs on behalf of PRs or brands. Emails asking to ‘work together’ or ‘collaborate’ are not seen as an ‘opportunity’ for the blogger.
I recently was sent an email like this from someone representing Vanish Stain Remover. As it transpired, ‘working together’ meant me receiving a free pot of Vanish in exchange for soaking my make-up stains and then blogging about the experience. Really? So, the lesson there is not to pretend there is any togetherness whatsoever and ‘working together’ implies there is some mutual benefit – a pot of Vanish? Oh, please.. that’s one benefit most bloggers can pretty well do without. It’s not like we’re stupid! Another common term is ‘help us promote’. And that would be why, exactly? Swathing your requests in business speak with no actual money on the table is silly talk.
Different brands have different PRs and different sample allocations (all radically pared back, by the way); sulking because you can’t get a sample just shows everyone in a bad light. However, if you’re a PR and in the awkward position of fielding a billion requests, it’s far better to just be up-front and say there aren’t any. Every blogger knows that there are many more bloggers in the arena now and that not everyone can have a piece of the action. As bloggers, we have to suck that one up.. there aren’t enough for everyone anymore and there never will be.
This has literally just popped up in my in-box and is such a great example of what can make a blogger’s head smack the desk.
We are contacting you as we soon be launching a new men’s skincare product. We have found your blog & website and note that you are somewhat of an authority on men’s lifestyle topics.
We would very much like to send you a free sample of our new product in the first instance and would be grateful if you could agree to passing us a postal address so that we can send this forthwith.
PRs have to understand that bloggers are inundated with this kind of thing every single day. It’s no wonder we get ratty! We’re slogging away at our beauty blogs and yet some-one, somewhere cannot even be bothered to check whether British Beauty Blogger is an authority on men’s lifestyle topics which I clearly am not. If you can’t work with lots of blogs, pick a few that are spot on for your brands to get to know really well instead. Throwing make-up out there and seeing what sticks just doesn’t work from anyone’s perspective. However, if you really want a detailed review, you cannot expect this to be done from a press release and an image. Blogs aren’t free ads for your products!
So, it seems we have some smoothing over to do on both sides, with openness being key. New bloggers have a lot to learn, and more experienced bloggers have everything to teach, so take advice where you can. I don’t want to hear the word ‘blogger’ said with a sigh, and that’s what’s happening now. It’s up to bloggers to wise up and up to PRs to be more open, more choosy and more careful.