Following on from my last event with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) which was a Meet the Media event for communicators in the Voluntary Sector, tonight I organised a Meet the Bloggers event for both CIPR members and non-members.
It was an opportunity for those working in PR, Digital Media and Communications to come along and hear from some of our most prolific Northern Irish bloggers who also have experience in the industry across a range of fields from commerical to tech and politics. Meet the Bloggers almost sold out within the fortnight and was particularly popular among non-CIPR members – I love that the industry body opens their learning and development opportunities out in this way so that those who are unsure of signing up/can’t afford to just now don’t have to miss out completely. I was so grateful to the guest panel for their time as I know they’re all busy juggling multiple roles aside from their online work:
Katrina Doran – founder of Sugahfix online magazine / Marketing Manager at iONOLOGY Digital Strategy
David McCann – Deputy Editor & Comms Consultant at Slugger O’Toole
Ruth Maguire – Willow Lane blog / Marketing Manager at Taggled TV
Nicola McNair – Editor at Sync NI
Carolyn Henderson – Forever Scarlet blog / Digital Marketing at Sliderobes
Who did we meet?
The guest panel began by introducing themselves and their media channel to a packed room at the MAC in Belfast, post-work on a very chilly Monday evening (dedicated PR-folk!)
- David started with Slugger O’Toole’s impressive readership stats (75k) and described how the team have successfuly covered events and conferences, tracking online commentary as well as carrying out consultancy work for organisations specifically in digital and social media. He highlighted the non-party allegiance of the site and how much they enjoy debate from many different points of view.
- Nicola explained how Sync NI mix digital with traditional media, including producing a hard-copy magazine (as desired by their reader base) but also highlighted their large social media following (7k on Twitter alone) that is a very specific audience appreciating breaking news in the tech and business sector here in NI. They also offer client membership and benefits including a jobs and events section online.
- Katrina described how she founded NI’s first fashion and beauty online magazine Sugahfix back in 2008 (anyone else feel old?!) as well as having set up the FABB network as a support group for local fashion and beauty bloggers who were emerging into a jungle of good and bad PR when online became the place to promote your product.
- Carolyn’s blog Forver Scarlet is mainly fashion and beauty oriented and she also runs a YouTube channel producing both video and written content and photography. She explained her passion for digital which runs through her day job where she works for 1 of only 2 companies working with Google in Ireland.
- Ruth’s blog Willow Lane is more Lifestyle in theme – any number of things she is passionate about including travel, food, interiors… She explained the difference in producing content all day for your job and then channeling your creativity at home.
In a round-up of questions/answers and general chat I thought I’d compile my notes here for anyone who missed the event or just wanted a round-up of what we learned (particularly handy for that CIPR CPD form!)
So what did we learn?
- Most bloggers are hobbyists – it is not their primary source of income – but they are broadcasters in their own right, with significant readership and social community engagement as media channels in their own right. In most cases PR’s should treat them like any other journalist/media outlet.
- The most basic of research – send relevant content. Unlike printed press who have editors filtering content down to teams, bloggers have to do all their own filtering and if you sin one too many times sending irrelevant items, you may eventually miss catching their eye with a good pitch (because you’ve been spam filtered!)
- All bloggers work differently and so their lead in times vary but, as a general rule, at least one month’s notice would be required to work on content and photography as well as fitting your client in around a timetable of content that should ideally mix organic and sponsored posts. Bloggers are driven for the most part by authenticity not money.
- In saying that, PR folk should not assume bloggers are as eager for content as traditional media are and therefore not expect coverage, especially not for free. Bloggers are not “free labour” and considering they deliver quite significantly in coverage terms and online engagement, they deserve a value attached to their time and work. Many will have a media pack like any other news outlet – just ask for it.
- As with traditonal media, bloggers do not give you automatic editorial control, however most would sooner send a product back than write a negative review – they must above all else be honest with their readers or they risk damaging their own reputation. If it’s your first approach in the blogger world, just chat to them about an idea, ask them about ‘blogger compensation’ and send a press release for background info. In fact, send all the info you can, they don’t have time for email ping-pong!
- The only big difference between bloggers and traditional media (in their opinion) is the difference in how they like to be pitched – by email or social media engagement as opposed to initial telephone contact as many PR’s would have been taught to do in agencies.
The most telling piece of advice?
According to bloggers, PR folk have the potential to be the “content kings” and yet so often we don’t include digital strategy in our pitches. From SEO basics like no-follow links and the reproduction of content that will punish the client’s website in search rankings, to the omission of a list of keywords the client wants included in any web write-up, it can feel as though PR and digital aren’t talking to each other. We’re missing a trick…
Aside from all the tips there were lots of positives to take away for the industry – we’re doing a better job than some English PR firms when it comes to approaching local bloggers, we’re coming round to rating online media on a par with, if not above, traditional press (and we’re working with bloggers to educate clients and encouraging them to take risks outside their AVE-comfort zones) and now we know that what bloggers value from us is social-based; they want links and shares and engagement in a real sense.
I’ve given a few back-links here so hopefully I’ve done a good job so far!
Thanks again to everyone who gave their time, got involved, promoted and supported the event and I hope you took something valuable away with you. Until the next time friends…