5 ways to work more effectively with bloggers

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As a brand with an interest in gaining media exposure, or as a PR professional whose main job is garnering public attention for companies, you don’t need us to tell you just how much the landscape has changed.
What began as a warning sign turned into a cull, and, whilst stopping short of an all-out bloodbath, few could ever try and deny that the old guard of the press is in trouble, and has been for some time. Titles are losing readers, tightening up on pagination, increasing ad space, and asking more from less writers. The result being there has never been less opportunity for quality editorial coverage from the traditional outlets.
It’s not all terrible news, mind. As online has matured blogging has started to come of age. These days it’s almost impossible to differentiate between some of the more professional weblogs and a full scale digital magazine or newspaper, the qualities are that similar. More so, there are blogs out there that pull in equally impressive readership statistics, with the most savvy also now considered major influencers on social media.
Here at Smoking Gun PR we have always understood that companies can’t afford not to work effectively with bloggers- they are now very much part of the lifeblood of brand presence. Despite this requirement, though, it’ surprising how many companies- and, perhaps more worryingly, agencies- still don’t fully get how this should be done. Not quite rocket science, and in many ways not that dissimilar to how we have dealt with the press since public relations Day One, here are our top 5 ways to work with bloggers more effectively.
Know your own audience first
This one should go without saying really. How are you supposed to drum up online attention in the right places if you don’t actually know who the core demographic is? Learn their age, interests, hobbies, dislikes, political and ethical standpoints, what they prefer for breakfast on the first Tuesday in July… Then go out and find the relevant blogs.
Understand what you have to offer
Easier said than done, it’s detrimental to any cause if you start approaching outlets- from blogs to print magazines- but don’t really have a clear idea of what you want them to do, and what you can offer in return. This is a business relationship and you should approach it as such.
Before you even start compiling lists of target bloggers you should have an exact picture of the end goal, and how you can get there. When aiming for tier one bloggers, what content have you got that you can offer excessively to them or work with them to create a unique experience to gain your vital cut through?
Audit any database you already have 
We do love a good database of contacts in PR, and it has always been essential to make sure this is fully up to date. In many ways this is even more important when it comes to bloggers- by nature there is more likelihood that blogs can suddenly cease, gradually disappear, or completely change tact. As such once you have that precious email address don’t forget to stay in touch regularly, even if it’s just to say ‘Hi’, and ask for ongoing details on what they are looking to cover.
Know the limitations of the industry
There is nothing more irritating or off-putting for bloggers (and journalists) than when you expect things they cannot provide. Always remember editorial neutrality isn’t just expected by readers, it is demanded by regulatory bodies, and in the wake of Google’s latest advice to bloggers, you also need to be aware of the rules surrounding links and freebies. For more on that click here. Remember that many bloggers work by day or look after families so blogging comes in their spare time. This means the times they’re free to chat / email will probably be different to you own working day. It may also take a few days (or longer) for them to get back to you so don’t hassle them.
Meet them whenever you can
Smoking Gun runs its own event at the agency to bring bloggers face to face with our team and our clients. This is invaluable in hearing from the horses mouth what they’re looking for, what turns them on and turns them off when working with agencies and brands. Listen, listen listen.