June 14, 2016

10 Tips for Forging PR Relationships


Today, I will be discussing a subject which I feel is fairly under-discussed. I find it absolutely crazy that the sore subject (and often complete myth!) of 'freebies' surrounding bloggers is discussed so frequently, but real-life (rather than mythological), hard-earned PR affiliations have become such a taboo, 'hush-hush' topic, that it's tough for newer bloggers to ask about without feeling embarrassed or ashamed.

If you're a blogger with at least six months experience and 200+ followers on Bloglovin' then chances are, you've been contacted by at least one member of PR. If you're a blogger and you've never been contacted by PR, I suspect you've read countless blog posts featuring gifted products and/or sponsored posts. If this is you, then chances are you've sat and wondered: 'what am I doing wrong? What makes this blogger more worthy than me?!' It's okay; we've all been there! Or, have we? I'm not entirely sure which percentage of bloggers are fussed about forming PR relationships, but I don't mind telling you all that I certainly was when I started blogging!

It's never been about the 'freebies' for me. This is partially because most of the items I now get sent are things I would never normally go out and buy for myself, and certainly have never lusted after. I've never been sent a Naked palette, a YSL lipstick or anything from a high-end beauty retailer, and I would never have expected to; they just don't need the exposure that bloggers offer. However, I was always a little envious total green-eyed monster when I saw bloggers of a similar calibre posting about items they had been sent! One particular time I can recall is when the Magnitone Barefaced was being freshly marketed in Summer 2015. It felt like every blogger I followed was being sent one to review, even those who had been blogging less time or had less followers. I commented on every post, favourited tweets from the company and even (rather embarrassingly) tweeted about how much I wanted to try one (cringe). I was never noticed, and never offered the opportunity to write about it, and I couldn't wrap my head around it. I now understand that it's all business, and they have limited quotas to meet, and I didn't fit into that. I wish I'd been a bit more patient and waited for my own opportunities, but instead, I made myself look and feel like a right ol' tit.

So, how do you form PR affiliations and how should you act when performing your obligations? Well, I guess a proportion of it is all down to luck. However, there are some ways you can improve your chances of being noticed by PR departments. I don't want to be one of those bloggers who tells other bloggers 'this is the only way to achieve this! You must do it like me! This is the only way to be a successful blogger!' So. here are my tips (based on personal experience only), but... take 'em with a pinch of salt.
  1. Be patient! Bloggers very rarely receive offers within their first six months of blogging. When a company offers to work with you, they're doing so because they are seeking exposure for their company/brand. If you've been blogging for less than six months, then chances are that you haven't had time to build up a following or promote your blog successfully. So, who's going to read all about their fantastic product/s? Exactly. It's a waste of time for them to invest in you when they'll be left unable to reap any results.

  2. Blog design: the way your blog is designed will make a difference when brands are choosing whether or not to work with you. If your blog looks a mess, this will probably make people less inclined to read and enjoy it! If you're putting readers off just with your front page, you're definitely going to be putting them off reading about the brand via your blog, and it just isn't worth it for the company! Make sure your blog is pretty, presentable, represents your style, and has clear navigation.

  3. Contact details: make sure your contact details are clearly accessible on your blog, so PR can easily see where to find you. I'd definitely recommend having a dedicated PR section on your blog, perhaps even a 'media kit' too. This shows how dedicated you are to forming affiliations and looks professional, too.

  4. Promoting your blog: use social media such as Instagram and Twitter to promote your blog as much as possible. Use hashtags (even simple ones like #bblogger) and mention retweeting accounts like @LovingBlogs when you tweet about new posts. Also, comment on other people's blog posts! Leaving your link anywhere and everywhere will raise awareness for your blog.

  5. Proof-reading and formatting: making sure your posts are always written to the highest standard will definitely make people more likely to continue reading your posts, and PR take you more seriously. Always check for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors before hitting the 'publish' button! Learning to structure your posts in the right way will have a similar effect. When I'm writing a review post of a gifted item, I tend to use subheadings to make everything clearer! I most commonly introduce the product, briefly explain what is different about the product or the brand, state the RRP and where to buy it, explain the pros and cons and then give a final verdict, before closing on a question to open up a discussion.

  6. Learn to say 'no, thanks!' I feel like this is a really important point. When you first receive offers for sponsored posts and gifted items for review, it can be so easy to be swept away with the excitement and say 'yes' to everything! But, not everything will necessarily 'go' with your blog. If you run a beauty blog, it would look a bit odd if you said yes to reviewing a home appliance, a new coffee machine, say. If you don't know how to write about something, it's usually best to say no. I chose to say no to a feminine hygiene brand. Even though it fit the theme of my blog, I didn't feel comfortable writing about my period online... it's way too personal!

  7. Ask questions during your correspondence, before you are sent anything! I've been put in a tough spot before, where I didn't ask enough questions. I was sent one half of a product range which I didn't feel happy writing about without it's other half. It just wouldn't make sense to the reader. When I asked if the company could kindly send me through the other half of the range, they got a bit snappy with me, and told me I should have read their emails properly in regards to what they were sending. Safe to say, I learnt my lesson. I now ask what they will be sending me, what they would like/needs to be included in the post, what they expect to gain out of working with me etc. It's always best to know all the answers upfront, and if you don't like them, refer to 6)!

  8. Timescales: always ask when they need the post to go live by, and assess whether you can make this happen. Do you have any pre-existing obligations to meet first? If you're struggling to meet deadlines, always keep them in the loop with regular email updates explaining the circumstances.

  9. Remember, you aren't getting paid for this! There are no contracts in place. This is all just a bit of fun and a way of taking your blog to the next level. The majority of blogs I follow are written by part-time bloggers (myself included) who blog as a hobby! Don't get stressed out or pressured by brands and understand that you can stop communicating with them at any time, if you wish!

  10. Disclosure: in order to maintain the trust of your audience, always disclose where items have been gifted to you/the post is sponsored. You don't need to make a big fuss over it, but just be honest. I always put an asterisk in the title and refer to it at the bottom of the post, but you can also read my full disclaimer here. 
I hope you've found this post informative and of some help! Remember, having PR affiliations is not the sign of being a good blogger or of ultimate success! You can be a fantastic blogger without them. Write for you, write for love and stay true to who you are.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post below in the comments section: have you forged many PR relationships in your time blogging? Do you consider it to be important? Have you ever felt jealous of another blogger's opportunity? Let me know!

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18 comments

  1. I love this post. I have recently been getting contact from PR agents (a good amount declined as it just doesn't fit in) but I do have a collab going up on the 16th, I get nervous that the post isn't good enough, but that's just me! Thanks for sharing the info :)

    Erin || MakeErinOver

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    1. Congrats, I'll keep an eye out on the 16th for your post. I'm sure it will be great, don't worry about it!

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  2. This is really helpful! x

    www.carolinemayling.com

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  3. great post, I love these type of posts that are especially helpful to me as I'm still new with the PR side. I've only recently started emailing brands myself but think I just need to be and let them find me :)

    kasie xo
    www.kasiebeauty.co.uk

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    1. It's great that you're putting yourself out there! I've never directly contacted PR myself, it's usually the other way round, but I'd be interested to hear how you go abut contacting them!

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  4. saying no is key when the requests do start coming in, especially when they ask to write about their brand for nothing in return at all...yh no thanks :p
    Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

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    1. Yes definitely! What they don't understand is that we put a lot of hard work into photographing the products, editing the photographs, writing up the post, editing the post, promoting the post etc. and we do all that on top of our day jobs! Don't get me wrong, there are some lovely and very generous PRs out there, but some others need to be a bit more considerate!

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  5. People need to chill with the whole PR thing and just let it happen naturally.

    I love posts like yours, as they're very helpful, but it can encourage smaller bloggers who in reality, have no place contacting a PR company or brand until they are more established with a larger following, to start accepting anything as the excitement of a company wanting to give away a free pair of £10 glasses in exchange for 5 backlinks on one post, allows them to be taken advantage of completely.

    It's a saturated market and there are always people with way more followers than you and I think blogging is supposed to be an outlet for creativity and passion, not a money making scheme. Just my two cents!

    Natasha Kendall

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    1. I don't think my post is encouraging anybody to contact PR directly. Personally, I have never contacted a PR rep; they always reach out to me. Hence, I'd never specifically advise people to go on an emailing spree, pestering people. I also don't believe my post has encouraged smaller bloggers to just 'accept anything' as you've said, as if you read my post carefully, I've said the exact opposite at #6! So, unfortunately I'll have to disagree with you there, as I don't feel your comments about my post are justified.

      I do agree, however, that blogging is supposed to be a creative outlet. I have had to unfollow some bloggers because all they ever talk about now is their holidays to the Maldives and the next grand unveiling of their newest designer bag... Yawn. Blogging rose in popularity because bloggers were just normal people sharing their opinions, but if we all turn into designer-clobbered, jet-setting princesses with veneers and lip fillers, then our readers may as well have picked up a glossy, celeb mag instead of clicking our links.

      However, I do appreciate that some people start a blog with the sole aim of reaping the financial benefits, because they need an income. That's fine! Yes, there will always be bloggers with more followers, but everyone has to start somewhere. What's to say this person won't have a unique, witty input and instantly rise to fame?

      Thanks for your opinions!

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  6. Great post! I absolutely agree with saying no - it turns me off reading blogs when they start churning out posts on products that you just know they wouldn't spend their own money on, or are not relevant to the blog. Fair enough, everyone is entitled to write about whatever they want on their own blog page but sponsored post after sponsored post is a yawn-fest! xx

    Beautylymin| Bobbi Brown Define & Glow Palette Gift Set Giveaway

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    1. I totally agree! I try to maintain a healthy balance between posts which I came up with on my own and posts that have been influenced or sponsored by brands. I don't believe anyone likes to read sponsored post after sponsored post, as it doesn't come across as genuine at all and they may as well pick up a catalogue!

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  7. Thank you for writing this post! It really helped me. It's given me a lot to think about and also some goals for my blog. Love it!
    Tia

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    1. Glad you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it :)

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  8. This is actually such an underrated topic! No one talks about it which makes it such a struggle to learn about! I am so glad you wrote this post because I've been blogging for nearly a year now and still have not mastered the art of forming relationships with PR company especially the initial contacting stage. How did you approach PR companies or did you wait till they approached you?

    Maz | www.mazrawrs.com | www.youtube.com/MazRawrs

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    1. I just can't understand why it's all so secretive. We all know what's going on, but nobody speaks about it! That's why I felt the need to write the post. I'm so glad you liked it! Personally, I've never contacted a PR representative; they have always reached out for me. My advice to you would be to concentrate on your blog's appearance and functionality, produce and promote high quality posts and then start emailing some smaller companies off your own back. Once you've worked with a few people, create a media kit and insert their logos. Other, perhaps bigger, brands are far more likely to contact you once they see that other brands have invested in you xx

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  9. Great post, I wish there'd been more of this around when I first started blogging! I used to be so bad at saying no because it was so exciting that anyone wanted to work with me now - even now I struggle to be strict with myself!

    Anoushka Probyn - A London Fashion Blog

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    1. Glad you enjoyed this post! I sometimes find this one tricky, too! I'm finding it hard to stick to timescales when it comes to PR instigated posts as well, which is tricky! I think I'm going to step back from it all tbh xx

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