As we all know, the PR (public relations) industry is a big one. Brands want to get their products in front of the public and many of them use PR campaigns to do this. At this time of year pitches really take off. And now is the time to start pitching brands if you want to work with them for the holidays. Otherwise, their quota may fill up fast. It’s clear that there’s a belief in the power of PR to make a difference to a company’s image.
However, we also notice problems with PR. Yes, they fuel our blogs with content and money. They send us on trips. The put us on ambassador campaigns, but it is not always rainbows and glitter. Here are a few problems that we bloggers have when with when dealing with PR from day-to-day.
Some Brands Still Don't Get It
Even though it's 2016, the idea of working with bloggers is still new to some companies. They may be weary about getting started, or they try one campaign and it does not go as planned so they never try again. I have been involved in many programs that have been canceled because the brand didn't see the value that they expected to see from working with bloggers.
Now, there have been some great programs. Some brands do get it, and they continue to work with bloggers and knock the engagement out of the park.
PR Has a High Turnover Rate
It's an ongoing conversation between bloggers… the turnover in the PR world seems to be quite high. You get to know one PR rep, they like you, you like them, you continue to work together. And then bam! Only a few months later you attempt to email that person and get a bounce back. And sadly, some PR reps move on and don't pass their influencer list on to the next guy, so unless you get lucky and find someone else within that company to connect with, you just might have to give it up.
Often, a company will go from one PR firm to another, hoping that will make a difference. But maybe the problem is not the PR, but instead HOW they are using the bloggers. Now, we may never know what really happened and why a brand decides to switch companies, but it can hurt the blogger/brand relationship. I worked with one company whom I LOVED working with. I had a great relationship with the PR firm. Each and every time I mentioned this brand, it was great engagement. However, the brand switched over to another PR firm, and I have had zero luck in getting them to work with me again. It's like I'm emailing a wall.
PR Get a LOT of Email
If you are pitching a popular brand, you can bet that they get a lot of email. Unfortunately, they are not just sitting in their office waiting for your email to show up. Your email may be one of hundreds. Make sure that your email stands out. Otherwise, they may not even open it. For a while I was using the MixMax Gmail plugin. With it I was able to see when and how many times the recipient had opened my email. There were a few incidents when my email was opened a few times before they responded. There was another time when I emailed and followed up 4 times to 2 different email addresses. They never even opened my messages. Now, this could be because the brand is just not interested in working with bloggers, so they ignore all subjects that appear to be such. Or, this could be that they are getting so much mail that they just don't care. It makes you wonder if the PR address is just for show.
Sometimes They Change Their Minds
We all get used to getting a big fat NO sometimes. It's the nature of the business. If you send out several pitches chances are that only small percentage will come back with a yes. However, sometimes you get what you are sure is a definite YES, or at least it looks that way. And then… the brand or PR decides to change their strategy, the budget changes, or for whatever reason they decide to just stop contacting you. This has happened to me a handful of times lately. In one case, I had been talking to brand PR for months. We chatted back and forth. I signed a contract. I was prepping for a brand trip. However, it had been unusually quiet as the time for the trip drew closer. I reached out once more and found out that they had decided not to work with me because of a conflict of my working with another brand. The pay was going to be very, very good money too. Needless to say, I am very bummed.
In another case, almost the same scenario. I spoke with a brand several months ago about doing a specific campaign. We emailed back and forth a few times. It sounded like it was a go. We were just waiting on the final details from the brand. I then saw the exact campaign that I was supposed to work on being offered on a blogger network. So, I emailed to inquire about the status, and I got crickets. Again, I'm pretty bummed.
As stated.. it is the nature of the business. Nothing is set in stone… until it is. Even if you sign a contract, chances are that it says the brand has a right to cancel at any time.
They Think Bloggers Want to Work for Free
One way to create immediate buzz for a service or product is to get a journalist or blogger to write something about your product or service. Anything will do, even if it’s ho-hum. Just having your product name mentioned on a reputable blog can make a huge difference in whether or not people will buy your product come Christmas time. But here’s the thing: journalists usually work for a publication as a full-time job. They get paid a salary to do their job from day to day. Bloggers are freelance. We pay to maintain our sites. Sometimes we do all of the writing. We get paid off of sponsored posts, ads, affiliate links, and campaigns. This is how we make up our “salary”. Now yes, there can be other benefits to us that are not always monetary. For example, if you get to review a product that you can use for your family, you might be happy to receive that in exchange for a blog post. If you get asked on a media trip that includes your family, you save money on your family vacation.
But all too often we get pitches asking us to write about a product or service and we are told that they have no budget, the product is a loan, or instead of even being able to actually test the product they want to send us the infamous “high-res images”.
Just like everything else, it’s a business. It wasn't always this way, but now it is. Many bloggers are full-timers. That means that what we write needs to be beneficial to us in some way. PR… please remember this. We cannot pay our bills with exposure and high-res images.
Overall, for me, working with PR has been a very pleasant experience. I have heard some horror stories from blogger friends and I consider myself blessed. But, it is still a learning experience for us all. Bloggers realize that things will not always go our way. Most PR realize that bloggers can indeed help their clients, but they may be at the mercy of the brand.