The lessons that we’re continuing to learn from any influencer activity
There are plenty of bloggers out there nailing the work they do. That’s why so many brands are keen to be associated with them and why PRs see the value in working with them.
We are always reminded, though, of the lessons that we’re continuing to learn from any influencer activity.
The recent #BloggerGate is the most recent example of an influencer situation that hasn’t gone to plan. After approaching a well-known hotel in Dublin asking for a free stay in return for a review, blogger Elle Darby soon realised that she probably should have done her research before contacting hotel owner, Paul Stenson.
Stenson exposed Darby on social media with a screenshot of her original email, accompanied by his own scathing response. And while opinion has been divided about who was in the wrong, there are some key takeaways for both bloggers and PRs that we can use to better work together.
We acknowledged in a previous post that identifying and engaging with influencers is fundamental to any PR campaign, and increasingly the term “influencer” has come to mean bloggers, vloggers and those with a social media status.
They can help build a positive reputation for your client because they’re independent reviewers. They’ve been given the opportunity to trial a service or product to provide an honest review that other people can see. Because of this honesty, they’re viewed as a reliable source of information and a lot of them are highly respected.
In a world where people are aware of brands directly trying to sell to them, creating other ways to communicate with and influence our audiences is essential. A lot of bloggers have worked hard to build up their following and the trust of that following, and that should be respected.
A controversial topic that comes up when discussing blogger relations is whether they should receive payment for their content.
Agreeing a brand partnership with a blogger is one thing, but reviews seem to be a grey area.
Offering bloggers a freebie, perk or benefit means that you’re essentially paying for a review in the eyes of the ASA. Asking bloggers to do a review for free could leave a client open to a negative response. PRs accept that a review might not be favourable, as it’s the same risk when working with traditional media, in the hope that they are sincere.
If bloggers are paid then they’re supposed to signpost this activity as advertising, which could mean the value of what is deemed an ‘independent’ endorsement is dampened. If they do review a product and don’t want to be seen as taking payment, then they can always send it back to the provider.
The situation is different when a blogger is the one doing the outreach. If this is the case and a blogger is asking for some sort of perk, then the expectation is that the review will be positive. It’s up to bloggers to decide the approach they’re willing to take.
Ultimately if a brand wants to pay a blogger or offer a freebie, then there’s not a lot that can be done to stop that. Regardless, bloggers still need to make this completely clear as set out by the ASA, whether that’s including #Ad in the post or clearly referencing the relationship with the brand.
For PRs, deciding who the influencers are for a client or a campaign comes down to audience insight. And bloggers should also keep this in mind when they’re reaching out to a brand that they want to work with.
With #BloggerGate it was hard to see how the blogger’s audience was the right fit for the hotel’s target market. While audience size is a key metric, it’s just as important to know who that audience is made up of. If a brand already has an impressive following, then they’re naturally going to be more interested to know what value can be added beyond reach.
PRs work with journalists in the same way as they do bloggers, which means not paying for content placement. It also means that we need to make sure that content we pitch is going to suit the magazine, paper or blogger site so we’re engaging with the right audiences. Bloggers should take the same approach, so they can be sure when approaching a brand that they can add value too.