As part of their marketing and PR strategy, many companies and their PR agencies have been courting bloggers. The basic objective is essentially the same – more publicity for the company or product.
Level 1: what’s in it for us (the company)
Whether it’s more publicity hopefully leading to more sales, or just gaining community goodwill, it’s taken for granted that the company should have something to gain through the blogger engagement.
However, if the company is working on this level alone, it can never be effective in it’s blogger engagement strategy.
It has to move to the next level…
Level 2: what’s in it for the blogger
The savvier companies are strong in this mindset. They fully understand that the blogger must have something to gain before they will engage.
This could be an event with good food and drinks and great company (other interesting bloggers), it could be a product launch where the blogger gets to be the first to try out the product that they’re interested in, or it could be some competition where the blogger has a good chance of winning fabulous prizes.
If the company’s offer is sufficiently valuable to the blogger, then there’s a good chance that the blogger will blog about it.
If this seems a little risky (“what if the blogger doesn’t blog about it?”), you can always get the blogger to agree to blog…
Agreeing to blog
Advertorials or sponsored posts come under this category, where the blogger agrees to blog about the company/product for a payment. A good and reputable blogger will always disclose to their readers if a post is sponsored, so don’t bother asking bloggers to hide the fact.
Competitions or challenges also work, where blogging about the company/product is part of the competition, e.g. the funniest post on this brand of potato chips wins.
While many of these blogger engagement attempts have been quite interesting and successful, some bloggers, particularly the most reputable ones, tend to be resistant to anything that puts them in a position where they have to agree to blog.
To reach these bloggers, companies have to think about moving on to the next level…
Level 3: what’s in it for the blogger’s readers
What companies need to be thinking a lot harder about is how they can help the blogger give more value to their readers.
Popular bloggers understand implicitly that they must provide value to their readers every time they hit the “post” button – be it informational value (wow I didn’t know that!) or entertainment value (LOL!) etc. They’ve built up their large following only because of the value they’ve been giving to their readers.
Many successful blogger engagement activities actually do give bloggers the opportunity to bring value to their readers, but these are often incidental, e.g. inviting the blogger to an exclusive unveiling of a new phone – the readers benefit by being among the first to learn about the phone.
The easiest and most obvious way to benefit the bloggers’ readers is to give out gifts or prizes through the blogger. The Soyjoy GI Challenge and Blogathon (mentioned earlier) have components of this. The Soyjoy one, for instance, had a challenge where the blogger-contestants’ readers could ask for free Soyjoy bars to be delivered to their workplaces.
Another way is to make it easier for the blogger to blog about the company/product. I’m reminded of this Canon digital camera event for bloggers, where they gave every blogger an SD card to keep. The bloggers could freely test out the cameras, saving the photos they captured in those SD cards (see this short post by Claudia.sg “Finally Someone Got It!“).
I’m sure there are many other ways that companies can think of that will not only benefit themselves, the bloggers, but also the bloggers’ readers.
And that’s really why I’m writing this – I hope this will spur more companies into paying more attention to this aspect of blogger engagement. Do let me know if you have some ideas in this. The wilder the better 🙂
Special thanks to my deep-thinking colleagues at Digital Boomerang who gave me this idea.