Time to face facts…beer brands need bloggers and bloggers need beer brands. Bloggers want interesting, new content to keep readers coming back and to attract more readers and beer brands want to reach out to as many relevant people as possible so it should be a mutually beneficial relationship that leaves both sides with a nice warm glow.
Why is it then that rather than partners bloggers and PRs often seem more like a recently divorced couple – constantly screaming at each other “YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND ME, WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LISTEN!” – and rather than living in harmony it’s an oft asked question should bloggers and breweries even bother trying to get along at all.
Bloggers have no qualm calling out every media mishap (real or perceived) committed in the beer world but are they blameless in the relationship challenge or is it time they took a long hard look at themselves? As with most relationships the truth lies somewhere in the middle but having seen the good, bad and downright obnoxious of beer blogger behaviour some thoughts on how to work in harmony with a beer PR.
1. They’re Just Doing Their Job
Your blog is your passion, you do it in your spare time because you love beer and love to write about it but whether you’re dealing with in house or agency PR remember it’s their job and think how you want to be treated at work versus at home or in the pub. PR people are busier than they’ve ever been. As well as managing with traditional press – which used to be a full time job in itself – they now have to deal with bloggers, tweeters and online-only news sites running 24 hours a day.
It’s a lot of people to get around so you might not get an instant response – it doesn’t mean they don’t understand how your beer blog is THE beer site on all of the internet. Remember you’re much more likely to reply quickly to a mate asking you out for a pint than the boss asking for this month’s figures – the same rules apply so if a PR doesn’t drop everything and pay attention to you it doesn’t mean they can’t do their job and don’t care about the beer they’re promoting, it means they’re busy.
2. But I Thought I Was Special
Twitter can testify that nothing aggrieves a blogger more than being on a BCC list but, before steam comes out your ears have a look at the content. If it’s a generic news piece then they may have thought – genuinely – that you might be interested and want to cover it, or just want to be kept up to date. Decide the type of contact you want to have and stick to it – don’t threaten to tell their boss when you don’t get a piece of news you want when you’ve previously told them not to contact you, PR’s have long memories.
And nobody gets told everything – not even the National journalists. Often there will be a commercially sensitive reason for a PR wanting to share news at a certain time so if you don’t get everything you want it’s not because the PR is a luddite that doesn’t understand just how important blogs are, they’re doing a good job and maintaining confidentiality.
3. PR’s Aren’t Psychic
Be upfront about what you will and won’t blog about. The best PR person will hopefully do their research, but keep in mind that there are millions of blogs out there now. The easier you make it for PR’s to take the guesswork out of it, the more targeted and relevant the opportunities you’ll get.
Imagine you write about Fosters and Club 18 – 30 send you their latest release, when it lands in your inbox stop and think a minute before you take to twitter screaming “these damn lazy PR’s have NEVER read my blog, do your research”. It could be that rather than buying in a list of blogs they’ve identified you have an audience of 18 – 30 year old men and therefore it’s an opportunity for them to reach them and you to reach out to a wider audience with some new content – that’s not lazy, that’s good research and could be mutually beneficial.
But if that’s not for you, if you just want to write about beer then say so with a simple button or tab that links to a page created specifically for advertising and PR. Include on that page exactly what types of opportunities you are open to, what’s off limits and what exactly you can offer to a brand on your blog. Copy an example from Boak and Bailey and life will be much easier all round.
4. It’s About Give and Take
A blogger / PR relationship has to work on both sides. You might think new packaging, advertising & marketing activity is dull as dishwater but they all matter to a beer brand. Showing how they’re investing to grow is how brands get more customers stocking them so they want people to know about it.
If you’ve not told a PR you don’t cover that kind of thing don’t just ignore, a quick “thanks but I don’t cover that kind of thing” is all it takes. If you just hit delete in disgust that they haven’t read your entire back catalogue of posts to know you don’t cover it, don’t be surprised if the bigger, exciting news that you do want doesn’t come your way – you need to show your worth spending time on to make it to the top of a list of bloggers. And definitely don’t phone up the PR in outrage if you don’t get the big stories asking if they realise your Wikio rating and therefore how important you are.
5. Anyone Can Count
In the world of PR, coverage can be relatively easy (assuming a slow news week in Caravan World), there are a zillion news outlets to target these days so the days of being measured on reach or eyeballs (the number of people who read a piece about a brand) are long gone. Like any social space engagement is key and PR’s are tasked on getting the RIGHT coverage, reaching those people most likely to respond and purchase, ahead of just numbers. Quite often less is more so don’t be surprised if you don’t get every opportunity to write about a beer, even if you’ve loved it and written about it since its first brew. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you any more but that they’ve done their job properly and this time around your blog might not be quite right. For example if you never mention food and a beer has just done some fabulous beer and food pairings don’t call up the PR screaming your Wikio ranking and HOW DARE they ignore you, try to understand why you’ve not been first choice.
Ultimately though, you know your audience best. You know what they respond to, what types of posts they like and how they will react so if you think you could have made something work for your blog that’s outside of what you normally post then say so. Beers want to work with you access the trust you have with your audience so just as you call out something that’s not right why not suggest when you think something will?
6. Help Them Help You
If you happen to be in the dark world and stumble across a PR person that works with a beer that you would love to feature on your blog or have some ideas that could work for both of you, tell them! You know beer and the beer world so why not share your ideas and see if you can work together on them in some way – I’ve worked on some great ideas that have come about that way. And be grateful if a PR takes the time to listen to your ideas – don’t tell the world they needed you because they know nothing about beer otherwise you can shove your ideas.
Whilst you might think differently it’s not just PRs that make mistakes. If they ask you to take down something that’s wrong, don’t start screaming censorship and the first amendment. It’s a two-way deal: they don’t want wrong information about their beer / brewery out there and want to help stop you looking like an idiot.
7. Because You’re Worth It
Times are hard and PR is no different. If you can’t get hold of someone it’s not because they’re on their fourth Bellini at The Ivy it’s because they’ve been hauled into a meeting to justify their budget. For smaller breweries PR is often the only marketing they can afford and in bigger breweries often the first budget to be cut so you need to be able to demonstrate value if you want a lengthy relationship with them. YOU know that you have a loyal army of readers hanging slavishly on your every word and will immediately pop to Bargain Booze for any beer you recommend or that you guest post on a dozen different blogs to drive additional traffic but how’s a PR supposed to know that at first read?
Remember it’s all about engagement, if you want to be sent the juiciest news first, show how you’ve helped a brewery achieve that and they’ll be back for more. It doesn’t need to be rocket science, use tools you already have at your disposal such as Google Analytics. Find a way to show what value you can add if a beer comes to you first, share results with them immediately and you’ll be top of the tree next time the right opportunity comes along.
And don’t take offence if you get asked for analytics figures upfront – the PR person has to justify why you should get special attention, work with them to show your worth and you’ll get a lot more back.
8. PRs are People Too
Play nicely and be polite. PR people are still people and anything you publish about them on your blog or any social platform can impact their job/ client prospects/the clients they get. What may be a fun hobby for you can be a job-breaker for them so think before you take to the internet if someone’s upset you – is what they actually did so bad?
Why not speak to them about why you’re upset, they want to work with bloggers so welcome constructive feedback. One wrong or thoughtless email doesn’t mean they are rubbish at PR, if it continues then by all means call it out but how would you feel if every time you made a slip up at work it ended up in cyberspace?
9. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
If you’ve seen or heard about a beer you’ve never tried before and want to review it then ask for a bottle, if you want to run a give away and need beer or merchandise then ask for it, if you want to interview someone at the brewery then ask. You are under no obligation to write about any of them afterwards but bear in mind the PR person will be hoping that you do.
Let’s not forget the storm Kevin Black caused by emailing every brewery in the land asking for samples pretending to be writing a book endorsed by CAMRA. By claiming endorsement he doesn’t have he lost all credibility and few breweries will touch him now (which could be a shame if the aforementioned book ever does materialise although I suspect it won’t). If you’re asking for freebies be honest about why and what you want them for but if the answer’s no it’s not a snub to all bloggers and the digital realm. The PR hasn’t blown all their budget on fancy lunches with Will Hawkes, the perhaps don’t have the budget available. Times are tough.
10. Hand in Your Homework
Sadly I missed the recent Beer Bloggers Conference but seemingly the question “do you let breweries / brands know you’ve written about them” was met with an embarrassed silence. If you’ve taken the time to review a beer or write about a brewery then let them know! They’ll not only thank you for it but they’ll undoubtably share it on. Remember point 1 and all the media sources they’re dealing with so help a PR out by sending them the link.
Don’t forget they are most likely to have a much wider reach than you so it not only spreads the word of their brand but your blog too – it’s a win / win. It’ll also strengthen your relationship with them, if they know you’re going to write about them they’ll send you more news.
Beer blogs are important but there are a lot of them and new ones coming along all the time so don’t jump the shark bloggers, be nice to PRs and they can help you fight off the new comers.