How to Properly Pitch a Lifestyle Blogger
Earlier last year, I wrote a piece entitled “How To Fix The Broken Relationship Between Brands and Bloggers.” The op-ed piece let me share my point of view about bloggers taking on agents in order to build business with The New York Times, The Street and AdWeek.
From there, it’s led me to start exploring these dynamic relationships now shaping the future of digital marketing. I’d like to share my journey with you, taking these relationships apart piece by piece, as it may be the only way to really help agencies, brands and bloggers understand how to successfully work with each other. I’m going to start with something basic–how to properly pitch a lifestyle blogger.
There are many ways to pitch an individual lifestyle (we’re talking beauty, fashion or home) blogger or an independent group that has a series of web properties or contributors (FMM would be categorized as this). Pitching obviously depends on your goal and desired relationship with the blogger or media group.
Five types of lifestyle blogger pitches
Without brand ambassadorship or strategic campaign partnership (all paid projects), usually blogger pitches fall into these categories.
- General outreach: You send company news, trend alerts, celebrity spottings and brand generated content to a blogger via your public relations team. Bloggers can choose to write about it or not, and you’ve most likely sent it out to 50 – 200 blogger contacts.
- Launch campaigns: You are launching something cool–a new product line, a collaboration or new site features–and you want to get a lot of involvement from key influencers in your chosen online target market and/or vertical. In this case, you may send the blogger an exclusive piece from the collection or project you’re launching. This outreach is unpaid, except for an exchange of merchandise and a note to the blogger about informing their readers it was gifted. Sending product is not always necessary, depending on the relationship you’re choosing to build with the bloggers.
- Launch campaign exclusive editorial: You may choose to offer a blogger an editorial exclusive or deeper interview opportunities so he or she can create original content that’s different than your public relations team’s message. Many times this is very effective with key influencers who can generate interest from online audiences and social followings. Exclusives can be interviews, photos or event meet-and-greet opportunities. Usually these exclusives aren’t the exclusives that brands give to mainstream news publications or television outlets where they spend advertising dollars such as Vogue, InStyle or Lucky, followed by Refinery29 or Racked. (A note to the marketing and PR person looking at bloggers as trickle down media after the bigger news outlets: sometimes that strategy can bite you in the butt.) The trickle-up effect, which begins with content permeating blogs and indie news sites, can move and attain more earned media in larger outlets if the whole Internet is going crazy over what you’re creating.
- Event coverage: Most bloggers are pitched event coverage of what happened at a store opening or celebrity-attended launch event, but are not invited to the event. This is not an intelligent strategy. If you want a blogger to write about your event, then invite them to it. Let them tweet, take photos and publicize it through written word, photos and maybe even video. If you don’t allow photography or video at your launch events or in-store appearances, don’t invite bloggers or expect them to write about it. Bloggers like their own photo opps to make their coverage as exclusive and original as possible. Many are not going to want the posed photos your photographer took for Wire Image. (A side note: If blogger coverage involves fashion week shows, please invite them backstage to get original content, tweet and Instagram and give them decent seats so that they can create good, real-time and post-show content for you. There’s nothing more sinful than crappy, blurry runway photos.)
- Blogger challenges: Blogger challenges are becoming popular for consumer brands in terms of blogger outreach and general audience engagement. We’re seeing this a lot in the consumer product space. Brands will tap key bloggers, send them “kits” of something and have them upload what they did to Facebook and their own blogs. The goal is to get the brand’s general audience inspired and to follow the examples of the more seasoned content creators. Hence, I call this a hybrid of outreach and engagement as two things are being addressed with one strategy.
How to properly create a blogger challenge
Number five in the list above is what this post is going to focus on for the remainder of this editorial. Why? Because it’s becoming an improperly executed strategy of the five listed above. Recently, I received a pitch from Ketchum (a very notable agency) on behalf of their client Clorox Bleach.
First off, this pitch had nothing to do with FMM or its audience, but the way it was crafted intrigued us enough to bite and want to know more. The pitch, coupled with links, looked promising!
- Have you ever wanted to turn that plain old something into something worthy of a photo shoot, like the stylists at Madewell and do you predict patterns to dominate the runways of Bryant Park? We do!
- Patterned skirts, dresses, blouses and jackets dominated the runways of Bryant Park in 2011. No longer is it taboo to mix and match, so take that plain tee and turn it into a patterned masterpiece that can go head-to-head with Missoni.
The pitch had a plethora of other ideas, which we don’t advise doing for the sake of relevancy. But being interested, we sifted through it because we were curious about the contents of our “Clorox Mystery Box” after seeing the interesting infographs on CHOCOLATE and KISSING.
Pitch Note: While Ketchum had done a fair amount of work to be interesting to us, I would have preferred and recommended that the pitch be tailored to me as a writer. Why would FMM readers want to see me do a Clorox DIY? What could be associated to our other content? This goes a lot further with any blogger when a brand or agency shows they’ve actually read their blogs. A little validation and recognition goes a lot way.
After getting back from NYFW, my mystery box arrived and I was devastated. It was not to my expectations or something I would have ever have sent out to a blogger myself:
The box came with an American Apparel t-shirt, a coupon for an 86 oz. bottle of bleach, two pages of instructions on what I was to do and a note to add the disclaimer of “Clorox provided me with all of the materials used for this design and sponsored this post.”
What’s wrong with this pitch:
- In the box, there was a coupon and t-shirt, no other materials needed to actually try and make something cool.
- Clorox expected me to go to my local Target (or whatever store I shop at) to get their bleach, which, on average, is a 45 minute trip.
- From the legal statement, it makes it appear that Clorox moved heaven and earth to make my venture easy and that they then paid for the post on our website, which was clearly not the case. It’s very misleading.
- Perhaps the worst feeling came from the fact that I got my hopes up. I truly felt Clorox valued me, our audiences and our creativity at a content value of the box – $9.99.
How Clorox could have made this pitch stellar
When I provide an example of how something went wrong, I always propose solutions to make it right. So, in deciding to use this as an example of what not to do, I also decided to use it as an example of what to do in the future. Armed with my coupon, I headed to Target and made this box what I was envisioning it to be in the first place.
In the box, I would have the following (minus the 86 oz. bleach of course): a nice bag for box contents, a handwritten note to me as a blogger on a vibrant card thanking me for the challenge; the letter along with the Madewell or brand generated how-to photo guide (I printed off the Madewell article and paper clipped to the card); Clorox product sames of the new laundry detergent to use when washing my new creation, the Clorox stain fighter and bleach pens (which I bought at $2.44 each at Target); and a $10.00 Target gift card for any extra supplies that may have been needed to make my DIY masterpiece. The total I spent to make this (minus the bleach and t-shirt) was $16.44.
Had I received this package, I would have gone Lady Gaga for the project, both as a marketer and a blogger. This would have made my 45 minute excursion part of my brand experience and adventure and I’d probably have written about it–or even made a video of it. Wow, all that extra work for $16.44 worth of stuff and a much better pitch. Most likely!
Taking this to the next level
Clorox could easily have even done a partner marketing campaign with Target in order for their product, seeing as Target stands to benefit from the DIY projects. Yes, this would require Ketchum to get in contact with Target and get them on board for the campaign, but I bet they would have considered it. Why? Because no matter how cool the Target designer collaborations are, we know that most people go to Target for household cleaning supplies and toiletries because hipster fashionistas are NOT people of Walmart.
And what’s more, most brands I’ve spoken with this year have asked me this question: “Why don’t our large agencies propose partnerships with the other 20-50 clients or campaigns they’re working on? Why does it seem all efforts for brand exist in a silo?”
Client marketing dollars go further when you create partner marketing opportunities. Heck, why do you think people love POTLUCKS so much? Everyone brings something that the others need or want and you share. You co-create community efforts.
I made the photo to the right for you all to see. It was kinda fun, but I would recommend not using rubber bands and ponytail holders instead, the basic rubber bands will tear t-shirts when doing this activity (something that should have been noted in the documentation).
- As a blogger, what are your favorite ways for brands to interact with you?
- As a brand, what best practices have you created to build fruitful relationships with the bloggers you work with?
Photos: I Love Blogs & Coffee, FMM via Macala’s iPhone.