Facing the hard questions about paid content

Many marketing pros struggle with determining the value of a given piece of content. How much to spend? What’s the long-term gain of a paid ad? One exec has the answers.

The number of bloggers expecting cash for favorable brand mentions is rising.

Given the changing relationships among brand managers, agencies and writers for hire, PR pros face a new world of difficult questions.

A recent GroupHigh survey found that today’s influential social media users aren’t settling for free products or promises of ad placements on their blogs. Roughly 70 percent of them expect cash instead.

Mid-level users are charging from $200 to $500 per post, and more than 80 percent say they accept monetary compensation from businesses. “Influencer marketing” now looks more like the traditional advertising business—monetary compensation for a contracted endorsement—than a public relations strategy.

With cash on the line, PR pros should take a hard look at the stakes of pursuing these kinds of relationships.

The cost

Pseudo-celebrity Kendall Jenner attracts more than 65 million followers on various social media platforms, and New York-based D’Marie reports she is commanding $230,000 for a single brand-related post. That’s huge reach and might not be an effective strategy for most brands.

A celebrity without expertise brings little value. In almost every niche market, however, a handful of bloggers with as few as 10,000 followers carry sizeable influence.

Matchmaking agencies can help identify influential niche bloggers, but PR pros should research a blogger’s work thoroughly before inking a contact. It’s wise to seek highly influential bloggers who have an authentic connection with their followers instead of someone with mere star power.

The risk

If a blogger’s influence is based on his or her followers’ trust, it’s fair to ask how much risk would result from his or her support for a product. Bloggers surveyed by GroupHigh think they’re able to maintain an authentic voice even when accepting payment for product endorsement. Despite that, however, many followers show skepticism—particularly if the blog post aggressively promotes a brand.

The blogger and the brand manager should have a shared interest in maintaining credibility, which means the mention of the brand should be subtle. Although certain organizations might question why they’re paying for anything less than a full-blown endorsement, a soft mention from the right ambassador can mean a lot.

How to make the deal

How does a brand manager determine what to pay for a relationship with a blogger? It’s more complex than negotiating a number that will satisfy both parties.

The value of the collaboration should be based on the partnership’s ability to build consumer awareness and loyalty. PR teams should determine cost by the sales the post generates.

Establish a timeline

Your organization should seek an ongoing relationship with a blogger only if he or she has been vetted, if you can fine-tune strategies that key on the strength of the blogger, and if you’re able to respect the boundaries that allow them to remain authentic.

If your relationships are transactional, you should get used to scrambling whenever you need something. The best bloggers aren’t just platforms to carry your message; they should also represent your consumers. It’s more beneficial if the relationship is always on. RELATED: Learn the best new strategies for improving PR results, influence and value.

You shouldn’t determine how much to pay to enlist a service like this before knowing how your audience will respond. Instead, base its value on how accurately your branding message is received.

Abbi Whitaker is co-founder of the The Abbi Agency . Connect with her on Twitter.

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