Ah, bloggers, the best thing to happen to food publicity in decades. Bloggers have no fears. They write what they want, identify brands, take free trips and accept all manner of stuff. In exchange, they often (though not always) blog about it.
PR practitioners who grasp how a large number of these folks tick can score great exposure for their clients. Those who make wrong assumptions die a public death.
Bloggers influence consumers, they really do. So let’s just cut to the chase: What do bloggers want, and how can you exploit the opportunity? There, I said it. Food bloggers are exploitable.
Working with food bloggers is not complicated. But it does take more thought than a lot of practitioners are investing. Here, in a nutshell, are six things bloggers really want:
To grow their traffic
Aside from feeling loved for their content, bloggers work hard at growing their traffic because it pays off in ad revenue, visibility, and gigs.
Therein lies an opportunity publicists overlook. PR, from the bloggers’ perspective, feels one-sided: “Here is my client’s info, please blog something.” What’s in it for them? Take time to devise programs that drive traffic to blogs, and you’ll benefit. Great case in point is The Mushroom Channel, via Edelman.
To make decent money
We’ll not get into the “paid product review” debate here, but it is obvious that publicists have money to spend. Why bother bloggers with something like a (ho hum) recipe contest in which they work hard for no return (‘cept for the winner)?
Take that prize pot, divvy it up, pay some bloggers a decent rate for recipe development or video production, publish those on your site and link back to the bloggers. Most will be happy to reciprocate on their blogs. For instance, the Idaho Potato Commission contracted with several bloggers to produce some of the most engaging videos out there. Those same bloggers readily write posts using Idaho potatoes.
To be viewed as unique
To make inroads, think small and personal. Target a modest number of handpicked blogs and build a relationship. Teach clients that connecting with 100 blogs is a better strategy than blanketing 10,000.
To be wooed by gatekeepers
PR agencies, ad agencies, research firms, publishers, and corporate marketing departments are people with money to spend. For bloggers, making your acquaintance can be the Holy Grail. They want to work with you, so be accessible. Host meetups at your offices (food bloggers love potlucks). Start a local blogger group in your client’s town.
As a founding member of Food Bloggers LA (FBLA), I occasionally host potlucks in my home with corporate and agency brand ambassadors for bloggers to meet. The leftovers are great and everyone leaves having gained valuable contacts.
To be treated as bona fide media
Bloggers influence consumers. And many feel this ranks them with traditional press for such considerations as press badges, junkets, swag, backstage passes, and more. Being respected is a strong desire and traffic is key. Bloggers know this. Smart marketers are wisely lowering their bar. The Fancy Food Show now grants press badges to blogs with a minimum of 5,000 unique visitors a month. That is more than fair and vastly encourages blogger attendance and tons of posting. If you have something you would give The Wall Street Journal, then give it to your key list of bloggers.
To not be deemed dumb
Plenty of PR folks make that assumption, witness Bertolli’s fiasco (serving frozen pasta at a food blogger conference hoping their hunky celebrity chef would make it OK) and ConAgra (bait-and-switch serving processed food at a private-blogger-invite to a fake restaurant).
Get off your high horses—these folks are sharp. Scores of them are professionals who cook and blog as a creative outlet (Camp Blogaway attendees include attorneys, engineers, therapists, corporate executives, and teachers, as well as chefs, dietitians, and home economists). The only assumption you should make during your strategic planning is that they are at least as smart as you.
One last note: bloggers who want to catch your eye are making it clear. Look for “PR Friendly” or “Hire Me” on their blogs.
Patti Londre is president of the award-winning food and beverage PR agency The Londre Company, Los Angeles. You find her online at PattiLondre.com, on her blog Worth The Whisk, and on her food porn site, Yum Gallery.