Four tips for food blog PR

There has been debate on the Australian food bloggers group about opting in or out of the public relations onslaught, mostly because when it comes to food blogging, some PR people act like dicks.

It is no great secret that Australian business is a long way behind the US when it comes to online PR. It is something that an Australian PR agency might tack on to their services but few (if any) specialise in online in Australia or do it consistently well because there is not a great deal of cash in it for them yet. As it is dawning on the industry that print media as we know it is doomed, jumping on the social media bandwagon is the action de jour.

My four tips:

1. At the very least, read some of the food blog before you fire off a press release.

It’s not that hard to work out the topics in food that are of genuine interest to a particular food blogger. Read their blog. You’ll soon discover that food blogging is a broad church and it is not likely that your clients’ product will align with the interests of all food bloggers. If you’re doing your job, you should be able to find a good fit somewhere.

Unlike print media, unpaid food bloggers are under no compunction to put out regular editions or posts. There is no pressure to fill column inches and so this negates the need for bloggers to trawl through press releases at the end of the day just to churn out a few hundred words. For most food bloggers, press releases have zero value.

2. Even better, don’t send a press release at all.

Cut the “positioning” bullshit. You’ll get much better results if you engage in intelligent conversation because for most food bloggers, intelligent conversation is their modus operandi. If there is nothing intelligent that can be said about your client’s product (or your client’s product does not relate to food for humans) then just maybe you should question your future career in public relations.

Approach this as if you’re forming a relationship that will last forever. Most food bloggers don’t think in terms of discrete campaigns or product launches: the biggest mistake that PR folk make when approaching any social media is that they expect that it will last for the life of the campaign and not any longer. If you burn bloggers early, it is likely that you’ll have to work extremely hard to get them back on side for any future campaigns or other unrelated clients.

3. Link to me and send me traffic.

If you want me to sit up and pay attention to your (or your clients’) website, link to mine and send good traffic; the traffic that reads more than a single page and adds comments. I segment my traffic and notice that behaviour. Write your own food blog or get somebody to write one who cares rather than spamming out press releases. I still wonder why clients would ever trust an agency to do “blogger PR” when the agency (or its staff) do not run a blog.

4. If all else fails, food bloggers are very easily bought.

Most food bloggers love free shit; especially meals and the feeling like they’re receiving something exclusive. You’ve only got to look at this food blogger meetup organised by Club Med just to see that even if your food is not necessarily the greatest in the world, you can still buy fawning coverage by some of the world’s biggest bloggers. POM juices got coverage aplenty simply by mailing out juice and holding a competition. The trick is permission and not expecting anything directly in return. Ask people’s permission to send them free things. Ask for their advice rather than “write about this in your next blog post!”.

10 Comments Four tips for food blog PR

  1. Kerry Heaney

    Well done Phil.

    I wish people would read my blog before sending me stuff. It would be great if they also realised blogging is my interest not income. I have to weigh up the interest if it’s going to cost me money to blog it – ie city parking min $25 or two hours of my time + writing.

    Reply
  2. kinakoJelly

    I’d add a 5th point: Rather than communicate a product to bloggers, invite them to an interesting event. Blogger like all media trade on currency (timeliness) – but your event should be something that media in general would be interested in: a clever live competition, installation, public debate etc. As Kerry commented, it has to be worth our while.

    It seems obvious to you & me that print media are slowly dying out, but print media still have way more cache for marketeers. why?
    – partly because media coverage is evaluated (often by external media valuation companies) in terms of ad value. this means the size of the article is compared to the price of a similar sized advertisement. web advertisements (especially on blogs) are often cheaper (hence the articles are also considered less valuable)

    – press coverage is also evaluated in terms of circulation or viewers. besides the fact that blog traffic is usually equivalent to a very niche magazine rather than a general interest one, quantifying traffic becomes very problematic. When the articles are around forever, what timeframe do you establish to count the number of views per page? And what kind of hits do you count? the cursory, not-even-read google hits?
    (of course, there’s no guarantee either that when a story is published in print that magazine readers actually read the article in question. And the stories are not around forever, accessible by google, like blog posts… but that’s bringing logic into the argument..)

    for these reasons, as well as the fact that they have limited budgets and time, many communications people are lazy about the way they approach online media.
    i know a company PR person in Brazil whose dept. will not approach any online media at all because they can’t track the value. stupid!
    i suspect there’s also a kind of bias about prestige: because blogs have minimal production costs and there is no limit to space for articles, it might be perceived as ‘easy’ to get blog coverage. so maybe some PR people don’t think they need to invest any effort in the way they approach blogs.

    of course, print media also get hundreds of unsolicited press releases every day, many without preliminary or follow up phone calls – so bloggers shouldn’t be surprised to get them too…

    And it’s not a one-way street: most print media regard press releases as a valid source of stories, (at least from time to time). I guess from the media perspective, it’s always a matter of figuring out what readers want to read about. ….Maybe the editor would decide on a given day that a new type of pet food might be of interest to a whole bunch of newspaper-reading old biddies…..

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  3. kinakoJelly

    PS: quote “the biggest mistake that PR folk make when approaching any social media is that they expect that it will last for the life of the campaign and not any longer.”

    Actually I think it’s usually the other way round:
    it’s usually the media who view any product-related stories are a one-off thing based on news-worthiness (they wouldn’t want to ruin their rep by being in bed with a company, being their bitch), and it’s the PR departments who flatter themselves that they have established a long term relationship…
    the blogger’s thinking “just some person I met and had drinks with, once” and the PR person is thinking “my new boyfriend”

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  4. Phil Lees

    The measuring value of blog coverage is still a partial problem. Unlike offline media, you can directly measure ROI or cost per acquisition (at least, you can if you don’t mind apportioning all the value to just the last click from the blog). There are also engagement mapping tools out there to measure all of your ads in the online chain – but it is only a partial solution because it fails to take into account offline influences on online behavior (e.g. ATL ad campaigns spawning Google searches).

    A very quick metric to use (which doesn’t get your hands dirty in stats) is to say that the ad value of clicks from a blog post is equal to the average cost per click in your SEM campaign. This will give you a nice, easy to use, daily figure which is about as sensible (or possibly, nonsensical) as print editorial equalling print ad value.

    Reply
  5. kinakoJelly

    Interesting… How does SEM define the time period in which to count the clicks (per week?per month?)
    And how does it distinguish differing values between online platforms? Is SEM something that Google or MSN dictates the value for per each different site?

    Ugh, monitoring media value for articles is very abstract and as you say, nonsensical!

    Reply
  6. Phil Lees

    SEM = Search Engine Marketing (I probably should have said Pay Per Click advertising which would have been much clearer and more specific). You could measure your average over any time period that you advertised and received clicks.

    As a quick example, Google estimates the cost per click for an ad from the keyword “beer” to cost $0.53 in Australia (from https://adwords.google.com/select/TrafficEstimatorSandbox). If I get an unpaid link to my beer page from a blog, then as a rough, dirty estimate, I can say that every click from a blog is worth $0.53 in advertising. This gives you a neat but equally foolish measure as ad value equivalent. It’s foolish because it doesn’t factor in positive or negative coverage; or the extra search engine optimisation value of receiving an unpaid link.

    To answer the “what kind of hits do you count?”, it is all about setting goals – whether that is sales, comments on a blog, average time on site, signups for your newsletter, etc. This sort of thing is very easy to track. As for time-frame, I view anything that builds links and clicks as cumulative – they’re valuable for the life of the link. This is why thinking in terms of the very long term is so important for online PR campaigns, because the best campaigns will have ongoing value.

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  7. Christa Fehrenbach

    You really seem like you enjoy this topic, it shows in your writing. It’s refreshing to see.

    Reply

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