More and more I hear of bloggers requesting press passes and media credentials. I read Facebook and Twitter updates like this one: “I’m being taken backstage with member of the press!” and know of many bloggers who regularly attend media events. Bloggers often consider themselves to be members of the online media, the “new” media, and believe they should be treated the same as traditional journalists. Yet their behavior often contradicts this classification leaving public relations professionals confused about how to reach out to bloggers.
If you are considering yourself to be a member of the online media, some things to consider…
1. Do Not Complain About Press Releases/Earned Media Outreach: Awhile back some bloggers decided to create “PR Friendly” badges for their sites, perhaps with the hopes of receiving useful content ideas, product review opportunities, or even paid content offers. However, just as quickly a movement grew with bloggers complaining about receiving impersonal press releases or earned media outreach emails. Many of the bloggers complaining have “PR Friendly” multiple places on their sites. While some members of the public relations field are authorized to hire bloggers to create sponsored posts or receive products for review, many more use traditional PR tactics on their campaigns hoping that as members of the online media, we will be interested in writing about their client’s product, event, cause, etc. I often find great content ideas in these pitches, and while I scan and delete more than I keep, I’m never offended that they’ve been sent to me. If you are receiving press releases, then congratulations! Someone is considering you to be a member of the new media. If you do not wish to receive these types of outreach from publicists and public relations houses, than I’d advise changing the information on your site to reflect this.
2. Write About the Events You Attend: If you are invited to a media event, the goal of that invitation was coverage of the event. I have to write this again: If you are invited to a media event, the goal of that invitation was coverage of that event. Yes, I understand that there are blogger events that are meant to work as focus groups, product launches, or even just to create new connections to bloggers, and yes, I also understand that the media event attendees who are writing for a parent organization (newspaper, magazine, etc.) are indirectly paid to attend the event as employees of a larger organization, but please, if you are requesting media access or a press pass to event, cover that event on your blog.
3. Do Not Complain About the Events You Do Not Attend: I cannot imagine The Washington Post placing a story on the front page titled, “Everything Wrong with the Event that the Wall Street Journal Writers Attended.” There is no integrity or value in link bait or negative bandwagons. Instead you are showing yourself as a loose cannon to be avoided. Just walk away…
4. Behave Professionally at Events: Recently Kim from Hormone Colored Days posted an incredibly useful article about bloggers who attend media events such as the New York Toy Fair. While I am the first person to get giddy goosebumps when allowed to enter the swag suite at an event, I try not to gather so many goodies that my shoulders will dislocate. Yes, again, I get that perhaps this swag is the only material payout from attending the event. But if that is an issue, perhaps this is not the best way to spend your time? Instead, look for the story at the event that would most interest and provide value to your readers, get to know the representatives at the event by chatting with them about what they would like to promote and then briefly talking about yourself (with a swag-free hand extending a business card!), and then cover the event in such a well-written post that you’ll feel proud sending the link to the person who graciously invited you to attend.
5. Aim for Objectivity: I just returned from a weekend social media celebration at Walt Disney World, one that I had some small input in planning, and yet despite the fact that I am a long time Disney enthusiast, I plan on writing a series of posts that cover specifics of the event from an objective point of view. Objectivity is incredibly difficult when we’re often treated to goodies and opportunities for pampering at blog events, but if we’re hoping to be taken seriously as online media, we need to move beyond the fluff and look at our experiences with a critical eye. There are tactful ways to share both excitement and disappointment, and dealing with both carefully shows professionalism.
6. Go Easy on the Sponsored Content: Regardless of if you are following FTC standards, many members of the traditional media will tell you that sponsored posts make their skin crawl. I refused to participate in sponsored content for the first year and a half that I blogged, and I only changed my stance when I found the right opportunities that were a fit to my blog and audience. Remember that more than just the FTC is watching over what you do – WOMMA is not as tolerant as the dreaded FTC – and keep in mind that even magazines and newspapers that participate in advertorials do so judiciously and with clear disclaimers.
Want to discuss this further? If you’re headed to the BlogHer Conference this year, I hope you’ll consider voting for my Room of Your Own Panel topic on this subject.