I’ve been sitting on this post for a while for fear of offending any of my friends in the beauty PR world* but a recent rise in particularly impressive events has lead me to believe that a post like this could only be viewed as constructive. I’ve worked online for many years now in a variety of sectors, and whilst ‘meetups’ in other areas such as technology have been widely accepted for years now (probably due to the fact that the web is a technological phenomenon) other sectors have been less than ready to accept the blogosphere as a reputable form of journalism. To ease confusion I will say that by blogs I encapsulate EVERYTHING from company run websites such as Cosmopolitan.com and Handbag.com to smaller sites such as www.Cultbeauty.co.uk, www.Kissandmakeup.tv and people who blog personally- every bit as professional, but not necessarily full time, such as British Beauty Blogger or Lipglossiping. To an extent one could even argue that those who blog personally are less restricted by advertising demands and the requirements of their companies, and are therefore either more honest or more in depth (due to no time constraints) but that’s a whole other post.
Suffice to say, PR companies are now getting on board with bloggers and are hosting more and more events tailored specifically to this domain. I can’t applaud this more, it shows creativity, innovation and suggest that companies are embracing rather than being scared of new media. Just because you have an idea though, doesn’t always mean it’s implemented right, no matter how good the intention may have been. Here is my short guide on the things that companies are doing right and a couple of points on what they could do better.
Good things to Do.
Number One: Think about the Timing of The Event- and the Location
A meetup is all well and good, and a really nice way for the PR’s to get to know bloggers, and bloggers to meet each other in person. However many bloggers do NOT work full time and scheduling an event in the middle of the day means you’re automatically ruling out a majority of attendees. It’s a lovely plan, but you have to think realistically, and if it’s the bedroom bloggers you want to reach, and evening, or dare I say it-weekend- would be much more ideal. How are you planning for people who live out of town? Whilst major media outlets may be primarily based in London, for an event you’ll be bringing together from all over the country, so be prepared to offer travel expenses, or miss out on some high profile attendees
Number Two: Give them Images..of EVERYTHING!
Bloggers and web editors have one major thing in common- we work online. C’mon, that should be simple enough to figure out! So help us help you- give us IMAGES in JPEGs, CD’s, USB drives, we don’t mind, just give them to us NOW and don’t fill our bags with paper releases. Don’t promise to send us emails later, and then forget, hand us a USB stick with all the pics we could ever need. Make sure everything you say is there is ACTUALLY there, and if it’s not tell us why. If a product is an exclusive to someone, tell us why we don’t have the image, don’t let us run all the way home and then be infuriated when we load up our computer.
Number Three: Give them stuff
No, not because we’re product hungry whores who want everything we can get, but because we actually write about this, and need to have things to try and use. If you just give us a few things that doesn’t showcase your range very well, and you want us impressed and raving about your brand to our friends and colleagues- who are probably influential journalists and bloggers. Sleek makeup does this exceptionally well, understanding that the power of the blogosphere really affects sales, and hence has a huge following that other brands can only envy. They have amassed such devotion in part due to their high quality products, and their huge response to feedback, which other brands could definitely learn from.
Number Four: Listen to the Blogosphere
A bad product review may feel like death to some people, but it’s not actually something to fear. So people hate your nail varnish and love your lippie? You can deal with that. Find out WHY some products are disliked and then see what you can do about it. I don’t mean bribing the journalists but by speaking to the manufactures, changing the textures, working with the feedback rather than against it. You could even contact the major haters and get them to run quizzes and competitions about what to change- most people would be more than willing if you approach them correctly.
Number Five: Give them a good reason to visit you
So you have a new body lotion- good for you. Is that really worth schlepping 45 minutes across town to see? I don’t care if it is in another colour, or the logo has changed slightly, what am I getting out of coming down in person that an email wouldn’t have given me? And no, the posh chocolates in the goodie bag aren’t reason enough. Bring in an expert who is happy to answer skincare questions UNRELATED to the brand- don’t worry, you’ll still get a mention if used- a free manicure, an evening event with drinks where you can bring a friend.. now THAT’s a reason to come.. maybe. At a recent event by Sleek MakeUP we had a lab technician on hand to show bloggers how to make lipstick, and I got to see lipstick moulds and how to measure out the product- now that was worth a visit!
Things to Avoid
Number 1: Two Tier Goodie bags
I know that the girl from Vogue.com is more up your clients street than the girl from IloveMakeupalot.blogspot.com (apologies if that exists) but there’s no need to blatantly favourite her in front of everyone is there now? Not only will that make everyone feel uncomfortable, but it will also means resentment spreads as does gossip, and that’s not the spirit you want to foster. If you must gift the girl from Vogue with something extra special, courier it to her, don’t do it in front of everyone. The same applies to goodie bags-the same for everyone, and make sure you don’t run out either, as nothing is more depressing than promising to send you a bag when you’re out.. and it never appearing. This has happened to a bunch of people I know, both from magazines and blogs, and it always annoys.
Number 2: Assuming everyone knows everybody
Yes, the blogosphere is a friendly place but it’s also vast, and just because you have huge resources at hand doesn’t mean that other bloggers spend their time combing the web for blogs to represent your clients. I don’t think you should give people nametags (heaven forbid) but an intro session perhaps, and DEFINITELY a list of attending blogs should be handed out.
Number 3: Not Treating people as professionals
A lot of bloggers may not have a huge amount of journalistic experience, but that doesn’t mean you can treat them with impunity. Turn up on time to appointments, give people notice of cancellations, and don’t invite people last minute to things- we know it’s just because someone important dropped out, and that doesn’t make us feel great. OK, if it’s last minute tickets to see Rihanna we may forgive you, but be honest about why the space is free, it will be appreciated.
Number 4: Do not try and get free advertorial
I know what all PR’s secretly wish for is that Vogue would suddenly decide their product is the hottest thing since Tampons replaced pads, and would start raving about them in every single feature. They don’t however, and if you want any major advertising you often have to pay for it. Just because blogs might not have the same lengthy approval process don’t expect them to provide you with free advertorials- that’s not the point of them. Integrity is key in the blogosphere so don’t try and impede there’s by expecting loads of coverage of something rather insignificant. If you REALLY want advertorial offer to do what you’d normally do- approach them about their RATES, and take a ‘no’ gracefully.
Number 5: Don’t over-push your product
You’d never over bombard a magazine bigwig (OK< having worked on a mag, that’s actually debatable) so don’t send a zillion emails and phone calls about whether one hand cream is actually going to be featured. You know when you’re overdoing it, so remember to just stop. If I want to feature it I will, and being so pushy will only stop me! Remember not to condescend as well, as if you’re offering a prize or a competition to a blog, make sure it’s something worthy- a five pound money off voucher is generally NOT acceptable currency.
People to recommend:
I’m not trying to play favourites here, but I just wanted to highlight a few brands which have already embraced the online world. By this I don’t mean just starting a Facebook and Twitter page, but wholeheartedly paying attention to online writers, and tailoring things accordingly. Kudos to Simple for their bloggers pledge (and a shout out to their fab Eye Makeup remover while I’m at it), a round of applause to Sleek Makeup, whose recent Beauty Blogging Bowling Event inspired me to publish this and another thumbs up to Clinique, who really understand the power of digital PR.
*This doesn’t mean that my friends have been hosting bad events, more that they have been restricted by the limitations imposed on them by their clients.