’Twas the month before Christmas and all through the land
Not a publicist was sleeping from any one brand.
The press kits and products were all FedExed with care
In hopes that key bloggers would soon want to share…
The holidays are one of the busiest times of the year for both publicists and bloggers, particularly those who review products and conduct reader giveaways. Whether the “product” is a blockbuster film, traditional TV special, or the latest in books, toys and electronics, publicists have plenty of holiday wares to hawk, and trend-setting bloggers have become an increasingly valuable vehicle for visibility and endorsement.
I’ve been pitching from my side of the fence since before blogging existed, and I've often wondered what it’s like to catch on the other side. I thought I would ask a couple of bloggers I respect and admire.
Becky Fixel is the Detroit-based founder, editor, and writer of Week 99er, which focuses on money-saving products and tips. She is also an interior design instructor, runs Rusao Designs, and is co-creating The Midwest Influencer’s Conference for Midwest-based bloggers.
Amy Barseghian is the owner and founder of OC Mommy Mentor in Orange County, California, reviewing products and resources for women and families. She also runs Social Halo Media, which creates social media and blog campaigns and manages website content.
How long have you been blogging?
BF: I started my blog in May of 2011, when I reached week 99 of my unemployment. Week99er was born and life has never been the same! Originally the blog was my outlet as I struggled with making ends meet and shared how to save money and live frugally. The blog has grown over the years, and the focus has changed from clipping coupons (which I still do), to making things yourself, DIYs, recipes and the best products for your money.
AB: I started blogging and writing at the end of 2007 and launched Mommy Mentor, now OC Mentor, at the start of 2008. I started writing as a hobby to share the products and information we found useful as parents of young children. It quickly grew from there as companies liked the honest and thorough reviews I provided.
Is this a full-time job for you?
BF: As a time commitment, yes. However, I do not make a full-time wage with the blog. It's more a passion than a job for me.
AB: I am so happy to say that, yes, this and Social Halo Media are a full-time job for me.
I noticed you both cover Disney quite extensively. They must be doing something right!
BF: Disney breaks their PR into several different campaigns for movie releases, DVD/Blu-Ray releases, media releases (YouTube previews, etc.), and children's activities. They are selective with the bloggers they want to work with on different campaigns—they don't play favorites like some PR companies do. You can be selective about what you want to feature. Plus, they answer emails quickly.
AB: Disney and other companies have realized the power behind social media influence and online readership. How people get their news has changed dramatically with all of the changes in technology, social media, and online access to information. We as bloggers and freelance writers provide coverage not only through our websites, but also through live sharing of events on our social media platforms.
Who else does a good job in their PR campaigns and why?
BF: Warner Bros offers an app that engages your readers and can be installed on your blog along with a giveaway of a new video release. I have reviewed several car brands, and Kia is my favorite for the way the brand treats the blogger. They give you a full orientation of their product and show you all of the features; some brands just drop off the car and keys and say, “See you in a week!” Kia also allows you to do pretty much anything as long as it doesn’t damage the car. We’ve actually gone to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and off-roaded one of their SUVs. I've had a multi-year relationship with Ozeri, which offers reviews and giveaways of their digital kitchen and home products. They supported my requests when I was starting a new weight loss campaign. Good Cook is a new addition to my reviews; they offer several campaigns throughout the year that require a recipe as well as a review, with the possibility of a giveaway. They not only create great content for your site, but keep your readers engaged. I make sure the brands I work with won’t alienate any readers, and have similar business goals and values.
AB: I pride myself on working with companies that we truly support as a family because being authentic is very important. Right now I am working with Fresh and Easy on a sponsored holiday party; it's so rewarding because the company values my influence, time and genuine value for their company. I have worked with them for years, so it’s exciting to share their products with friends in a natural environment.
How important are giveaways?
BF: Giveaways won’t make or break a review, but I won’t lie—if there is a giveaway the review will be read more often.
AB: The most important thing about giveaways is that it allows me a chance to share with my readers. Many times they wonder how to get involved in the “blogosphere,” and giveaways involve them in a fun and unique space that I am fortunate to be part of.
Will you both be doing holiday gift guides? If so, are you still accepting ideas from publicists?
BF: I run “The 99 Days of Christmas,” which is in its third year and includes recipes, DIYs, reviews and giveaways. This year I also launched “The Ultimate Gift Guide,” which provides information on great gift options for every member of the family, even if they have four legs! Both are accepting ideas from publicists until early December.
AB: Yes and yes! Interested companies can email me at email@example.com for review.
Any other thoughts?
BF: There is a misconception that bloggers are just doing this as a hobby, or are unprofessional. People don’t realize how much time and passion go into blogging. Also, bloggers are not all the same and we don’t like to be bulk categorized. I have problem with emails addressed to “Dear Mommy Blogger”— not all bloggers are moms, some are dads, some are aunts or uncles, and others have children with fur. And I’ve seen too many brands send products to bloggers who can't use them—why would a grandma blogger want a breast pump? I've even had brands send me a tech product and then pull Android support, leaving me unable to review their item. The relationship between PR reps and bloggers should be mutually beneficial!