In this social-media-crazy world, that age-old user-generated format — the blog — is often forgotten. But this infographic from the Clever Girls Collective shows marketers shouldn’t forget these original influencers. [Read more…] about The Venerable, and Super-Influential, Blog
Photo credit: David Erickson
In the parenting blogger universe, there’s no topic hotter than compensation. Only the perennial “I can’t believe the lame PR pitch I just got” rant might rival the compensation discussion in a popularity contest — which mom blogging is not, by the way.
I’m with the majority in believing mom bloggers — and all bloggers, for that matter — should earn something for their labor, and receive something in exchange for the attention of their uber-valuable audience. But turning those lame PR inquiries into dollars requires an understanding of marketing agencies and what they do. Different types of agencies have different roles and objectives, and it pays to know what they’re trying to achieve — so you can sell them on how you’re going to help them reach their goals.
In this post, I’ll explain the differences between the two types of agencies most likely to touch bloggers. (A caveat here: the agency world is changing, in part because of the influence of blogs and social media, and every agency is a little different, anyway.)
The PR Agency
These are the folks that most commonly reach out to mom bloggers. Their job, historically, has been to forge relationships with — or just plain send press releases to — traditional journalists, in print, TV, radio, online, etc. Their expertise lies in identifying which reporters and outlets are interested in what particular type of story. (The reporters and outlets are responsible for looking our for the needs of the audience.) The best PR professionals then look at the message their clients are trying to get out there, and pitch an interesting angle to the reporters most likely to “bite.” What results in the ideal sitution is a story that’s interesting to the audience (making the reporter happy) and that highlights the client favorably (making the agency and client happy).
In this very traditional scenario, the agency gets paid by the client, but there’s no budget for them to spend, other than on the labor of their employees. The PR agency just plain doesn’t get access to any money, because they are supposed to be getting free, or “earned” media coverage. “The operative word here is ‘free,'” explains PR blogger Kel Kelly of Kel & Partners, in a recent blog post called The Mommy Elephant in the Room.
What happens a lot with mommy bloggers is that they get a PR pitch, and then, perhaps insulted at being asked to write about something for free, they respond with their advertising or sponsored post rates. Since PR agencies rarely have the budget to buy advertising, I’d suggest this may not be the most fruitful approach.
An alternative might be to seek something that could be in the PR agency’s power to provide — a giveaway. If your audience would genuinely enjoy hearing about the product, and appreciate the chance to win one, then you should pursue that route with the PR agency. But, honestly, I’d suggest valuing the PR agencies for what they do best — provide information about products or trends that might be of interest to your audience. If you never talk about products in your editorial, a polite “no, thanks” or “please take me off your list” may be the best response. Believe me, PR professional are accustomed to rejection from journalists, and should welcome the opportunity to narrow their efforts to the outlets where they might get coverage.
If you’re looking for ad dollars, however, you might ask the PR agency who handles the client’s media spending.
The Media Agency
Media agencies buy advertising space — online, in the display category, that’s banner ads. They’re all about the CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions), and some are only authorized by their clients to buy on a CPM basis. They’re the ones who can buy ad space on your site, or, potentially, do a sponsored post buy. These are the agencies we work with most often at Federated Media. You’ll know you’re talking to a media agency when they say they want to RFP you, and you’re expected to turn something around in 24 hours or less.
The challenge of working with mom blogs for these folks is that — especially for those working for bigger clients — buying on tons of small sites is sometimes more time consuming than it is worth. (Most every mom blog is small when you compare it to Yahoo or MSN.) They often need to reach humongous amounts of people, and they’re looking for efficient ways to do that. Sometimes, they’re willing to work with smaller sites — which is fantastic — but there are a lot that won’t.
As a mom blogger looking for marketing dollars, your best bet is really to deal directly with the client if at all possible. The smallest companies won’t even have an agency of any kind, and the marketing folks on the client side are closest to the budget, anyway.
Bloggers, what’s been your most successful technique to turn PR pitches into revenue for your site?
One of my day-to-day jobs at Federated Media is deciding — with input from sales and other members of the team — which parenting sites (including blogs) would be good partners for our company.
Parenting blogs are unique in that they so often start as labors of love, or just means of staying in touch with far-flung families, and later evolve into businesses. So, the first step, really, is to decide if you want to get into the advertising business. It might not be for you, because of your creative vision, your personality, or your other commitments. (One good test may be to review the following tips and see if they feel right for your site and yourself.)
So, without further ado, here are my tips for the fledgling mommy or daddy blogger with ambitions of reaping significant advertising revenue:
1. Post every day or even more often. Be consistent.You may notice that some established bloggers don’t post every day. But the most successful are super-disciplined about churning out the content. If you really want to make your blog into a business, you need to treat it like one, rather than waiting around for inspiration to hit.
2. Cultivate your readership.What you’re selling — to readers, to advertisers, to your advertising partners — is yourself, or your site’s brand. To build a brand in a grassroots way, you need to be out there. Engage bigger (and smaller) bloggers in their comments sections and on Twitter. Talk to your current readers when they comment on your site. Put yourself on Facebook. Consider advertising on similar sites, or doing guest posts that allow you to get your site’s name in front of larger audiences.
The first thing that advertisers and agencies look for are stats like unique users and pageviews. Next, for savvy marketers, is engagement (as measured by comments, contest entries, etc.). Numbers 1 and 2 on this list are about building up both of those key metrics.
3. Keep it PG rated.But wait, you ask, those super-successful bloggers curse all the time, why can’t I? Controlled, contextual cursing is OK in moderation. Gratuitious f-bombs or worse are just a turn-off. Think twice before embedding that risque YouTube video. Personally, I’m all for letting it all hang out. It’s the Internet, after all. But, if you’re running a business and not pursuing a hobby, remember that advertisers want to be beside content that makes them feel safe and comfortable.
4. Think about your target advertiser.This is probably most helpful for those just conceiving of a blog, but, when you’re defining your editorial focus, imagine what advertisers you’d like to see on your site and ask yourself if they’d be happy there. Sure, it’s great, and important, to crusade against unhealthy food or plastic toys, but realize that you may also be frightening away advertisers of such things. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just do it consciously!) Think about who the big spenders are, and about what kinds of messages they spend the big bucks on spreading. If you can align yourself with the current flow of spending, and continue to be authentic, you’re in great shape.
Be consistent with your editorial, as well. So many times, a personal blog becomes a place for anything the person happens to be interested in, at the moment. Avoid that impulse and stick to a coherent theme, so advertisers understand what they’re getting.
5. Make room for ads above the fold (fewer than 550 pixels from the top).It may surprise you to find that some bloggers who want to make money from advertising haven’t designed their site to accommodate ads. Getting advertisers and keeping them happy means giving them exposure in a prominent place. But that doesn’t mean your site has to look junky. Anyone who has visited an ad-supported site can tell you that there are good placements (that look nice, well-designed, etc.) and bad ones (that look junky, ugly, etc.). Some of this is influenced by the ad creative itself, but the integration of the ad units makes a difference.
6. Develop sponsorable opportunities. And provide stats!Maggie Mason has done an amazing job (in partnership with FM) finding sponsors for her Life List. But just saying, “I have a Life List” isn’t enough for advertisers/agencies. You need to be able to say, “if you sponsor my Design section for $1000, for two weeks you’ll get all of the banner ads in that section (100,000 impressions), you’ll get mentioned on the front page (20,000 pageviews/day), and I’ll tease and link to it from my Twitter feed (3,000 followers).” Think about how you can package things up to be attractive and meet advertisers’ objectives.
Interesting piece featuring FM author Alpha Mom (Isabel Kallman) about the negativity in the parenting blogging universe.
After months of flirting with the idea, I finally allocated the budget for the Thesis theme for this blog. I suppose I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and do what I most enjoy doing — muck around with Internet publishing/marketing stuff and get my feet wet.
There’s still a lot of work to do on the site design-wise, needless to say, but the current rev is 1000% better looking than the standard “Hello, World!” template I’ve been using recently. Expect to see more content on The River in the days to come.