Keynote: Brands and Bloggers

Elisa Page
Angelica Colantuani
Joanne Ozug
Jocelyn Brubaker
Jennifer Giambroni

Elisa: Thank you for coming. This seems to be a perennially popular topic.

Angelica you have been a PR agent for about a dozen years now so half a career ago you weren't thinking of bloggers. I think word of mouth was the most analogous yes? when did you first realize that bloggers were something that you had to bring this into your practice?

Angelica: I actually have a varied pr background, I was in public affairs primarily political campaigns. So it was a fairly similar theme through out. Especially campaigns are all word of mouth. When they are going on everyone is talking about them....and Hopefully not fighting.

My second career was corporate communications for Denny's which in the 1980s had somewhat of a reputation for being racist. It was one of the best five years of my life. They are a great company and made great efforts in that area. But with how widespread that reputation was....people weren't blogging no one was tweeting, “hey I didn't get seated at a Denny's because I'm African-American.” When the digital age happened, I knew immediately that if someone had a bad experience it would spread like wild fire. So moving into this was a natural progression of my career.

Political background. Blogs started making impact in politics first before professionally.

Jocelyn: Been blogging for 6 years. Only started with brands in last couple years.

Elisa: What was your original motivation for starting your blog?

Jocelyn: It was for fun, my kids were in school and I didn't want to clean my house all day long. I thought hey ill put some pictures up about crafts and recipes and random things that I liked to do. It evolved more into food and I found that was the most pleasurable to me. Husband went to work for church and took a 50% cut on pay. So I started looking into ads on the blog. I wasn't planning on monetizing it but it was something I started looking into. BlogHer was one of the first ones I applied to. Now I do it full time....not for fun.

Elisa: What do you mean by that? Elaborate?

Joceyln: There is a different kind of fun now. Before I used to do it as a hobby, I was into scrapbooking and painting and fun little things going on. So I jumped around a lot. So I got into blogging and the food and the photography and it is fun because of things that I could share when I make something amazing.... I just cant wait to share it. Its a job now but its a job that I love to do.

Elisa: Joanne it seems like you had more awareness from the beginning about brands and monetization and you;ve tweaked along the way? What were your expectations coming in?

Joanne: I went to school for business and economics. Wasnt the right thing for me and I knew I had to something with Food. Not sure what exactly. The blog was like my resume for a food job in the future. Then I realized it wasn't a road or bridge to the job it was the job

Elisa: What steps did you take?

Joanne: I started thinking about it as a business. You think about your readers as your customers in a way. They are coming to you....ask the question what value can you provide?

Elisa: Monetization? What types of work did you do?

Joanne: In the beginning I did more one off type posts whereas now I do longer term relationship.

Elisa: Do you think this is a functions of you growing or its a brand growing and having different goals?

Joanne: I think its partially related to sponsored posts needing more and more to being authentic and having long term relationships with brands comes off as more authentic to readers and it came about because of that.

Jocelyn: The more that you build it the more you care about staying authentic and you don't want to be fake. They (readers) can tell when someone is not being authentic.

Elisa: Have you ever crossed a line of not being authentic?

All: No, not really.

Elisa: Audience? No audience participation. You guys are the most authentic bloggers ever!

Audience Member: It wasn't that big of a deal but there was a client who asked me to promote me something that wasn't entirely low carb, and people picked apart the brand/products they made. I will definitely think about that in the future.

Elisa: For example when big companies put out vegan products, I want to support them where as some people say that if that's not all they do its not okay. They should be all vegan companies, etc.

Elisa: Jennifer you work at Real California Milk and you guys don't have a blog. You work with regular journalists and bloggers. How do you handle the differences between them?

Jennifer: Most of the bloggers we worked with traditionally were old journalists who went into blogging when print went down. It was just the facts and that is all. But that's not what you bloggers do, you are telling the stories and putting the passion there. So it's a different feel. A regular journalists wants who what where, etc. And with bloggers its much more relational and we want to build that relationship and align with who you are and how we fit into a brand.

Elisa: Was that how you walked in or trial and error?

Jennifer: Trial and error....less there with journalists but yes there was a learning curve. We did a lot of product reviews which were the one off. Everyone is coming from different angles on their food, it was an education learning the individuality we needed to apply.

Elisa: Dynamic space, new tools, new influencers. What is the pain point?

Angelica: Which one? Haha

Elisa: I think the point of panels is to understand both sides of the relationship? Which is dynamic and changeable?

Jennifer: I wouldn't really say pain point. On the tool side of it....the Changes of the platform. Facebook algorithm changes....quote from earlier on the drastic drop.... “I really did not become that boring overnight.” For us we are about creating content and suddenly having a diminished access to your followers is extremely frustrating. In the past We did media tours and we bring them out and everyone would write a story. Now people want us to pay for people to come out and write the posts. Now just putting content out there is not good enough, you must be able to broadcast it. Its been a pain point in having to change. When things stopped twitter parties work great right now. In three months well it might not work in 3 months.

Elisa: Do you put together a year PR plan?

Jennifer: Yes, we try to think about themes but they are much less structured now as it changes so fast.

Joanne: I think its a balance of what the brands want vs what the readers want. I think that some idea that they want to apply to a group of bloggers and each blogger knows their audience best. It's nice when brands are willing to work with us and let us work the way we need to work and what our readers want.

Jocelyn: Both. Trying to share your posts to your social media and readjust to what is working, when one goes down figuring out what other outlet can I share on to drive more traffic. Being real is key though, working with the brands you dont want to sound like a commercial. When I pull something out of the cupboard its not because I am paid to but because I love the product. Those are the brands I want to work with.

I also think some people are trashing brands on different social media and I don't think that is a good thing to do.

Elisa: Don't you feel dirty when you get preferential treatment when you go to social media?

Suddenly a got a massive apology and a refund etc.

Yes you should have a better treatment because you have worked hard to become an influencer.

Its effective yes but how does it look when you take to the public forum.

You know I remember that girl complaining about that person on twitter, etc. I'm more referring to working with brands vs like british airways, etc.

Angelica: I think all of you have the followers to help people get justice if you will on certain topics if it is used in the right way.

Question: I'm on the opposite side of it. I am a brand and I respond to the complaints. I'm not responding to you because you have a lot of twitter followers but because you are a valued customer.

Elisa: 22% of people in US even use twitter so it;s more of an elitist mentality vs like say facebook.

Jim: busy dad blog. Now I cant complain about brands now. But on a public side it is now a time for the brand to turn it around and show a good response. I tweeted out something to a hotel about being disappointed and I tweeted it and then I made sure to tweet out some love when they replied and resolved it. I'm a blogger but I'm also a consumer and I am a brand. I do think that reaching out to brands to let them know about a poor situation privately is best method and then tweeting out publicly when it was made right.


Jory: I have question for brands. Two trends I see increasingly are brands becoming publishers and real time marketing. Part of what we are doing is matching needs. How are you working with brands on a content basis? How do you handle conflicting needs?

Angelica: The value you guys in this room bring is much more than just reviewing a product . I know that all of you are incredibly creative. I work at an agency where I work on multiple brands and see varying levels of sophistication. For example Aldi—we partner with a core group of bloggers who develop posts for our blog. Its a great way to partner with bloggers and it allows us to partner with them in other ways but its a business relationship. Not just you as a brand....we are turning to you because we need your skill sets too.

We need to hear what is it that you need? What would make you feel good to partner with me? The perfect relationship is give and take. Pain point for the fact that we are a PR. Agency. We get really nasty emails. And that hurts a little. If you only knew how much we worked hard to try to make this work it makes me sad. Some agencies treat bloggers really bad but there are some of us who really want a business relationship were it is more of a friendship.

Jennifer: We aren't paying for your advocacy only, we are really looking for your creativity. We are looking for your skill set....videos, photos, posts. We do want it to work for you. Sometimes we put together plans and it might not work for you. So if it doesn't come back to us and talk to us.

We are paying for your creativity

Elisa: Let's talk negotiation. How about when a blogger gives you a better idea or pitches things to you.

Jennifer: They came to us and said hey what do you think about having us do some videos for you? Great idea really started that relationship. Don't be afraid to bring ideas to us.

Joanne: I almost negotiating something. It might not be a big thing. I hear a lot of people think that they will pass you over because you ask for too much and that people are afraid negotiate.

Elisa: So you've gotten more money?

Jocelyn: Yes, or even something that they want you to do. Being honest with them and telling them that you have xyz on your plate and being honest about what I charge for a post. Everyone's posts are different you aren't going to get the same thing.

Elisa: So Todd and Dianne spoke at another one of our events. They are pro photographers/blog/cookbook. They made a point when the agency doesn't have the money for them, they would try to move them along to the right contact. They always felt that this was helpful to the agency and always came back 10 fold.

Angleica: The most helpful emails are ones where people let me know that they want to work with me and tell me what they need and what they will do for me. The best conversations I have had because they split out what they do 3 hours for, 2 hours for this, etc. Maybe the idea that I cant do 2 recipes with you for my budget but maybe I can do 1 recipe with you. The people that I don't do much work with are those who reply back with I work for x amount. (usually) It comes across like you don't want to work with me because we cant have a conversation.

Question: What kind of range for sponsored posts?

Angelica: I think it completely varies. It could be $50 or it could be 1,000's based on what the client is looking for. There are a lot of different things that come into play. We have been talking about being as conscious of our result after the fact. Being able to say hey I was able to drive 3,000 engagements for this brand, etc. Measuring things can be so helpful.

Elisa: How do you market yourself to brands?

Jocelyn: It depends on the brand and how much effort it is going to be and how much I love the brand and the reps and what we are working on. If it is something I love then I will sometimes work for less so that I can bend a little to work with them so that down the road I can continue to work with them long term. A couple months down the road I go back them and say hey.....its been viewed x amount of times, pinned x amount times, I loved working with you and would love to do it again.

Elisa: Joanne, what is your best asset the brands?

Joanne: I know my readers and I work the email list really well. I have to pay for it but I get so much more information and I'm in their inboxes 3 times a week. I've done a lot of work to get their trust.

Elisa: When you ask for actions do you get actions and can you track that?

Joanne: Absolutely there are lots of analytics in the email systems.

Question: How do you go about contacting brands that you want to work with?

Joanne: I think we work behind our computers and we forget that in person networking is SO important. It is so great to come out to the events and talk to people. You just never know who you are going to work with.

Jennifer: Yes, we have identified people and bring them out for farm tours. Twitter and DM are popular. I will pass people on to my PR team but that is good. I'm just one person so the team is crucial. We put you into our file and come back to them later for other events/needs.

Question: How did you first start working with brands?

Jocelyn: Starting to build an awareness and sharing things that I have made with their stuff on social media. Being consistent. I will tweet it at them when I buy it, when I cook it etc. And not every single product but the ones that I really want to work with. I figure I am already using their stuff so it makes sense.

Joanne: Lots of in person networking at conferences is huge for me. Just getting to know people.

Elisa: What do you wish people knew more about you?

Angelica: We are working hard for you. We aren't all mean people. Not everything is about your reach so sell us your unique skills. You don't have to be huge in order for us to work with you.

Jocelyn: Find your unique voice and be real and authentic. Know your strengths and play them up.

Joanne: Get out of your comfort zone and go meet people.

Jennifer: We are not a regular brand we are a non profit so we don;t have the huge budgets.


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