Are you tired of getting pitched editorial content by PR companies but never getting paid? These 5 easy steps will have you locking in sponsored posts before you know it.
Let’s start with what PR is and how it works…
I’ve been working in PR for 15 years now and approaching bloggers is a very new thing. Traditionally, PR is the art of getting coverage for a client for free. It’s a PR’s job to come up with angles and hooks that make their client newsworthy. Then they pitch it to a newspaper, TV show, magazine, radio show (or blogger) and hope that the angle fits their audience and they want to run the story.
However, the big difference between bloggers and journalists is that journalists are on a salary. It’s their job to write stories that are of interest to their readers. These salaries are subsidised by advertising and subscriptions.
Bloggers, however, rely on the brands that want to reach their audience to pay them directly. Some PR companies ‘get it’ and realise that bloggers need to be paid or compensated in some way but many others send out a general release asking for editorial coverage.
These endless emails can get frustrating because bloggers often feel that they are being taken advantage of. However, this is not the case as much as it is that we just need to educate the PR companies, and in turn, the brands. They need to see that the model is different and that they need to pay if they want to tap into our unique communities.
When should you work for free?
There is nothing wrong with writing something for free if you think it will really benefit your audience. However, you need to make the call based on what you are looking to do with your blog. Sometimes doing the occasional favour for a PR will pay off in the long run. We never forget the bloggers that help us out and that are easy to work with.
Other times you may not be offered money but you might be offered an experience. I take up most offers of participating in something in exchange for a post if I think it will be of benefit to my family. We have done hotel stays, mini breaks, and I was even given the opportunity to participate in an all expenses paid trip to Borneo for a week with my teenage daughter. So not all benefits are financial but some are still worth doing.
Converting the PR pitch to sponsored post
If you are on a PR mailing list chances are you receive emails regularly regarding editorial opportunities. They may be studies conducted by brands or interview opportunities with brand experts and ambassadors or invites to events. They will rarely say upfront if there is a budget.
So here’s how it works:
Step 1- Ask for money
It’s that easy. I know it can be daunting and that voice in your mind is saying things like, “why would they pay me?” or “my blog isn’t big enough to get paid”, and other negative things like that. So let’s start with changing your mindset. If you have readers then you are worth money. You need to realise that if you are blogging in a particular niche and that niche is valuable to the brand approaching you then it doesn’t matter if only 1000 people read your blog each month. It only matters those readers are engaged and interested in what you have to say.
If you don’t value yourself then how will other people value your work?
Whenever I get an email offering editorial opportunities that I think my audience might be interested in I reply with exactly this:
Thanks for your email. This looks great and something I think my readers would be interested in but I don’t do editorial. This is something I would do as a sponsored post. Is this something you have a blogger budget for?
That’s it – I don’t think for ages on the perfect response or try and sell myself to them. They have come to me, they already value me and my audience.
Something that many of you may not know is that many PR companies are given an ‘extras fund’ by the client, to be used where needed. Ideally, they will get the coverage for free because they have already been paid by the client to do this, but often there is a bit to the side if it’s needed. This is where your fee will often come from.
Step 2 – Their reply
Once you send this email you’ll usually get one of two answers.
They will either reply something along the lines of, “thanks for your reply, at this stage we don’t have a budget but we will let you know when we have a client that does.”
“Thanks for your reply – can you please share your rates and media kit and we will take this to our client?”
WINNING! This means they do potentially have money aside to pay if they need to. Quite often they might hold off locking you in until they see how their editorial campaign went. If they need to top up the coverage report that’s when they start paying.
Here’s your response to the second reply…
Thanks for getting back to me. xxx has xxx unique monthly visitors, xxx social media followers and xxx on the mailing list. My regular rate is xxx but I am more than happy to work to budget and develop and campaign to suit your client. Do you have a set budget for this?”
Step 3 – Work to Budget
Being firm in your sponsored post rate with PR companies won’t do you any favours. You need to have some flexibility as they will usually have a set amount they can offer. It’s up to you though at the end of the day. You need to know your ‘pain point’ – if you aren’t making enough to make it worthwhile then it’s ok to say no. If you are flexible then PR companies will come back to you regularly because they know that you are willing to work with them to help achieve their client goals.
Step 4 – Be professional
This may sound like a no-brainer but so many bloggers are unprofessional when dealing with PR. Here are a few things you need to be able to do when working with a PR company if you want to keep getting work.
Be able to meet a deadline – deadlines are key in PR and if you can’t meet one you will be off the list fast. Don’t be emailing them with excuses like your kids are sick or you have too much work on. You need to look like a professional at all times. If you haven’t read it yet make sure you read my blog post on how to look professional from the start.
Know how to read a brief – the first thing a PR will send you when they engage you is a brief. This will outline the due date, what you are agreeing to do (such as blog post / social posts etc), the key messages that must be included and your deliverables. Deliverables are what they expect to see at the end such as a link, the number of visitors, time on page etc. If you haven’t worked on a brief before then don’t ask the PR person to help you, it makes it look like you have no idea what you are doing. Ask your blogger friends. PR people are usually working on multiple projects with tight deadlines and they don’t have time to hand hold.
Deliver a report at the end – make sure you have a nice reporting template to send at the end of the campaign. This should include a link to your blog post and any stats around it, a link to your social media posts and their stats and then maybe some screenshot comments from your blog or social showing the response from your audience. Try and deliver this no more than two weeks out from publication, and preferably before they ask. The more helpful you are at meeting their needs the more they will remember you next time.
Step 5 – Be nice!
If you are approached by a PR asking for editorial don’t reply rudely. You have every right to ask for money but if you rant at them for asking you to work for free, or have a go at them, you’ll never have the chance to work on a paid campaign. Many PR companies have smaller clients that have zero budget, if you throw them a freebie with those ones to help them out then they will remember and you will be first on the list when they are thinking of bloggers for a paid campaign. It’s all about relationships, in PR we only want to work with people we can rely on, that are easy to deal with and are NICE! This strategy has led to so much paid work for me – including a massive contract with Woolworths that has given me work for six months and counting. Also, remember that PR is a high turn over industry and that PR girl you are nice to at that small agency might have a job with a massive agency with money to burn in six months.
Hopefully, these tips help you convert those PR pitches to some paid opportunities. Make sure you let me know how you go!