The one thing that will scare the pants off most bloggers and why you should do it

One scary thing

Bloggers are the intrepid adventurers and pioneers of our shifting and changing social media landscape. We’re not afraid to learn new things, try new platforms, debate new ideas. We’re super connected and followed by thousands as we brazenly hit ‘friend’, ‘connect’, ‘follow’ building our networks and reach.

All done on our phones no less, because we’re so up with the latest technology, oh so smart.

But there’s one thing most of us are afraid to do. It’s not even a new thing. In fact, when observing the dextrous texters of generation now, it seems it’s fast becoming a lost art. In our mobile, flexible, working online lifestyles we’re happy to do anything on our phones BUT the one thing it was originally designed to do – call someone. And no, your Mum or your BFF don’t count. We’re talking about something that can help advance your cause as a blogger, a brand, a business.

The one action that will set you apart from the 99 other bloggers when it comes to opportunities is picking up the phone and making a call.

Not another email landing in an inbox of thousands. Not another bland media kit that positions you as another ‘insert niche here’ blogger that charges $x for a sponsored post. A phone call – the one action that can connect you with another human being who will take notice. It’s an opportunity to be heard and not misread. It’s the chance to ask questions and learn how you can help them. It’s a shot to plant a seed of an idea that you can follow up with a proposal.

5 tips for a successful phone call with an agency or brand

1 Research

Know who you’re calling. Maybe you received a press release or pitch – call them back. Use LinkedIn to search the company and find the appropriate contact, or ask your fellow bloggers if they have a contact.

2 Know your goal

Have a specific goal – even if it is as simple as getting up the nerve to introduce yourself and your blog – a great start.

3 Write a script

You don’t need to read it like a robot, but when you’re nervous it can help to have the words there if you need them.

4 Take a deep breath, they’re not the enemy

Most people want to help you, or help you find the person that can. There’s no need to be nervous, especially if you’ve got 1-3 under control.

5 When to leave a voicemail message

So you make the call and get voicemail. Do you leave a message? If it’s your first attempt then sometimes it’s better to call back and try and get them in person. If it’s your 4th attempt, then leave a short courteous message, stating your name clearly and repeat your phone number twice to make it easier for them to get it down without having to listen again.

So there it is. We’re great at online conversations, but sometimes you just need to keep it simple and low tech. Make a personal connection offline, start a relationship and explore the opportunities.

The elephant, the blogger, the brand and the reader

The elephant, the blogger, the brand and

At the ProBlogger Training Event 2014, I joined Mandy Griffiths from Porter Novelli, David Krupp from Nuffnang, Adam Marks from Westfield and blogger Kate McKibbin from Drop Dead Gorgeous Daily on a panel to discuss the three way relationship between bloggers, brands and readers. Our panel was moderated by Nicole Avery of Planning With Kids.

Up until this weekend, the general formula for discussing the blogger/brand relationship at a blogging event went something like: “This is what we did with the brand, everyone thought it was great, all bloggers deserve to get paid more.” It’s what we all want to hear as bloggers, but we can’t sit around patting each other on the backs and ignore the growing elephant in the room.

Ironically, minutes before this provoking piece “Shine starts to fade for mummy bloggers . . .” was published on Mumbrella went live, the elephant was pretty much invited to sit in the front row and offered the limelight by one of Australia’s most credible and professional “mummy bloggers” (Avery) and our diverse panel of stakeholders in the blogger/reader/brand relationship. It seems we we all agreed on one thing:

to do business with a business you’ve got to act more like a business.

Opinion from the panel ranged from my advice for bloggers to be more professional in their approach and to act more strategically with solid objectives in mind, to straight out frustration at the lack of professionalism in the industry with Krupp literally naming the elephant (or blogger) that lets the side down.

There was no disputing that brands, and the agencies that act on their behalf, are starting to balk at the barriers thrown up by some bloggers’ lack of business experience and professionalism, or at least are beginning to question their return on investment and effort calculations. Something this commenter (presumably a brand) made very clear on the Mumbrella article:

There’s no way I’d spend my advertising dollars with these bloggers. The majority of their comments are from other bloggers trying to lure more readers over. After months of researching the country’s most popular blogs, they seem more of a liability to my brand than anything else. They’re extremely free with their uneducated political views, their strange parenting ethos and totally unconvincing in their product spruking. In addition, they’re deathly boring.
SYD, 29 Aug 8.14pm

Ouch. As with most Mumbrella comments we can take that one with a pinch of salt, but the sentiment is out there, regardless of anyone’s surveys or the results they use to push their own agendas.

When asked what I thought the future of this relationship between brands, bloggers and readers was going, I painted two options. One won’t be very popular. If those in community who want to work with brands can’t organise themselves and step up the professionalism, then they’ll end up in the too hard basket more often than not. Bloggers shouldn’t forget they’re often already half way to said basket. Mandy Griffiths says PR agencies’ hardest job is to fight for budget and convince senior executives that bloggers are worth the money. 

Which brings me to another point, what bloggers think they are worth is often unrealistic or at least naively calculated on terms that are pretty much irrelevant to a brand. Brands measure your value on output, not input. Not to say that your skills and time are not important and if you don’t want to get out of bed for less than $3,000, that is entirely your prerogative. 

However, as a blogger you’re operating in a marketplace, not a vacuum. If your rates include a premium for your time and skills, but someone else can deliver the same results  by spending less time or by better understanding the result and ROI the brand is seeking, then don’t be surprised if you find yourself spending more time in bed while others are up getting the worm.

So it’s not surprising that bloggers are seeking help from agencies and services like my own when seeking to understand their value and to help increase the professionalism of their approach. This is the path many are starting to go down in the hope they catch a ride to the brighter future I painted of a more sustainable, collaborative relationships based on shared understanding of objectives and delivery of value. In making your decisions, ensure you’re happy with the focus of your representative and that it aligns with your own. 

A sustainable marketplace requires money to be spent, but it can’t be all about budget. If bloggers (and agencies) don’t deliver on value and achieving objectives, budget becomes irrelevant because it just won’t be available to bloggers any more. Don’t make Mandy’s job even harder.

Representation isn’t accessible to all with barriers of size/reach (talent agencies) or return on investment (bespoke service like AOI), but thankfully it’s not the only (nor necessarily the best) way for there to be a thriving market of opportunity for all bloggers in Australia.  A focus on understanding the opportunities, objectives and how you can be relevant to achieving them will take bloggers a long way without representation. Investing in skills and attending events like ProBlogger Training Event will take you further along that right path.

But most importantly, working as a community in a more organised and collaborative way is the best chance bloggers have of being recognised as a relevant and viable channel, an industry even. Even more exciting is the prospect of a cooperative industry of creatives that can proactively benefit from the value it provides, rather than completely surrendering a too large share of the pie to interests focused solely on the commercial value of bloggers. As we all know, there’s far more beneficial outcomes from blogging than being a channel to market and monetisation, and those unique features of the community need to be protected.

Whilst I haven’t discussed the reader side of the relationship here, we did cover that in the discussion. In my opinion, if bloggers approach the brand relationship with eyes wide open and keep at the forefront the best interests of their readers, their own objectives for blogging, and an understanding of how they can be relevant to a brand, then they will be making wiser decisions about how they leverage their social capital with their readers.

So, the elephant is now sitting comfortably among us. Time to ask him some more questions and figure out how to get to that brighter future and keep our names out of that too hard basket.

New agency seeks to shift industry reliance on sponsored posts

“Smart bloggers and digital influencers know that the true value is in the two-way nature of their platform, their knowledge of their audience and their ability to identify moments of truth for their brand partners to convert readers into fans, and then from fans into customers.”

Ngahuia Lane Galligan, Director, Agents of Influence

 A new model digital influencer management and marketing agency is launching at this weekend’s ProBlogger Training Event on the Gold Coast.

Agents of Influence is headed up by Melbourne based marketer and blogger Ngahuia Lane Galligan and has ‘native’ content marketing solutions and audience advocacy programs at its heart.

The agency is a result of her own experience blogging as Laney at Crash Test Mummy, and working on sponsorships for some of Australia’s most successful bloggers (Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ website and Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger Training Event).

Galligan has developed innovative ways for brands to align their content without pushing messages at the influencer’s audience. To support this the agency offers key insights into how brands can activate audiences and turn them into advocates. She believes these new approaches can help shift the industry reliance on sponsored posts.

“Whilst I’m not directly opposed to sponsored posts, having written them myself, I do think we can offer more to our audiences. They can be part of the mix, but too many will turn your readers away to other blogs.”

This is a view shared by ProBlogger Head of Marketing, Shayne Tilley:

“Partnerships between brands and blogs beyond traditional advertising models has become far too dependent on forcing your way into the editorial. Whilst this can bring value to a business it’s fraught with danger for both the brand and the blogger with potential issues of transparency, authenticity and trust.

The Agents of Influence model not only totally eliminates that risk, it’s set to drive a better overall outcome for the brand, the blog and the audience in the long run,” adds Tilley.

The new Agents of Influence model is based on simple pull marketing strategies. In Galligan’s view a reader who chooses to engage with a brand’s content is more likely to become an advocate or customer than the reader who is served unsolicited content – no matter how cleverly the message is crafted.

“We have seen exciting results for brands that have aligned their content marketing strategy with independent publishers with strong platforms and loyal followers.”

The agency works with select online influencers to develop exclusive opportunities for brands to engage their audiences and create valuable advocates. However, it’s not all about big blog stats. Agents of Influence are also collaborating with experienced blogger outreach agency Brand Meets Blog to co-ordinate micro-influencers with highly engaged communities to create effective influencer outreach programs.