#BloggerBlackmail and why blogger outreach is still valuable for brands

Sookio's star baker Deepa Mistry explains the background to the #BloggerBlackmail bunfight and offers tips on making blogger outreach from brands a valuable experience for both sides.

Twitter was all of a flutter yesterday after a story trended of a bakery and blogger falling out over a product review. It has taught both bloggers and brands a few things about blogger outreach, and how brand collaborations should be managed.

The short(ish) version: the blogger contacted Anges de Sucre, a London bakery, about reviewing their products on her blog. The bakery responded by inviting her to try out their products in the shop over a cup of tea. The owner put together a small sampler of their signature products ready for the blogger’s visit.

The blogger expected to be given payment for this review, but did not say this when she made contact. She was then disappointed when she visited because only a sampler was on offer. Realising there was no money to be had, she tried to be paid in product instead and insisted on taking £100 worth of items with her, which the staff and owner refused to do.

Immediately after, the blogger published a number of negative posts on Instagram slating the product sampler. These posts were later deleted. Today, in response to this the bakery wrote a post on their website. The post trended on Twitter, and then the blogger wrote her reply.

What lessons can we learn from #bloggerblackmail?

At the moment the general sentiment is that the bakery was in the right and that the blogger should have behaved more responsibly – but both parties were too vague about their expectations.

What should have been agreed in advance was what the blogger wanted to be provided for a review, photography and write up of the post – in this case payment. Being a small business, the bakery may not have been able to do this, and so would have said the review was no possible. This would have saved a lot of heartache on both sides, and maybe a compromise could have been reached if the bakery was still interested.

But blogger and brand collaborations are still OK, aren’t they?

This is obviously an isolated situation, but it does represent some of the frustrations that brands and bloggers have when working on sponsored content. It’s a tricky thing, because it has to be managed so tactfully so there is still value for the blogger, the brand and of course, the reader.

Too often brands muscle in with blogger outreach and tend to offend or put off bloggers from working with them. Similarly bloggers can be naïve or arrogant, making it difficult for brands to work with them and for readers to appreciate their content.

It’s a good idea to take a look at this blogging code of ethics.

This all sounds negative but we think there is a place for blogger outreach if you are savvier about the way you approach it.   

How can you do blogger outreach well?

As a brand, blogger outreach is a fantastic way to put your brand message out there in a real way. You as a brand are essentially looking to advertise your product to your target audience. This could result in sales, better SEO rankings, social media shares and brand awareness – all of this is very important and bloggers can have a lot to offer.

Here is how each stage should be managed:

Do your research

Find good quality, recently published blogs with a mixture of sponsored and ordinary content. They should have a good social following, but it is also important to consider the quality of their writing. Find the most relevant blogs with an engaged following to contact.

It sounds obvious but make sure you have actually read a few of their posts before getting in touch!

This will help you find out if the blog is relevant to your product and also set the tone for your first contact. Introduce yourself personally; quickly summarise what you do, what your product does, why you are contacting them and what is on offer for the blogger. This may be a free product or meal for review, or product for a competition, or a paid post.

Make the terms clear

Once they have come back to you it is time to agree some details. Don’t be too British about the situation, agree the nitty gritty and everyone will be happier!

You should ask about their stats, how they prefer to work with brands on sponsored content and the timescale for the post. You should also set out what you are offering – whether that is payment for the post, or a free product or product for a giveaway.

Be prepared to be flexible dependent on the response you get – but also consider your aims and budgets. This is where the Anges de Sucre situation got messy – it was all too vague.

Don’t forget to follow up

Say thank you – good manners cost nothing, after all!

After the post is live, contact the blogger and keep the channels open, offering to work with them again if you have another campaign. Also, sharing the post with your followers and giving them prominent credit will be a nice way to round things off.

What happens if it goes wrong?

One thing to remember is that you can’t control a blogger’s opinion, or the response from their readers. The trade-off here is an honest review, and this is where some brands can be afraid of blogger collaborations.

Hopefully if your product is up to scratch or you have provided a fantastic experience, and managed the relationship well, you will receive a good write up. If something did not go well make sure you follow up – both personally and publicly if necessary.

1. Contact the blogger – apologise, put the situation right and encourage them to stay in touch with you. Ignoring it or blaming them will only aggravate the situation.  

2. Respond publicly if appropriate. Say, for example, they visited your restaurant and their chips arrived cold, and this was mentioned in the review. Not great but fixable.

It's probably just a small blip, which you can apologise for in the comments section of the blog, and sometimes on their social media posts. Talk to your staff, explain you have put it right and it won’t happen again. This is again, better than ignoring it.