Bloggers blagging freebies – my tuppence worth

I, like many PRs, subscribe to a service called Response Source. In a nutshell, the system enables journalists, TV and radio producers, freelance writers and bloggers to contact subscribing PR consultants directly with requests for information – anything from real life case studies and expert opinion, to competition prizes and review products.

I’ve been a subscriber since my days at Consolidated PR and I find Response Source essential for the vast majority of my clients. In the past year or so, the blogging community has increasingly used the system to request review products. I have absolutely nothing against this: we’ve all been embracing the fact that good coverage extends far beyond just the papers and mags for years now, so it should be no surprise that bloggers are actively sourcing products to review on their sites. In my mind, it’s no different to a journalist calling me for a review copy of a book or DVD.

As the volume of review product requests rises, so does the cynicism amongst my colleagues in the PR world and I am guilty of the occasional eye-roll as I read another email asking for free stuff. There has been a lot of chatter on the web about this today after another PR sent out a spoof Response Source enquiry, but some of the fall-out from that made me feel a little uneasy about how relationships between PRs and bloggers are being managed on both sides.

Speaking from my own experience, I feel I’ve always had good relationships with the bloggers I’ve engaged for client campaigns. I put this down to spending time finding out who writes about what, how they might be influential to my target market and thinking creatively about how best to approach them (or “sorting the wheat from the chaff”, as it were). Erm, much the same as how I work with ‘traditional’ media and journalists then?

I think what jarred with me most today was the sweeping generalisation that bloggers have poor writing skills, only want free stuff and won’t deliver the promised review or will deliver it badly. A good PR will identify a good blogger, surely? I wouldn’t ask my client to part with their product if I didn’t truly believe that we would get a review out of the exercise – in the same way that I wouldn’t send a travel journalist on a press trip without confirmation of a fully-credited feature for my client at the end of it. In my mind, that’s just common sense and good practice. And the bloggers I’ve worked with in the past have all delivered. Yes, some took a little chasing, but then again, don’t we PRs have to spend hours calling journalists to follow-up on our press releases and pitches too?

I have devised and implemented blogger-outreach campaigns for a number of clients including gadget website ParamountZone.com, children’s communication charity I CAN and maternity brand Sporty Bump and know for a fact that the truthful, frank product reviews from bloggers have increased traffic to the product website and ultimately resulted in increased sales. In turn, the bloggers have been provided with a catalyst to decent content for their site, helping drive traffic and increase readership. A good result all-round then I’d say.

Comments welcome…

Background reading: Daryl Willcox’s blog post on today’s spoof Response Source enquiry