The issue of payment is one of those things that separates working with bloggers from working with journalists. Before the days of blogging it used to be very simple: you did not pay anyone at any point for “coverage.” That’s what advertising was for, not public relations. Today it’s not unusual to include a line item in your budget to cover the cost of influencers. For me, this is normal and makes sense. For some of my PR colleagues, this is “buying good press.” They don’t understand it, they don’t approve of it, and they will not do it.
And I haven’t even addressed the biggest challenge: how do you “sell” this idea (paying influencers/bloggers) to the client?
When working with journalists, I learned early in my career, often you needed to learn the rules their employers had in place. Some media outlets didn’t even let me buy the reporters lunch, considering it a type of bribe. Others didn’t care about the occasional gift. But all of them had a very hard line: you did not “pay for play” (give someone money in exchange for a promise of a story). Careers were ended for that sort of thing, and not just the journalists’. The rules for working with journalists have not changed much in the many years since I began my career.
Today, you can pay bloggers to review a product or cover an event or whatever. There are bloggers who get as much or more daily traffic as smaller news outlets. They have a loyal readership and a great deal of influence. Getting into their blogs is a real accomplishment and (if you pick the right one) can help you reach the right audience.
For full disclosure: I’ve paid bloggers to write about an event, topic or client and I’ve been paid as a blogger to cover an event in a blog. I’ve never paid a journalist.
Usually, if you are giving bloggers compensation (money, a product, a benefit or gift of some kind) it’s only so they will cover the topic. You don’t get to tell them what to write, and they will not promise to be positive in their posts. If your event was a failure, your product is defective or your topic falls on the wrong side of their beliefs, then the post isn’t going to go your way. What you are paying for is the opportunity, the attention span, for being added in a post. You (or your product or your event) have to earn the positive post.
Reminder: if you are paying bloggers, make sure they are disclosing that it’s a sponsored post in their blog, etc., etc. Not only do you want to make sure they are being transparent with their readers, you want to be sure both of you are in compliance with the laws of the land.
Technology keeps changing, the media landscape keeps shifting, and the concept of a media company is different every day from the day before. A year from now (or next week) we’ll be paying Google Glass wearers (or whatever we’re calling them). It’s not the technology that’s important, it’s reaching your audience in a way that’s transparent, fair and honest.
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- Yes, Marketers, You Should Pay Your Influencers – Teresa M. Caro – Harvard Business Review
Photo courtesy Julien GONG Min via http://www.flickr.com/photos/61368956@N00/4237025430.