A few years ago I participated in a panel at BlogWorld Expo in Vegas. I had the pleasure of serving on a panel with a few outstanding travel marketers, Doug Anweiler, Leanne Jakubowski and Mike Taylor where we tried to help travel bloggers understand how to better work with brands and the agencies that represent brands. As part of the panel, I had to do a quick 7-minute intro capturing my thoughts. I know a lot of readers here probably never attended that session but might find the thoughts helpful, so I’m sharing them here too.
Respect The Agency’s Time
This one should be a no brainer but seems it isn’t. Agencies run on razor sharp margins. And with client budgets getting cut back, most agencies today are trying to do more with less in order to keep their doors open. Often an agency exec is just hoping to put out today’s fire before tomorrow’s starts. So when you communicate with them, be succinct, be specific, anticipate questions they might have and answer them before they’re asked. Lastly, think in terms of “cut & paste” so that the agency person can simply lift your stuff and paste it into whatever document they’re creating for the client.
Agencies Live in the Crosshairs
The marketing/pr pie is getting smaller every day and the number of agencies is multiplying. With all the layoffs in the agency world, many highly talented peeps are setting up their own shop or creating virtual agencies. It used to be that brands shunned these thinking them too small or disorganized to warrant the cost savings. But those days are over. What this means is that agency peeps always have a target on their back. Every day new biz directors at competitive shops are pointing a riffle right at my head, just itching to pull the trigger so they can replace me. How do I know this? Because I’m doing the same thing to them. We’re all hunting each other, every single day. This breeds a level of anxiety that makes everything become more important. The stakes are always higher than you understand, so keep that in mind and act accordingly.
Know Your Stuff
It’s all about data. Make sure you can tell them how many unique’s and page views you get each month. Show them graphs that make it easy to see the growth in your readership. But more importantly (at least to me) is show them your engagement. Track things like bounce rate, return readers, time on site, average views per post, average comments per post, in-bound links and if you really want to be smart, manually assign some kind of “engaged” level to each comment and then show how that breaks down. What agencies (and brands I think) really want to see is that you have a highly engaged following that truly values your thoughts and usually read all of your posts.
It’s All About the Benjamins
You may be doing this as a hobby or sideline but I’m not and my client most certainly isn’t. Working with bloggers is business. It’s about creating more revenue for our clients. At the end of the day the CEO isn’t asking the agency guy about conversations, no she’s asking that agency guy about cash. As in how much of it did the agency generate versus how much the client is spending with said agency. (See crosshairs comment above). So if a brand sends you a product to review or pays for you to attend an event or visit a destination, remember that agency person and the brand manager have to justify that expense to someone — client/boss. So write something. This doesn’t mean you have to “shill for the man” but it does mean that if you don’t write a post, you should CALL NOT eMAIL the agency contact and explain why you’re not writing. Maybe you had a terrible experience or maybe you felt the product sucked, whatever, you owe the people that “compensated” you that much. And of course, if you do write something, disclose the relationship and be generous with your link love and tweets.
We Marry Our Cousins
This last point may be the most important one of all. In the almost 20 years I’ve been in advertising, I’ve learned over and over again what an incestous industry this is. It seems everyone has worked with everyone or at least a friend of everyone. We all know each other, which can be good and bad for you. Be a stand up person that works within the framework and your name gets sent around. Be an a$$hole and well, your name gets sent around. So be careful about burning bridges. You never know where they may lead. I don’t offer this up as a threat but more of a word of caution. It’s a small world, act accordingly. You’ll be happier and more successful.