An open letter to brands and PRs (aka Adventures with Cake)

Brands and PRs, eh? So many of them get it so horribly wrong when it comes to recruiting bloggers. But some of them get it right too – and when they do, exceedingly good things result. So here’s an open letter to help set things straight.

Dear PR/brand marketer/’digital outreach specialist’,

Us bloggers have all had a laugh at you at some point. Those half-baked, hastily sent emails that look like they have been concocted by someone with the combined brain-power and thoughtfulness of Joey Tribbiani and David Brent. You know, things like:

1. Emails addressed to someone else, ‘Dear Firstname’ or – and I swear to God this is true – the one I received a few months back which used the salutation ‘Dear Mummy’. That one got a response from me: it wasn’t a very polite one.

2. An approach which starts off talking about a brand which is a perfect fit for my parenting blog that turns out to be an online casino. You’d be better off asking me to advertise porn.

3. “I’m afraid we can’t pay you more than a half-eaten bar of Dairy Milk that went out of date in 2013 because we have a very limited marketing budget”. Well, guess what happened that time I walked into the Aston Martin dealership and offered to buy a DB9 in exchange for the loose change in my pocket and a pack of Hula Hoops because I only had ‘a limited budget’?

Let’s face it, you don’t always have the greatest of reputations when it comes to recognising the value that bloggers can bring you. Indeed some of you give the impression that you are doing us a favour by asking us to support your campaign for payment that equates to less than the minimum wage.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a marketer myself: I know what it’s like on the other side of the fence. I understand that blogger outreach programmes are often a numbers game, churning out email after email. I don’t expect you to go on Mastermind with my blog as your specialist subject. What I do expect is that you will get my name correct and have skimmed my clearly marked ‘Work with me’ page and media kit.

And I cannot say this often or clearly enough: I. Do. Not. Work. For. Free. (Actually, I do, but only on behalf of causes of personal importance to me.)

In fairness, I have to say that many of you are fine to work with. You offer fair payment rates. You present us with interesting products to review or fun experiences. Some of you even offer the opportunity to build longer-term relationships with you as ‘ambassadors’ for your brands.

And here’s the thing. The more effort you put into engaging with us, the more you will get out of us. This isn’t just about the Mark Warners and the Bluestones of this world throwing free holidays around like confetti to every blogger on the planet who isn’t me. I’m not bitter about that (well, not that much). It’s often just the little touches, treating us like people rather than advertising hoardings, that turn a (*marketing jargon alert*) transactional relationship into genuine brand advocacy.

So here’s an example of brand outreach that all other brands should aspire to match (or even surpass): Mr Kipling, they of the exceedingly good cakes.

In mid-June, I (and a number of other dad bloggers) received an intriguing email from a well-known advertising agency asking only if they could send me something in the post. Now I love a good mystery, so after writing back just to check that I wasn’t suddenly about to receive something that would get me arrested, I happily agreed.

When I returned from BritMums Live – this being the evening before Father’s Day – I discovered a small packet containing a box of individual cakes (yummy), personalised with my blog’s avatar photo (not so yummy) and a note wishing me a Happy Father’s Day.

That was it. No request to support a marketing campaign. Or write a review. Or indeed do anything at all.

So I did what any self-respecting blogger would do: I tweeted about it and posted images on Instagram and Facebook. For a minimal cost – and no actual payment – Mr Kipling got a pretty decent return for their investment.

That’s the thing: goodwill is something you earn, not something you ask or pay for.

The story doesn’t end there, though.

Last week Dave from The DADventurer and I were busy trying to out-funny each other over the fact he was celebrating his blog’s first birthday. (As usual, he won.) As part of the exchange, a certain baked goods brand came up in the conversation.

Tweet 1

Tweet 2

Tweet 3

Soon after, whoever operates the Mr Kipling Twitter account chipped in with a tweet that said, ‘Oh, alright then’. Sure, enough a few days later, Dave posted this on his Instagram.


Now that’s what I call ‘exceedingly good’ engagement!

So, my dear PRs, there you have it. Interact with us, treat us as friends rather than billboards and get social on social media, and you’ll find a little goes a very long way.

Finally, did I mention that it’s my birthday in a few weeks’ time? And that my favourites are the banoffee slices? 🙂




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