It has been just over a year since Stellar* hosted a Food Blogger and PR Professionals’ Meet Up which resulted in this 15 Tips for Blogger Relations post. A lot can happen in a month let alone a year, so I was keen to catch up with one of our panellists, Helen Yee from Grab Your Fork, to get an update and some tips and to hear what’s been happening in food blogger land. This is a two part interview; the second part will be posted tomorrow.
RC/ Do you think PR people have improved their knowledge and understanding of how to work with food bloggers?
HY/ I’ve definitely noticed a change. There will always be a few incidents where approaches are less than desirable. The successful PR agencies are the ones that recognise the personal nature of food blogging, and that these sites are maintained out of passion and as a labour of love.
RC/ What’s the biggest mistake PR professionals’ still make when approaching food bloggers?
HY/ Presuming that we need or want their content. Unlike traditional media outlets, food blogs do not have blank spaces they are trying to fill with content. Bloggers publish one post at a time – the headline story is the only story and this is why unique and interesting content is so essential.
RC/ Do you have any new insights or advice for PR people wanting to work with food bloggers?
HY/ It’s essential that PR agencies be familiar with food blogs and how bloggers communicate. We do not expect you read every post, but it does not take long to flick through a few posts, identify the content focus or priorities, observe the writing style, and note the interaction with readers. In many ways food bloggers are like columnists – people read them not just for their news, but their personality and opinions as well. This dynamic plays a huge role in the type of content food bloggers will choose to feature. Astute PR people will identify propositions that match a blogger’s values and interests and that are newsworthy for their readers.
Once you’ve done this preliminary research, a personalised approach is logical and easy. Note that mass emails with automated address fields can be detected a mile away. If you’re going to address an email personally, make sure you get person’s name and blog name correct, otherwise don’t bother. Take some time to tailor an opening paragraph or two. Be friendly, honest and genuine. It makes a huge difference.
The personalised approach of blog content is often what underlies the appeal for blog readers and the perception of blogger integrity is vital. PR people should not expect a guarantee of content after an experience or product dispatch. If a blogger loves something, they will write about it, with candidness and fervour.
Food blogs are written and maintained, for the most part, by sole individuals as an after-hours hobby. These are people who are working full-time or studying, but they come home, turn on their computer and edit photos, write posts, respond to comments and answer reader emails because they enjoy food and they want to share their love with others. A blog is not just a regurgitation of random content – it’s people’s thoughts, lives, hearts and souls published online for the world to read! Writing a post takes anywhere from one hour to eight hours and bloggers do this for free.
RC/ What kinds of opportunities and experiences are food bloggers looking for?
HY/ Food bloggers are always looking for engaging content that will spark conversations or comment by readers. This might be an invitation to a food-related experience, a behind-the-scenes opportunity, receipt of relevant products or the chance to interview a personality or chef. Bloggers are more likely to be interested in a new, interactive or personalised experience. In addition, the opportunity for a blogger to take their own photos cannot be forgotten either.
It’s also worth remembering that whilst the number of food bloggers has grown exponentially, many blog readers tend to visit large patches of the food blogging circuit. As the blogosphere becomes saturated, duplication of content will become a bigger issue and exclusive or customised propositions will offer greater appeal.
RC/ What’s the best PR / brand led experience or opportunity you’ve had in the last year?
HY/ There have been a few notable experiences but the most memorable was attending the Tasting Australia event in Adelaide as a guest of South Australian Tourism. It was an exciting event that featured noted chefs from Australia and around the world, all congregating in a celebration of food. The event culminated in the presentation of the World Food Media Awards. What I appreciated most about this experience was being treated as part of the general media contingent. This meant access to the media room and facilities and being hosted for regional tours and restaurant dinners.
Other noteworthy events included attending the Wellington on a Plate Food Festival in New Zealand (Wellington Tourism); taking part in a MasterClass hosted by Tetsuya Wakuda (Openhaus); and visiting the Emirates luxury resort at Wolgan Valley (Professional Public Relations).
Part 2 of this interview is here.
Posted by Renee Creer.