Ok, so when I started blogging in 2007, I did not know a thing about the publishing industry. Not. A. Thing. In retrospect, I wish I had someone with experience sit down and tell me what was what, because I made A LOT of mistakes. I still make mistakes.
But, in seven years of blogging, six years professionally, I can tell you what I have learned, so you don't have to make the same mistakes I did.
If you want to be a professional blogger, you have to learn the ropes. And somehow do so with grace. One thing I notice about some of the top professional bloggers: Tina Craig, Chiara Ferrangi, Andy Torres, Bryan Grey Yambao, Susie Lau, Amiee Song, Nicole Warne, is that they all act with grace and enthusiasm for what they do. You can be demanding when it comes to working with brands, but if you want to go that route (even if you don't) you'll need to know the language of the PR and Marketing world. You may not think some of it is fair. You may not like what I have to say. And by all means, if I am wrong, if my experience has taught me wrong, please share your experience.
If you're a blogger, you might be getting these emails in your inbox. How do you know what they mean? I'm here to tell you.
(This J.Crew Collaboration was published on my blog as a result, of a Press Release)
Press Releases are usually written communications (emails) from brands, notifying you of what is happening with their company. Press Releases usually contain information about a product launch, a new product, a sale or sample sale, some event that happened with their products (like a celebrity wearing their product, or placement in a large magazine). Often they may offer high resolution images, videos for you to post on your blog. They may even offer samples, but in my experience most of the time “samples” are really only for large websites, many brands still do just put bloggers on a list and blast the releases to anybody and everybody without really knowing who they are contacting.
Why you might want Press Releases:
If you want to be in “the know” and have content while it's still “newsworthy” getting Press Releases is something you need, else you'll be scraping content from larger sites, or digging up older content. If you want your readers to come to your blog for the freshest content around, it helps to have relationships with PRs, so you get the scoop.
Who sends Press Releases?
For larger brands, the PR department or an external agency sends releases. For smaller brands, usually it's in-house, or the business owners themselves.
Do you get paid to post Press Releases?
NO. The only websites that get “paid” to publish Press Releases are wire services like PR Newswire. If you want your blog to be a wire service, maybe that can be your business model, but for most bloggers, Press Releases are sent in hopes of editorial coverage. You can post anything you want (as long as it's true, don't commit libel!) with information given to you with Press Releases. Newspapers, magazines, large websites, TV stations don't get paid to publish this information, so you won't either.
For more information on Press Releases, see the Wikipedia page here.
Product Seeding (Gifting):
(This pair of Paige jeans was posted on Eat, Sleep, Denim, as a result, of product seeding.)
When a brand offers to send you free product, whether for “review” or to style and post on your blog, etc. it's called Product Seeding or Gifting on the brand side. Us bloggers usually call it “freebies” or gifts. Product Seeding is a marketing strategy where they offer products or services to a select group of influencers in hopes that it will stimulate the market for the said product. Sometimes products are seeded to gain information about how the market might respond to a particular product, but most often, it's done so with the hopes of getting people to spread the word amongst themselves, rather than through paid advertisement (which people have different responses to). An example would be, say at the Oscars, actresses are loaned gowns to wear that might cost tens of thousands of dollars, but instead of paying for them, they can wear the dresses for free. Or a TV station might be sent products in hopes that they will use them in a segment. For us bloggers, brands have identified our “influence” and hope that we will talk about their product on an editorial level. While many newspapers and magazines have a “No Gifting” policy, many magazines and blogs do accept gifts. The ethics behind this is under debate. However, it is generally accepted among all levels of the publishing industry that a publication does not accept payment merely for coverage of seeded products.
Why you might want Seeded Products:
If you like to talk about a variety of products on your blog and showcase them in a way that's editorially unique (say you take your own photos) or if you want to examine and use products before you post about them, then receiving Seeded Products may be in your best interest. Do note, this MAY come at a cost to you editorial integrity, and you DO have to disclose when you publish a product given for free.
Who sends Seeded Products:
Like Press Releases, product seeding usually comes from a PR agency or internal PR department. Sometimes the designers themselves send the product.
Do you get paid for Product Seeding?
Again, no. Unless you are required to use specific links, post specific verbiage or do specific tasks in relation to the gifting. If you are being sent a product, you are at liberty to post in whatever context on whatever time frame you deem appropriate. If celebrities don't get paid to wear a pair of jeans, you aren't either. If a TV station isn't getting paid to include a product in a morning segment, you aren't either. The PRs goals are usually just to generate buzz about a product. PR agencies are generally not allocated advertising budget, which sponsored posts may fall under.
For more information on Product Seeding, see this Wikipedia Page here.
(Here is an example of a blogger campaign with Makeup Forever and Sydne Style)
A Blogger Campaign is where a brand, marketing or advertising agency has a specific message they want bloggers to publish. This often comes in the form of a sponsored post, a sponsored video, a sponsored event, a design collaboration. You may be a one-off or part of a larger group of bloggers delivering the same message. The scope of these campaigns is very wide because it's really only limited to the imagination of the brands and or the bloggers working in it. A blogger can be asked to provide a specific service on a specific timeline in exchange for money, or whatever is negotiated. For example, if you are part of a blogger network like Style Coalition or Glam, you may be contacted about a sponsored post opportunity, that is a Blogger Campaign.
Why you might want to be a part of Blogger Campaigns:
If you want to work with brands and make money, you absolutely want to be part of Blogger Campaigns. This will help you gain experience working with brands, learn how things tend to operate behind the scenes, and also give you ideas on how you want to structure your business model. If you're new and still building your traffic, you might benefit from seeing what requirements you'll need to sign up with a blogger network like Style Coalition, Glam, Federated Media or DBA. Or, if you have a lot of ideas and are good at pitching yourself to brands, you can also give that a go as well.
Who sends Blogger Campaign opportunities:
Blogger Campaigns only sometimes come from PR agencies, mostly they come from blogger networks like those mentioned in the two preceding paragraphs. They might also come from Digital Marketing agencies, or even SEO companies. These entities are allocated different budgets than a PR agency which is why you probably won't get a sponsored post deal from a PR agency, unless that PR agency offers digital marketing services.
Do you get paid for Blogger Campaigns?
YES. This is where you get paid. This is where brands WANT to pay you, because they have a message they want to get out. It helps at this point that you have a clear understanding of the value of your work, the value of your readers and the willingness to accept these opportunities with enthusiasm.
I really did not mean to make this a 1600 word post, but, with all the confusion on BOTH the brand side and the blogger side, it's worth opening the discussion. It would be nice to say “I deserve to get paid for everything I do.” That sounds great! I would love that! But that's not reality.
Many people think the blogosphere is the “Wild West” but already in 2014, there is a very clear standard that has been set for what warrants a paycheck and what does not. You CAN ask to get paid for EVERYTHING you do for a brand, but you risk shooting yourself in the foot. Like ANY business, it's important to have a CLEAR understanding of what exactly it is that you are selling, what it is worth, as well as HOW your industry works. Once you have that in place, the world really is your oyster.
Go get 'em!