DPCON12 Wrap Up – Part 2
This is the second part of my wrap up of DPCON12 held in Melbourne last week. My last post talked about my learnings from the first two sessions while this post is going to concentrate on the middle sessions 3 & 4.
3. Working With Brands
I’ll be honest, I’m a little ambivalent about working with brands. I’m not sure how they would work on my blog and I have a nagging suspicion that writing brand centred posts would be quite a bit of work. That’s why I haven’t really dived too much into that pool as yet.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not interested if the planets aligned and a golden opportunity came along…
So I was quite interested in this session and eager to hear how other bloggers work with brands and how the PR companies approached this relationship.
Andrea Zannetich (Fox in Flats) talked about what she thinks is important in working with brands. She asks what will this do for me and my readers?
In her eyes working with brands can:
- help make your blog brand stronger
- increase awareness of your blog
- assist in driving traffic to your blog
- be a good way to be first with the news
- position you as a person of authority
- and, of course, has the potential for making money
She believes that size doesn’t matter alone as brands would rather work with bloggers with relevance and who can engage with their community. She recommended that you think about how you can promote the brand and how it aligns with your blog as well as identifying how you could benefit the brand before approaching them directly.
Brian from Ogilvy 360 emphasised the importance of trust and how 90% of consumers will recognise a brand and buy it after peer review and recommendation. PR companies appreciate the trust factor of bloggers and want to leverage their link and engagement with readers.
Having said that he did admit that influence was important (how much traffic and how many comments per post) as was relevance (how relevant is this blogger to the brand, what posts do they write, categorisation of topics, number of posts on a particular topic, etc).
A media kit is a must for any blogger wanting to work with brands and should include how much traffic comes to the blog, as well as suggesting ways you could work with brands. You could even offer yourself as an expert consultant and talk about how you could partner with brands for events. Collective reach on Twitter, your blog, Facebook, Google+ and Linked In is also important.
Brian explained that PR companies try to make valuable contacts and try to think about what they can offer to bloggers to facilitate a relationship and build blog readership too – he sees it as a value exchange. Which brings us to the most controversial part of the day, where he contended that bloggers shouldn’t be paid for posts as that would damage the trust between them and their readers.
Obviously this viewpoint was not popular with bloggers but I found it an interesting point of view coming from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.
Michael from DEC also agreed with the trust factor with bloggers saying that mothers trust other mothers. He is interested in building long term relationships in a digital environment and sees long term engagement as the way to move forward.
He believes a successful relationship between brands and bloggers comes from engagement and influence rather than merely size. He would rather work with a smaller blog with a highly engaged audience and prospects of growth than a bigger blog with little real influence.
He advised bloggers to think about how they set themselves apart and suggested that bloggers include past examples of brands they have worked with in their media kit. Bloggers should also acknowledge how they would like to work with brands as well their preferred form of communication and availability here – in other words be transparent in your media kit.
Michael acknowledged there was a definite shift in brands to move to digital advertising although his agency also does not pay for posts, explaining that there are many ways to build a relationship.
He sees chances to collaborate together to find opportunities to monetise reputations. He believes that bloggers should work with PR agencies, news agencies and big websites to get more of a slice of the advertising pie.
The main learnings I drew from this session were:
- brands can help build your own brand
- they can help drive awareness of your blog
- they can get traffic to your blog
- be first with the “news”
- ask the “what’s in it for me/my readers” question
- is the brand aligned with my brand?
I still have no answers as to whether I’m going to head down the road of working with brands but I certainly know more about it now if I do decide to make the big leap!
4. Blog to Business
This session focused on how you can make a business from your blog. For some this is easy – if you make your own crafts, etc, the natural step might be to open up your own online shop. If you can provide a professional service you may be able to offer yourself as a consultant.
But for personal bloggers like me, it can be difficult to really make that leap if there is no obvious product or service to provide. Nevertheless this was a fascinating session if only to hear the differing stories behind three very talented women.
Emma Ashton (Reality Ravings) started proceedings. She began her blog as a hobby four years ago and within a year had a niche but didn’t ramp up and start monetising it until last year.
At the start of last year she began a consultancy after realising it was untenable to keep her day job. Her consultancy centres on helping people to apply to go on reality shows, among other things, which makes her unique throughout the world.
If considering turning your blog into business, Emma advised you should:
- look at what skills you have from prior work experience
- what do you blog about now and what are the opportunities when you put those factors together?
- create relationships with journalists, other bloggers, news sites that are relevant to your niche
- don’t discount the press release
- network with people you know and online
- remember that Twitter is great for networking but Facebook is best for promoting posts
- we are writers – so pitch freelance articles to build a profile and traffic to your site
- advertising is key – Emma has started advertising on Facebook in the US
- you can get natural promotion through the media – don’t be afraid to ask
Laney Galligan (Crash Test Mummy) has a background of over 10 years in sales and marketing. After having kids she decided to upgrade her skills in digital marketing with a view to offering consultancy services later this year. She is also about to launch a crash test community review site, off the back of her blog.
Laney’s advice to others considering building a business from their blog:
- before you put your strategy together work out what is your brand?
- identify what is going on in your digital marketplace
- know that you are your product
- have a revenue strategy – how are you going to make money? (advertising, sponsored posts, your services & expertise, affiliate programs)
- ask yourself, who are your customers?
- what is your target market?
- how are you going to talk to them?
- how can you get a message out to your audience?
- get your audience to do something (sign up to a newsletter, etc)
- recognise that as bloggers we are naturally good at social media
- view your blog/website as a hub
- consider a full service website rather than just a straight blog
- you need to get your SEO (search engine optimisation) right
- think about taking out advertising on another blogger’s site
- consider online PR – pitch to other bloggers about your own products/services
- look at email marketing (like mail chimp)
Renee Mayne (Bra Queen) was simply extraordinary. She began an online lingerie business and started a blog to help it along. She then bought the Problogger ebook and worked on being a better blogger – she ended up selling her online business to pursue the blog!
She wanted to build a community first, which she has done beautifully – she now has 5 different business models and clocks over 5000 page views a day.
All Renee wanted to do was provide free and honest bra reviews so she set up a business so she could help people and mentor them without spending exorbitant amounts of one-on-one time with each person.
Her tried and true tips for building a business from a blog:
- know who are your readers
- think of your blog as a funnel – you may have lots of channels but make sure they all lead to the one destination
- remember that collaboration and joint ventures can be useful
- work on creating multiple income streams – she uses mentoring and membership programs as well as advertising
- Renee calculates her charge for sponsored content by taking her page views per month divided by 10 – simple, huh?
The main learnings I took away from the session were:
- be prepared not to make a profit straight away
- you need a unique product for a blog to become a business
- sustainable business is usually one with a diverse income stream base and strong readership base
- if you are turning your blog into a business you need to treat it as such
- your blog is the focal point of your business marketing
- seek out professional advice in the areas of business that are not your strong points
- think about trademarking your blog and brand
All in all this was an eye-opening session. I do not intend to start up a business from my blog but it was absolutely fascinating to hear from those who have made that leap. It shows that anything is possible if you have the dream, the drive and the desire to make it happen.
So that wraps up the middle two sessions from DPCON12 – stay tuned for my third post where I wrap up the last two sessions – who knew I took so many notes on the day!