When you are a serious blogger you have to promote yourself and your brand.
And unless you have your own PR firm or publicist it falls entirely to you to make sure that you do it in an efficient, effective way that won’t alienate people. It’s not my favorite part of the job and until very recently, I haven’t consciously given much thought to it. I just did my thing. Doing my thing worked because well…my blog IS my thing and so in my own way I was absolutely self-promoting just by being myself. And I sometimes am the jerk that cannot shut up about something cool that happened to me. If I get an opportunity that is AMAZING!!! I SQUEEEEEEEE about it online because I am that kind of excitable person. It’s just my nature and it will continue to happen, though I will try very hard not to let it happen often.
While self-promotion is by no means limited to financial opportunities online, I have started to give it a lot more structured and organized thought because I have been a lot more involved in the business end of blogging as of late. Not only is it needed in our neck of the woods financially, but it’s a bit of a change of pace and a chance for me to learn something new. I am getting to know more and more wonderful people and doing things I never imagined.
In fact, I am pleased to make a huge announcement on something I have had in the works for quite some time. Since I am going to be promoting it when I attend and speak at Mom 2.0 in Houston this weekend, I thought I would announce it here first: (Drumroll….)
I’m partnering with 5 other lovely, successful bloggers to create a swag suite at BlogHer 2010 in New York. “Girlfriend to Girlfriend: A social swag suite by CraziBeautiful“ and the brainchild of Julie Jann of CraziBeautiful and April from Sweet Life in the Valley, is going to have some seriously awesome swag, people. I am thrilled to be a part of the team putting it on and to learn a lot more about an end of the blogging world that was fairly mysterious up until now.
It’s been a wild ride learning the ins and outs of things. There are big positives and a whole lot of negatives I have run into. I have been quite taken aback at a lot of things I’ve read, heard and witnessed. There are things that I wish I had known before sticking my toe in. Being the rad person that I am I thought I would share some of them with you and also include some of the self-promotion tips that my CraziBeautiful gals have found have worked for them.
(Disclaimer: I am soooo not perfect. This list is as much for ME as ANYONE.)
1. You have to go out and create your own opportunities.
Up until now, all of the opportunities I have gotten have come to me without me doing anything to reel it in. And this does, can and will happen. However, the Internet world can also be a bit deceiving. A lot of people who tweet and blog about the fabulous item they have been given, the squee-worthy trip they just went on or the great paid freelance position they are in did not have the opportunity magically show up in their inbox.
THEY WENT OUT AND ASKED.
It’s called a pitch and it goes something like this:
Dear makers/owners/the powers that be in charge of doling out super awesome item or trip I am dying to go on or paid position I am lusting after,
You are super groovy and I live and breathe for you/your product/your location/your blog magazine. You are pretty and smell nice. (Insert a brief, but killer bio of your blog, experience and why they should hire/sponsor/give you free stuff here.)
Thank you for your consideration n’ stuff,
Super Awesome Blogger
Yes, this is in “Loralee speak” but you get the idea.
I really want to fight the cliche here, but your mother was right…what’s the worst thing that they can say to you if you try? They won’t say ANYTHING if you don’t, so GO FOR IT AND ASK. Also, once you get a relationship with a PR person, brand, business, etc. it often leads to other things. They keep you in mind for other projects and opportunities.
Which is why our next step is so important.
2. Be careful of what you promise, commit to and manage your relationships.
Why, YES! I will write that review, go to this party, write this guest post, edit for this site, tweet with your hashtag, and a partridge in a pear treeeeeee…
We were all given the same 24 hrs. to work with, but we all work differently. Be careful about burning out and/or over committing. It can all be too much and can burn bridges and damage relationships if you drop too many balls/obligations. Bloggers can over commit, over schedule or be unrealistic about the amount of work they have to pull off. You don’t want to work and do so much online that you OR your blog readers and audience burns out.
There really IS such a thing as “too much awesome” sometimes. It’s recognizing when that line is approaching for you that is key. Be wise and prudent. I am trying really hard with this one and some tough lessons have been learned but realize when it happens, that it also happens to so many people. Just re-group and survive and try not to get yourself in the predicament again.
If you find yourself unable to complete something, be upfront and TIMELY about your inability to complete your end of the bargain and make it as right as you can. I have been bitten by this bug. The “head in the sand” approach, while hugely attractive, does more harm than good in the end.
3. Help yourself by helping others:
This is a big huge one. Joanie, from Keeping Up With Mom, says, “When you help and promote other people, you cannot help but also promote yourself in the best possible way.” It’s so true. Most of what goes on on the internet is you giving. Because you are awesome and want to be helpful.
“Self-promotion is less about singing your own praises, and more about singing others’! Be genuinely supportive of blogs, posts, products you love and it will naturally come back to you.”-Lauren Horsley of SuperMomCentral
In all honesty, you should be helping and promoting others 80% of the time and yourself 20%. For reals. It fosters good will, good relationships, networking, opportunities and doesn’t make you look like a total narcissistic bastard. (And yes…most of us CAN do better in this area, myself included. No judgy-Judyness here, people.)
Being helpful to people WILL come back to you in a good way.
4. Be passionate about what you do:
This is probably the most important rule out there along with “helping others”. YOU SHOULD LIKE WHAT YOU DO. You can tell when people are genuinely excited and happy with what they are talking about.
Granted, being enthusiastic alone does not guarantee that you will make a sell or get the opportunity that you are seeking, but I CAN guarantee that if you are not on board and convinced of what you are trying to sell to people with that attitude or feeling accomplishing what you want is going to be a much harder road.
Being passionate makes you authentic, it prevents burnout and creates a true sense of trust with your audience and the companies that you affiliate with. And at the end of the day, people that are passionate and like what they do are much more likely to say, “GOSH, I LOVE MY JOB!” and truly mean it.
“My success has come from being true to who I am and my heart’s passion. This is one sure way to find your happy success; by being true to what lies within your soul.” – Julie Jann, founder of CraziBeautiful
IF this is NOT you? Find a way to tweak what you are currently doing. I am a failed historical romance author. I am a history fiend, have always loved to write, I am TOTALLY SAPPY and hell…who doesn’t love some hot nooky with a big guy with great legs in a plaid skirt in the Highlands of Scotland??? But I suck at writing a whole book. Transitions, etc. it drove me nuts. I was VERY good at writing short “scenes” OR, TA-DA!!! BLOG POSTS!
I LOVE WHAT I DO because it fits me much better.
4a. Be passionate and informed about the brands you associate with/promote.
It’s really important that you know about the brands you affiliate yourself with. When Nestle had a group of bloggers attend a mini-conference and tweet with a the hashtag #nestle, it unleashed a tidal wave of personal backlash against the attendees by bloggers that strenuously (a kind term) objected to what they consider dishonest and harmful business practices regarding its formula in 3rd world countries.
To say that it got ugly is an understatement.
At best, the people attending where addressed with hard questions like, “Do you KNOW what kind of a company you are tweeting on behalf of” to the blunt accusation that those in attendance were condoning the death of thousands of babies simply to get a free trip. The defense of many bloggers is that they “simply didn’t know”.
I can buy that. I DIDN’T KNOW. But then again…I wasn’t getting a trip and being the mouth piece for them, either.
Many of us came away further educated that it is fine to promote a company but you need to be aware of what you are stepping in as much as possible. It’s why it is best to work with brands that you love. If you have products that you like and need a sponsor, those are the people you want to pitch to. Or, perhaps they come to you and you discover that you LOVE THEM SO MUCH you want to marry their product and have little product babies with them.
I did not find her, she found me. She contacted me because she took out ad space in the same issue of Parent’s Magazine that I was featured in. She wrote and asked if she could send me a piece from her jewelry collection and if I could do a give away to promote her brand and also build up her following on Twitter (Ehem…@lisaleonard…ehem…).
She sent me THIS:
I wear it every.single. day and I AM SO IN LOVE I WANT TO BE BURIED IN IT.
I ENTHUSIASTICALLY agreed to a giveaway and all these weeks later it’s happening! RIGHT NOW! ON MY REVIEW BLOG! GO! ENTER! WIN!!” YOU HAVE UNTIL FEBRUARY 24th!!!!!!!!! YOU WILL LOVE HER STUFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(If I could do something beyond caps, italics, and exclamation points with how happy I am about her product I totally would. For reals.)
I love both Lisa as a person AND her jewelry. I will work with her in the future at the slightest possible chance, recommend her up, down and sideways and save my pennies to buy more pieces from her. I like her so much, we’re working on collaborating with her brand for our swag suite at BlogHer. (Seriously, y’all…you HAVE to come. It is going to rock the house.)
5. Know the rules.
If you are trying to get sponsorship to attend a conference, or are doing a huge project like I am, you need to dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s. BlogHer implemented new rules regarding sponsorship for their 2010 conference in New York. It would be a foolish person that promised blog promotion or snagged a great promotion and promised things that they couldn’t deliver because they didn’t know/were not aware of the guidelines and rules in place.
6. Don’t be “that guy” (Or gal. Or blogger. Or person in general.) Also? Don’t be the chick that tries to extort the Croc guy in the hotel lobby at BlogHer.
Everyone knows one. The guy that only talks to you to get something out of you. The girl that you never hear from unless she has an invitation to her latest Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, or Lia Sophia party in hand. And that guy sucks. Do NOT BE HIM/HER/IT. (Although, I may be a little to harsh on the “it” faction, here. As far as I know, Gonzo never invited anyone to join a Mid Level Marketing Company.). Make relationships flow both ways and don’t make it all about what you can get out of the person.
Also…don’t abuse your power to get things. If you have been treated unjustly, fine…you can write about it. But if you corner the Crocs representative at BlogHer totally pissed that they ran out of Croc shoes at the Social Luxe lounge party and threaten to extort him and his company because “you have a blog”? You kind of suck. So, don’t be that person either.
7. Be honest. Be honest. OH, and BE HONEST.
Do we REALLY need to expound on this one? Look, your name and reputation is all you have, people. I am very forgiving of people. I know they make mistakes. Even if our friendship is in a flaming ball of icktastic suck, if you come to me and apologize, I will almost always forgive and do my best to move forward and past something. BUT I AM NOT THE INTERNET.
Yes, it is fluid and you can rise above something because it has a staggeringly short memory, but lying is a bit different…it tends to stick in people’s memories. Lying outright burns and destroys WAY more than it (temporarily) builds for you. People are VERY hard on flagrant dishonesty–especially when it comes to lying to put yourself ahead or score a deal or if it involves business practices.
8. Be careful about cross-promotion.
I had a couple of experiences recently on Twitter that made me feel really icky. I got tweeted by a couple of different people (one of whom claimed to not know what she was doing in social media because she was a “newbie”) and I got a flurry of DM’s and emails informing that the accounts were held by the same individual.
That took me aback. I knew that one person could have multiple accounts but in this situation it was handled really poorly. Some people go to the extent of creating “fictional” owners of accounts to cross promote their main identity. This, in my opinion, is NEVER ok. It’s just sleazy, people. In this case, the situation is more blurred. One very prominent Twitter user was hired as the social media person for several different people and she regularly uses their Twitter account to Tweet how super awesome she is. It gives me butt heebies and I felt really taken advantage of. You can do what you want, but if this is you, and I find out about it, I will think less of you and your online integrity.
9.Don’t over-sing your accomplishments but don’t under-sing them, either.
When people used to compliment me on my singing I would shoot back a litany of excuses to the person issuing the praise, ‘Oh, that wasn’t great, but thank you!” “My high notes were horrible, but I’m glad you liked it”. Finally, someone pointed out how insulting I was being to the person on the receiving end of the conservation. They were neither stupid nor had bad taste and I was treating them as such. I have gotten flack for being, well…honest about my accomplishments.
I state plainly that I am blessed to have readers and have worked hard to have some of the opportunities that I have. To pretend otherwise is not only untruthful but it tends to be a little degrading to the person listening. What if they are a smaller blogger and I go on and on how “nobody reads me” or “no, I am NO ONE in the mommy blogging field”. What does that imply that THEY are? SO…I try not to brag (and fail…cough…I GOT INVITED TO THE WHITE HOUSE…cough…) but I also try to be factual and own up to what I have achieved.
10. Make sure your voice stays authentic and you stay true to you.
“I love to make pitch movies with my stuffed blogging alter ego “BlogDog”. Since I use BlogDog on my blog on a regular basis, I know that if a sponsor doesn’t like cute stuffed animals then I know they are probably not the right fit for what I do.” -Stephanie, The Daily Blarg.
When I pitch to people I am true to the voice I use on my blog. At my first BlogHer we were sitting at a table with PR reps and marketers and as we went and my roommates were able to say things like, “Hi! My name is Loralee’s Awesome And Very Professional Roommate and run a web magazine read by thousands and sponsored by a daily newspaper!”, I felt less and less impressive and started to feel more and more pressure to make myself into something more. Finally, they got to me and I blurted out, “Hi. I’m Loralee and I blog about my ta-tas on the internet.” As my roommate said, none of them pulled out their blackberries to follow anyone on Twitter until they got to me. :)
I am who I am and while I can be professional, no pitch or relationship is going to change the fundamentals of who I am. It’s best that people know that up front.
(And we’re going to take it to 11…if the Spinal Tap people can do it, so can I.)
11. Some people will think you’re a jerk no matter what you do. (And that isn’t always a bad thing…)
I am the first to think that YES, THERE IS SUCH A THING AS BAD PUBLICITY, but I know everyone won’t agree with it. I tend to not want people talking about me if it’s only negative. However, there IS something to it. If you are well-known enough that people are talking, reading, thinking, about you and what you do enough to publicly comment on it, you have, um…arrived?
But yes…with more traffic and exposure comes…more traffic and exposure. And that exposure is not always good. It’s an icky part of online life, but it’s true. You can’t please everyone and some people are just hell bent on NOT LIKING YOU. Even if you are pretty. And smell like flowers. And can twirl in a skirt and have a charming laugh, you will never, ever get these people’s approval. And you have to find a way to be ok with that. (So I keep telling myself.)
At the end of the day, your list of tips, do’s and do not’s will differ from mine. You can pick and choose what will work best for you and I can’t guarantee that if you do these things you will be an A-lister with people clamoring after you all the time, but I DO guarantee you that if you think you’re above any of these things you are making a lot more work for yourself.
What about YOU? What tips aren’t on here that work for you and your online brand?