Last week I wrote a post called 5 Things to Avoid Doing When Contacting a Tea Blogger. The response was surprisingly awesome (big thank you to everyone who shared it on social media!). It was only fair that I put a positive spin on it now. It can be hard to know what proper etiquette is, especially if you're new to the industry. The steps below should set anyone off on the right foot.
Do Your Research
It's really important to do your homework before hitting send on that email, tweet or Instagram message. Reading through several weeks of posts will give you a good picture of what that blogger specializes in. What are their likes and dislikes? Many of us have review policies posted. It is particularly important to read these because it will save both you a lot of time. I field a ton of emails that I inevitably have to turn down because what they offer isn't relevant for myself or my readers.
Retailers often ask me about where to find bloggers that they might want to work with. One place to start is the Tea Bloggers Roundtable or the list of blogs I follow on Blog Lovin'. For those specifically seeking product reviews, the 2016 Tea Blogger Directory is a very handy resource.
Make It Personal
The best way to make your brand stand out for bloggers is to make a personal connection. We want to know who you are, why you do what you do, and how that translates to your product. Almost all of the emails that I receive are something along the lines of:
"Hi! My name is John Smith and I sell X tea. Would you like to receive some so that you can write about it on your blog?"
While not intrinsically bad, there is nothing about this approach that captures my attention. Tell me a story about why you're so passionate about tea. That will stick with me for far longer. One memorable vendor sent a two-page handwritten letter. I immediately felt like I knew him and it made me that much more interested in what his company had to offer. You don't have to go those extremes but a little bit of a personal touch can go a long way.
Think Outside of the Box
Ask not what the blog can do for you, ask what you can do for the blog. Tea writers receive a ton of inquiries and almost all of them have to do with a simple exchange of free product for reviews. Rather than just offer samples, Emilio from The Jade Leaf reached out to ask if I would be interested in interviewing him for my podcast. I immediate sat up and took notice because he provided value for my readers first. Even if the blogger doesn't have a podcast, they'd probably be very interested in an interview or even an informative guest post.
Keep It Simple
It can be tempting to send one of every item you carry when shipping off samples for review. The truth is that this easily overwhelms the blogger and makes it less likely that your teas will get the spotlight. My advice is to pick your personal favorites or the ones you consider to be your "flagship" teas. You can always send more teas at a later date when the blogger is ready to do so.
It's also a great idea to do everything you can to make the blogger's job as easy as possible. Make it clear how the tea should be brewed and provide tasting notes if they are available. One company provided a Dropbox folder full of images and other info. I could kiss the person who put that together! It wouldn't have taken them long to do but I was able to get the reviews done faster because of their effort.
Here are some rules of thumb that will help avoid issues when working with bloggers:
- Be upfront about any and all expectations from the get go.
- Be prepared for an honest review. It may not be the result you were looking for.
- Do not expect the blogger to pay you for the product used in a review or for a giveaway, even if it is at a discount.
- Do not badger or pester a writer that you've sent products to.
- Keep communications respectful, just as you would in any other business relationship.
There have been times where I had to remove blog posts after they were published or return the product because a vendor suddenly made demands that were not discussed ahead of time. This has included requiring spammy SEO links and other things that would compromise the integrity of my blog.
Keep in mind that most bloggers juggle writing along with jobs, family and everything else that life throws at us. We do what we do because we love tea. Be respectful of our time and efforts.
Retailers and fellow bloggers, I'd love to hear your thoughts on these points in the comments below!