Brands: Protecting Yours While Working With Theirs

I spent the past weekend on a road-trip between Southern California and St. George, Utah.  I was going to attend, speak, and photograph my third Bloggy Boot Camp of this year.  This was my second time speaking, on a completely different subject than my last one, which was Privacy and Your Blog.  I could write a million posts on all the funny stories from my trip with Tiffany and Kelly, but today, I will focus on my speaking engagement.

Tiffany, Julie, and Kelly at Bloggy Boot Camp, St. George

I really don’t like to actually “blog” about blogging.  It just seems weird to write about blogging in this space.  This is not a blog about blogging, as it is my space to write and post photographs about random things.  But since, this is an event that I spoke at, well you are getting my two cents.

Although, Tiffany, Kelly, and I were speaking on the same subject; we each spoke separately, and did not speak as a panel.  We talked how about how we individually work with brands and what has worked for us.  Tiffany said that I was a great example of how to work with brands, and I was shocked, as I rarely do reviews or giveaways.

Over two years ago, I was managing two separate blogs due to restrictions from my ad network.  I had to keep reviews and giveaways on a different blog/page from the pages that my ads were placed on.  I managed the two different but similar blogs for over a year.  I had the same blog design but a different header on my review site. When I switched to WordPress over a year ago, I had my review/giveaway site added as an extra page and ditched the secondary site.  I bitched and moaned about these restrictions and what a pain it was, but now as I have evolved in blogging, I think it is a good thing.  People come to my blog to see my stories and pictures, they don’t always want to read reviews, and that is “ok”!

When I write my posts for reviews, I tag them with “reviews”.  They automatically go to my review site, because of a plug-in called “Advanced Category Excluder and Advanced Category Excluder Widgets“.  I’m not sure how it is programmed, so don’t ask me how to make it work.  I pay people for things like that.  These posts that are tagged as “reviews” go into my regular RSS feed along with the rest of my “regular” posts.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic here, but oh wait, that is what I do.  I don’t do a ton of reviews but when I write them, I try to be genuine and do a little storytelling .  I try not to use stock images, because they bore me.  So my posts usually include photographs that I took, or “borrowed” from someone else.  Obviously, I can’t just whip out these crafty posts without spending some time on them.  It may take me a few weeks after attending an event before actually posting about the event.  If there is a time issue, obviously, I will post as soon as I can.  But alas, I work full-time and I have that kid of mine, oh and a husband-type person too.

I spoke about my favorite blogging words, “authentic, transparent, and organic”.  Those  three words are like the trifecta for bloggers.  I would compare them to the “sight words” that my kindergartner is learning right now.

My personal motto for reviews and giveaways is that they have to match my blog and my writing style, and well, my life.  If I wrote about diapers, or sewing, would that make sense for my blog?  Do I have a baby? Do I sew? My son is 5.5 yrs old.  I have friends whom sew.  Duh, that is why I hang with the crafty crowd, they sew and do things that I’m too lazy to learn.  These things do not match me or my blog.  It would not make any sense for me to blog about them.

Pauline was having a quandary on Twitter night about something that she wanted to review.  I sent her an e-mail because she wanted some advice from people who have dealt with reviews and brands.  Again, I wouldn’t say that I was an expert, but I was awake.  So I went back and forth with her for quite some time.  The moral of my story is: “If something doesn’t apply to the niche of your blog, should you write about it?”  I think this is common sense, but for some people it is not.  I have a few people that I discuss blogging with, offline, that I can throw things around with, and get their opinion.  I think that it is a good idea to have these people in your “blogging” life.  Sometimes, you need a “second opinion.”  Because it is easier to get a second opinion and wait to hit that “submit” button than ruining and damaging your reputation over a review that does not fit “you, your blog, your niche, and your brand”.  I’ve met Pauline in real life, so she speaks “Julie”.  Pauline decided that this particular brand and review did not match her site.

And the point of all of this, really is: “Nobody wants to read a blog post with a regurgitated press release with a stock photo from a PR company.”  I just had to get this out.  I have issues with regurgitated press releases.  I even told a great PR person this tonight.

P.S. I look like a lumberjack in that photo above.  No authentic wood was harmed in writing this post.  I hope people understand my humor, and if not, well I can give lessons on Angry Julie 101.  The first lesson is #1: Julie is not angry.

 

23 comments
Natalie
Natalie

You SO do NOT look like a lumberjack!! I also try to work reviews/giveaways into a personal story so it's not just a fact-filled post. I stopped doing a lot of them, simply because I was taking anything and everything that came my way instead of things that interested me. So now, I'm more selective. And stock photos do suck...I try to be creative with my review posts as you mentioned that you do. Anyways, I really enjoy when you old-timers (meaning you've been around long enough to have figured things out and you know what's going on) post about blogging. I like to hear your take on things and to learn from you. So please keep doing it!

jodifur
jodifur

Thank you for this post. I get PR pitches all the time that I would never write about because they just don't "fit" in my blog. I do very few reviews or giveaways and if I do them it has to "fit" in with my blog and I have to be able to do them in my voice. I blog for me and not for anyone else.

Jeanne @ Inspiring Ideas
Jeanne @ Inspiring Ideas

Thanks for sharing with us at the boot camp!!!! You should have had the tiara on for this pic!!

Jean
Jean

Thank you for staying true to yourself & to your readers! Your example serves as a great reminder to all of us! The only thing I can add is that when I am presented with an offer that isn't a good fit for me, I always,always refer the PR person to another blogger or two who might be a great match for their needs. Keep it in the family:)

Emily
Emily

It was great to meet you at bloggy boot camp. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us! I completely get this post. I love to write so I write what I love, if it doesn't fit I say no. I don't think you look like a lumberjack, but I did chuckle at "authentic wood"

San Diego Momma
San Diego Momma

This is all: you are authentic. And so I will read whatever the hell you post.

jann lenzer
jann lenzer

I used to follow your blog, then "lost" it. Now I guess I know why?! So I was wondering...why did you originally start your blog and has it gone in the direction you thought it would? Mine is more for journaling my kids life, all though it has taken on a slightly different direction. But I often think of doing another blog that is less "kid story" but haven't quite put my thumb on it yet.

Jonathan Hall (American Pop)
Jonathan Hall (American Pop)

Julie, I think you perfectly articulated how the dynamic between passionate authentic bloggers and brands/pr has to be for it to work without compromising the whole reason why blogging is powerful. Being on the other side (the Social Media Brand Marketing/PR side), I definitely agree about bloggers using their own voice, opinions, pictures, etc. You writing about one of our clients because you are truly interested or think your readers would be interested is our goal. Hopefully, we get it right most of time!

T
T

still thinking about how to take this to heart - and not lose Kristina as my reader to boot :) I story tell my reviews, yes... and I've only done a very small handful... but I haven't got them separated out. Apparently what I REALLY need is a personal blog assistant who can do all the work whilst I sit around waiting for "funny" to strike. Bah...

Kristina P.
Kristina P.

I really liked what you had to say at BBC. I was talking to a couple of blogger during lunch, who I might have offended a bit, about when blogs turn into giveaway/review blogs. If I started off reading you to find out about your life, and you post 1 personal story to 10 review posts, I won't read anymore. I think a lot of bloggers want it both ways, and unless you do it like you have, where you separate them, I don't think you can.

Megan
Megan

I recently dropped a blog from my daily blog roll because she was posting more and more reviews- and they were all boring, straight from the company, product description.

Danielle Smith
Danielle Smith

Just this: My personal motto for reviews and giveaways is that they have to match my blog and my writing style, and well, my life. Perfect and exactly what I believe as well. Love you much.

Megan (Best of Fates)
Megan (Best of Fates)

I hate when I'm reading a review and the person used stock photos - it just makes it seems less authentic and more like the post is just restating the companies product description.

Tractor Mom
Tractor Mom

This is somehow how I feel too. I have never done reviews for a company just reviews of products that I actually use and want to share with my readers. Thanks for sharing your thoughts....