I can’t help noticing that UK PRs have taken a backward step when it comes to Social Media. If I put it in the context of the early days of discovery, where there was a mass of confusion but a surge of curiosity, to where we are now, everyone thinks they know what they’re doing, and in short, they do not.
Social Media seems to be what everyone else does; not what ‘they’ do. And before PRs put this post down to another PR bashing, it isn’t. A handful of PR and agencies do a spectacular job. The rest don’t but I don’t think it is through lack of wanting to; ill advice and far too much pressure to engage in yet another media arena when they are beyond busy anyway means they can’t.
It’s easy to see why many take the soft option; they choose to work with a myriad of what I call ‘pussy-cats’ bloggers who are so keen for a fish-bite that they’ll eulogise and enthuse about the product in exchange for a free lipstick any day of the week. That’s a very easy box ticked for PRs; a positive review from a blogger to show to the client who has NO clue about social media so is utterly thrilled at the engagement. But actually what it means is that the bloggers who are gritty, plain speakers and aren’t swayed by samples particularly end up being ignored by the PRs. This is so bad for the beauty consumers who follow blogs so avidly for advice and means that ultimately the brand’s consumers are the ones who miss out. It is a chain of events and if you are at the beginning of the chain, you have no need to worry about the end, surely? Actually, yes you do. Because time will tell. Most of the bloggers I know are absolutely writing for the consumer and not the brands, and that is the single most important reason that beauty consumers read blogs. But, I know perfectly well that there is currently an explosion in beauty blogs, with thousands that I’ve never even seen with absolutely no influence whatsoever. Whenever a PR takes the easy option, it is a disservice to their client.
Going back to why beauty blogs are so important in the grand scale of things is crucial. Beauty bloggers inform, influence decision, demonstrate how to use products, are creative, highly knowledgeable and most of all, trusted because they will take the products on their own merits and report fully and honestly. If brands allow their social media outreach to tick the boxes neatly and easily, they lose integrity and they lose customers. It’s just that simple.
Beauty consumers are super-savvy; they know exactly who tells the truth and who doesn’t. Which translates, of course, into stats. More people read and react to bloggers who don’t take the easy route and who will call out poor products so that the consumer doesn’t waste time and money on them. So, the blogs with the bigger stats are the blogs with the most influence, both in the industry and outside, but not necessarily the easiest to work with. Pussy-cat bloggers are super-easy to work with – it’s like the difference between the quick crossword and the cryptic crossword. One is done in moments, the other takes time, thought and effort.
There is definitely a change in atmosphere towards bloggers in the PR world; some are reassessing how and why they work with bloggers. Samples are being hugely restricted, and that is how it should be – there is no point in metaphorically throwing make up into the air and seeing who catches it. It’s lazy and pointless and you can trace it’s trajectory towards Ebay as easily as writing your own name.
There isn’t one single PR agency that doesn’t have some kind of social media remit; they understand the words but not quite how it applies to them, so a scattergun approach seems better than no approach. But, consider this. While you are busy ticking your boxes with random outreach, the agencies who have got a clue, have got clients who understand social media themselves and do use a considered, correctly targeted approach are reaping the dividends over and over in terms of coverage. Some brands are bomb-proof, such as Chanel. They sneeze and a million bloggers run with a tissue. Most are not. Most need the same dedicated consideration that any media outreach does. If any agency asked their brand if they’d like their product put in front of 200K readers who only want to read about beauty, are consistently engaged with products and who spend a fortune in that arena, they’d leap at the chance, right? And that could be as few as two or three beauty blogs. And yet, the easier option is to scatter product across PussyCat blogs and pick up maybe 50K eyes on products. But, because the client thinks he or she has been on lots of blogs, that’s better. Which, even with my maths failure, clearly isn’t. Or, wait.. if they see their product in a magazine, then that’s EVEN better, right? Because magazines must have more beauty readers than blogs. Wrong.
And, just in case you think this is personal, it isn’t. I am inundated with products; more than I can ever write about, but that isn’t the point. I still find some agencies so frustrating I’ve chosen to give up; it’s not like I’ll ever, ever run out of beauty products to write about. This post is more of a general observation and commentary to say that it’s not good enough and it shows.
It’s absolutely no reflection on any one individual; it has to go to the source; the clients who don’t pay anything extra for a massive new media outreach – it’s now expected that PRs will somehow manage to segue an entirely new arena into their already stretched resources. It’s also down to agency owners who have to make budget available to do media outreach correctly and ultimately it has to be down to the integrity of the PRs doing their job to ensure that despite the difficult circumstances, they’re mindful that it is done in the way that is best for their brand. There are a lot of brands being fooled into thinking that their blogger outreach is beyond reproach. Erm, think on.
I can’t not mention the small number of brands who have brought on PRs specially to work with bloggers and on-line, which in theory is fantastic…actually in one or two cases, it’s fantastic in practice too, but next time I want my years in beauty and blogging rewarded with a cupcake with someone who stepped off their university ‘social media’ course like, yesterday, I’ll shout out.