GroupHigh recently surveyed 4,000 bloggers to learn about their preferences when working in a marketing partnership. The survey showed a large gap between who is pitching bloggers and who bloggers prefer to work with.
Let’s dig in. According to the survey, everyone is pitching bloggers. It’s no surprise (at least it’s no surprise to me, a person who spent years at an agency) that agencies pitch slightly more often (almost 80% of the time) than brands (slightly less than 70% of the time).
That’s not the data that made me pause. The data that made me pause is this:
Who do you think bloggers would rather hear from? Brands. Eighty percent of bloggers would prefer to have a brand contact them directly, and less than 30 percent would prefer to be pitched by an agency.
What gives? Why do bloggers enjoy working directly with brands than with agencies? The survey doesn’t explore what fuels the difference, but I’m happy to wager a guess or two.
The Agency Formula
Working at an agency can be a tough, exhausting gig. Expectations are tremendous. A sprint is the only acceptable pace. Speed walking is too slow. The agency workload rarely has a lull, and if one appears it’s filled before you return to your desk from your much-deserved Starbucks break. At an agency, you have to produce and produce quickly. If you’re thinking, “Everyone has to produce quickly,” let me help you understand what “quickly” means in an agency environment. Take your definition of “quickly” and multiply that by eighty.
Anyway, you do this all day from one client to the next: Find bloggers, vet, pitch, follow-up and report. That’s the formula. Find, vet, pitch, follow-up, report.
When the pressure to produce is as intense as it can be at some agencies, you follow the formula because veering off that path takes time that’s not available. As a result, agency outreach can come off as templatized, which gives a perception of sterility, which leaves a blogger thinking, “Do these guys know anything about me?”
Would you want to work with someone that – on the first introduction – doesn’t appear to know much about you or blog (even if that’s not the case)? Probably not.
The Desire is in the Details
My second guess as to why bloggers prefer to work with brands over agencies is that brand marketers are more knowledgeable and passionate about their brand than agency teams tend to be. I’m not saying agency teams don’t want to be passionate about their clients’ brands. They usually don’t have as deep a knowledge about the brand as brand marketers do.
Several factors contribute to this. First, agencies work for several brands at a time. Next, agencies aren’t always on retainer to do everything. Usually, they are hired on a project or short-term basis and don’t have as much insight into what’s happening on the brand side. Think about it: when you work at a brand, you know that brand. You understand its promise and the values that help it deliver that promise. You understand its context, appreciate its history and know how it has evolved from its roots. You know this because you hear it in corporate meetings and emails all the time. When you work at an agency, you aren’t as privy to those details.
This chasm can lead to differences in the way an agency person responds to a blogger that is considering a partnership with a client’s brand. Blogger questions and collaboration are harder for agency teams because answers to questions aren’t always as obvious. When a blogger asks to tweak the marketing partnership an agency has pitched, the agency usually has to check with the client because the agency doesn’t know the answer for certain. Add to this dynamic the fact that it takes clients time to respond, which means it takes an agency person even more time to give a correct response. The result? Agencies can appear less together and more difficult to work with than brands.
But Wait, There’s More
There are a lot more reasons that could be fueling the discrepancy GroupHigh’s survey revealed. Since I’m only writing a blog post, I won’t get into all those reasons and will sum up with this: Creating marketing partnerships with bloggers is not that different than building relationships with regular people: the experience of that relationship drives perception, and as they say: perception is everything. Agency teams – by virtue of how they operate – have to overcome more challenges to create a great experience for bloggers — the kind that builds a memorable, I-want-to-work-with-them-again perception.
What theories do you have on this topic? Why do you believe bloggers’ have a strong preference to work directly with brands?
Megan Gilbert is a content marketing consultant and content producer with expertise in influencer outreach, social media and content planning. Megan has worked with the social media and content marketing consultancy, Convince & Convert since 2013. Prior, she was a VP of strategy at Edelman Digital. Find her on Twitter @Megan_Gilbert