The subject of businesses advertising on and promoting their products on gardenblogs has caused quite a stir lately – starting here on Trey Pritsenberger's blog. In 130 comments there and further on a Facebook page for gardenwriters, these connections were debated:
- Bloggers now writing for Troy-bilt – the Saturday Six you see advertised in our sidebar. Trey objects because it isn't just Troy-bilt but also Lowes that the Six are promoting. And independent garden centers, like Trey's, really feel the heat from the Boxes.
- P. Allen Smith and his sponsors paid air fare and lodging for 24 gardenbloggers over a weekend in April – here are the details. Lots of discussion in the comments covered whether the bloggers are adequately disclosing the freebie nature of the trip when they write about it or the products they heard about that weekend. The FTC rules were invoked.
- And Trey started his post by mentioning advertising on blogs – like the ones here on the Rant. Just to clarify (and not to join the catfight), I posted a comment explaining that Blogads are set up and paid for automatically, without blogger involvement. (Which I've since found out is incorrect. I'm not the contact person and didn't realize that bloggers DO get advance notice before ads appear. My bad!)
No need to rehash all that, but can we brainstorm/discuss civilly how companies can best connect with gardenbloggers? I'll start.
Hire a blogger
This is, of course, my first choice and I've been blogging for independent garden centers for a couple of years now. (Currently here and here.) Magazines have hired experienced bloggers (Fine Gardening, Horticulture, as have the aforementioned Troy-bilt and Lowes. (Come on, local garden centers, do you want the Boxes to beat you at building customer loyalty?)
Would I blog for just any company? Definitely not, and I know that Scotts Miracle-Gro will be disappointed to hear I'm not available. (Smirk). But gardenwriters struggle to pay their bills and if a company doesn't hire a blogger, they'll probably hire a PR and marketing firm, paying more for a blog that fails to connect with their customers or the blogging community. Back in 2008 Amy wrote: "You Probably Don't Need a Marketing Company To Get You Blog Exposure, Period" and that's only become more evident in the three years since then.
And just recently there are some new reasons for local companies to blog (posting valuable content, not just marketing) with the opportunities to republish their blog posts on Patch and other micro-local news websites.
Advertise on blogs
We're seeing a slow but steady increase in advertising on blogs – finally! I encourage all you hard-working gardenbloggers out there to set up a Blogads account and display it prominently.
Send products for bloggers to try out and review
Sure, send us your products to write about, but I like the offers that come initially by email with the opportunity to opt-out – to reduce my growing cache of stuff I'll never use and can't figure out how to get rid of. And I probably won't review plants if they didn't grow well for me, gadgets that don't work, and books I didn't like. I DO feel obligated to mention the source of plants if and when I mention a freebie.
As to whether we need to reveal the free nature of every plant and book we receive, there doesn't seem to be consensus opinion on this. Many have suggested that it's understood that book reviewers didn't buy the book, and I agree. For plants, tools, et cetera it's probably necessary.
Bloggers, what do you think? Companies marketing to or through bloggers, what have you tried and how well did it work for you?