Was it something I said or did? Why aren’t you talking to me any more? Did I not do everything you asked? No, I’m not talking about dating here, although, in some way I sort of am. I am talking about being “dumped” by a brand. This is particularly painful if you are a blogger or content creator. Breakups are really hard, especially if you worked diligently to maintain the relationship. When it comes to commitment, you need to think about another word as well – continuity.
I have been very lucky. I have worked with a lot of amazing global brands like Sony, Ford, Intel, AT&T, Trend Micro, IBM (see some of the programs by clicking through the links) and plenty of smaller brands and firms. Some of these were longer-term projects and some were much shorter. Some were with other groups of bloggers or content creators like the Cast of Dads and other groups put together by brands or PR firms.
There is also another set of brands and vendors that I have worked with that are slightly different. These are sort of like the “summer time romances” where they are active for a while and then go away until the next project comes out. They provide me with new products to review from time to time or new experiences to participate in. Some of these brands are LG, Belkin, Microsoft, Logitech, D-Link, Jabra, Honeywell, Hyundai, Klutz, Nintendo, Norelco, and even Apple, among many others.
There is still one thing really irks me though. It’s when these brands go quiet…for a long time. They may come back, but often it is after an extended silence where much of the momentum and excitement that was originally present is lost due to a long period of “inactivity.” Don’t get me wrong though, I place an extremely high value on each and every program that I have participated in (or am currently involved in), regardless of whether they are long or short term.
Last year, I outlined some tips that brands and PR firms might want to use when working with bloggers or content creators. Tip #4 of this article is “Think about the long-term relationship.” Almost a year to the day later, I’m thinking about this again. And it basically comes down to that one word – continuity. And a few months later, I wrote about continuity and consistency when it comes to blogging.
If you search on any Marketing site, you will see the term “continuity program” thrown around a lot. If you even head over to the glorious Wikipedia, they have a page dedicated to Continuity Marketing. Ironically, it’s not a very big page. And it really doesn’t talk much about what I’m talking about here. But it does relate somewhat. Continuity programs engage a buyer numerous times after their first purchase. It’s a series of pre-approved purchases that a buyer does over time. Remember the days when you bought 10 CDs for a penny and then committed to buying more at full price later? That’s a good example. You want to make a long-term customer and keep that relationship alive and healthy via various forms of re-engagement either actively or built into a process. They are also known as loyalty programs.
Ok, enough Marketing 101 here. I want to step back and think about this in terms of relationship marketing. A good customer is someone who has a strong and healthy relationship with the brand. They are devoted. They follow the news of new products or services. And hopefully they come back for more on a regular basis. This relationship marketing is exponentially growing now with the introduction of social media. Not only does social media provide a venue to develop these relationships, it also fosters the curation of conversations. And these days, you can’t have a healthy relationship without interacting with your audience and customers.
When it comes to brand and blogger relationships, this relationship building is no different. Bloggers work hard to grow their audiences, to make that connection, to engage with their readers and to always have fresh and interesting content. Similarly brands endeavor to get their products out to the market and get people to talk and eventually (hopefully) purchase them. The truly innovative brands find unique ways to do this and to engage with their prospects as well as their loyal followers.
But this is where the big divide happens…sometimes. As part of a brand outreach or awareness program, brands may engage with a blogger and get them to produce compelling content to drive awareness or make sales. We get this. We don’t feel used. This is part of our “job” and passion. But sometimes, it’s more like a blind date (I’ve used this metaphor before) rather than a long-term relationship. The date may be great and work out and turn into something fruitful in the future (e.g., the Sony DigiDad program actually help me join up with a group of great dads and we formed the Cast of Dads). Or, it may start out with lots of fireworks and excitement but then fizzle out to a tiny little pop (I won’t give any examples here).
You cannot expect a relationship to grow and mature without both parties putting effort into nurturing it. On-again off-again works…but only occasionally. You need continuity in order to really develop and be successfully. The movie industry gets this…they have someone in charge of continuity to be sure that the details within scenes are accurate and flow properly from one to another (e.g., if a glass is almost empty in one scene and then suddenly full in the next, you have broken continuity).
So, as you as a brand or PR firm (or even a blogger) begin to build relationships, be sure to remember the continuity aspect of it all. Continuity builds trust between the brand and the blogger, but also between the customer and the brand vis-à-vis the relationship the audience has with the blogger. Hopefully, a blogger has built a sense of trust with their audience. Are there particular sites that you frequent to get advice, reviews, insights or recommendations? Do you trust them? How have they built that trust? Are they providing information or inside scoops on a particular product, service or experience? And if you trust these writers, authors or reviewers, how did you come to trust them? You have, actually, built a relationship with them and if they continually write or talk about things that interest you, you have a level of trust that you wouldn’t have with just a random site or person.
I want that trust, the relationship and the continuity with the brands that I work with. It’s rewarding and I feel like I am part of the process, regardless of whether they succeed or fail. The experience and the relationship can lead to ways to improve in the next program or to ideas and concepts never tried before. And it can lead to recognition of the brands efforts (in 2011, Intel & their PR and advertising firm Ogilvy won the Platinum PR award for the Intel Advisors program in “Influencer Communications” from PR News).
When you compile your next campaign, be sure that it includes a process to go beyond the time limits of that campaign itself. With relationship-building, look to make it longer-term. I guarantee that the bloggers that you engage with will appreciate, value and reward you for your continuity!
HTD says: What relationships do you have? Do they involve continuity?