Oh, here we go again. This happens every year: budgets start afresh in a new quarter, and agencies are swamped. They want to come up with ways to work with bloggers, but their clients are in the “go get em” spirit and want ACTION! Right now! With no formal plan or budget, bloggers are on the receiving end of an onslaught of bad pitches. Our inboxes get flooded with requests for coverage in exchange for samples or exposure or nothing at all. I've written about the PR-blogger conundrum a number of times, as have several friends of mine.

But the other day, a particularly egregious new example of bad ways to work with bloggers caught my eye. A big brand was seeking out bloggers for the exclusive opportunity to be “ambassadors.” This entailed each blogger sampling prepackaged goods and writing six monthly features about the company on their own blog. At the end of the half-year period, all of the bloggers would be put into a pool and one lucky winner would get $5,000.

I responded inquiring as to what the bloggers were going to be paid for their efforts along the way because – as nice as samples and the potential for money are – good old PennyMac won't accept canned stuff or Lotto tickets as payment. The response? Their budget had been fully allocated to “competitions” and similar ways to work with bloggers. This notable brand decided to take the budget they had and use it all in a silly, ineffective manner. Activities like this degrade the brand by flooding the space with poor quality content. The quality bloggers who DO agree to participate will eventually come to realize that they're getting taken advantage of. Either way, not good for sentiment in the long-run.

Creative and engaging ideas for partnering with bloggers for content and reach - without spamming their email - even on a low budget.

Here are ways to work with bloggers on a $5,000 budget that are FAR more impactful than a prize competition:

  • Pay 5-15 bloggers for sponsored posts that can be leveraged on brand-owned channels
  • Host Twitter parties
  • Serve as a mid-level sponsor at a conference like Type A, Women Get Social, Niche Parent or Mom 2.0, where you can make a genuine and lasting impression
  • Place display ads on high-traffic blogs
  • Create a campaign to have influencers share your content across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest
  • Get contributors for your own company blog
  • Pay them to participate in a focus group so you can better understand your online audience
  • Sponsor bloggers to attend events as the face of your brand
  • Work with your PR team to pay bloggers to appear on sponsored TV segments
  • Pay vloggers to create videos featuring you
  • Bring a blogger on in the strategic planning phases to have them lend expertise and guide content direction
  • Host bloggers at a local event or facility tour to foster long-term relationships with influencers
  • Work with them to develop discussion points, Facebook images, pinnable graphics and other content for your social media channels
  • Sponsor a Google+ discussion

You'd be surprised how much bang for your buck you can get by setting yourself apart from the noise. Companies who come up with ways to work with bloggers that are supportive and foster their genuine stories get a whole lot further than those who just spam everyone. When utilized properly, the blogosphere offers one of the lowest costs per impression I've ever seen, with far-reaching and long-lasting word-of-mouth effects.

Shameless plug: Nate and I own our own blogger network. If you're seriously interested in engaging bloggers and need help, check out Millennial Blogs.