Recently, Lisa, garden blogger at MillerTime, sent me the following question:
I was wondering if you'd be willing to share with me how you approach companies to do reviews. Your blog readership is certainly much more than mine, is that a big pitch point? I looked up my Google page rank and it was 4, which is actually higher than I thought. Would it help me to mention that? Any info would be greatly appreciated.
I've been getting this question a lot lately so I thought I'd turn it into a post where I can just direct future inquiries. The first thing I’d like to point out is that Lisa has been garden blogging as long as I have and considering she’s a more prolific blogger and posts about a wide range of gardening topics her readership is most likely larger than mine. Unless we compare stats from Google Analytics there’s no way of knowing. Second, a couple of years back I stopped using the Google Toolbar and stopped paying attention to page rank. A marketer for a gardening company may feel different about page rank than I do and may be impressed by your page rank. When approaching a gardening company it couldn’t hurt to mention your pagerank, many online marketers live and die by pagerank.
Tell People About Your Blog
My garden blog was something I kept hidden from people I knew in real life for a long time. Once I started talking to people I met at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show or trade shows like the Independent Garden Center Show the small talk lead to being offered products to try, like the Atlas brand of garden gloves. Visiting garden and trade shows may not be feasible for everyone but there’s no reason why you can’t introduce yourself and your blog to a company through Email. The same thing happened recently with Clean Air Gardening and A Garden Patch. I received products from both companies that I’m going to be posting about soon on my garden blog.
Over the winter I contact Ball Horticulture about a video of theirs I saw online that I wanted to do a blog post about. A couple of weeks ago one of their marketing reps sent me a box of their 2010 introductions. The world would be a better place if every time you contacted customer service with a question and then they sent you a box a plants, right?
Places like Twitter and Facebook are good places to meet gardening companies. Last year, I stuck my nose in a donnybrook on Twitter and it lead to Michelle Venorsky, who represents Troy-Bilt, to take a look at my blog and decide it didn’t suck and offered me the Lithium ion garden trimmer to review. Check out this post about Troy-Bilt and garden bloggers for some pointers.
Last year Jim Monroe, owner of Hort Couture Plants used Twitter and Facebook to ask garden bloggers and writers to sign up to trial some of their plants. Perhaps you’ve seen bloggers like Jenn writing about them this spring? She heard about the offer that was open to everyone on Twitter or Facebook.
Twitter is where I met the Hudson Valley Seed Library who I traded pictures for seeds and blogged about in this post. There are many gardening companies using social media and either giving away products through it or forming relationships with garden bloggers.
This one I haven’t tried but… I sure have been tempted to. If you see a garden blogger post a review of a product- there’s no reason why you can’t contact that same company and casually mention how you read about their product and like it. The response may be something like, “Oh, would you like to review it too?”
Put up a Contact Form
When I added a contact form to my garden blog the offers for products went up, way up. Once marketers had a place to leave me a message without posting their Email in the comments section they started reaching out. The downside of having a contact form, that is primarily for marking purposes, is that people can’t read. I get a lot of gardening questions even though my form says that I don’t answer questions that aren’t posted in the comments of the blog. People still leave them. Use the pages feature to make a contact form for your blog.
I firmly believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. Over the winter when Allsop Home & Garden offered me some reusable plant tags to try in my garden I asked if I could post the offer here on this blog for other garden bloggers. A few garden bloggers signed up for the offer and have now reviewed several of their garden products. The seed GROW project also came about from my desire to play matchmaker and finding a fun way to introduce Renee's Garden or some garden bloggers. So, when you're approached by a garden company who wants you to review a product why not introduce them to some of your garden blogging friends?
Since I didn't graduate from the garden blogger ethics police academy I won't tell you how to comport yourself when writing reviews or forming relationships with gardening companies. But don't do anything you'd be ashamed of telling your mom about. Also, don't feel bad if a company turns you down or never responds when you reach out. Over the winter the editor of a magazine I wrote an article for suggested I contact a plant grower who was looking for writers to review plants. I never heard back from that person, but I've got plenty of products to write about anyway.
Do you have any tips to add? Anything you've tried that has or hasn't worked?