I’ve enjoyed Pamela Johnson’s straightforward descriptions of how she works with food writers when she speaks at conferences. Pamela has a degree in journalism and joined the National Pork Board in 2003.
As Director of Consumer Communications, one of her responsibilities is to hire chefs and food writers to inspire, educate and advise consumers on incorporating pork into their diets.
Here’s what she looks for when hiring:
Q. How do you work directly with food bloggers and cookbook authors?
A. We hire them to produce content for a specific program. We have retail customers, such as supermarkets, who want to highlight specific pork recipes. So we’ll look at bloggers we’re aware of and know, and match them with the program to provide great content and posting.
For cookbook authors, we see them as great content providers, great spokespeople and great resource for media. For example, Ray Lampe wrote a cookbook called Pork Chop, so there was a natural fit. When his book came out we worked with him on using recipes and also used him in our media outreach. We got him on The View twice to feature his recipes. It’s a win-win for all of us if there is a right fit.
Q. What do you pay?
A. It depends what we are asking of that person, such as developing their own recipes versus sharing our own developed recipes. Are we asking a cookbook author to do a video and a specific number of videos, for example? We look at time spent on an effort, or a more seasoned or experienced blogger’s value if their reach is large.
Q. Do you work with agents?
A. Yes, in terms of spokesperson and author agents. Fairly recently we’ve been working with blogger networks such as One2One Network and Tapinfluence. If we’re looking for mothers with kids under 5 in a certain region, then we might go to a network.
Q. Are those blogger networks well-paid opportunities for bloggers, or best for those just starting out?
A. I’ve don’t know what they pay. We’re charged a fee by the network.
It’s up to bloggers to figure out what value they’d get out of partnering with a network versus doing their own outreach. Perhaps it’s a great avenue for a blogger who’s just starting out and wants experience with brand assignments. Once you have those under your belt and can put them in your portfolio, they might be a stepping stone.
Q. Do you use brand ambassadorships?
A. We tried an ambassador program for a year. We picked five people and went to them with every program we had that year. They were paid a little heavier for a year’s commitment. We did that for two years but it was hard to find someone who met all of our needs. We get more bang for our buck if we find someone for a specific program.
Q. Speaking of a specific program, how does the Pork Knife & Spoon blog work?
A. That was developed a few years back. The blog has had various lives. At first we contracted a few bloggers to author it for a contracted time and frequency. Then we dropped that and now we are managing it in house. We did a contract recently with a network to provide 40 bloggers to write posts.
Q. So the site links to posts already published on blogs?
A. Yes. We were driving traffic to their blogs as part of the program. We didn’t pay any less for that, but it was just a logistical and technical issue.
Q. What do you pay for recipes?
A. It could be $500 for a single post with a relatively new blogger to a few thousand for an author or blogger if we’re using their content and themselves to offer to the media.
Q. Do you want video?
A. Absolutely. We’re seeing video as a great way to tell our stories and share recipes. Video and great photography as part of the package is always a great asset to us. We have a pork channel, Pork Be Inspired, on YouTube.
We produce a series of videos with people if we feel it’s the best way to tell a story. We contract with a production house that offers the full package.
Food writers who offer video should make themselves known to us. We’re working with a YouTube food vlogger right now. YouTube is definitely an environment where we’re seeing influence and community.
Q. What is the number one mistake food writers make when contacting you?
A. Saying they have a great chicken recipe. Sending us a clip that they did with another protein. We want to know they’re comfortable with our product and have some experience with it. When someone shares their cookbook with me I look up if they’ve covered pork. If you don’t have any pork recipes in your cookbook, don’t contact me.
Q. How much control do you want over what writers want to say?
A. It’s their voice, our contract and our program. There’s got to be a good relationship and mutual expectations. We’re looking for people who are making a connection with their readers, who are not inaccurate or disparaging in their posts. Depending on the ask, we might ask to see it beforehand.
Q. Do you ask bloggers to use certain language in their posts?
A. No. We want it to be authentic. In fact we want the language to be in their own voice because that’s what their readers want. We will share message points and the way we articulate it. It helps them to form their message. We may ask if we could look at their recipe ahead of time to make sure we don’t have any red flags.
They share the link we’re asking them to include, to find out more about our product. If they share their own recipe, it might have to use a choice of certain cuts and be for dinner, or for a slow cooker program.
Bad grammar, typos, and an inarticulate message factor into our selection criteria as well.
Q. What advice do you have for bloggers who want to work with the National Pork Board?
If you think you have something to offer, contact us. My email is pjohnson AT pork DOT org. We might not have a fit at that time but it might be worth it to get you on our radar. ‘No’ at that time is not necessarily not ‘no’ all the time.
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