One of the biggest reasons that hobby bloggers end up transitioning to full-time bloggers is due to their relationships with various brands. If you have some great brands on board supporting the content on your blog on a regular basis, then monetising that content becomes far easier. But how do you get brands on board to support the content that you are creating?
I’ve covered how to create a stand-out media kit last month so today, I wanted to share a few tips to now use that media kit to actually begin the process of working with brands and developing relationships with them to support your content.
What Value Do You Bring?
For brands, a campaign is more than just a single sponsored post or a share on your Instagram. They want to create buzz around a specific brand or product and in order to do that, they need to know that you can bring some kind of value to that campaign.
Engagement is starting to become an important factor in terms of who PRs and brands choose to work with on campaigns and that means that they want to see your readers getting excited about whatever it is you are talking about. This means they want to see an audience who is doing more than just reading. They want to see your readers taking action like commenting on your posts as well as liking, tweeting and sharing your content on social media.
Do you feel like sometimes you are just talking into a void? You might want to think about how you engage your audience. Personally, I find that asking my readers questions will nearly always start the conversation whether that’s here on my blog or across my social media. And then I engage with them whenever I can, responding to their answers so it becomes a two-way street.
Make sure you are creating content that gets them talking. Everyone loves to share their opinions and so be sure you are asking the right questions and creating the kind of content that your readers want to get involved in. This should be the case not just with your blog posts but also across your social channels.
When you have engagement, you have a valuable asset to brands. The more people engage with the content, the more they are interested in what you have to say.
What Brands are Looking For
Alongside engagement, a brand wants to know you can take a simple concept like sharing a specific product and make it personal to you. Traditional forms of advertising can only go so far which is why brands are turning to influencers to get the word out.
What does an influencer have over traditional marketing? One word: Trust. Your readers should know you well enough to trust your opinion and establishing that trust is paramount to working with brands. So be sure to weave your personality and your unique take on everything you share on your blog. That personality is what drives people to return to your blog again and again.
If a brand can see that you are able to creatively weave your personality and unique traits into whatever it is you speak about on your blog and you are able to create an experience for your readers that they will engage in and interact with, this will show them that there is value in working with you.
Of course, alongside engagement should be great quality images, unique perspectives and a creative streak – all these elements combined hold value to brands so be sure your blog posts are up to scratch before you begin reaching out to work with them.
Stats Aren’t Everything
Of course, if you get a huge amount of traffic or have a great following on social media, it will probably be easier for you to work with brands. Numbers are still (perhaps sadly) a deciding factor when a brand or agency decides who to reach out to on a campaign but please know, this isn’t the end of the story.
A fantastic niche blog will likely have a much more loyal and engaged audience than someone with a huge audience. One of the most important things to consider when deciding to work with a brand on your blog (as much as it is for the PR or brand who is doing the outreach) is how good a fit your blog is with their product.
If your audience is budget-conscious mums who love tech, then a brand who have created a new app that allows you to see the best deals on supermarket shopping might be the perfect fit. In this case, there is a better likelihood of them working with you than working with someone who carries a broad range of lifestyle topics. Perhaps you are a craft blogger who shares projects that carry a vintage flair. A company who specialises in creating vintage style fabrics might be the perfect brand to introduce to your readers. Again, you’ll hold more value in their eyes with your specific audience than someone with a larger audience but who covers a broader range of styles.
Specialising in something specific and having a niche may mean you have fewer people looking at your blog but collaborations like this where there is a large crossover between their audience and yours are of huge value to brands. So even smaller bloggers who find a great fitting brand shouldn’t be afraid to reach out.
Making an Introduction
Speaking of reaching out, there are lots of different ways to make contact with brands but the most common and widely accepted is via email. If you are just starting to monetise your blog, then the one thing you definitely don’t want to do is simply send an email asking for products. I have good relationships with a number of PR executives and can tell you that there’s nothing that will turn them off quicker to working with you than if you start off an introduction by asking for free things.
Your best bet is to first get on their radar. It can be as simple as an email stating who you are, a brief introduction and link to your blog and then telling them what you love about the specific brand you are interested in. If you’ve spoken about their products before, perhaps let them know that too as it shows the alignment between your blog and the brand. Ask to be placed on their mailing list for upcoming press releases and if you can be notified if there are any upcoming press events and leave it at that. A PR representative will be much happier to engage a blogger who is interested and invested in their client and one which will bring value and enthusiasm to their campaigns than one who is only looking for free products.
How to Meet Brands Face to Face
Of course, emails can only go so far. Most of the larger PR agencies and brands are in London and for me and those living outside of the capital, this can prove challenging at times. However, I do try to make a point to get to at least a few PR events every year, especially for those brands I really love. I honestly think that PR agents are like anyone else – they love meeting influencers face to face and it’s a chance for them to put a face and personality to your blog. If you are able to, try to make time to go to events when you can and make the most of that personal interaction that you just can’t get with any other form of communication.
I also try to set up meetings with PRs if I know I’m already going to be in London for an event and will have a few hours spare. I’ll go through my emails, see if there were any events I’ve been invited to in the past which I couldn’t make and send along an email to the PRs to let them know when I’ll be around and what times I have available to meet up for a quick cup of coffee and a chat.
Focus on the Long-Term
While there’s nothing particularly wrong with doing a one-off sponsored post for a brand or a single review, it’s always better if you are able to look at things long-term. If you’ve already worked with a brand previously and you really love their products, then it’s always worth keeping in touch with them or their PR Agency to make sure you are in the front of their mind for future campaigns. If I have a project coming up where I know a brand I’ve worked with in the past might fit in, I’ll often drop them a line to let them know what my plans are and to see if they’d like to collaborate again.
Long-term relationships benefit both you as well as the brand. First, the brand will already be familiar with what you do and how you do it. This means there is less likely to be the back-and-forth that often occurs when they are trying to determine what blogs would be the best fit for their brand.
The second benefit is that it shows you are brand-loyal and you already have an enthusiasm for their products. PRs are more likely to work with those bloggers who are a natural fit for the brand and whom they have already established a relationship.
Don’t Discount Smaller Businesses and Independents
While we might get starry-eyed when a brand who is a household name gets in touch, taking on too many ‘vanity’ projects that aren’t a good fit for your blog could actually be damaging. Unless it’s a perfect match, then strictly working with larger companies won’t necessarily benefit your readers who are probably already familiar with the brand.
Show yourself to be an innovator by working with some smaller and mid-sized names as well, especially if they fit your own style or ethos well. The nicest thing about working with smaller independent businesses is that normally, you’ll be working directly with the brand itself which is always great for forming relationships – you might even be dealing with the owners themselves!
While smaller brands may not have big budgets now, if you are able to help them spread the word to further their audience, then as they grow, there’s a good chance that when they do have a bigger budget they’ll be in touch. (But please don’t work for free – I’ll get to that in a second!)
Creating Your Pitch
So if you’ve been eyeing up a brand, you’re finally on their radar for press releases and perhaps you’ve even attended an event or two, then you’re probably ready to pitch them. How do you do this? It’s always good to start off an email with another brief introduction just in case – don’t make any assumptions that they already know who you are! You might want to let them know how much you’ve loved something their client has done and why you think it would fit in well with your blog. Be enthusiastic but not cloying, charming without being too clever and professional but not overly formal. Let your personality shine.
You’ll then want to go to them with a fully-formed idea for your blog post. Let them know how you plan on framing the brand on your blog, providing examples of other blog posts in a similar style that may have performed well. This is your chance to make it as simple as possible for them to say yes to you because they can easily visualise what the post will be like. Make sure you let them know how you plan on promoting the post as well across any or all of your social media platforms and be sure to attach a copy of your Media Kit!
Don’t be disheartened if your first (or second or third!) attempt doesn’t result in a sponsored post. Timing really can be everything here and so if there is no possible collaboration available at this time, it doesn’t mean there never will be. Again, staying on their radar and making them aware of your enthusiasm is always good for the future. You never know – when they do have budget, you might be one of the first they contact!
Knowing Your Worth
Finally, I just want to end this post with you considering your own value as a blogger. Please don’t sell yourself short. I realise how hard it is sometimes to know just how much to charge for things like sponsored content or whether you should be asking for a fee on top of a low-value review item (in answer to that, probably).
Consider the time it takes to craft your posts, take photographs, promote your posts across social media and how long you’ve been building your blog and your readership. Even if you don’t have a huge audience yet, if your blog is gaining traction and you are reaching readers who are engaged, that has value to a brand. Don’t underestimate yourself or work for free.
In fact, I’d probably go so far as to say, even a newer blogger should charge no less than £75-£100 for sponsored content. If you have a great following on social media or if you have wonderful engagement on your posts or if you are seeing fantastic growth month to month – even if your audience is smaller, then it’s worth charging that bit more.
It’s sometimes tempting to allow the fact that a brand has noticed you get in the way of being paid for your work. Please don’t ever work for free or for the promise of ‘exposure’. All this does is devalue your blog and devalue the work of all bloggers everywhere. If they get used to not paying for blog posts now, they never will and they’ll simply think of you as free advertising. Be open to negotiation but please know your worth and don’t work with brands who just see you as free advertising!
Here are a few links from across the web to give you some ideas on how much to charge for a blog post: Social Blue Book / Cocochic / Secret Blogger Business / Tots100. At the end of the day, only you can determine how much you feel your time is worth and everyone will be different!
So those are my tips for developing relationships with brands! Are you considering approaching brands for sponsored posts? Did you learn anything new today? Have anything to add? Or perhaps I haven’t covered something you have a burning question about? Do let me know in the comments below!