How to Work with Brands as a Blogger: Your Complete In-Depth Beginner’s Guide
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There are many different opportunities for good writers to make money blogging. Whether the focus is on building yourself as a brand, working on building affiliate sites, or maybe creating yourself as an authority in a niche, there are going to be plenty of opportunities to profit from your online work. One that is too often ignored is working with brands. Part of the reason could be that many don't know how to work with brands as a blogger.
While this can be a problem that is a little bit intimidating at first, the truth is that working with brands doesn't have to be hard. There are many companies of all sizes always looking for mutually beneficial business arrangements. That might be a sponsored post, buying ad space directly from you, or having you use and review their products.
Brands are always reaching out to find bloggers to partner with. Even beyond this, a blogger with even a moderate amount of traffic has the ability to reach out and work with certain brands. These generally won't be the giants of whatever industry you're in or covering. Small and medium sized companies need partners, too. Not to mention start-ups and entrepreneurs.
As you'll find out in this article, doing even a few basic things well while forming your strategy can help open the flood gates when it comes to finding and partnering with others to promote their products or services.
There are few things more satisfying than creating a win-win deal with your brand partner as a blogger!
- Creating Demonstrable Value
- Decide on a Brand Strategy
- Reaching Out Tips
- Important Sponsorship Terms
- What to Charge
Creating Demonstrable Value
Value can come in several different forms, depending on the niche, brand, and blog. In many ways this is the single most important thing to keep in mind before approaching any brand. Value can come in form of a very dedicated following on social media. It comes in the form of organic traffic to your website from Google. You may offer it with a large engaged subscriber base on YouTube.
There are many ways to provide value, but it is up to the blogger to prove they are worth the brand's time. Unless you're an A-list celebrity or born into a family like the Kardashians, that's just the way the market works.
The good news is there are many ways to build a brand that visitors find entertaining. A good blogger, depending on the niche, can be entertaining, informative, a knowledgeable authority, out from left-field interesting, or all of the above. Whether diving into a niche or creating yourself as a brand, value comes in many forms. The specific way that value shows up isn't as important as simply producing it.
There are several things that a company is going to look for to see if you bring the level of value to the table they want. If you can give a good showing on these specific points, then you have a good chance of proving yourself to be a blogger that any given brand should want to work with.
A Steady Audience
The first is having an audience. Your audience doesn't have to be huge, although generally bigger is better as long as it's a legitimate following. A small dedicated audience is enough to start getting attention. The numbers can't jump wildly from month to month. You need to show your followers are just that. Dedicated followers.
Where Are You?
Everyone is expected to have a social media presence of some type. Are you on Facebook? Instagram or Pinterest? YouTube? You don't need to be on every single platform out there. What you do need is to have a presence on at least some platforms.
In many cases, even a strong presence on one social media platform can be enough. Just the term of “Instagram influencer” shows how true this is. If a brand is looking specifically for traction on YouTube or Facebook, then having a strong community on just one of these platforms can be enough.
You need to be easy to find online, however.
What's the Engagement?
The more engaged your following is, the better. How many comments does a YouTube video get? Does the community interact with one another? How many comments, shares, or likes does your average post receive?
Having a large number of followers or subscribers is only half the battle. The level of engagement is another. Do you have 10,000 followers but only a handful of comments? Brands are going to notice that. In the same way they are going to notice when you have 1,000 followers and dozens or even hundreds of comments interacting with one another.
They are also going to notice when the engagement is very strong on one platform versus others. As a blogger social media and being on multiple platforms is important. This is especially true as blog comment sections have died as those conversations have moved to Facebook, Instagram, and other similar social platforms.
Have a Pitch Ready
Sometimes brands will actually reach out to you. As you get a larger following as a blogger this becomes more and more common. However, you always need to have your pitch ready. Whether a brand approaches you, or you are approaching brands, you need to be prepared!
Have your pitch ready. Know it inside and out. This doesn't mean memorizing a script. In fact, I'd recommend against that since it can sound stilted and doesn't adjust well to questions. Having a pitch means knowing your selling points, knowing your strong points, and being able to talk about those with confidence.
When you can have a back and forth surprise discussion about what you can offer a brand, then you know enough to refine a good pitch for yourself and what your blog has to offer.
You want to always have a pitch ready to go.
Decide on a Brand Strategy
There are many different options when it comes to reaching out and working with brands. In fact, it can be easy to become overwhelmed if you don't have any ideas about how you want to work with other companies.
Brands you approach, or who approach you, may have an idea already of what they want to do. However, many times you will be expected to have feedback on what you can offer and the best way you can partner up. The following are just a few of the common partnerships that brands and bloggers make together.
This is a common term that is thrown around and it can mean several different things. This is especially true depending on your niche, who you're teaming up with, and how used to working with bloggers the brands you're working with are.
Collab with brands means the blogger is expected to work with the company in figuring out a campaign or practice that is best for both parties. Maybe the company has a general idea of what they want to pitch or an angle they want to emphasis. The blogger can then give their input on the best way to do this that their audience is most likely to react to in a positive way.
Collaborations can be short-term or long-term projects. They might involve sponsoring posts on your website, buying ad space directly, little video sketches, or a variety of these different ideas or techniques. They might involve something different altogether.
The terms can differ a bit from one platform to another. When it comes to collaborations Instagram influencers tend to be especially built on this idea. However, when you work with brand collaborations you will be often looking at more in-depth partnerships.
One of the major benefits of the word “collaboration” is that any brand using that word generally wants to have active input from the blogger. That means a degree of control over the project and the direction that it goes. This means you may send an email or group of emails to your list, but you don't give up that information. You may provide an approved post reviewing a product. When working with brands as a blogger you have plenty of options available to you.
Sponsored posts are a common request from brands who like your audience and want to be able to bring their own polished message to them. This can be a very lucrative partnership as many times they will handle the writing and offer anywhere from $150 to $500 for you to display the post.
These should always be clearly marked sponsored posts. While they can be a great way to work with a brand you want to make sure to set the terms early. The ability to edit, clearly outline what is included in the deliverables (and what isn't), and having the final say on content is important. You also want to be certain any sponsored post is high quality and fits your tone or voice.
If you're expected to do the writing for them and deliver other things like professional photographs, then it is reasonable to ask for a slightly higher price point. Either way, you are expected to use social media to promote the sponsored post and drive as much traffic as possible.
Offering Unique Advertising
This is a less common outreach point but sometimes it does come up. If you are monetizing your site with display ads from networks like Mediavine, then often times you're not allowed to sell advertising directly. You're expected to go through their networks.
However, if you're not restrained by this then offering direct advertising can be a nice steady income stream. The amount you can charge will vary based mostly on how much you traffic you get. Other factors like where you're willing to place the ads and any proven history of conversion may also come into play.
There really isn't a set way of determining rates. Just remember the more organic traffic you have, the more valuable your on-page advertising space is.
These are events where a brand provides free merchandise in exchange for you running a social media campaign, usually with a contest. Who doesn't like a good prize? This can be a great way to get a brand out to your readers while also attracting new visitors/readers to your blog. That is the definition of a win-win when it is done right.
Along with a giveaway or contest sometimes a brand will offer special discounts. If you've ever read a blog or listened to a podcast that said “Use the code BLOGNAME for 20% off” then chances are that was part of a brand-blog agreement for a discount.
These can be a great outreach tool but most often take place when they are offered by the brand as an idea as opposed to the blogger pitching this as a plan.
Reach Out or Wait for Them to Contact You?
This is a major question that website owners will have to tackle at some point. While you will have brands reach out to you over time, the passive approach is also going to limit your opportunities. Not everyone knows you exist. Not every brand is going to be actively searching for opportunities.
Even with brands that don't reach out, many are very open to a good partnership. I've experienced this multiple times first-hand with my outdoor site where a good email offering free advice, a valuable service, or asking about partnership opportunities led to really cool connections, guest blog posting opportunities, free gear, and other really outstanding partnerships.
Showing you care about your brand and theirs can make reaching out an incredibly rewarding process. If the thought of reaching out fills you with social anxiety and dread, that's okay. While it's good to get used to reaching out brands will approach you with enough traffic, time, and exposure.
I recommend taking time to reach out to small independent players in your niche. They tend to be very passionate and responsive. After all the worst they can tell you is “No.”
Niche vs. Broad
If you're in a specific niche the outreach strategy is a bit easier because it's already more directed. You should understand the lingo, the common practices, and some of the challenges that come with businesses and/or websites in your niche.
This should help you to know how to reach out to brands that might be interested in doing business with your blog. Understanding the lingo in your field and how to talk to others in your niche will help set you apart from cut and paste affiliates.
On the other hand, if you are a broader blog then it can take more work to find a good partnership. When you have a broader focus or more general audience, this could be a good time to look at networks. There are many networks that can help connect brands with influencers. Some of these specialize even in smaller blogs or micro influencers. If you look around, you will be able to eventually find resources that can help.
Influencers vs. Micro Influencers
While having a larger dedicated audience definitely helps as a blogger, there are opportunities for smaller blogs. If you're a true beginner, then work on getting traffic and an audience. You do need to build to a certain point before you have enough value to offer any brand.
With that in mind, micro influencers are very popular in certain niches. These are blogs or social media accounts with as few as 1,000 followers. However, they have something most beginning bloggers do not. A strong community that already provides a major level of interaction.
This is key. A very active and responsive community is going to be far more valuable than one that isn't. After all, an active community indicates trust. This is also a good sign that the blogger's recommendations are going to have more influence with the audience.
If you keep these things in mind you will be able to match your blog with brands you will be thrilled to work with.
Reaching Out Tips
Reaching out to brands can be scary for individuals who aren't use to it, but these are good skills to develop. Whether developing blog posts in partner with brands or going to work on a new email campaign, it all starts with a successful outreach. There are a few steps you can take early on that help not only make this process more comfortable but more successful, as well!
Create a Media Kit
Nothing speaks to your professionalism like having a media kit prepared! This helps greatly with making connections with brands, as well. A media kit shows what you are about, allows you to brag about your community, and shows companies of all sizes that you are serious about making profitable partnerships.
A media kit also allows you to send additional information after making your initial pitch. That is a natural follow up and can help keep you in the minds of those you are looking to connect with.
Create a media kit so you're always prepared to make a good impression. This also makes reaching out to brands much less intimidating.
As mentioned earlier, there are many good options out there depending on what you're looking for. There are blog networks for guest posting connections, marketing groups looking to reach out to bloggers on behalf as blogs, as well as independents.
This isn't my favorite option because I like making that one-on-one contact with brands. That being said, there's no denying this can be incredibly effective. Especially if you are trying to connect with brands that only work through connecting networks.
LinkedIn gives plenty of opportunities for networking. The key is using this platform well, and not spam everyone. Using the free blog feature to add quality content is a great way to use LinkedIn and attract potentially helpful connections.
However, my favorite way to use LinkedIn is to connect with local or regional companies in my area. Don't direct pitch them. This is to get a feel for the brands in your niche that might be willing to work with small or mid-level bloggers. You can see what they're interested in, get your name out in front of people who will remember it, and then contact them via other means.
You not only can find the right email address to reach who you need to talk to, but you can find the email for others already connected to the company. In some cases, you may even find social websites that you didn't know they were invested in.
This can help point you to good people to network with and build relationships with that go well beyond a single done deal.
Cold Pitching Effectively
One of the best ways to cold pitch is to start by getting to know the company. Read the About Us page. Look for a backstory that goes with the brand and check out their Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or other favorotie social media channels of choice. If you can find online news stories from local digital newspapers, read those stories, as well. This can give you a lot of great information!
If there's a blog you should absolutely read two or three of the most recent posts. I also love to find a relatively early post that looks interesting. Very few people do any background research before pitching. Send a personalized, (NEVER send a template email) in-depth email with an interesting subject line. Mention some of the things that caught your attention about the blog, especially the past blog post.
That will instantly make you stand out as someone who really has invested in getting to understand their brand. This isn't a guarantee of success, but in my experience, it really pushes the scales in your favor.
This sounds like a lot of work, but honestly, so few people attempt to do any work that you'll stand out instantly. Normally 20 minutes gives me more information than I'll ever need to write the best partnership pitch they will ever receive. You don't need to shoot out nearly as many partnership or deal proposals if you're getting a high positive response rate from those you contact.
If in doubt, consider reaching out to local companies. Small local businesses are always looking for ways to network and improve their reach. Many also struggle to do so online. Depending on how well-off your area is, local companies might not always have the ability to pay high amounts for a partnership but these relationships can pay off big in other ways.
Only Work with Brands You Trust
While it can be tempting to make a money grab early on or respond to every brand that approaches you, this isn't the best long-term strategy. You are only going to do your best work when you really believe in the product or brand that you are teaming up with.
Even beyond that, you should feel comfortable only working with brands you trust. If you have a very engaged and reactive audience, it's because you built trust. That's not something you want to throw away. Especially for a small one-time payment.
Important Sponsorship Terms
Each potential partner is going to have their own way of doing things. This includes contracts, payments, and expectations. Don't assume a contract with one brand partner is going to be just like another one. Each partner is going to have different ideas of what's fair as far as rates, deliverables, responsibilities, timelines, and more.
Always make sure to negotiate the points that are most important to you. That might be payment. It might be length of commitment. You should never sign a contract that you're uncomfortable with.
What to Charge
This is the hardest question to answer. A major part of the reason is that it is so situational. Do you have a small but devout following of 1000 people on social media? A website that generates 10,000 organic visitors a month? What niche are you in? What sized company are you working with?
These questions only begin to scratch the surface of everything that needs to be considered when coming up with a good price to charge a brand. In some cases, free samples and/or support and exposure might actually be the most valuable thing you can receive. This is one of those cross promotion win-win situations.
In other cases, it only takes a small but engaged following to charge some really solid dollar amounts.
Don't be afraid to talk to other bloggers in your niche. They are often happy to share information, especially if you offer some back. Another strategy is to start by shooting a high price to negotiate down from. This is research that can be done while making a media kit. That will help you be prepared for all the hard questions. This includes having different price points depending on what exactly a brand wants from a partnership with your blog.
Not every proposed partnership is going to be a good deal. You should never feel pressured to work with a brand you're uncomfortable with. The key to a good relationship is going for that win-win deal and that comes from both sides benefiting. When you can build a reputation for delivering value the opportunities to work with more brands as a blogger will continue to open up for you as your blog grows.
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