Working with brands is one of the most mainstream ways to make an income through your blog, though – truth be told – it can be intimidating just to get started.
There’s so much to know: from how to find a contact in the company you want to work with, to how to craft the perfect pitch, to how to maneuver contracts and agreements, to how to implement your campaign and track the results.
A friend of mine has written a whole book on how to pitch and work with brands, but if you’re on the fence about whether or not working with brands is a good money-making strategy for your blog, here are 10 things you should know before you dive in.
If your first thought is “How much money can I make?” your focus is in the wrong place for this line of work. Focusing instead on how much value you can deliver to the brands you work with will translate to a higher quality service, which – in the long run – will result in you being able to command higher fees.
What brand would want to work with you? A company that feels their product would be well received by your readers. They’re basically paying you to advertise for them and promote their products, but in a way that’s more personal than an ad on TV or one they’d place through AdSense – that’s probably not news to you.
But here’s the key: The more successful you are at proving the value you can provide, the more your campaigns will be worth to your brand partners, and the more you’ll be able to charge in the future.
A coaching client of mine named Emily has a relatively small following. She gets around 800 page views per day and has just upwards of 700 subscribers. At first glance, you’d say, “that’s respectable, but you can’t work with brands with statistics like that.”
The fact is, the topic she writes about is urban homesteading – how to make your own basic household products, how to farm on a city lot, how to live as “off-grid” as possible while not having the luxury of living in the country. Emily’s audience is extremely engaged – they ask lots of questions and are looking to her as the source of information for something they’re excited about.
…and as a result of starting her brand partnership program last October, Emily is predictably making about $650/month by working with brands, with plenty of room for growth in the future.
The moral of this story?
The narrower your target niche, the less impressive your statistics have to be to make a splash for a brand. (Tweet this!)
There’s a temptation to get all starry-eyed when you’re approached by a big-name brand like Kellogg’s or Procter & Gamble to promote their products. But there are tons of mid-sized companies – and even mom-and-pop operations! – that you can really make a difference for.
Taking “vanity projects” that aren’t actually a good fit for your readers doesn’t help anyone. Look for opportunities to find a brand that’s an ideal fit for your readers, regardless of the name recognition the company already has. You’ll find that you can work much closer with that company (you may even have access to the person who owns it!) and can be creative in the way you bring value for them and for your readers.
When you say or do something on your blog – or on other social media outlets – how likely are your readers to do something about it?
That’s called engagement.
You can measure engagement any number of ways – comments on your blog, comments on other social media outlets, repins when you pin something on Pinterest, shares when you post something to Facebook, retweets or replies on Twitter…even something as simple as clicks on a link you place on your blog.
When you’re putting together that media kit, if engagement is one of your strong points, play it up! Highlight not just the number of followers, but average number of comments if that’s where you shine, or maybe the great response to a giveaway you’ve done!
Smart brands “get” the value of high engagement on a blog. (Tweet this!)
That said, not all brands are educated enough to see the value of working with a blog with lower overall statistics, but higher engagement. If you feel strongly about the engagement on your blog, don’t be afraid to teach those brands a thing or two.
Do you know what’s at the heart of what you bring to the table when you work with brands?
You’ve built your blog to be your readers’ go-to source for information or inspiration on a certain topic. Hopefully you’ve been intentional about building relationships with your readers. And just as you’re more likely to buy an outfit that a friend says “would look so good on you” than you would by just seeing it in a catalog, your readers trust your judgment and bring your suggestions when they’re ready to open their wallets.
That’s why companies will pay you the big bucks to promote their products – because you own space inside your readers’ hearts and minds.
They trust you.
But there’s a huge responsibility that comes with that relationship – if you want to maintain your readers’ trust, you can’t promote products that aren’t a good fit for them. It looks false, and the appearance is that you’re just trying to “make a buck.” And in the long run, everyone loses.
If you want to read a case study about what a healthy Blogger-Brand relationship looks like, check this out.
I’ve already talked about how to make a media kit that rocks and given you 20 media kit examples sent in by my fabulous readers. But I can’t stress this enough – the energy and effort you put into your media kit can either open doors of opportunity for you or slam them in your face.
If you’re just getting started, then sure – go ahead and do it yourself.
But if you want to be competitive and really shine in front of brands, do yourself a favor and invest in a professional design for your media kit.
Many bloggers accept ads in their sidebar and stop there. They’re content to provide $30 worth of value to 10 companies and leave it at that. But in going the “easy route” and just working with sidebar ads, they’re leaving money on the table.
There are lots of different options for types of campaigns you can run: underwritten posts, sponsored posts, giveaways, social media promotion…and believe it or not, casual mentions of a product you honestly love and use in the context of a regular blog post can have the biggest impact of all.
If you want to provide maximum value for your brand partners, be ready to offer different packages that speak to the different levels of service you provide. It will set you apart as an experienced professional, and not as just another “mom blogger” who is content to do the bare minimum to make a buck or two.
If you’re new to working with brands, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of writing a post in exchange for a free pack of diapers, or a $30 gift card to a family restaurant. But be aware that if you’re not charging what the advertising campaign is really worth – both for the benefits the brand will receive AND for your time – you’ll find yourself frustrated, burned out, and deciding it’s not “worth it” in the long run.
Respect your readers (and your own time!) enough to turn down offers that aren’t really a good deal for all the work that’s involved.
Don’t settle for “free” when you can provide REAL value for a REAL fee. (Tweet this!)
There’s an old rule of thumb in marketing that says the average person is exposed to a product seven times before deciding to buy. So instead of settling for one-off advertising agreements (which I’ve just said are often more work than they’re worth), catch the vision for working with brands who are looking for a long-term partner. You’ll be able to provide much more value to them via a long-term relationship than by a single month of advertising, and it will be less overall work (think about the agreements, billing, and even the conversations leading up to your work!).
Over time, you’ll discover that working with more companies doesn’t mean more money. A better long-term strategy is working with a few companies that you can bring higher value for, and get more in return for the work you put in.
When you’re just getting started with brand partnerships, every step in the process can be intimidating. From deciding which brands will be a good match for you, to actually making the pitch, to running the campaign and reporting your results, there are lots of obstacles for a newbie to overcome.
Luckily, there are bloggers who have lots of experience working with brands who are willing to lend a helping hand. If you know an experienced blogger personally, then open up and ask them the hard questions! At the very least, you could buy an hour of consulting time from them and have clear direction for your own brand partnership program.
But if you don’t know anyone that can make it easy to get started, my friend Shannon Acheson has written a book called Bloggers & Brands: The Blogger’s Guide to Pitching and Working with Brands. It’s geared toward beginners who want to learn how to find the right contacts, craft a one-page killer pitch to help you land the job, and even how to navigate contracts and agreements.
Working with brands is such a big topic, 10 things hardly scratch the surface. So now it’s your turn to let me know what to talk about next.
Do me a favor and answer this question in the comments below:
As a blogger, what one burning question do you have about working with brands?
I won’t answer every question in the comments of this post, but I’ll definitely use your questions to help develop more great resources for you in the future.