10 Things Every Blogger Should Know About Working With Brands

10 Things every blogger should know about working with brands 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.

It's about delivering value to companies that want to reach your audience.

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.

Statistics aren't everything

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.”

Not so.

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!)

Smaller brands can be fabulous to work with

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.

Engagement Matters

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. ;)

10 Tips for Bloggers Working With Brands

Do you know what’s at the heart of what you bring to the table when you work with brands?

Trust.

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.

10 Tips for Bloggers Working With Brands

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.

Enough said.

10 Tips for Bloggers Working With Brands

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.

10 Tips for Bloggers Working With Brands

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!)

10 Tips for Bloggers Working With Brands

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.

10 Tips for Bloggers Working With Brands

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.

Your Turn

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.

Please consider sharing this post :: Love, Jeni
10 Things every blogger should know about working with brands

152 Comments • Leave yours below!

  1. says

    Wow! I would love to read this book. I have been searching for ages on what are the necessary steps to connect with brands. Looking forward to receiving answers and direction. Cheers for writing this book.
    linda c. thomas recently posted..Feeling HappyMy Profile

  2. says

    Loved the hangout and all the tips and lessens on your blog over here! It’s really valuable information. THX!!

    My question is : How can I approach ( little) companies to work with me? In The Netherlands almost everyone ( including companies) want things for free… Also blogposts or other ways to work together. … They almost never want to pay. How can I let them see that it’s a benefit for both if we work well together….

  3. says

    Great hangout with Shannon – the YouTube link worked! My biggest question is how do you decide what to charge for different types of sponsorship?

  4. says

    I struggle with wanting to build an audience organically, over time, vs using some of the traffic drivers that don’t result in real fans {rather, folks that stop by to win a giveaway, or something}. To that end, my numbers aren’t great… Do brands look at “quality” of traffic & engagement, in addition to the stats?

    I’d LOVE to learn more about working with brands that *I* love, and that my readers would too!

    • says

      You took my question right out of my mouth. This is my burning question too. I have the pleasure of working on a high end blog’s website as well as my small run of the mill blog too. So, I get to see what happens on both ends of the spectrum.However, I want to know how I can STAND out.
      Crystal Green recently posted..Revealing Myself OnlineMy Profile

  5. says

    My burning question is how to take that first step – I’ve never partnered with a company before so I’m not sure the best way to approach them!

  6. says

    Question – Just started working with a brand for a longer term project. Would love ideas for how to create a really effective long term strategy.

  7. says

    I think the webcast answered my brand question for now. I think I’ll have more questions as I actually start to work with a brand. I’m just starting my blog and want to build an audience first. Thanks for the great info.

  8. says

    These are all valuable tips. I like the idea of creating an entire package for the brand and not just selling sidebar Ads.

  9. says

    Hi Jeni,
    I got to the Hangout late, but watching on You Tube was perfectly fine. It was actually “nice” (and you know that I mean this in the best way) to see that even YOU sometimes have trouble with these darn computers! Thanks as always for generously sharing such great information. Aloha, Lori

  10. says

    It’s a burning question–how do I attract brands I believe in and use? I know the answer–create great content in my healthy lifestyle niche. I do have a moral issue of working with brands that go against my interest in changing the SAD, Standard American Diet. I do think we will see organic, eco, and healthier food brands come more and more into the picture, brands that seek to work with vegetarian/healthy bloggers. And right now I am building up my page views so they will want to work with me. ;-)

  11. says

    I want to know how to get longer-term relationships with brands or companies, like an ambassadorship. Sponsored posts are fine, but I’d rather have the consistency (for content as well as income) and really work together with the marketing people. I can learn so much that way!

  12. says

    What is the best way to approach a brand to give you clear direction on what their end goals are in order for a campaign to be successful?

  13. Claire says

    Wasn’t able to catch today’s Hangout, but I’m looking forward to watching the recording.

    I’m most interested in how to find an “in” with large brands and organizations I’ve never communicated with before. What’s the best way to make initial contact (phone/e-mail/Twitter) and what position or department would I likely have the best luck pitching?

  14. says

    I think my burning question is how to convince brands that I want to work with that I have something to offer them. I see my blog as similar to an online magazine, but it doesn’t seem like companies are treating blogs that way. For example, I get annoyed when a company says “I pay blogs this much to advertise for me” and I sit there going, “No matter their circulation?” The blog should be determining price, imho, as I doubt The New York Times would accept the same rate of pay as a local daily newspaper (they’d set their own rates). So my question is about presenting my worth to brands and not being devalued in what they’re willing to pay. (Sorry it’s a long question!)
    Bonnie Way recently posted..IT HAD TO BE YOU $100 Visa Giveaway from @SusanMayWarren!My Profile

  15. says

    Oops, my burning question… I have a terrible time asking for money. What is the right amount to charge? I’ve based mine on pageviews and have asked around, but recently after having a great dialogue going with a company that was a great fit, I lost them when I sent them my rates and they never got back to me. I even followed up and still no response. My experience so far is that companies will give you product but not often pay for advertising, especially the type that suit my audience. How do I convince them it’s worth the expense when so many bloggers will review and such for free?
    Stephanie recently posted..Make Waves Like Hokusai TutorialMy Profile

  16. maria k says

    Great tips! Thank you for sharing!
    My burning question: how do you decide what to charge for different types of sponsorship?

  17. says

    This was a great blog post with lots of great things to think about. I have just started monetizing my blog with ads but I have a desire to create long term relationships as well. I am also a YouTuber and shoot and edit my own videos. Can this (creating videos) work as a package for a brand? If so, how can I determine fees as I haven’t really seen this option available on other blogger’s sites?
    dija recently posted..Weekly Wishes #42My Profile

  18. says

    I think all of this is still pretty new to UK brands – and unfortunately, US companies generally aren’t interested in engaging with international bloggers, even if your readers are mostly US-based. I’m interested in the package idea, I hadn’t really thought of it in those terms before.
    Rachel Cotterill recently posted..Homemade Lemon CurdMy Profile

  19. says

    I feel as a male blogger, married, no kids. That it is very difficult to get noticed. I know there are niche blogs: mommy/coupon/deals/others. I am doing better, but still find that someone who has an alexa of 280,000 when I have a 59,000 will get movie reviews and giveaway offers that I can’t get. I have joined a few groups like Best Buy’s Wolf program, and others and are getting some opportunities, but I still feel that most PR agencies and companies discriminate against male bloggers.
    Tom Shewbridge recently posted..truMedic TENS Unit – Electronic Pulse Massager ReviewMy Profile

  20. says

    I would like tips on how to find a balance between promoting thoroughly for the vendor, yet not over-promoting in the eyes of the blog reader. Thanks!

  21. says

    How much to say in an initial email contact. Whether you give your whole pitch, a teaser or just save it if they even respond. Of course, I have many other questions but that’s a start!

  22. says

    I’m afraid I am still in the building stage. I am still trying to find enough support to go further. But when I do, finding sponsors will be my first burning question.

  23. says

    Thank you so much for this giveaway! This post was so helpful! The biggest question I have is, ” At what point do you start asking for money from companies instead of accepting free products, and what’s the most tactful way to go about doing that?” For example, what level of followers and commenters do you need to ask for money instead of free products? What about unique visitor counts each week/month? I’ve been blogging for a long time, and not seeing the results I want, despite how happy I am with the number of companies I’ve worked with, and the daily page views I get. I have been lucky enough to be able to work with some of the top brands in the health food industry, but have yet to make income from these reviews. Free products have always been a blessing to me, but I’ve often wondered at what point can you, or should you, ask for money instead, and how to do that. Thank you so much again for the giveaway!!
    Heather recently posted..Raw Cookie Dough Bites- Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, VeganMy Profile

  24. says

    My burning question: what’s the best way to treat brands like gold, once you’ve gotten some on board? I want to be my sponsors’ favorite blog to work with. What ensures that they don’t want to stop working with me?

  25. says

    I have been blogging for awhile, and have a few small brand partnerships for things like giveaways but I am looking to take it to the next level. This post has been a great introduction, and I would love to read the book to get even more insight.
    Maurisha recently posted..Curvy Swim 2014 : The KickoffMy Profile

  26. says

    This was some great info and I hope I implement them successfully as I begin to reach out to my favorite brands.

    I guess my top question would be: How do I know what price points are “fair” when negotiating with brands & how do I request a reasonable fee without selling myself short?
    Toia B. recently posted..Month In Review: My February FashionMy Profile

  27. says

    I have worked with many brands, but I am just now starting to do more paid work rather than just blogging for free products. I’d love to know how to convince them that my time and influence is valuable. Most of the time they refuse to pay and move on to another blogger that will accept just a free product.
    MaryEllen recently posted..It’s Time for Spring Cleaning!My Profile

  28. says

    I think my burning question is how to really portray your worth. Sometimes I have a hard time putting that into words. I end up going with the numbers, and I don’t think that tells the whole story.

    Really enjoyed this post and the YT video of the hangout. Great info.

  29. says

    I’ve not worked with brands persay. I’m a book review blogger. I’ve written a couple of book reviews for authors in exchange for free books. But it would be nice to learn more of how to do these reviews for money.

  30. says

    My biggest question is where do all of the company leads originate for bloggers? Do companies approach you or vise versa? I see so many bloggers with company endorsements and I am wondering how that relationship begins.
    Sue recently posted..The Antique Table ThrowbackMy Profile

  31. says

    My biggest question about working with brands is my numbers! Having rebranded my blog in January, I feel like I’m starting from scratch. I want to grow my audience a bit more so I feel more confidant before pitching. But, I suppose, like Shannon said, if you don’t ask it will always be no. Guess I need to start somewhere!
    Suzanne recently posted..Embellished Upcycled Wine BottlesMy Profile

  32. Lynn R says

    Thanks for this post! I’m curious about working with brands that are new to the online world. How can I help them get comfortable with the idea of blog sponsorship?

  33. says

    I love both yours and Shannon’s blogs and saw that Shannon was coming out with her new book Bloggers and Brands and became very excited. I have been blogging for about 3 years now, but didn’t put the real effort into it that I needed to until about a year ago which I decided to blog as a business instead of as a hobby. I am very passionate about what I do…I absolutely love blogging and what I blog about (DIY Projects, Home Decor, Crafts, and Health). What I am finding now is that I have the content, the design, the social media influence, and blog readership…..BUT, I don’t think I am maximizing my potential in the industry. I want to branch out and begin working with brands more and so this book really would be essential for me for my personal and professional growth.

    Thanks so much for the great post and to Shannon for the free book opportunity!
    xo,
    Jennifer

  34. says

    Loved the hangout! Thanks for hosting :)

    My first and foremost question that I have… which I need to get the book so I can get the answer… is simply “Where do I start.”

  35. says

    I have been blogging since 2012, but this new wave of blogging is a complex maze to me. Of course I want to make some money on something I spend so much of my time on. and seeing how my blog is geared towards reviews and sharing tips from own life that most moms can relate too, I should be about ready for sponsors. But I am too much of chicken I guess, when it comes to approaching brands, pitching them …I fear I don’t have enough numbers and I might come across as too eager and aggressive in my picth. So, for the time I am laying low, till brands come to me themselves…in another lifetime most likely!

  36. says

    My big question is how much to charge companies for advertising for them with a review/giveaway. Is there a kind of fee structure based on how many followers a blog has?

  37. says

    Great list, Blog Maven! I guess my question is this: when you feel eager to take a one time campaign into a long term relationship with a brand, what is the best way to pitch that? Should you be specific right off the bat with what you’re hoping for or test the waters with a short email and hope it leads to a longer conversation if they are interested?
    Lauren recently posted..The Thrifty Girl’s Guide to Coastal DecorMy Profile

  38. Danielle M says

    Hi! I’m kind of stuck on how to offer other types of advertising packages! Please help! Lol. Pick me!!

  39. says

    I’m doing well working with brands in return for complimentary products and experiences. I’m finding it impossible to know how to take that next step to actually getting pain for my work – a girl can’t live on free mustard! Vohn x

  40. says

    Great tips! Would love to get a copy of Shannon’s book. My biggest question? How to find the right contact person!! Seems simple.. but can be tricky! :)

  41. says

    Oh wow- this is EXCELLENT! Thanks for these tips on working with brands. It might be easier to do bare minimum but definitely not beneficial in the wrong run (and I completely understand the frustration of burnout).

  42. says

    I have worked for so many brands, however now I’m starting to do more paid rather than just blogsopt or wordpress for free Products. I’d want to know how to persuade them that my time and impact is significant. But issue is that most of the time they decline to pay and move to another blogger that will accept just a free product. From this article, I really found helpful information.
    http://www.hostoople.com/vps-hosting/
    Stellatyler recently posted..Why Does Your Restaurant Need Web Hosting?My Profile

  43. says

    Hey Jeni, I love the part about engagement. I took your advice and started using CommentLuv (still working out the kinks). Thanks for the advice. Now, I’d like to ask about your in-post “Tweet This” button. Is that from AddThis or another service? I use pull quotes like you do in my blog, and I’d love to add this feature. Thanks again.
    Mark Barnes recently posted..Summer Break Quotes Most Teachers Never SaidMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Mark,

      I’m doing that manually through clicktotweet.com, but there are plugins that will do it as well. The one I see implemented most is CoSchedule. Hope this helps!

  44. says

    Hi Jeni,

    This is a really interesting post and I agree with alot of the points that you made here. Probably, I agree with points # 4 & 5 the most.

    First off, engagement does matter. I’ve been blogging for a year now and didn’t really start engaging with anybody else until February of this year 0 and really started to pick up the pace in the last few months. To my shock and amazement, all the engaging that I’m doing is really paying off. I’m connecting with more bloggers and building relationships with them by sharing their posts and commenting on their blogs, etc. If there’s one thing every blogger needs to do is engage with other bloggers and with their readers.

    Secondly, if you lose your readers trust it’s darn near impossible to get it back. Trust is so hard to gain online and you have to do everything in your power to maintain that trust factor. But once you gain that trust, they’ll be loyal to you and your blog.

    Really great post here, Jeni. I’m really loving the blog here and alot of the posts that you come out with is spot on and interesting. Keep up the great work.

    – Andrew
    Andrew M. Warner recently posted..How To Repel Visitors Like Magnets By Making These 5 Dumb Blogging MistakesMy Profile

  45. says

    I’ve read many articles written for companies on how to work with bloggers. This article was interesting to me because the angle is aimed at bloggers actually :)

    I launched my new online store about 10 days ago and am now looking to work with bloggers to promote my store.

    I have a questions to bloggers here. When companies and brands approach and ask you to write about them or their products, what are the requirements?

    I don’t expect bloggers to work for me for free. That’s simply not fair for their precious time. But here’s my concern.

    Due to the nature of my products, I am not quite sure how many products I can/should offer to bloggers who are willing to write for me. My products are heavy and breakable ceramic wares and arts directly sourced from Korean ceramicists. All handcrafted and hand-painted. Limited edition (meaning not enough inventories on hand per sku). The costs I had to pay the artists were very high. Shipping costs are high (heavy, breakable).

    In this case, how should I respond to bloggers who request for products in return? How can I benefit bloggers? Is offering products the only way to work with bloggers?

    Again, I highly appreciate bloggers’ efforts and time put into each article. I want to learn different ways to compensate for their works.

    • says

      Hi Hanna,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment! I don’t know that the actual quantity of the product you’re sending a blogger is as important as the fact that they get to experience the product itself, know what it’s about, and appreciate it for themselves. I’ve written another post that should help you, but here’s one thing to keep in mind from a sponsor’s perspective: if you sold ONE more of your product because of your relationship with the blogger, how much would that be worth to you (in terms of profit)? If you sold two? Ten? 200? The more you focus on developing a relationship with the blogger – rather than a straight “goods” transaction, the more likely your success. Hope this is helpful!

      • Hanna says

        Oops Jeni, just read your comment here. Thanks so much for your advises. I will try to build a long-term relationship with bloggers instead of looking for instant profits. Your blog has tons of helpful tips and resources. I’m so glad that I found The Blog Maven :)

  46. says

    I’m actively looking for right fit bloggers to promote my new online venture. I’m not sure where to start. I know this website is to help bloggers but it would be great if you can write an article for brand companies on how to approach bloggers. The tips listed here are excellent points. As a brand company, I would be more than happy to work with bloggers who practice the tips given here.

  47. says

    I just started a fashion blog about 3 weeks ago and I’m trying to educate myself on every aspect of the business. At the moment I don’t have many followers, and only get about 100-200 views a day. My question is, when is a good time to start approaching companies and other bloggers to do collaborations? I’ve read in several places that you can start right away, and others that it’s best to wait…but wait until when?
    When do you think it is the ideal time to start working with others and make some revenue?

    http://www.littleblackshell.com

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