Bloggers: How to Engage with Brands

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Bloggers often dream about working with brands. Whether as a brand ambassador, selling advertising space, or publishing sponsored posts, brands offer unlimited opportunities to turn a blog into a business endeavor. The problem for many bloggers is that they have no idea how to get started. How do you reach a brand like Dodge or Burt’s Bees? Surprise, surprise. It’s easier than you think.

There are two primary ways that bloggers can engage with brands. The first is through third-party “aggregators” like Mom Central Consulting, Sverve, or BlogHer. This is a fairly streamlined approach. These companies do all of the legwork and build the relationships with brands. You actually work on behalf of the aggregator, performing an agreed-upon task or tasks, like posting a review on your blog or tweeting about a new product. The downside to this approach is that you have very little flexibility in terms of expectations and deliverables and lose direct access to the brands you are representing. You are unable to build one-on-one, long-term relationships with them. This is why I’m a huge fan of reaching out to companies directly, the second way to engage with brands.

Contacting brands directly gives you full control of the process and allows you to build and maintain strong working relationships with these corporate partners. Here are some pre-requisites before reaching out to them:

  • Make sure you have an established blog. You don’t have to be ten years old, but you should have a good base of content built up and a strong social media network in order to demonstrate that you are not blogging as an occasional hobby.
  • Blog consistently and frequently. Most brands want to know that you are dedicated to your blog and to the partnership that you form with them. They will look to see how often you’re posting and whether or not you’ve maintained some level of consistency over a set period of time. At the very least, try to post several times a week.
  • If you have a humor blog that screams obscenities (and that’s okay), there’s a good chance that family-oriented brands will pass on any offers to team up. Don’t panic. There are plenty of edgy, cool brands out there that will appreciate your style.
  • Have a media kit ready to go and integrated into your blog. You can provide the info directly on a web page, as a download, or via a request form (to be emailed to the recipient). Include important data and stats such as number of unique monthly visitors, monthly page views, audience demographics, and so on.

If you’re in a position to start contacting brands, here’s the process I use (which has produced great results not only for my blog, but also for my author-clients):

  • Research which brands would make the best partners. For example, if you blog solely about quick-prepare meals, food brands are a good match. Only engage with brands that you trust. Create an Excel spreadsheet or Google doc to track those you want to contact.
  • Follow the brand’s guidelines for contacting them about potential partnerships. This might be an email to their PR or marketing department or filling out a standard online form. Ninety percent of the time they prefer an email to a phone call (calls are intrusive). It’s important to follow their guidelines.
  • Keep the first email short and professional. Demonstrate that you’ve done your research. If you have a contact name, use it. This is not the time to pitch to them or flood the communication with your blog stats. Here’s an example:

 message

  • Wait at least two weeks for a response before following up. When sending a follow-up, be sure to include the original email.
  • When a brand responds, prepare and send a proposal as soon as possible (within 48 hours is optimal). You have their attention. Don’t lose that window of opportunity.
  • A partnership proposal should include at the minimum an executive summary, an overview of who you are and what your blog is all about, your audience demographics, blog and social media data/stats, partner benefits, what you have to offer, and partner requirements (if any). You should have a clear call to action to facilitate their review and response. Package the proposal nicely and send as a PDF, if possible. If you’re using the latest version of Word, you can click Save and Send under “File” to convert to a PDF.
  • When sending back, ask for a time to speak by phone to answer any questions they might have or address any concerns. This typically facilitates their review and shortens the decision window.
  • Should they decide to move forward, have them sign off on the terms of the agreement. Never, ever leave things as a verbal exchange.
  • Last but not least, live up to your end of the bargain!

I love working with Mom Central and others, and sincerely appreciate the opportunities they’ve passed my way. But don’t be afraid to take initiative and seek out brand opportunities on your own. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that many are friendly and accommodating.

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