How to Work with Brands :: For Bloggers

How to work with brands and understand your value as a food blogger - www.countrycleaver.com

I know, it’s a daunting prospect – little blogger trying to play with the big brand boys. Well, you know what? You can do it! Really. And what it starts with – the most critical part – is understanding your value as a blogger. Each and every one, big to small blogger, has value. And if you know and understand the value you have, and how your unique influence has an effect on others, you are way ahead of the game. Getting brands to understand that, in some instances, can be a little more difficult. But you are your best advocate for you and your brand. Yup, I said it – you yourself are a brand. And as the front (wo)man, the first line of everything and you have the power to make the most of what you have to offer.

Working with brands can be good, it can be bad, and it can be scary. A good brand relationship will keep you both packed to the gills with good, consistent work – work that you as a blogger might be charging less than your “going rate” for, but you see it as worth it, because it’s a mutually beneficial relationship, and one that keeps the cash flowing and the relationship and creativity alive. It can be a joyous experience and I’m here to help break it down a little to help us all unlock the mysteries of working with brands.

I’m no expert, but I’ve dealt with the good, great and the ugly. These are the things I have learned along the way from my blogger’s perspective. I’m not a 500k views per month blog – but by learning the ropes and going through some trial and error along the way, you can make these relationships sustainable, successful for both parties and hopefully – work together again!

A good relationship can lead to sustained work between a blogger and a brand. A great relationship allows the brand to influence the blogger and the blogger to influence the brand. They are both looking for ways to be creative, adventurous and successful and they talk openly and upfront about what they both need from one another. Here are a few keys to help both parties stay in this realm of all things good.

For Bloggers

 

  • Give Your Client and Brand Quality Photos – Totally important. In this Pinnable world your photos have to be good, nay even great for your skill set. We are visual creatures and brands need quality, interesting photos to market to their base. Invest (if you can) in quality equipment; learn new techniques and practice, practice, practice. Learn some new tips, check Pinterest for interesting food photos, or check out your favorite mags for inspiration. Keep snappin’ – you’ll find your zen!

  • Alluring content – No one wants to hear, “Oh this olive oil is just great, and it tastes great, and it’s GREAT!”. Tell your readers WHY it’s great. What makes this product stand out from the rest? Have a great mixer? Why is it better than the others? For example, “I love my KitchenAid 7 quart stand mixer because it’s a work horse in my kitchen and a bread kneading machine! After a long day of baking it still looks amazing when it’s sitting on the counter it’s a real kitchen worthy statement piece!” See the difference? Visual writing makes all the difference. Sure we can’t always be ‘on-point’ all the time, but taking some extra time to write well will drive an authentic picture.

  • Ask your brand questions – and be polite. No brainer, right? Many brands don’t know what we as bloggers “do”, besides cook and snap photos. But each post is unique –  Give them options. Do they want a product review, or a custom recipe? A giveaway or just mention? Do they want horizontal photos or vertical?  Links to specific parts of their sites? Is there are specific uses for this product they want highlighted? Do they like one application more than another? Do they want something simple, or can you go crazy and let your imagination run wild with their product? Comfort food or gourmet? It might seem obvious to you, but let them help! It’s a two way street. And communication is key!

  • Be polite. – They are investing their time, money and trust into you and your skills. And you are investing your skills, time and reliable income to them.

  • Explain your versatility to the brand – You cook, write, shoot, edit, and promote, tweet, and pin all in one little blogger package! You have immense VALUE, don’t sell yourself short. A good brand will recognize this.

  • Ask for payment – and be willing to negotiate. I’m only going to say this once. Even if you’re not a big time blogger – you’re doing all other bloggers a disservice when you work for free product. You’re selling yourself short – you’re selling our industry short. Think about what working for free does for you in the long run. Did you take you the hottest guy in your high school class to prom and offer to pay for everything just so you could say you went to the hottest guy there? NO!! So, don’t do it in your blogging.

    • Work for a rate that is fair to the product (ie: blog post, promotion, etc) that you will provide for the brand. Your work is a product.

    • Be willing to negotiate.

    • There is no set rate for what all bloggers should charge, do what feels best for YOU. Love a product or company and would rather work for less than your “going rate” to rep for them? That’s fine! Want to ask more for your work because it will require tons of time and effort? Ask for more. There is no set figure – do what works best for YOU.

    • Let me amend my “work for payment” – If working for product is your zen, do it. But make sure that you are doing it as a representation of what you have to offer. If it works for you, do it. It comes down to personal preference.
    • You’re a business person, not a wilting timid flower  –  act like it.

    • Don’t be afraid to hear the word “no”. Learn from your experience and try again. No brand is too big – go for the gold and promote your brand! Yup, you’re a brand yourself!

  • If you’re a new blogger to the brand game –

    • Think about your value. What do you as a blogger bring to the table that will benefit you and benefit the brand?

    • Write a media kit – Briefly outline your blog stats (I use a one page Word Document! Really! – Click here for my blank media kit to use as a guide! ) to keep on hand so you can e-mail it to the brand.  Be ready to tell them what those numbers mean to your blog. Do you have a small and engaged audience? Or a large but unengaged audience? Numbers can mean so many things – so tell your brand what your numbers mean for their brand.

    • Working with brands gets easier. The first few times you shyly ask a brand if you can work with them will help build your confidence and refine your marketing strategy. Heck, keep a form letter written on your computer that has your basic pitch and customize it for each brand – that way you know what you want to say when the time comes and don’t have a panic attack or feel pressured.

    • Keep at it and you’ll be FINE! But you have to start with one, so go forth and pitch!

    • Be confident, you’re awesome.

And don’t worry – we have some advice for brands here, too!! Blogging and work is a two way street and we all have something to learn. So as a brand, here are a couple good bits for you to take in when working with us bloggers, big and small.

For Brands

  • Good brands pay fairly – Good brands, small start-ups or big multi-national corporations, pay bloggers a fair rate. A good brand will work with a blogger and negotiate fair payment for work done. Not send them product (or worse, coupons) in exchange for a blog post.  We’re all businesses here, large or small  – treat us like it.  :: I totally wish that samples of chocolate paid my rent, my dog’s food, car insurance, and for Ben’s nursing school. It doesn’t – and I would totally be 30 pounds heavier. Yikes.
  • A good brand will ask questions  – Why is working with the blogger going to be good for us? What will this blogger give us that I can’t get in-house? A good brand will recognize the value of their blogger – a photographer, cook, recipe developer, editor, stylist and manager all in one step!
  • A great brand will not think itself too big for its britches.
  • Know what you want –  Do you want this to go on your website? Your blogger’s website? Both websites? Talk with your blogger to figure out the best marketing strategy. Do you want this product used in practical everyday applications or do you want them to reach for the stars? Are there certain tags, SEO models, wording, special characters they need to use? Tell your bloggers what you want. And be willing to work with them so it sounds authentic and in the blogger’s voice.
  • Let bloggers use their voice – that’s why you hired us. Don’t let us write a post, put hours of flour, eggs, dusty photo equipment, and our sanity on the line for a post and then condition it, streamline it, and change it to the point that it doesn’t sound like us anymore. We don’t like it and our readers HATE it even more!! Our readers will not buy your product if they don’t see our writing or reviews as genuine and authentic! Trust us – our readers KNOW when they are being pitched.

To brands and bloggers alike:

Be respectful of each other, be kind, and be fair. Don’t cheap skate, fleece, pull the wool, or anything to anyone. Work your hardest and do your best. Talk and develop relationships with one another. Remember that both parties are not too big or better than one another and everyone has a lot to learn. Bloggers don’t be scared of “big” companies or rejection – this will teach us all to grow. Companies, we realize you can’t pay every blogger the same (nor should all bloggers be paid the same), we’re just asking that you pay us fairly. We are a growing, thriving, booming and ever evolving industry and has morphed and adapted and can do anything and everything – Let’s learn to work well together so that we can all SUCCEED.

So – are you a blogger that wants to work with brands? If you have questions – leave a comment below!! Let’s start a discussion! Seasoned bloggers? Do you have any advice to add to this list? Leave a comment let’s keep this learning shesh going! 
 
Remember the most important thing – You’re AWESOME!
Go Forth and Be Awesome