First of all, if you’ve missed any of the previous installments in my “This IS My Real Job” series please check them out below so you can get to know the heart behind it all:
Today’s subject is basically exactly what the title says: it’s for companies that are looking to work with bloggers AND an encouragement for bloggers to not sell themselves short for the sake of working with brands. It’s a fine line, so I want to share my story and perspective in hopes that it will help both sides! Please know that my heart in this is to share what I’ve learned, and as always PLEASE do what’s best for you and your brand!
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
When I first started blogging I remember thinking that it would be JUST SO AMAZING to get all of the free stuff that companies out there were offering. It seemed like every blogger I was reading had a new product they were trying out for free, and it always seemed like it was just the most awesome stuff. I thought that surely that was how you made it big – by trying out free product and giving a shout-out on your blog. I was sure there would be life there, and that if I could just get a brand to give me stuff I would have “made it.”
First of all, I think this mindset shows that I was not in a great place at this point. Me getting stuff and me getting popular were what I was looking for, rather than working on creating an actual brand and wanting to better the lives of others through what I was sharing. I just wanted the things, nothing else, which is why it seemed to make me so unfulfilled. I remember the first email I got from a company to try some of their free product and host a giveaway: it was a teensy family company in Dallas wanting me to try their line of gluten-free granola bars.
Now this should have been a red flag to me, and I think that if I had really known what I wanted to accomplish with this blog I would have said no, but at the time I was just so excited to have been contacted by someone for all of the free things I mentioned above. I said yes, got the bars, tried them, and promptly wrote a post and hosted a giveaway. In all honesty I didn’t really like the bars, nor do I really care about gluten-free things for myself, but that whole “gimme gimme gimme” mindset had me proclaiming that these were, in fact, the best bars on the planet. Looking back now I’m really ashamed of that dishonesty, but I’m also thankful that I soon came to realize that it wasn’t all about saying things were great.
WHO ARE YOU?
When it comes to working with brands as a blogger I think it’s supremely important to know who you are, what your blog represents, and what you like beforehand. Going back to my first giveaway example I should have realized a few things:
- I don’t eat gluten-free;
- I typically don’t like gluten-free things;
- I don’t like granola bars;
- I don’t even really like bars of any kind;
- This product didn’t really represent anything about me.
But the thing is that I also had no idea who I was or what direction I wanted my blog to go at that time. I just knew that I wanted to seem cool, so I dove into something that I wasn’t really prepared to endorse well. It’s so extremely important to know who you are before you just say, ‘YES!’ to a company wanting you to try and giveaway product. You need to know the things you love, the companies you like, the person you are, AND the kind of blog you have before you just sign up for every company seeking you out. These days I only say yes to companies that I truly believe in and that line up with who I am, what I like, and what I want to be on my blog, which means that realistically I’m saying ‘NO’ to about 5-6 companies per day. It’s hard, but it’s more important to preserve my brand!
THIS IS REAL WORK
When a brand seeks you out the people contacting you will likely be super passionate and on fire about their product, writing the most exciting and complimentary email to you ever. It will be hard to look past the compliments and get to the part where you actually have to do work for it. In most cases you’ll probably want to try the product (whatever that entails), then photograph it, then write about it, then do all the necessary steps for a giveaway, then (typically) pay for the shipping to the winner, then promote it on all of your social media platforms.
You guys, this IS WORK. Real work.
These days my time means so much more. Besides the fact that being a mommy and wife are my first and foremost jobs, I also now have 4 years of blogging and social media experience under my belt. I have been really blessed to have worked with really huge brands and have been part of really cool campaigns. I want to put my (and whatever brand I work with) best foot forward on here, and it is important for me to realize that when I’m communicating with companies who want to work with me. This work is what I love and it’s what I have signed up for in terms of my job, but because of that…
NOTHING IS FREE
Unless it’s an organization that I really believe in I don’t say ‘YES’ to brands that are asking to work with me, PR people who want me to share information, or companies wanting to get their name out via blogs/giveaways unless there are two criteria that are met:
- It (whatever “it” is) has to be in line with who I am and what this blog is about;
- IT HAS TO PAY.
Now I know that the second criteria there sounds greedy. Really, I do. It took me a really long time to see that this blogging gig is my real job, and if that’s the case then part of its larger purpose is to help me provide for my family. It’s my business. It’s my brand. And if it was a business with a real office and other employees, I wouldn’t be doing things for free. Therefore I don’t do things for free. Period.
I also feel like I should say this: if you’re just starting out it may not be a terrible idea to do a few things for free as long as it’s with brands/companies you really truly support. It helps you build up a resume of sorts, and practice always makes perfect. I’m not saying do things for free forever, but til you gain a little experience in the blogging industry it’s not a terrible idea to support companies you really enjoy.
Another point in this matter is this: blogging is a REAL job (can you tell by the series title? ;)) and if every blogger out there was doing stuff for free for companies then it would lessen the seriousness of this online community. In general it costs practically nothing for most companies to send you free product, and they’re basically able to get really great and FREE publicity for doing so. I can’t knock that; it’s a smart and inexpensive business move. But (also in general) most companies have a marketing budget that exceeds sending free stuff out. I usually respond with something like this:
Thank you for your email! It’s easy to see how passionate you are about ________________. Because of my ever increasing workload I am only accepting campaigns that are paid, with a minimum amount of $____. If this is something that is within your budget I would love to talk more!
Thank you again for your kind email,
Most times there’s no reply or simply a statement that they can’t afford that. And that’s fine! No harm no foul, and kuddos to them for reaching out; every single time I am truly honored to have been “chosen.” But the key is to see that you, me, all of us bloggers are worth more than free work. So let me finish this little section with this:
TAKE YOURSELF SERIOUSLY.
TAKE YOUR JOB SERIOUSLY.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY NO – YOU WON’T BE BLACKBALLED FROM BLOGGING IF YOU DO.
YOUR WORK AND YOUR TIME ARE WORTH MORE THAN FREE.
FOR THE BRANDS
First off, please don’t hate me for the above section. I think that you’ll see a higher quality of work coming from bloggers who have more incentive than just free product – which is what I would hope you want anyway, right? Right!
I’m really passionate about the seriousness that is blogging, and just like you I can see that there is so much potential to get your name out by reaching out to bloggers. Here are 5 major things to consider that can help when you’re working with bloggers:
- Make room in your budget. As I said before it’s not fair to ask other people to carry the brunt of your marketing and advertising campaigns for free. Approaching bloggers you want to represent you with a paid opportunity will help ensure a better campaign and higher quality work from everyone.
- KNOW who you’re approaching. Please please please don’t just do a Google search and shoot an email out to the top 5 blogs you find. Get to know who they are, what they’re about, and what they have to offer. Whenever I get emails from companies that clearly know nothing about my blog I just delete them and wait for a REAL opportunity to come in. Getting to know someone will take more time, but it will also yield a much better return in the long run.
- Be fair. Don’t assume that offering a little pay for an exorbitant amount of work is going to win you any rave reviews. Be willing and able to work with bloggers and both of your budgets to really create a truly exceptional campaign.
- Understand blogging. It’s not just shooting out a Facebook message or Tweeting random facts these days. We’re talking tailored content specific to your company and the needs of very specific readers. You’ll want to make sure that you have an in-depth understanding of what all is going into a campaign to better understand what you’re asking a blogger to do. As mentioned before in this post it’s not just trying something and throwing a post up on the blog. It’s the photos, the post-processing, the wear and tear on all equipment used (kitchen/camera/computer), the custom-tailored blog post content, the SEO work, the promotion of said blog post, the responding to emails and comments, the continued support of your brand and the campaign, and on and on and on.
- Be easy to communicate with. Oh goodness me, I am so blessed to have worked with EXTREMELY easy companies thus far, but I have heard some major horror stories about really major companies. Companies that don’t pay when they’re supposed to, who won’t respond to questions for weeks on end, who totally disappear from the face of the earth after a campaign is complete. Guys, this is a long-term relationship we (both as companies and as bloggers) should be pursuing here, not a hit-it-and-quit-it scenario. It’s pretty simple etiquette: respond to emails/phone calls/voicemail/texts within 24 hours, even if you are just saying, “Hey, I don’t have an answer but I haven’t forgotten you and I’m working on it.” That small amount of communication will take you leaps and bounds ahead of your competition when it comes to working with bloggers. Oh, and also: bloggers talk. You can bet that if you’re a pain to work with most bloggers will know within a matter of minutes. Don’t create a bad reputation!
As I said before, this is a relationship between bloggers and brands. It should be something that is mutually accountable and easy to navigate. No one wants to play mind games, and scheming to get free stuff and/or promote things for free is just silly. Blogging is a real job that takes real work and real time. Working with brands is a fantastic way to not only grow as a blogger, but to create customized and creative content that will truly, if done correctly, help your audience!
Do what’s right for you and your brand, both as a company and as a blogger. When we’re true to who we are it can never be anything but beneficial in the long run!
As always please do not hesitate if you have any questions or want clarification! Much love y’all!