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TGIF! In the spirit of kicking off Friyay with a bang, let’s talk shop. Specifically, 8 things that brands should know about working with bloggers. I’ve been working with brands for quite awhile now and have had my fair share of completely awesome and not-so-stellar experiences. Then there’s the pitches that never make it past my inbox, because a few (really) important pieces are missing. We get it – influencer marketing is only on the rise, and having a blogger whose brand aligns with yours talk positively about your product or service can be better than any TV ad or billboard. You want us to say YES! to working with you, and you want it to lead to more exposure for you (build brand equity! reach a new audience!), and/or direct sales (convert, convert, convert!). In the spirit of helping y’all out (lookin’ at you, brands!), here’s a lil’ inside scoop into the minds of bloggers to better your chances of getting a YES – or a response, period.
- Start off by doing your homework.
Besides being a blogger, I’m a digital brand and marketing strategist, so I inherently want to know why you think your brand is a good fit for mine, and vice versa. Let’s talk nitty gritty! It’s painfully obvious when you reach out and make up some BS about our websites, versus actually snooping around and checking out a few relevant posts. We’re not saying read everything we’ve ever published, the same way you wouldn’t necessarily read the entire book when writing a research paper and citing it; you’ve just gotta do enough research on what you need to know to be compelling and convincing and relevant. I once received a pitch with a note saying “you are funny and honest and it’s really refreshing!”, and that right there skyrocketed the brand to the top of my list. Not because it was complimentary, but because it showed they actually *read* something. That also says you’re a smart collaboration. If you’re ready to spend your marketing budget and you aren’t even sure it’s a definite brand fit, that’s like buying shoes without knowing if they’re your size or not. And ain’t nobody got time for that.
- Use our names.
I used to have a very strongly kept personal vow to respond to every single email that hits my inbox. J always joked, “Not for long!” and as usual, he was right. There comes a point where you just don’t have time to respond to spammy messages. And even if you do “have the time,” there comes a point where you just have better things to do with it. If you did numero uno and then also personalized an introduction, you are 100% more likely to get a response from me. Period. If you don’t use my name, I’m going to assume you didn’t even SEE my website, because my name is right there smack dab on the homepage.
- Be as specific as possible in your pitch.
Sometimes a pitch comes along, but I’m left with no clue what’s expected or desired of me. At least if you did 1.) and 2.) you can expect a speedy reply asking for more details, but why waste your own time writing some elaborate introduction to your company without specifying what you need from us? While I want to know about you, I moreso want to know if and how I can help you.
- Respect our time + talent + influence.
This ties into 3.) but digs a bit deeper, because we’re moreso talkin’ dollar bills here. This post for bloggers, Why you need to get paid to blog, will give you some background insight into why working with influencers is a strong marketing tool and why no pay can’t be an option. As a marketing gal, I totally get it – sometimes your budget is small or is close to running out, and you’re looking to just get every last drop of exposure for your product or service. You reach out to an influencer in the hopes of getting free promotion. But here’s the thing with influencer marketing: free doesn’t equal better. As a brand, you may get more bang for your buck by smartly investing in a few influencers who really align with your brand and with your specific campaign goals, and showing that you value their time and work. This means starting with 1.) and working your way down so that the folks you find are really just fabulous ambassadors for your brand. It means there’s a higher chance their audience will fall in love with your brand, too, which is (or should be!) your whole goal in the first place anyways. If you’re trying to send out free product to anyone who will talk about it for free, you might just be wasting inventory. Blogging isn’t hard, but building a successful blog is. Think about all of the individual pieces that need to come together on the blogger’s end to produce the ideal collaborative final product for you, and then add their influence and persuasion on top of that.
- Don’t ask us to be dishonest.
My #1 rule with working with companies on CUR is honesty. I’m going to be authentic and honest to my readers, because that’s just a no-brainer must-have for me. They deserve that. When you ask us to talk about your product, but you refuse to send out a sample for us to actually try your product first, that’s sketchy and dishonest. What if I rave about your shampoo and one of my most loyal readers gives it a go and her hair falls out? What if the bag you sell is cheaply made and the zipper breaks upon first using it? My readers’ best interest will always come first, so don’t ask us to be dishonest.
- Don’t be afraid of chatting marketing deliverables with us!
I WANT to know exactly what your goals are, because I want to make sure that throughout the entirety of our collaboration, I’m helping you reach those goals. If you’re working with influencers in the hopes of growing your Facebook following, tell us so that we can be sure to link to your Facebook as much as possible, as well as directly ask our followers to “like” your page if they are digging what they’re seeing, too. If you’re hoping to just increase sales of one specific product, like your new shoe line, tell us that so we can include close-up, styled shots alongside our discussion of why we lovelovelove the shoes we’re wearing (since we’ll only talk about what we love!). If we’ve got a blossoming blog, it’s probably taken some social media savvy or marketing know-how to get us in growth stage. We’re posting unique content ideas on the reg, and we’ve tried a few tricks along the way to test what our followers respond best to – so don’t be afraid to ask us for content ideas or a new way to go about promoting your product or service!
- Know that our schedules and editorial calendars take coordination.
Many bloggers aren’t full-time bloggers – the blog is a side hustle to another full-time gig, part-time job, multiple part-time jobs, and/or mommyhood. Editorial calendars also fill up fast. Believe it or not, bloggers aren’t sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting for your email; think of your own big-project-turnaround-time and be realistic when sending over turnaround expectations. Tying into all of the above, bloggers will likely be more willing to accommodate your needs if you’re respectful of them, their businesses and their time, too. The biggest turn-off is companies with a laundry list of expectations for deliverables on the blogger’s part, and an unwillingness to appropriately pay for it. We do our best to balance our own professional and personal schedules with our editorial calendars. My editorial calendar is often planned out two months in advance, so I leave myself leeway to shift flexible pieces around as needed. An easy rule-of-thumb: respect is a two-way street. Respect our time, talent, influence, and availability, and I’ll respect your needs and then some.
- Think long-term.
From a brand perspective, the best way to solidify your worth with an influencer’s audience is to have ongoing collaborations together. It’s the same reason some company’s play the same commercial (or a slight variation of it) back-to-back on TV – repetition is a marketing tactic that solidifies your name brand and product value in the eyes of your ideal customer. It’s the difference between recognizing a product and actually remembering it when it comes time to shop. In short, long-term is good. When it comes to what brands should know about working with bloggers, the big picture is key. This goes both ways: bloggers, don’t burn bridges with anyone. Like, anyone. You never know when a PR girl will jump companies and have a bigger budget; if you rudely blew off her initial pitch because it wasn’t up your alley, she’ll remember that and won’t come knocking for round two. Brands, if a blogger was left feeling cheated or undervalued in your collaboration, not only will they not come back for more, but you risk them not speaking highly of you in later settings when chatting with family or friends, or when talking to other bloggers about blogging experiences. At the end of the day, always view each collaboration as the start of an invaluable, neverending relationship. If it’s got that potential from the start, chances are, both parties will be happier and feel more satisfied throughout its duration.
What do you think brands should know about working with bloggers?
And if you’re on the brand side, what do you want bloggers to know?? Grab the coffee/bubbly and let’s start chatting!