Bloggers, here’s how to work with brands (and brands, how to work with bloggers)
Last weekend I took part in an amazing photoshoot for Edinburgh-based designer Leyelesi to promote her new season bag designs. We had so much fun and the vibe between all of us – designer, models and photographer- was amazing.
I’ve had a lot of brands contact me lately about collaborations. Some have been exciting, while others left me feeling cold. But even the negative encounters provide plenty to learn from.
You might not know this, but I used to work in influencer marketing. That means I’ve seen it from both sides: I’ve learned how to work with brands on my own blog through managing other bloggers, and I’ve experienced both good and bad etiquette from brands and PRs looking to promote their products.
I’ve put together a guide below for bloggers and brands about how to manage a successful collaboration. Whichever side you fall into, I hope it helps!
How to work with brands as a blogger
There are plenty of posts out there about how to secure blog collaborations. This isn’t one of those posts. What I don’t see many people talking about is how to really nail a brand collaboration, which means work will keep coming your way.
The number one tip I can give you is be professional. This sounds like a given but from my experience in influencer marketing you’d be surprised how many people don’t get it. If you’re given a deadline then make sure you stick to it, and if there is any reason for delay remember to keep your brand contact posted.
Even if blogging is only a hobby, as far as brands are concerned your blog is a business. You should also treat your blog like a business. That means any practices you’d use in your 9-5 should also apply to sponsored content and collaborations. Keep your communication timely and polite, always provide complete transparency for the brand (and your readers!), and make sure any collaboration requirements are honoured.
Sometimes companies have a very specific influencer campaign in mind, but other times they are looking for your to bring the creative spark to the project. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and take new ideas to the table. If a brand approaches me about a collaboration without specific criteria, I will always put together some concept ideas for them and outline how I would approach them in a way that shows their brand in the best light whilst also appealing to my readers. I cannot stress enough: do not take on partnerships that are not relevant to your audience. Not only do you risk alienating your readers and losing followers in the long run but you actually aren’t doing the brand any favours if your audience isn’t interested in what they are trying to sell.
Quality is king when it comes to collaborations. This isn’t an opportunity to bag freebies or make some quick cash. You are offering a service in exchange for products or payment, so it is important to provide this to the highest possible standard. Make sure your photography clearly shows branding, though usually subtle is best. For example, you could try incorporating the brand’s colours in a low-key way, such as with flowers in the background or with your accessories. Your copy should also be sense checked (and checked again!), as well as links to ensure they work. The follow/ nofollow situation is a whole article in itself, but in short: links should be nofollow unless you have a deal with the company to the contrary, though the risks of a Google penalty are on you.
So far, all these tips have focused on ensuring you are providing brands with what you have promised. However, you should also make sure they are providing what they have promised you. Never be afraid to push back or question something that doesn’t seem right. You should always be polite and professional but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for companies or PRs to take advantage of you. Ultimately, your blog is your project (and possibly your livelihood) and people need to respect this.
How to work with bloggers as a brand
Okay, now it’s time for the flipside. If you own a business or work in marketing then you will certainly be aware of the rise of influencers and their powers of promotion.
The first thing to consider is what exactly you are hoping to achieve from a collaboration. Are you a new company looking to spread the word about what you have to offer? Do you want to promote new or creative uses or styling of your product? Are you hoping to reach new or specific audiences? All of these considerations should shape how you approach influencer marketing, as well as the kinds of influencers you use.
So you’ve decided what your goal is. Great! Now you need to consider how to make this a mutually beneficial partnership for bloggers or influencers. Would you go to work without being paid? No, of course you wouldn’t! So don’t expect bloggers to either. That doesn’t mean every collaboration requires cash remuneration – your product is of value too. But be reasonable: an influencer with 10k followers isn’t going to promote your brand in exchange for a £30 dress, or mostly likely even for a £50 payment.
If you don’t have a huge budget then you need to manage your expectations. You might not be able to secure the most famous bloggers or biggest influencers in the field, but that doesn’t mean you can’t harness the power of microinfluencers. They have smaller followings (think 1-9k) but will appeal to a specific audience and should have strong engagement. Working with five smaller bloggers instead of one mega famous one may well be more beneficial for your brand.
I’ve mentioned in my tips to bloggers that they should treat their blogs as businesses, because they are exactly that. Buuuut, at the same time, it’s important to remember as a brand or PR that this is a slightly different business transaction than you may be used to. It is better to approach bloggers in a friendly and chatty manner rather than come across as extremely formal. When you do reach out to bloggers, please please please make a little bit of effort to show you’ve read and appreciate their blog. It shouldn’t be hard to find the blogger’s name after a quick scan of their site, and it is always nice to highlight a few of their posts that you’ve really enjoyed or why you want to work with them. Building strong relationships works both ways, and if bloggers feel appreciated they will work especially hard on your project.
It might be tempting, especially if you are a PR or another agency representing a brand, but please don’t micromanage bloggers. You need to trust their creativity or the whole influencer marketing process won’t work. Readers and followers can spot disingenuous content from a mile away. Unless you have a very good reason to, it is not good form to request to approve a post before it goes live. That doesn’t mean you aren’t within your rights to request changes should some important criteria been missed or if there are errors.
Last, but absolutely not least, is this – pay your damn invoices. Seriously. Bloggers shouldn’t have to chase you repeatedly to be paid. If your company has specific payment terms or time periods then make sure the people you are working with know this in advance.
I hope this post has been useful! If you’re a blogger looking for advice on creating a killer collaboration then feel free to reach me on Instagram or Twitter. If you’re a brand looking for assistance managing an influencer campaign then you can contact me here.
Bloggers and brands, let’s keep creating wonderful content together!
All the bags in this post are the work of Edinburgh designer Leyelesi.
Photographs were taken by Teresa Dickson.
My co model for this shoot is Instagrammer Yeney’s World.