A Beginner's Blogger Guide to Working with PR & Brands
One thing that is a given in the blogging world is that you will be offered opportunities to work with brands (even some that you never imagined!). Now while I don’t think anyone should ever go into blogging with the sole intention of getting “free stuff”, I do think it’s important to have an idea of what to expect. While I don’t think I’m necessarily the best person to give advice on the subject (I don’t work with that many), I thought a little run down might help. For anybody out there who is new to blogging or working with PR & brands, I thought this would be a useful sort of reference and guide.
1. Be selective with who you work with. Don’t be a sell out and take ANY free thing you can. It can be tacky and cheapens your personal brand and image. I’ll admit in the beginning I was very excited when brands contacted me and would say yes unless I absolutely did not like the product. These days I get a good amount of email exchanges and with a small living situation, I need to be selective on which brands I say yes to.
- Even better is if you have a list of brands you want to work with. I've seen a lot of bloggers add a list of brands to their "2018 goals" that they were hoping to partner up with by the end of the year. I have a list in my mind and am still over the moon any time a brand I've purchased from previously wants to work with me.
- Build a relationship with the brands and the contact you're working with. People move companies all the time, and if they remember a great interaction with you they may reach out to you at their next gig. This has happened to me before and it's quite nice! Also keep in mind in the reverse, that any bad taste you leave in someone else's mouth can be remembered and held against you in another gig. It hasn't happened to me personally, but I wouldn't be surprised if it has to someone else out there. The world is smaller than you think - always remember that. If you’re not interested, still send an email to politely let them know so - don’t ghost them!
2. Know what the terms are and what is expected of you. It may be beneficial to lay out your terms:
- When can they expect a photo (on Instagram) or post (on your blog) to go live? Personally, I usually try to let a brand know it will take X amount of weeks to test a product, and then X amount of weeks before they can expect a post to go live. This helps a lot because having brands email you every few days for your post can get stressful. And while I don't completely hold it against the email rep (I'm sure they have deadlines to meet), it can get a bit unnerving. Sometimes brands will pull a 180 on you and after they send you a product do they say there are deadlines - this is a huge no-no in my books. More on this in the next point.
- Will the brand expect you to include specifics (i.e. hashtags, tagging the brand, writing about xyz)? If you want to retain creative freedom, make sure this is communicated so you don't have a brand forcing your hand.
- On the topic of this - I have had some brands send me products and then try and twist my arm to say I need to post xyz within x days. Sorry, no. I kindly let them know that it was not agreed upon before they sent it to me, and that my terms are as such. We all know you can't add rules after the game has started, so don’t let any brand do that to you. Stand up for yourself and don't let a brand push you around. If that means you won't work with them again - so be it.
- Do you require a budget for your post? If so, lay it out to the brand to see if they are open and have a budget. I'll expand more about this in the next bullet.
3. Requesting a budget / payment. This is a sensitive topic that not a lot of bloggers like to delve into too much, myself included. I'm not going to share my rates personally, but I thought I'd share a little bit about how I came to my conclusion on pricing. For me, working on rates was definitely a trial and error sort of situation. I know there are a lot of posts out there that help you calculate what types of fees you should have, based off your following, analytics, etc. I know I don't have the largest following but I do think highly of my content (sorry, not trying to be a snob), so I think my work is worth more than these calculations give. My boyfriend put into perspective that working on my blog is in excess of my full-time job, so the "work" I'm doing on the side needs to be profitable enough to counter the extra hours I put in to this little side gig. I took that to heart as I am one to stress myself out over deadlines for the blog. Working with brands is definitely something that will require extra work from you. You'll need to dedicate time to create the content and you need to decide how much is worth it to prepare those posts.
- Also keep in mind if you'll need to have a budget to acquire props for the photos. Sometimes you have a vision in mind and that might cost you some $$$ to get props for just that. Don't go overboard because brands may not want to pay more to accommodate your needs. And you don't want to eat too much into your profit.
Over the years I've played with the pricing on my rate sheet, sort of testing the waters of how much brands will pay me. I remember when I first started working on my media kit and rate sheet, I had seen some tips saying to give options to brands on what types of "services" you could provide. It could range from something as little as one photo post on IG, to a full fledged post on your blog, or somewhere in-between. It helps brands work with their budget to get the most out of what they can from you.
- How did you start working with brands? Did you reach out / did they reach out to you?
- I honestly can't even tell you the first brand that I worked with. In the beginning I was much too shy to ever reach out to brands. I would wait and let them come to me - I might have gotten one every few months when I first started out. I don't think I reached out to brands until I neared the 2 year mark, and that was when I had already been on IG with a dedicated beauty account. Most of my interactions for reaching out happened over IG. If I engaged with the brand and the social media contact engaged back, I'd reach out and ask if they worked with bloggers and if I could have the email of the best contact to reach. I usually try and take things to email after starting up a conversation over on IG and it's worked well for me!
- Sometimes brands just love your style and want to work with you so they'll reach out! All I can say is it takes time, so be patient and just keep doing you!
- How to reach out. Should I reach out if I'm just starting out or have a small following (ex: less than 5K)?
- Personally, I don't think there are written rules about when you can reach out to a brand. I think if you're passionate about the brand and really believe that you can bring something of value to the brand, it's worth reaching out. Like I said above, just engage with the brand and hope they take notice. If not, nudge yourself in there to get on their radar and then reach out!
- Any red flags to look for?
- Definitely make sure the brand is legitimate. Keep in mind that you will be giving your address to brands so you should not give this out lightly. If you're hesitant on working with the brand, do your research! Sometimes I'll stalk out their IG account, see if anyone I follow follows them back, and look through the photos they've been tagged in to see if the product/brand is legit. If it seems like a few other bloggers have worked with them, that gives me a bit more confidence in working with them too.
- Be weary of overseas brands that open "US" accounts. While some are legit, some are totally fake. I rarely give my address over DM unless it's one of the big brands that I know that also have the verified check mark. If I'm ever slightly unsure, I'll ask to take the conversation over to email and wait to see what their email handle says. If it comes from the company alias, then I feel much more better knowing it's legitimate. Of course if the email is 'firstname.lastname@example.org', it's highly likely it's not legit lol. Be smart!
- Is there a traditional or common way to partnerships?
- I definitely do not think there is a traditional/common way to partnerships. I think they can grow from anywhere, and even in ways that you don't imagine!
- Instagram, although a pain to many people with their algorithm, can be a great place to build relationship with brands. As stated above, I've slid into brands DMs and they've slid into mine. One time I posted a wishlist of products I'd been wanting, tagged the brands, and they reached out and asked for my address so they could send it! I was completely thrown off since I did not expect that at all, but sometimes great relationships start that way :)
- How have you gotten to the point of working with so many amazing companies?
- Honestly, it just takes time. I can't pinpoint a time when I'd say it all started to roll in regularly, and even now sometimes I have dry weeks/months. Just continuously engaging with brands makes it much more likely that they'll be interested in working with you. If you see a blogging friend working with a brand you're interested in working with, go ahead and reach out to them and ask how they got in touch. *Note: Don't be that annoying person that only reaches out to people to get brand contact info. Everyone knows who they are and nobody likes to talk to them.
- What do you do if you don't like a product?
- I think it's important to keep an honest relationship with your followers. If you only ever post great things, it seems a little sketch IMO. There needs to be a good balance - let people know what you like about something, or what you don't like about another thing. You definitely don't want to lie about a product being good when you really don't love it.
- Sometimes brands want you to only post good stuff - feel free to let them know ahead of time that you didn't really love the product and that you weren't going to write a good review. They might opt to have you pull the content - but you still have every right to talk about your "hits and misses." One brand told me to give them a review and let them have it - so I did. I said what I liked and what I didn't like about their products - they unfollowed me after I posted on my IG stories. (lol - petty) But I think it's important to keep it real with your followers - they follow you for a reason! Don't break the trust cause once it's gone, it's extremely hard to earn it back.
This post has been in my drafts for absolute months now! I hope that it was helpful - feel free to weigh in on any topics and throw in your own advice for others if you have any :) And if you enjoyed this post, please let me know so I can try and keep up with these types of advice posts!