This post has been a long promise and although the presentation I put together has come and gone, the information is still extremely valuable and can be used indefinitely.
Let me back up….
Last month, I was asked to put together a panel session for The Healthy Living Summit on Blogging with Brands. You may be asking yourself, what makes me such an expert on this subject or enough to be able to speak to a large audience of eager bloggers? Well, expert is a pretty arduous word and I like to think of myself as an amateur in most things, but I do have a unique perspective on this matter being that I can talk freely and honestly from both views, the blogger and the brand.
I have been blogging for 4.5 years and like many, I have always wanted to know the secret in gaining revenue and creditability in the healthy living world. I’m still learning everyday but over time, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some fantastic brands in the industry and share so many great products with my readers. Some compensated and some not.
From a brand viewpoint, I work for two local health food companies as a blog manager and social media consultant. I am working with bloggers all of the time to help showcase our products, develop recipe content, promote the brands and much more. Every brand is different, but in this particular industry, brands are seeking out bloggers as a way to help them advertise for a minimal price on their end.
The Healthy Living Blog world is saturated with influence and brands recognize this! Many bloggers are writing for brands every day and not even realizing it. So as a blogger, if you want to get serious about marketing yourself as an affiliate for some of the products you use and are willing to promote, it’s important to lay out a plan and keep a few things in mind.
So let’s go back to the panel at large. An short overview of the session was as follows:
Working with brands is a great way to earn recognition with your site while earning a little extra income. This session will take a look at both sides- the blogger and the brand. What are the tools that bloggers should have in order to be considered a good fit for a company? What are the things companies look for when seeking out potential bloggers? How much time should you spend on a review post and what things should be included that benefit the company and your readers? From media kits, to good SEO practices, this session will give great insight into ways to put yourself out there and start working with brands.
I wanted to keep this session universal in that having both sides of the spectrum represented. Each question I asked was either directed toward the blogger or the brand and both sides had extremely valid and useful points.
To give you an idea of the questions…
Questions for brands:
- How do you choose which bloggers to contact?
- I know many bloggers put a lot of effort into raising their place on ranking lists or increasing their Klout scores–do you consider Klout scores, numbers of followers, ranking on networks or an index, Page Rank, or any of the other charts or scores out there?
- How important is SEO (search engine optimization)?
- Do you ever look at the comments section of blogs to find new bloggers to contact?
- Do you ever find bloggers on Twitter?
- How important is the photography quality on the blogs that you seek for reviews?
- Is there anything on a blog that will make you click away and not contact the blogger?
- What things in a blog do you particularly look for when researching bloggers for reviews?
- When a blogger writes a sponsored post they should fully disclose that the post has been paid for. Is there a way you prefer the blogger to say this?
Questions for bloggers:
- “Tell me about your first experience dealing with a brand? Lessons you learned?”
- Once they sponsor you how obligated are you to post about their products? How often should you post?
- Do any of you have experience targeting brands you want to work with?
- When you post a product review, how much time do you spend time researching the company and their products?
- Do you suggest putting together a media kit and if yes, can you give some tips and/or suggestions as to how to start one?
- Do you feel that when a blogger becomes an affiliate sponsor or takes an integrated sponsorship with a company, that they begin to lose credibility with their readers?
- Have you ever had the opportunity to attend a conference or go on a trip as part of an ambassador program with a company? Can you tell us how you got involved in that process?
I’m not going to break down each question word for word but I will give you an overview of the important details.
3. Compensation: This was definitely the most talked about topic in our session. Everyone wants to be compensated for their work, as they should! Writing a review post takes time and effort so you should be recognized for this. More often than not, companies are willing to pay for your work in product and in many cases, that’s not a bad thing to help you gain reputable status. If you expect to be compensated on a monetary level, it is so important to lay out your rates and services ahead of time. Most companies will not approach you about payment in dollars because their advertising budgets are slim to none. If you have set rates and examples to show them of your work with other companies, they will be more inclined to take you as a serious investment. Show them your worth! Also, it’s not a bad idea to work out an agreement with a brand for a first time review. Tell the brand you are willing to do a review and if they like your work and it brings them good revenue, you can then talk about future opportunities to make some money.
4. Is it a good fit? When you are contacted by a brand to test out one of their products, you need to ask yourself if the product or service falls in line with your content. You always want to maintain your authenticity with your readers so if you are accepting offers right and left and ones that don’t fall in line with what you believe or practice, your readers will notice.
5. Giveaways: Ask the company if they would be willing to do a giveaway of their product for your readers. Your readers love the chance to try the products you love and many companies realize this. They may not have a big budget to pay for advertising, but most companies can offer their products and want to get them in the hands of potential customers.
6. Cover your expenses: If a company has agreed to say yes to a giveaway make sure you ask if they are willing to pay for the cost of shipping and postage. If the company is not, look at the product and what it would cost you to cover the postage on your own. Is it worth it? Sometimes the cost of shipping will be more than the value of the product in your case.
7. Don’t be afraid to speak out: For most of us, blogging is becoming more of a job than a hobby. You spend significant time and effort into making your blog admirable to many, so it’s important that you are being valued for your worth. If a company contacts you about potential work, look at each situation before jumping on the opportunity. Is it worth your time and investment? If you feel what they are asking from you is more than what you are willing to give, TELL THEM! You are a huge influencer in their market and they realize that. Know what you are worth and then show them what you can do for their company.
8. Talk about it: The best way to get recognized by brands is to talk about their products. If you are using a product that you love, speak up! Tweet it, reference it, link it, whatever you say, it’s a safe bet that these companies will notice. Brands spend a ton of time searching the internet for keywords so if you are the culprit that’s driving traffic to their site, they WILL seek you out! Or if you have a great idea for a product promotion for a company that you love, don’t be afraid to reach out to that company and share your ideas. They are always always open to hearing new ideas directly from the consumers.
Most importantly, always remain true to yourself and your writing. You should never write your blog as if you are only in it to make a ton of money. As much as blogging is a business, it is also a genuine approach to connect with a huge network of people that believe in who you are and what you have to say. Brands know this and it is something that you hold over them. It’s called authentic advertising and as much advertising dollars that they have to spend, they will never be able to achieve that level of sincerity that you produce as an influencer.
So whether you are just starting out and looking to begin monetizing your site or if you have been blogging for ages and not seeing the return of investment you hoped for, keep an open mind and put yourself out there! The healthy living industry is a vast community with endless opportunity. When one fails, you simply move on to the next and all the while doing exactly what you love.