“Can we be included in your holiday gift guide?”
This is an email that I receive not only daily, but usually 5 times a day. It’s now officially “holiday” season, which means brands know they need to get on our radar if they want to be included. Which is awesome. It usually means free stuff and money! But it can also be hard to figure out the terms of the deal, what you should ask, what you should get, and how this benefits you. Whether you’re getting emails like this or not, this is the best time of year (literally) to maximize your sponsor options.
I wanted to create a guide so you can make the most out of the holiday season for your blog. You can use this time to strategically work with advertisers and sponsors to maximize your time and effort.
The benefits of working with brands
Not only does working with brands benefit you financially and by gaining new products or services, it also helps widen your influence. First, it lets other brands know that they, too, can work with you. You become a spokesperson for the product and a resource for the brand itself. You can let them know what you think, how you use it, and how they can improve. This puts you in a position of influence and let’s you direct how the company’s products benefit your audience. Win-win.
It also adds to your resume! I keep a list of brands and sponsors I work with and like to showcase this when a new brand approaches me. It lets them know I’m legit and it shows that I produce awesome content to boot.
Also, lots of brands and sponsors will share your post or social shares on their social media, leading to increased engagement and new readers for you. I remember when I posted about how we saved enough money to buy a house in 6 months (a sponsored post), it went viral when it was shared by the brand itself.
Bottom line, it helps with your credibility, extends your reach, and can help you to monetize.
First, do you want to write a gift guide?
If so, start thinking about what kinds of gifts you’d like to have. You can write a very general gift guide, to more specific. Like… holiday gift guide for dogs (please send me this one if you write it, by the way). If you are wanting to write one, you need to start thinking now about who you want to work with and what will be included.
Whether you are being contacted or not, start organically talking about the products and services you might be mentioning. Not only does this prime your audience to know what you’ll be discussing, it also flags the brand that you are interested in them. A good way to do this is by mentioning them on social media, liking their photos, etc. Erica of Coming up Roses does a great job of this.
It takes time for advertisers to send the products and budget how much they can send out. It is TOTALLY ok to start reaching out, whenever you see fit.
Start compiling brands you’d like to work with
Now it’s time to do a little work. Make a list of brands you want to include. Think about what makes sense for you and your audience, then start creating a list that you can refer to. Next, you need to reach out. Find them on LinkedIn or social media and connect. Whether advertisers are reaching out to you or not, you can absolutely ask for free stuff or even to be paid for inclusion in your guide.
As Jessica of Road Jess Traveled says, every woman (and I’d add blogger) is a brand. Your brand is determined by what you write about, your personality, what you like to do. Your brand is inherently you. This is appealing to advertisers and companies who want to work with someone just like you. So remember that when you start reaching out.
Let me remind you why. You have a unique audience that NO ONE else has. My audience is not the identical copy of someone else’s. I blog about different things, in a different way. I should absolutely be paid or receive commission for my time and effort. Don’t you think?!
Create your pitch
Now that you know you’re worth it, go on with your bad self and send an email. Now, don’t just say “hey I’m awesome, give me everything.” You need to explain why they should work with you. When reaching out be specific. Have a clear idea of WHY you’re contacting them. Speak to them directly, and try to even include their name. Make it obvious that you’re interested in their product. Showcase why you and your audience are unique to them.
Make sure your email includes:
- A subject line that makes sense. Avoid sounding disingenuous.
- If you can, call them by name. I’m more likely to pay attention when someone starts an email with “Hey Helene” instead of “Dear Owner of Heleneinbetween.com”
- Note why you’re contacting them. Be upfront and realistic.
- Explain why you want to work with them and how you think this would benefit them.
- Lay out your idea for the collaboration. You don’t need to include EVERY detail, but you should provide a rough outline of what you have in mind.
- *Your media kit! (Click here to download your media kit template)
- Make it clear how they can contact you back
Leverage your worth
Now, let’s say you’ve received an email back from the brand you want to work with. Or, maybe they are reaching out to you. Awesome, virtual high five! But before you reply back with a “hell yes” read through the email and make sure the terms line up with your blog goals. Are they asking you to post 17 times on Instagram? For me, that’d be a deal breaker.
When a brand reaches out, think about how this will in turn benefit you. Maybe they will share about you on social media or promote your post to their email list. I negotiate the price I ask for with almost every single brand I work with. I don’t have a set price list. I like to see what they are wanting and come up with a pricing structure based around that.
Kallie of Caffeinate and Conquer agrees, “Because of all this, I don’t have “canned” pricing but instead, I chat with the company about what they want and then give them some offerings based on their needs.” You can figure out how this works for you, how it will benefit you and the brand, and then develop a pricing structure from there.
You might also hear the word “no.” Remember… that is OKAY! Alisha of the Alisha Nicole says, “Businesses have bloggers reaching out to them all the time about collaborations so it may just not be a good time for them.” I agree. Keep them in your back pocket and it might be better to work with them at another time.
Remember that you are allowed to ask for money. You are already in negotiations with them, the least they can do is say no. I know it can be scary to ask for money or products, but if you don’t try, you won’t know. Remember, sending you a product is an investment for them and a chance to be seen to YOUR unique audience. So own it!
Keep it organized
Promote like Kanye without sounding salesy
Okay, so now you have some sponsored posts to write and promote. YAY money and free stuff. Boo trying to sell to your readers. This is something every single blogger struggles with, so no sweat. First and foremost, craft a post around a story. If you are telling a story it will come from your own unique voice and style and people will respond to it. Readers can see straight through inauthenticity. Especially those that are loyal. So explain why this actually means something to use. Showcase how you actually use it. Give me some real pictures, not just stock images.
Remember to stick to your unique voice and write in your own style. This can be tricky when you write a sponsored post, which is why I recommend using stories or real life events to make it more relatable. Try to incorporate the product or pitch in your everyday life or why it helps you. Give examples and showcase how it’s unique to you.
Keep Your Word
Don’t forget to meet the sponsors expectations by following through on what you agreed to do. Do you need to share on social media? Facebook? To your email list? Make sure you fulfill your contract so that they know you’re a reliable contact and so you can hopefully work with them again.
Also, make sure you get paid and on time. I suggest keeping track of your sponsors. I manage and track how I make money with sponsors in a unique way and I like to think it’s pretty useful.