Working With Brands as a Blogger

Beauty bloggers, fashion bloggers, lifestyle blogger and everyone in-between. There is no doubt that every blogger out there has thought once or twice about diving into the wonderful world of PR collaborations.

As a beauty blogger (over on Embrace & Ignite), I'm constantly trying to keep up with the newest and latest collections. I'm constantly photographing new products, writing new posts and bringing everyone the latest content I can. Over the past two years, I've had some incredible experiences and I've worked with some incredible brands.

As I continue to be part of the active blogging community one of the topics that continues to appear is how to work with brands and PR departments. Today, I thought I would share with you, the top secrets techniques of how I believe you can effectively work with brands. I'll teach you all about the basics, from deciding what kind of PR opportunity to engage into and then onto the more complicated topics. such as deciding what to place in a pitch e-mail.

So grab a cup of tea and a cookie because I have a feeling you might be here for a while.

The Two Main Types of Collaboration:

Did you know that there are two main types of PR collaborations that you can do as a blogger?

The first one is receiving free products, which most of us bloggers are the most knowledgeable in. This process requires receiving free products in return for posting a review of the product(s). Or using the products in another manner of promotion for the brand. Currently, over on Embrace & Ignite, this is the only type of affiliation I use when working with brands. If you are blogging because it is your hobby and your passion I always recommend using this method for brand collaborations.

The second type of collaboration is sponsorship, and in my opinion is more of a confusing topic to request and accept. Sponsorship is when a brand pays you in money to review a product, write a press release or somehow feature their brand for means of promotion. For example, a brand has e-mailed you asking if you will post 10 tweets about them within the next week. For this type of inquiry, they may request to pay you for the promotion and the services you are providing. Sponsorship doesn't just stop at social media posting. Brands can also pay you to write full-length blog posts, capture images of their products or any other promotional post idea the brand may have. If you are producing content to help you generate an income and thus to increase your finances, then this type of brand collaboration would suit you well. 

Choosing the Right Brands to Work With:

We all want to work with brands like Too Faced, Marc Jacobs or another brands standing strong in the market. But are they the right fit for us or our blogs?

Once of the biggest pieces of advice, I can give you on this situation is to start out small. Seek out more indie brands, with less of a following and offer them something they just can't say no it. After you've gained experience in working with brands and can fully build up your Media Kit then you can take a stab at those big brands we're all dreaming about. 

Did you know my first brand collaboration was Essence Cosmetics? While this might be a big brand in the market now, two years ago it had less of a following and wasn't being talked or hyped about. I started blogging about Essence Cosmetics all on my own from previous products I had purchased. I reached out to the brand and showed them my work in the beginning and then I spent countless days researching when the brand was established, it's mission statement and the employees behind what I was seeing on my computer screen. After doing all of these things and some other techniques, I reached out to Essence and successfully nailed down my first big PR collaboration. 

I didn't choose Essence Cosmetics for no reason. I choose them because they fit the individuals who were reading my blog because they were a brand that created high-quality and affordable products. I also chose this brand because they had a mission statement I could relate to and fit all of the criteria that I wanted to bring to my blog and thus, to my readers. Choosing brands can be really hard, but by researching the brand you can really find out if this brand (and thus, the brands products) are something you would feel proud to feature.

PRO TIP: Don't e-mail a brand and request product just because you want it. Have an honest intention and provide beneficial content for the brand and ultimately, for yourself!

Building and Maintaining a Professional Relationship:

Working with brands and PR departments means more than just sending a random e-mail here and there. It involves developing an entire relationship with them and maintaining that relationship to be considered for future collaborations.

There are two major ways that I like to start and maintain a relationship with a brand or PR department. The first is social media, which we all know is at the forefront of any brand or products promotion. We are constantly seeing press releases for brands like MAC Cosmetics, Urban Decay, and so many others. Social media is the first step in connecting with a brand because it tends to be the easiest. Start by trying a product from the brand you are interested in and sharing your thoughts via your blog or on social media. Don't forget to tag the brands in these posts so that they can see you have taken an interest in them or their products. Furthermore, get yourself out there by taking the time to interact with this brad. The more you pop up in their social media feeds the greater chance of them noticing you and continuing to build a relationship.

After you've started to form a relationship that's where the second form of communication comes in, which is e-mail. We all know about the cold-emailing techniques were you simply send a brand a random e-mail asking for collaborations. This simply just doesn't work anymore. After allowing them to see you on social media now is your chance to get more personal and send them an introductory e-mail. Be sure to include who you are, what you do and of course, don't forget to attach your Media Kit and direct them to look at it for more information on you and your blog. Generate more of a conversation in this e-mail and fill it with your personality so you can connect further. Ask questions, share links to your previous posts about the brand and really show the brand that you have something to offer to them that NO ONE else has!

PRO TIP: Don't be shy to ask a brand on social media for their direct PR contact. This allows you to contact a person directly and not just plug your information into a generic website forum. 

PRO TIP: Kickstart the collaboration process by reaching out to brands first. There are THOUSANDS of blogger out there and waiting for a brand to come to you is just silly. Brands don't have time to sift through all of the blogs on the market, instead put yourself out there so they can be sure to notice you!

The Best Methods of Contacting Brands:

I touched on this subject a little bit in the previous section but I wanted to dedicate contacting a brand to its own overall area because so many people are confused when it comes to the first contact. There are two main ways to contact brands: social media & email. But there are also right and wrong ways to contact brands using both of these methods.

Do's & Don't of Contacting via E-mail:

  • DO use the first e-mail you send as an introductory e-mail allowing the brand to get to know you or your blog first so they can determine if the relationship is worth continuing
  • DO send an update e-mail if they don't respond. After a week or two, if the brand hasn't responded this would be the perfect time to send a second e-mail asking if they received the first one and if they had chance to read it.
  • DON'T send the same e-mail over and over again trying to get the brands attention if they don't respond the first time. You aren't the only person sending PR e-mails requesting collaboration.

Do's and Don'ts of Contacting via Social Media:

  • DO keep social media information positive, this gives the brand a positive perspective of you and thus your blog and content
  • DON'T be annoying or spammy and thus giving the brand you are interested in endless notifications. While this might get you noticed, it might get your noticed for the wrong reasons

Creating the Perfect E-mail Pitch for any Brand:

Probably the #1 issue I've seen bloggers talk about over and over again is what they say in an e-mail pitch or how to send an e-mail pitch so they get noticed. I've touched on this briefly above but it's good to have a more in-depth list of great things to include in your e-mail pitch. Chances are you only have one shot at this and you really want to make it count and make it stand out. When I send my first e-mail pitch to any brand here is how I go about it:

  • Introduce myself and my blog
  • Redirect the brand to view my Media Kit for more information
  • Keep things short, simple and professional - under two paragraphs is best
  • Provide the brand a call to action - EX: "I look forward to discussing further opportunities with you soon"

Being Transparent with Readers & Disclosing Affiliation:

As a blogger myself, one of the biggest areas I see that concerns me is when someone receives a free product or money in exchange for a post and doesn't disclose this to viewers. Did you know that by law you are required to provide your viewers with a disclosure statement saying the products were sent to you for review/compensation?

There are a few ways I disclosure statements over on Embrace & Ignite. The first is that I have a full disclosure page where I detail everything in relation to working with brands, receiving products and receiving payment for my services. I then also mark each post title with as asterisk and then at the very end of the post I put a sentence (or two) outlining that the product was sent to me or that I'm affiliated with the brand because of the collaboration we've done. 

PRO TIP: Don't forget that if you have a post that contains anything PR related and you are linking back to the brand's website or where your readers can purchase the product that Google now has implemented a new SEO rule that you MUST make every link in the post a no-follow link!

Are you overwhelmed yet?

There is much more that goes into working with brands and PR departments than just sending e-mails and crossing your fingers. Gaining collaborations take time, effort and money to build up your blog and to build up your skills before diving in head first. I hope that today's post gave you a bit more insight into how to effectively contact brands to gain the experience that you ultimately want and need in such a growing market of bloggers!

Have you ever done PR collaborations before?

What advice would you give to others about engaging in these relationships?