How to start the conversation with brands & having the confidence to ask for the cash
By Lindsay Valdez
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At BlogHer Food earlier this month, one of the BlogHer U panels was The Business of Influence. The topic of this panel was how to optimize earning potential through brand partnerships and additional revenue streams. Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, founder of BrainTrust moderated and the panel consisted of Rayna Greenberg of One Hungry Jew, Rachel Mansfield of rachLmansfield, and Ali Maffucci Cerda of Inspiralized.
This panel had so much actionable and practical information packed into it, we wanted to recap it for you here at BlogHer U.
Kendra asked three main questions to the panelists before taking some questions from the audience at the end.
1. What do your brand partnerships look like? How do you start the conversations with brands?
“It’s less about brands saying I want to partner with an influencer and more about what does that partnership mean and why is it important" - Kendra Bracken-Ferguson
They’re long term, preferably 6-12 months minimum. Rachel Mansfield said that there is much less success in a one-off blog post and I completely agree. As she says, you spend years building your audience!! It took a lot of hard work and they mean something to you! To just drop a single, one-off sponsored post on them, introduce them to a brand just to never speak of it again, doesn’t feel right. Your audience trusts you, that’s why they’re there.
Choose to work with partners that make sense for your brand and your audience. When brands approach you, are you proud to be affiliated with them? Can you create exceptional content around this campaign?
Conversations with brands often start organically, especially if you write a lot of content about a particular brand all on your own. Be careful not to say yes to everything, choose to rep products you truly believe in. Being a part of the SHE Media Partner Network is a great way to get introduced to brands and selected for sponsored campaigns.
2. How do you ask brands for money? How do you know what to charge?
“If I believe in a product but they’re a start-up, I will accept much lower rates than usual. And later, when they’ve moved from start-up mode to scale mode, they remember that I loved the product and wanted to help it grow.” - Rachel Mansfield
All panelists acknowledged how difficult this is, especially for women, but you must find the courage & have the conversation.
Be transparent with what you’re charging and ask around to see what rates comparable people are charging. The blogging world is a small world and it’s very likely that brands are pitching both you and your friends for the same campaigns. If you’re open and honest about what you charge, you will be able to go to brands aligned in the cost.
Stand up for yourself when it comes to brands asking for free extras. If you don’t see the value in each and every digital action you take, brands won’t either. Push back when asked to just throw in an Instagram post or a swipe up link with the sponsored blog post. There is value in each of those things, ask to get paid for it!
Let your gut lead the way. If you feel like a brand is low-balling you, don’t collaborate with them.
Ali Maffucci Cerda gave my favorite answer to this question: Have the data to back up the rate you’re asking for. If you’re armed with actual metrics to support the value of your influence, brands will see it too. Often times, the person who you’re negotiating the contract rate with doesn’t care what you ask for, they just need to justify it to their boss. The more data you can give them, the better. Where does she get this data? Use Google Analytics to get metrics on your website. For social metrics, each of the major platforms (Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, SnapChat) have built in analytical tools that will tell you.
3. Tell us about moving from content to products? What tips can you share with us on that?
This question was mainly directed at Ali, whose blog Inspiralized led to the product birth of The Inspiralizer. The very first step she took when deciding to create a product was to ask around! Join entrepreneur related Facebook groups, ask business friends, find someone with experience in manufacturing products.
The product should be niche to your brand and relevant for the audience you’ve created. Never create a product (or co-brand a product) that you’re not 100% behind. Don’t be afraid to walk away if it doesn’t feel right.
For merchandise, find a print on demand service that will allow you to purchase small amounts.
Ask for help along the way!!
If you are interested in writing for BlogHer U, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org!