Saturday, July 12, 2014

How-to Gracefully Work With Brands & Sponsors

One of the big allures to blogging is that of working with companies. Working with companies means you're getting free stuff, maybe getting paid, and mostly it seems like you've made it! Companies know this and most definitely take advantage of fresh faced bloggers. When you are new to the game, any request seems exciting. It all seems like a really big deal. Sometimes it is, but sometimes as a new blogger you are simply being played. I'm not down playing partnering with brands, but what I want to up-play is the importance of staying true to yourself, your blog, your readers, and bloggers as a whole.

Create a sponsor page
This might seem silly if you're new, but you'll be glad you did. It's okay not to list your prices. In fact, this will more than likely lead to more companies reaching out about your offerings.

Make a Disclosure
Even if you've never worked with a brand before, make a disclosure policy. One that has meaning to you. For instance, I have highlighted in mine that I reserve the right not to review or wear a product if it doesn't live up to my expectations. I also do not allow companies to dictate how quick of a turn around I produce. This is important for me because I live in a city where the weather is never cooperating. I do not want to set unrealistic time frames for my work. This can vary, but be specific and firm.


Don't work for free
There are a lot of companies that trick new bloggers into working for free. If a company asks you to promote a new line of product, a sale, or participate in a style challenge, but don't offer anything in return then why are bloggers doing it? The company is asking you, the blogger to use your influence to promote them without giving anything in return. They are seeking free advertisement. As a new blogger, this is EXCITING. "OMG ____ IS EMAILING ME," But don't let the hype go to your head. Blogging takes a lot of time, energy, creativity, and passion. When bloggers work for free (yes, product counts as compensation), it not only undervalues blogging, but it undervalues the blogger as an individual. There are some situations where this is a good idea, but mostly, bloggers deserve to be compensated by more than a thank you.

Fully outline the project
I've had so many companies set up a project with me and at some point, expect something different. I had a company tell me I had to Instagram ten times in addition to my post, six tweets, and five Facebook posts. Firstly, this was never discussed. Secondly, while I link my Instagram on the blog, it's a personal feed. I have never promoted my blog there and won't. I don't Instagram ten times in two weeks let alone a day. Basically, they changed what they wanted, thought I would adhere because they were paying me, and were very mean when I wouldn't agree. Before officially committing to a project, confirm the specifications that you are to follow. This way you both have a clear understanding of what is expected.

Be selective
Especially when you are first starting out any offer might seem like a great opportunity. But let's face it, that cheap $6 mass marketed dress from that International company probably isn't worth a five month banner ad, social media amplifications, and in-text links. That berry company? When have you ever showcased berries or food? Never, right? Use your discretion to work with companies and products that you believe in. More than that work with companies that you would spend your own money on and companies that respect your work. Don't let someone push you around or dictate your blog.

Reach out to a company
If you're eager to get started, reach out to a brand. I'm not saying reach out to someone like ModCloth, but look at what companies are working with your peers. Etsy shops are a great place to start. Send them an email, pitch your blog, and be clear about what you're after. It might not work, but it also might. Once you get started it's usually a consistent stream of partnering. You've got to start somewhere!

Create something you are proud of
Take high quality photos, use the clothes (or what have you) in a great way, write as best as you possibly can. Really dig into the product without sounding like an advertisement. Companies won't continue to work with bloggers if bloggers don't produce great content and brand awareness.

Bottom line? Be true to your blog. Stay within what makes you comfortable, stick up for yourself, and don't let anyone take advantage of you for a free dress.

The Blogging Series @ Midwest Muse will continue on a semi-regular basis. Covering all aspects of blogging. Got a suggestion or question? Email me at jessica@midwest-muse.net. Photo c/o Death to the Stock Photo.

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