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How to Pitch Your Dream Company for a Win/Win/Win Blogging Collaboration [Case Study]

Recently at a parenting blogger conference here Melbourne, I was listening to a panel discussion on business models when Aussie blogger—Laney from Crash Test Mummy—made a statement that connected strongly with my own recent experience.

I’m paraphrasing here, but Laney talked about how as bloggers we’re often on the receiving end of bad PR pitches from companies, and that we should learn from those bad pitches to make good ones ourselves.

This struck a chord with me because over the last year, I’ve decided to do just that.

It struck me that I was on the receiving end of a lot of bad pitches from companies and agencies. The pitches were often bad for a number of reasons:

  • The company was pitching a product that was irrelevant to the topic of my blog.
  • The company was pitching for the wrong geographic location (I get a lot of pitches from Aussie companies who don’t realize most of my audience is international).
  • The pitch was impersonal and non-relational.
  • The pitch wasn’t a win/win/win pitch. By this I mean that many times the pitch is only really of benefit to the company—there’s no win for me as a blogger or for my readers.

The list could go on. Not a day goes by when I don’t get at least two or three bad pitches (sometimes it’s closer to ten).

It is a frustrating process. I’ve worked hard to build my audience and I know there are companies out there that I could serve well as partners, but they never seemed to come knocking.

I decided to take matters into my own hands

As I wrote earlier in the week, a couple of years back I wrote a list of companies, organisations, and products that it was my dream to work with. They were things I not only used and loved—they were companies that I believed I could serve well, based upon my knowledge of my own audience.

Some examples:

  • Apple: I use Apple products 24/7. My audience (of bloggers and photographers) also are computer users. It’s a match made in heaven (in my humble opinion).
  • Qantas/Virgin Australia: I’ve flown with both companies regularly and appreciate the services of both. Both are looking to expand their reach and the audience on my blogs is very international.
  • Canon/Nikon etc.: My biggest audience is around photography. I’ve used Canon gear for many years and have a real admiration for Nikon (as well as other companies like Leica, Sony, etc.). As a result, all of these manufacturers made my dream list.
  • Aussie Tourism Organisations: This one has been on my mind a lot. I obviously live in Australia, I love living here (and travelling around the country), and my audience always asks me questions about Australia—many have expressed a desire to visit. It seems to me like a no-brainer of a partnership and I added numerous Aussie tourism operators to my list.

The list was longer, but you get the picture. I identified 20 or so companies that I thought were a match in terms of my genuine love or admiration for them, but also in terms of my audience needs and what I saw as each company’s needs.

With that list in hand, I began to pitch

At this point, I’ve pitched most of the companies listed above—and numerous others. The experience has been fascinating and so far there have been a few expressions of interest (nibbles), a couple of “no” responses, a few more silences, and one bite.

The bite was from Tourism Queensland, and the result is the current competition we’re running with them to fly 10 bloggers in from around the world to experience the Great Barrier Reef first hand.

The idea gathered steam as a tweet I sent out in an airport last year, but I had Aussie tourism organizations on my list long before that tweet. So when I got responses from such organisations inviting me to talk to them, I was ready to move with an idea that I’d been pondering.

WIth the invitation to pitch them I put together a short PDF document titled, ProBlogger: Tour Down Under. Here’s the front cover.

Screen Shot 2012-04-03 at 12.56.03 PM.png

The following page briefly outlined the idea.Screen Shot 2012-04-03 at 1.18.23 PM.png

I followed it up with some details of my own audience at the time (although this information is now quite dated):

Screen Shot 2012-04-03 at 1.19.23 PM.png

The last page was an invitation to continue the discussion, along with my contact details. I sent the PDF out with a cover email that had a little more information, including a few variations on the idea.

The PDF was just three pages long: short, sharp and to the point. It outlined how the I thought the organizations I was pitching would benefit from the project, and made it clear I was open to evolving the idea to further meet their needs.

I actually ended up sending a variation of this PDF to a few organizations that had expressed interest. In the end, two of them came back to me to continue the conversation. The conversation with Tourism Queensland continued (they’ve been amazing to deal with) and the idea gathered steam until it became a reality last week.

Become a pitching blogger

This whole experience has been an eye-opening one for me. Rather than waiting for the perfect company to come along to work with, I decided to put myself in a position to identify and pursue that relationship myself. In doing so I was able to devise a pitch that was a win for that organization, a win for me as a blogger, and a win for my readers.

I was able to pitch something relevant to all parties, and that idea has a much better chance of working for my audience than most of what companies come to me with. While my hit rate is low from the companies I’ve pitched (so far), this experience has given me enough hope that I will no doubt be continuing the approach.

Take-home lessons

  • Identify who you’d love to work with. Make a list of companies that you use and recommend, and that are relevant to your readers and topic.
  • Identify those companies’ needs and how you can help them in those areas.
  • Reach out—you might not start with a “pitch” at first. Be relational, and learn from all those bad pitches you receive yourself.
  • Don’t be timid. You know your audience best. Be creative and bold.

I’d love to hear your own stories about reaching out for dream collaborations. Please let us know your stories and ideas in the comments below.

P.S.: Don’t forget to enter our Great Barrier Reef Competition—there’s not long now till the cutoff for submissions!

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Carolyn says:

    Darren –

    Thanks so much for showing how you did it! Just this past week, I’ve been sketching out notes for pitching some companies I’m interested in working with, and you’ve given me some great ideas on how to proceed.

    Another great article that adds a few items to my to-do list!

  2. Flashfor says:

    Good Idea,I like the articles in this blog post, the more open and also very useful knowledge.

  3. Love the idea. I’m working on my new site at the moment and i intend to create a comprehensive list of everything i use. I don’t want affiliate links (not at the moment at least), rather i just want to share the products i love with people who visit my site

    To endorse Apple one day would pretty much be a dream come true. If you get a yes from them i will bow before you, Darren :)

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    ps. Amazing contest by the way. Truly amazing!!!!

  4. charul shukla says:

    That’s quite a insight on the subject. Thanks Darren, its good to see you writing between guests posts

  5. Tilly says:

    Really interesting idea – thank you! I too am frustrated by the badly pitched offers I get from companies who haven’t really bothered to look at what my blog is about (usually fast fashion websites, when the whole point of my blog is about sewing your own clothes so you can avoid fast fashion!). Your post has made me see the issue from another perspective and made me realise I can take matters into my own hands!

  6. Aziza says:

    This is the first time i’ve read about a business idea like this. Very clever & innovative! Excited to think about how I can apply this kind of pitching to my blogging/freelance work.

  7. I do this almost exclusively—as in, I almost never jump on a PR’s pitch to me; I just go out and find my own. And my success rate has gotten better and better! When you can show them relevant proof that it works (as in, show them a previous campaign you’ve done), it becomes considerably easier.

    Love this idea, Darren. I’ve done a few trips for blog campaigns, and if they’re smart, I think more and more tourism boards will seek out this advertising format. I’d love for you to write more about the details, because I’d like to pitch to a tourism board in the next year or two.

  8. Canadian Dad says:

    Thanks Darren, great advice! I actually have a success story of my own to share on this topic. I have only been blogging for 2 months but in my first week, I decided to contact 2 companies, whose products my family uses very frequently. I had no expectations (and no following), but to my surprise, one company got back to me within a week and wanted to work with me! They said they enjoyed my humorous pitch and that they were happy to give me a hand with my start up.

    I guess the point is that good things happen when you are proactive and persistent!

    Cheers!

  9. Great article Darren. I have been following the “fall out” of the digital parents conference quite eagerly and have been reading similar articles across the web. I’m only a newbie blogger (but it would appear that Canadian Dad above is also) so I’m storing these until I have more runs on the board and a few other things sorted out. The simple fact of your Queensland competition inspired me to make some changes to my blog / social networks – thankyou! Perhaps you could pitch to NE Vic tourism……

  10. Awesome Darren! Thanks for sharing. We’ve been making several pitches the past couple of months and have gotten really close on a couple.

    This is great to see your approach. I love the competition idea and will be entering. Are you going to become a travel blogger now? he he

  11. se7en says:

    What a fabulous post… Really love the take action attitude. This is my year to start relevant marketing. After endless completely unrelated and totally irrelevant marketing and often laughable pitches I decided that this is my year to seek out products that interest us and I actually brainstormed a list a couple of weeks back. I just have to figure out, and would love to read more about, a relevant marketing pitch.
    I really liked your good point that most of your readers aren’t actually local – while there are obviously a heap of bloggers in South Africa there are not a lot of local businesses that have even heard of a blog – I know, we’re getting there!!! I need to think about more companies/products that are relevant to the location of our readers. Thanks for another fabulous post.

  12. Janmejaya says:

    Awesome topic Darren. Thanks for sharing with us.

  13. Keeping things personal instantly disarms the other party Darren. The common thread among all bad pitchers: they are failures. Desperate, needy people do things from a fear-filled place, and fear-filled acts lead to failure.

    Why? The acts are unintelligent. Pitching something to someone who has zero interest in the opportunity. Or, pitching before building a relationship. If I don’t know you, I don’t trust you. If I don’t trust you, how can I trust what you are pitching? The words ring hollow, and sending out a pitch right off the bat is rude, just plain tacky. Nobody cares about what you have to say unless you know them. That’s how it works. We are more likely to listen to our friends. Even if we are friends with someone, don’t become presumptuous. The opportunity you offer might not vibe with them for some reason.

    Keep things personal. Approach somebody with a calm, confident light vibe. Compliment the individual; note what drew you to them, and move forward from there. You have a much better chance at making a strong connection and possibly seeing your partnership grow if you keep things light.

    As noted you do need to take action. Hitting the cyber pavement and asking someone to partner with you makes the difference. Put yourself out there, persist, good things happen.

    Thanks for sharing Darren.

  14. Danai Panagiwtopoulou says:

    I am freelance web designer(currently working at http://www.peopleperhour.com)
    and a blogger, and i’ve faced the same problem many times.I have a blog about freelancing and once a shoe company approached me to put a banner in my blog! I mean, seriously?! Anyway, great post.. That’s a really hot topic these days! Thanks!

  15. Danimezza says:

    Sometimes I wish I could just skype chat with you, this has been playing on my mind a lot lately and something I’ve put into practice recently, gearing up for NYC in June for Full Figured Fashion Week. I have 9 more weeks, do you think it’s possible? lol

  16. Great article on a subject very close to my heart. (I was at the DPCON too – Laney talked some sense!)

    I too wrote a post about blog sponsorship, and my thoughts on the matter of working with brands, as a result of the conference, just earlier this week.

    It feels easier, to me, to work on pitches myself – more productive and far less frustrating – than sift through the bad ones I recieve and get cranky about them. Proactive rather than whiney!

    I’ve been “lucky” and had a good strike rate. The thrill of the “chase” to forge a win win win relationship is most satisfying!

    (I should also say how much I enjoyed listening to your session too, thanks Darren.)

  17. Can’t tell you how excited I am to be on the same page as you Darren, in more ways than one. Thanks for the mention and link.

  18. I’ve implemented this method before with some of my other online ventures, and it works!

  19. Darren – this is exactly the kind of information I’ve been looking for. In June, I am making the switch to work for myself full-time after building up my freelance writing portfolio for 5 years. I have a number of companies I’d love to work with and have been working on different ways of pitching them. I’m going to give your paradigm a shot and see how it goes! Thanks!

  20. Birgit says:

    A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a company, that offers me free products now. Usually this only happens to well established designers in my niche.
    Thanks for sharing your approach to pitching! It gives me many ideas how to make a good cover letter for a pitch.

  21. I like the pdf document idea to give the companies a visual. I personally haven’t done that yet since I try to keep the pitches brief and to the point…at least in the initial email. But including a more comprehensive document they can review if interested is a fantastic idea.

    I recently reached out to GE Appliances since I already had a small relationship with them and they offered to giveaway 2 washer/dryer sets to my readers. Since I have a cleaning tips blog, I thought that was a perfect match! The opportunity win ends today so I can’t wait to review the numbers to see if it was worthwhile!

  22. GolfCOurse says:

    Useful idea, talk more, sell more.. :D

  23. Susan Connor says:

    Always feel that there is something new to learn. Now I have time to learn and implement. Your ‘pitching’ post has relevance. Thank you.

  24. Robert says:

    Great tips. I’m currently working on a pitch to get sponsors to help me attend a blogger conference, so your post is well timed for me.

  25. Jeremy Cook says:

    That’s interesting. My blog is mostly about projects that I do, mechanical, electrical, whatever. Basically making things as a hobby. I’ve had several occaisions were I wanted something related to my blog (A little CNC router for example), and was able to get these items free or at a deeply discounted rate! The companies all seem quite happy as I try to give them a lot of exposure in return.

    The stuff I tend to use a lot gets written up in more than one article too, so not only does it give me something to write about, it gives them extra exposure. I’ve probably written 20 or more articles and several videos involving the CNC router in one way or another, when I promised 1 article and 1 youtube video! It works out well for everyone!

  26. Marlon says:

    That’s a very wonderful idea! Very practical and useful in most every way, I am definitely going to try out your suggestion. Thanks for sharing!

  27. I’ve been pitching direct to companies for about 12 months and had some wonderful opportunities. I did a similar thing back in my journo days. It’s definitely a numbers game though.
    I also find unique opportunities resonate more with my readers too, as opposed to answering a PR request which is being pitched to 20 other bloggers. This, in turn, is also more beneficial to the business as it doesn’t dillute their message. Too many people talking about the same thing and, personally, I start to tune out.
    There were certainly some fab ideas coming out of DPCON12 this year.

  28. Siya Mava says:

    Congrats on the positive response you received from the Tourism Queensland and great post!

    I have been meaning to pitch some of the companies I would like to work with but not sure how to draft a proposal. I would like you to provide us with a clear idea on the proposal format you followed. Please Darren. Or at least mail it to me if you wont have time to write a post on the subject :).

  29. Darren –

    Thanks so much for showing how you did it! Just this past week, I’ve been sketching out notes for pitching some companies I’m interested in working with, and you’ve given me some great ideas on how to proceed.

    Another great article that adds a few items to my to-do list!