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Get Sponsored to Attend the Next Conference in Your Niche

This guest post is by Kylie Ofiu of KylieOfiu.com.

If you attend conferences, the idea that you could get sponsorship to go will certainly appeal.

In 31 Days To Build a Better Blog, one of the tasks is to hunt for a sponsor for your blog.

Even if you’re a smaller blogger, getting sponsorship is doable. You don’t have to have 100,000 subscribers or 50,000 page views a month, although it does make things easier. It is simply a matter of presenting yourself in the best possible way and finding a business—or businesses—that are compatible with you and your brand.

I had between 10,000 and 15,000 monthly pageviews when I negotiated full sponsorship with a big brand to attend a blogging conference. I had only a few hundred followers on Facebook and around 1,000 followers on Twitter—so not a huge following. But that isn’t always the point.

If you have heavily engaged readers, that can be more beneficial than a large following who do not actively share your posts, click on your links, or engage with you on social media. You don’t have to be big to get sponsorship—but you do have to have authority among your tribe.

How to get sponsorship for conferences

Think you’re up for the challenge? Taking on a sponsorship involves some significant work—but it’s worth it!

1. Get prepared

You need to get prepared before you start pitching potential sponsors.

Look over you blog and make any changes you have been meaning to do, but have been putting off. Make sure you social media buttons are visible and your posts are easy to share. You’ll be judged on appearances as well as statistics, so make yourself and your blog look good.

See the post 10 Ways to Make Your Blog More Attractive to Advertisers for more advice.

2. Create a media kit

A media kit is essential for any blogger who wants to work with brands or get sponsorship. It’s basically a few pages on your blog, your audience, your blog statistics, why it and you are fantastic, and what you offer. Keep it interesting, factual and easy to update.

The post Create a Media Kit to Attract Advertisers to Your Blog explains how to do this in detail.

3. What will you offer?

When it comes to sponsorship, aside from your statistics, what you are going to offer or do for the brand or business? That’s what they are really interested in: why they should work with you.

You could create packages that cost a set amount, and include a select variety of things you will do for the sponsors, or you could offer to tailor a package to suit the brand’s needs and outline the ways you can promote them.

Some of the offers you could include in your sponsorship pitch are:

  • Sponsored posts, including a post that welcomes the brand as a sponsor, explains why they’re great, and possibly includes a giveaway or a special discount for their product or service. You could include a link to the sponsor’s site in every post you write about the conference (usually three to five posts in total).
  • Adding the posts to post-conference link lists and blog round-ups.
  • An ad in your sidebar for three, six, nine, or 12 months.
  • You’ll mention and link to the brand from your social media platforms.
  • You’ll include a link to their site from your newsletter for the duration of the sponsorship.
  • You’ll use brand products at the conference such as pens, notepads, tote bags, etc.
  • You’ll mention the sponsor on the back of your business card.

These are just suggestions—it’s up to you to offer items that you feel comfortable with, and which suit your blog and audience. Whatever you choose, make sure you over-deliver and provide real value to your sponsor.

4. List potential sponsors

Some bloggers need to send 50 or more emails before they get sponsorship, so be prepared to contact a lot of businesses. When you’re thinking about who you would like to sponsor you, consider these points:

  • Look at the size of your blog and the size of the business or brand you’re approaching: If you are a small blog, don’t go reaching for big brands to begin with. Instead, look at smaller businesses, bloggers and even local organizations that might suit your blog.
  • Consider having a few sponsors instead of just one sponsor: Four sponsors sharing the cost can make it easier for you to find sponsors.
  • Consider your niche: Are you a mummy blogger, tech blogger, food blogger, or finance blogger? Know your niche and look for sponsors that fit. For example, food bloggers might look for restaurants or food brands. It is unlikely readers of a food blog are going to be terribly interested in insurance ads! They’re there for the food.
  • Talk to brands you’ve worked with before: If you’ve done any freelance writing for a brand, had a lot to do with a brand or business (perhaps they’ve advertised with you before, or you’ve connected strongly on social media), email them about sponsorship.

Think outside the square a little when you’re listing potential sponsors. You could hold auditions for sponsors, or if you meet a reps from a business, product, or brand you’d like to work with, tell them. Opportunities are everywhere!

5. Contact the Marketing department, not PR

In larger companies there are often Public Relations departments and Marketing departments. PR tries to get free publicity, whereas the marketing department is the one with the money for advertising and marketing.

Take the time to find out who to contact by either calling the company, or checking out their website to find the relevant person. Then personalize your pitch to them.

6. Pitch your blog

You can do this by either calling your contact to discuss potential sponsorship, or sending them an email.

Keep it brief; if they are interested, they’ll get back to you. Let them know who you are, what you do, and that you are interested in a potential partnership. Most people do not read full proposals, nor do they want them until they have made some contact with you first, so you won’t need to send your proposal at the first contact.

7. Negotiate

Once you have a brand or business interested in working with you, you will need to negotiate what will and won’t be included.

As you do this, make sure you know what you want, but also be clear on why partnering with you is a fantastic opportunity for them. The arrangement needs to be mutually beneficial, so make sure you only agree to sponsorship tasks that you are comfortable with. Confirm everything in writing and have them sign a contract for the sponsorship.

8. Follow up

Some brands will want updates on the work you’re doing for their sponsorship. If something great happens—a post you wrote about the conference for which they sponsored you goes viral, for example—be sure to let them know.

If you’re work for the sponsor gets positive feedback from readers, keep track of it. Then, when it comes times to discuss renewing the sponsorship, you’ll have strong evidence as to why they should sponsor you again. Towards the end of your sponsorship, do get in contact with the brand to see if they are interested in renewing advertising, or sponsoring you for another conference in future.

Who’ll send you to your next conference?

Be persistent with your sponsorship pitches! Know your worth and actively do your best to present yourself in the best possible light. It’s critical to show why you are a great fit for the brand or brands you want to sponsor you.

It might take some time, but it sponsorship for conferences really is doable. More brands and businesses want to work with bloggers, because we are valuable.

Have you got a sponsor to send you to your next conference? Share your sponsorship tips with us in the comments.

Kylie Ofiu is the author of Blog to Book, 365 Ways to Make Money, among other titles as well as a public speaker, freelance writer and blogger. She shares real ways to make and save money on her blog, as well as what she is doing to go from SAHM to millionaire by 30.

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Comments

  1. I will definitely save this post as I’m working on growing my blog. It’s a great perspective…awesome advice and tangible.

  2. Justin Mazza says:

    I had never thought of doing this before but you make a compelling case in your post. I will have to give it a go.

  3. Jac Lambert says:

    Quite thought provoking… there’s so much more I could do.
    Thanks

  4. Most people I know would want to attend conferences by their own means. But if you could get sponsorship and know that other people do get sponsorship then it’s not wrong to try.

    Thanks for bringing this up and giving guidelines as to how to do things.

  5. psychicjim says:

    Yes , I feel that presentation is linked to aesthetics, and a nice looking blog sells ideas. You mention what you offer is important, and this is the way to give, the more you give in service the more you receive.This is a well thought out post, I like the positive suggestions in point form.

  6. I’d never came up with this process, you made the flow in its most easy approach. I have to give a try for this one.

  7. karen says:

    Perfect timing….well, sorta. I missed going to BlogHer ’12 because I didn’t get my act together to get a sponsor. I’m planning on being sponsored for BlogHer ’13 next year!

    When is an appropriate time to start approaching companies before an event? And do they want to be sponsors for a specific event and be their spokesperson during the event? … like hand out their advertising materials and such or do they just want a blog post? Or does that depend on companies? I don’t know what to expect when I negotiate. Thanks.

    • Kylie Ofiu says:

      Hi Karen. You can start approaching companies any time. Now would be good, as some get their budgets sorted in the next few months for advertising dollars next year. The sooner you start the better. It is up to you what you offer in exchange for the sponsorship. I listed some options in the post. Most conferences will not allow you to hand out flyers of your sponsors and you will likely be removed from the event if you do. Good luck with it.

  8. Dave Butler says:

    A year ago, I made it a goal to earn my way to my next blogging conference. I write a beer blog and found a way to pay for all my expenses for the annual Beer Bloggers Conference in 2012 held in Indianapolis. I used a combination of several things: 1) paid sponsorships from local restaurants/bars, a brewery contractor, festival promoters, etc. I had to go out and hustle for these. 2) I utilize affiliate programs on my site. In my case, it was an affiliate for homebrew shops and beer magazines. I get a percentage of every sale I help generate. I wrote some articles that highlighted products (brew kettles and fermenters) and guided readers to my affiliate sites. Surprisingly, this paid for a lot! 3) AdSense – yes AdSense does pay. I managed to earn almost 30% of my conference costs this way. 4) Donations – I manage to earn a small percentage of the costs from having a Donation button on my blog.

    I even got a brewery to ship out a lot of beer to the conference for me in exchange for helping to promote their products during a bottle exchange night.

    It does take some local recognition and a little bit of traffic up front to land some sponsorships. I focus my blog on the Colorado area and got primarily all Colorado sponsors.

    With all I earned from the above, I was able to pay for airfare, hotel, meals, drinks and even a new Android tablet for use on my travels. It does take a bit of hustle and enough time, but my blog did pay for all of my trip expenses. Already starting to save up for next year’s conference.

  9. nice post and i note down few important points..thank u

  10. Great timing… preparing to launch my mini-campaign to find a sponsor for the Digital Parents Conference. Cheers for this.

  11. Greg Blencoe says:

    Kylie,

    I’ve never thought about bloggers getting sponsored to attend a conference, but this is a really interesting idea. Thanks for the suggestions.

    One other part of your post stood out to me:

    “If you have heavily engaged readers, that can be more beneficial than a large following who do not actively share your posts, click on your links, or engage with you on social media. You don’t have to be big to get sponsorship—but you do have to have authority among your tribe.”

    I completely agree with this. The strength of connections is very important. Ten strong connections can potentially be better than 10,000 really weak connections (e.g. Twitter followers who don’t know you).

    Have a happy Sunday.

  12. Erin says:

    Great post! It get frustrating when conferences want you to speak for them, but all you get is a free pass. Don’t get me wrong, a free conference pass is definitely a plus. However, it gets expensive paying for airfare, hotel, food, etc. Thanks again! This will come in handy for sure.

  13. This is brilliant and so timely. Thank you so very much! I’ve already applied many of your suggestions and will be contacting marketing departments next month.

    Thanks again!

    Kimberly