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Courting Brands to Collaborate on Your Blog: A Complete Guide

This guest post is by Anshu of Blooms And Bugs.

You may have seen other bloggers working with different brands and wondered how they did it. You may have also considered if it was a good thing to emulate.

I’m a sewing blogger and in my one and half years of blogging, I have worked with several brands from the sewing industry. Here’s the why and how of finding the right brand for your blog, and developing a successful partnership with them. I found the process was not very different from finding a life partner.

Soul searching: Why are you doing this?

What are your motivations for finding a partner brand?

  1. To establish yourself as an authority in your niche: Being on website of a leading brand in your niche builds your status as an expert.
  2. Extra traffic: Some brands already have very popular blogs and forums. You could leverage their popularity by collaborating with them.
  3. Building back-links: Even the websites of relatively lesser-known brands generally have good Pagerank. When your website is mentioned there, that improves your reputation in Google’s eyes.
  4. To build a network in your niche: You may get introduced to other experts working for the brand. You may even get a chance to learn the tricks of the trade from them.
  5. To get free products: Most brands are more than willing to send their products to the bloggers they work with for review, give away, use in projects, and so on. You may even get  their products ahead of launch to play with and review.
  6. To get sponsored for trade shows, conferences, conventions etc.: There are some industry shows that are not open to the general public, yet the brands you are working with may sponsor you to attend them. Here is a great post by Kylie Ofiu on how to get sponsored for a conference.
  7. To make money: Some brands will pay you to generate a positive buzz around their products.
  8. To double-dip: This is important. Almost all brands allow you to post your content on your own website after certain time. This means that while you are writing for them, you are also generating content for your own blog. However, duplicate posts get penalized by Google, so you need to weigh that against leveraging your work twice.

Any and all of these are valid reasons to work with brands, but consider what you are looking for before you approach any company. Are you looking for more traffic? Then a company with a dormant blog or forum may not be the right fit. Do you want a paid assignment? Then the brands with popular blogs may not be right, because they may already be getting traction without paying bloggers.

So be sure you know what you want from the relationship before you look for a brand partner.

Take a look in the mirror before you head out

You are getting ready to approach some big names in your industry. Great! But are you looking your best?

  1. Collect your readership data, and any outstanding achievements you’ve made with your blog. Are you very popular on Facebook? Does your average reader spend half an hour on your website? Look at your stats and find the highlights.
  2. Prepare a reference page with some of your best posts. Is it something you would feel proud showing to a potential sponsor? If not, then you have more work to do before you approach a brand.
  3. Have you been featured by any reputed websites in your niche? Do you have a Featured page with those links? If not, then make one.
  4. Have you worked with another brand in the past? Do you have any feedback from them? Make sure you compile it nicely on a page that a potential partner could look at.

At the bar

I can’t help but remember the analogy given by Tom Ewer in his article, 5 Things Online Dating Can Teach Your About Networking for Blogging Success.

In the subheading “Going for the hotties,” he mentions how all the newbies head for the most popular person in their niche.

I would suggest approaching some lesser-known brands first and seeing how they respond to your offer of partnership. One exception to this is when a brand already has an active program for bloggers.

An example in my case was Moda Fabrics. I contacted them barely a few months into blogging, but they already had a very active program for bloggers, and I got accepted there right away.

To contact the brand you’ve chosen, you’ll want to first prepare the message you want to convey. Make sure you answer the most important questions for them in this message.

  • Why them? Without being sycophantic, mention the things you appreciate about them that made you get in touch. If you can’t find anything? Back off, delete the email and run away. That person brand is not right for you. Period.
  • Who are you and what do you want? Write briefly about your website and what you are proposing to offer them.
  • What is in it for them? What are you bringing to the table that a) they don’t have, b) they can’t get, and c) they can’t get from 13.29 million other bloggers in your niche? Are you willing to provide excellent content for their website, using their products? Are you willing to promote them using your blog? Are you going to shout from the rooftops how awesome they are? If so how often and when? Be concise, clear, and honest. And write the offer only if you can do all of that, and then some.
  • Why should they trust you? Highlight your best stats, add a link to your Featured page, and link to your best posts. Let your work speak for you.

Once you’ve prepared your message, find the brand’s Contact us page. Of course you can totally use it without worrying that your email will go unnoticed. I always use brands’ contact forms, and I always get a response.

Before you move in

So you heard back from the brand and they are as interested as you are. Before you hand them the key to your apartment and rent the truck, here are a few things you’ll want to have a mutual agreement and clarity on:

  • Who will do the dishes? Get a clear understanding of what you are getting (free supplies, products, backlinks, glowing introductions, promotion, etc.) and giving (content, promotion using your channels, etc.). Also, establish a time-line of what is expected when—even a rough guideline that you can both agree on will save a lot of headaches later on.
  • Who will look after the child and when? If you are a blogger collaborating with a brand, you will likely be generating some content for them. Get a clear understanding of who will publish it and when, and who will have the rights to it. If they publish it, do you get to republish it? How soon?
  • How possessive are they? Are they okay with your working with other brands?
  • What if you want to work with multiple brands at the same time? Think carefully about any potential conflicts of interest. If you are working in photography niche, working with both Cannon and Nikon at the same time may not look good for you.

    Also consider your time. If you want to write for multiple companies, commit only when you can do outstanding work for each of your partners. Remember too that all this work will eat into your time for your own blog. Make sure you’re able to keep your blog alive and healthy while you take up these extra assignments?

    Wow them!

    So you hashed out the details of partnership. You have to wow them from here on in, and show that you are a keeper.

    Deliver what you committed to—and then some. Deliver excellent content. Promote it the best you can, even if they didn’t ask for it—even if they are much more popular than you.

    When I wrote on Moda Bake Shop, my blog was fairly small and unknown. But I promoted my post to the best of my ability and brought it into the top five most-viewed pages on their website that month.

    Be generous too. If the brand has a new blog and you have some insights on specific things they can do to increase traffic, tell them (if they are receptive). If they are having an event on their website, mention it on your blog. I have even shipped some of my projects to partner companies when they needed help with trade shows and such.

    Finally, don’t forget the legal stuff. According to FTC policies, bloggers need to declare anything of monetary value that they received from a business. Make sure you do this so you don’t fall foul of the law.

    Parting ways

    All good things come to an end. Maybe you want to find newer opportunities, maybe they want to work with other bloggers. Whatever be the reason, try to bid adieu on good terms.

    1. Say your goodbyes in a note: Tell the partner how much you appreciated working with them. Also ask them to write you a letter of recommendation where they specifically mention how helpful you were and how well received your contributions were.
    2. Bring your stuff home: Unless specific arrangements are made otherwise, your content is your intellectual property. Give it rightful place on your website.
    3. Hang onto the memories: Put their feedback in your Featured page.

    So that was my experience of working with various partner brands. How about you? Have you partnered with any company in your niche? What was your experience? What are the pros and cons of working with them? Chime in with your experiences in the comments.

    Anshu blogs about sewing on Blooms And Bugs. It all started with a couple of dresses for her daughter…and just never stopped. Here is a list of the sewing tutorials she has written.

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Comments

  1. I love the ideas that you talk about in your article. Blogging is difficult at times but if you amp up the rewards it would be worth it.

  2. Rajeesh Nair says:

    Hi Anshu,

    I agree with your strategy but I believe it works better on not so popular niches rather than those niches which are highly popular and competitive like the technology, blogging or make money online niches.

    Please let us know your view on this.

    • Anshu says:

      Hi Rajeesh,

      Thanks for commenting.
      I don’t think crafting/sewing is ‘not so popular’ niche. You do not run into people who sew/craft daily, but they have a really strong online presence. I personally follow hundreds of such blogs….and there are thousands of blogs in the blogosphere.
      If you think about it, how many bloggers do you know personally ( not via internet) who blog about “popular-according to you” category? I bet it wouldn’t be that many.
      But that aside, which part of my strategy you think wouldn’t work on these niches. I am not familiar with brands in blogging or ‘make money online’ niche so I’m taking tech example. Suppose you blog in technology. If you approach Seagate and tell them that this is your blog and that you love their hard disk and would like to write about it. Now if your blog has gained enough popularity to generate some positive buzz around their products (a couple hundred followers, facebook fans etc), I’m pretty sure Seagate marketing guy will sit up and look at your proposal. Now the same may not be true, if you were to approach Apple, thats because all the tech bloggers write about apple products anyway, so they may not care about your pitch.
      I don’t think the niche matters as much as the standing of your blog and your tenacity.

  3. Thanks for the tips, Anshu – I’m currently building relationships with Halo Pets, Petco and Petsmart. I would also like to work more with Trupanion Pet Insurance and bigger online pet magazines.

    It’s nice to have an easy to follow guideline of how to do this. So far, I’ve just stumbled upon opportunities.

    Kimberly

  4. Anshu says:

    Hi Kimberly,
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
    If you are being approached by companies to work with them, then I would strongly recommend you approach the brands you would like to work with. That way you will have more choice and flexibility to define your own terms.