How Should Bloggers and Brands Work Together

Oana Filip

One of the biggest strug­gles for blog­gers is how to mon­e­tize their con­tent by work­ing with brands. It’s not an easy job, but it can be done if both of you meet con­cern­ing needs and expec­ta­tions. We, as blog­ging themes cre­ators, know how cru­cial is to devel­op healthy rela­tion­ships which dri­ve con­crete results.

In the last year, we kept an eye on this tribe and talked with a bunch of blog­gers from a wide range of indus­tries and with diverse lev­el of expe­ri­ence. From fash­ion to food, from lifestyle to DIY, from mag­a­zine to trav­el­ling, we cov­ered them all. Some of them became our part­ners along the way and are pro­vid­ing action­able insights on mul­ti­ple areas, help­ing us improve our prod­ucts and also, giv­ing us a chance to actu­al­ly feel the strug­gles and day-to-day life of blog­gers.

Today we’re shar­ing what we learned when it comes to devel­op­ing results-dri­ven col­lab­o­ra­tions between blog­gers and brands. Let’s dive in!

🤝 What’s a Blogging Partnership in the First Place?

As in any oth­er part­ner­ship out there, a blog­ging one is no dif­fer­ent. Every­thing sums up to a healthy col­lab­o­ra­tion between cre­ators (blog­gers) and brands. Most of the time, it’s a trans­ac­tion­al sce­nario where the blog­ger receives mon­ey, good­ies, prod­ucts, etc. for writ­ing a pro­mo­tion­al arti­cle, mak­ing shoutouts on social media or men­tions in their newslet­ters.

It often starts with the brand’s need to gain expo­sure and reach new audi­ences, but it’s not always the case. The result should impact the sales, the aware­ness, the lik­a­bil­i­ty of rec­om­men­da­tions and so on.

Blog­gers of all kinds could increase and diver­si­fy their rev­enue streams and con­tin­ue to do what they enjoy most, while brands have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to reach new audi­ences and cre­ate stronger bonds with the cur­rent ones.

How­ev­er, there are blog­ging part­ner­ships which stop at a trad­ing point (I give you some­thing because you pro­vide me with some­thing else in return), and some who go the extra mile. We’re going to focus on the last ones since we’ve always been huge believ­ers in durable liaisons and this is what we’re striv­ing to cre­ate at Pix­el­grade on a dai­ly basis.

🤳 How Do Most of the Bloggers Approach Brands?

We, as a brand, are receiv­ing plen­ty of offers and media kits from all kinds of blog­gers out there. Some of them are super­fi­cial, out of con­text, even inva­sive, while oth­ers are quite straight­for­ward and trans­par­ent, two attrib­ut­es that we high­ly val­ue.

As a go-to bud­dy for such part­ner­ships, what has always sur­prised me was the detach­ment some of them showed when it came to paid col­lab­o­ra­tions. They gave me the impres­sion that they have a nar­row way of think­ing and often from one per­spec­tive only: what’s in it for me? The truth is that this atti­tude harms your cred­i­bil­i­ty that you can deliv­er what we, as a brand, expect from you. Most like­ly your www address will end up on a NO list.

It has noth­ing to do with the fact that they ask for mon­ey — we all need them at the end of the day, right? — but the lack of a min­i­mal busi­ness sense will almost always make me skip such a rela­tion­ship.

On the oth­er hand, at Pix­el­grade we’re lucky enough to have dis­cov­ered excel­lent blog­gers who are not only deliv­er­ing excel­lent results but are also on the same wave­length as us.

They take the time to explore our Word­Press themes and learn more about who we are as a team. They care and want to build a robust liai­son, not just to earn some extra bucks for hang­ing out quick­ly. These are the peo­ple who align with us as a brand regard­ing val­ues and busi­ness per­spec­tive.

Every­thing lies in your core val­ues, so make sure you always put them at the cen­ter of a brand rela­tion­ship you are going to devel­op.

Work­ing with them doesn’t even feel like an effort since both par­ties are shar­ing sim­i­lar beliefs. Ieva is one of them and in the last cou­ple of months she’s also been our ambas­sador, which I think it should be the next thing for blog­gers regard­ing brand part­ner­ships. Once you get there, you’re some­how part of the team, and that means that the rela­tion­ship weights far more than a trans­ac­tion­al inter­ac­tion.

I even cre­at­ed a mini-hand­book for those who achieve this stage, and this is how our promise sounds like:

❤️The man­i­festo:

  • Togeth­er we can make the blog­ging world a bet­ter place one step at a time.
  • We are gen­uine­ly inter­est­ed in pro­vid­ing val­ue through great design.
  • We care about cre­at­ing stronger bonds with blog­gers and sto­ry­tellers of all kinds.
  • We deeply believe in the pow­er of com­mu­ni­ties dri­ven by the same val­ues.
  • We trust the peo­ple we work with.
  • We are here to stay.

We don’t encour­age super­fi­cial­i­ty, false state­ments, mis­lead­ing argu­ments and noth­ing that would con­fuse the cus­tomer. Instead, we high­ly val­ue the human touch in every­thing we do.

The above direc­tions rep­re­sent the base­line that you as a blog­ger should take into con­sid­er­a­tion if you want brands to notice you. Every­thing lies in your core val­ues, so make sure you always put them at the cen­ter of a brand rela­tion­ship you are going to devel­op. It’s what will help you decide who you want to work with, what type of part­ner­ship do you plan to nur­ture or how you make sure you are rel­e­vant in the long run.

👫 How Could Blogging Partnerships Look Like?

Although every rela­tion­ship between brands and blog­gers is unique and might have dif­fer­ent goals, from our expe­ri­ence so far we have gath­ered a few help­ful ground rules to con­sid­er if you’re think­ing about embrac­ing this path.

If you are a blogger:

  • Cre­ate a rel­e­vant media kit and offer details behind those num­bers (5K fol­low­ers don’t say much, but 5K visu­al artists and graph­ic design­ers who spend a lot of time on Behance makes a lot more sense)
  • Treat each part­ner­ship unique­ly and try to adjust your offer and pro­mo ser­vices by research­ing thor­ough­ly every­where you can and see if you can under­stand how the brand prefers to han­dle these rela­tion­ships (what works for a brand doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly work for oth­ers as well or as good)
  • If you pitch brands make sure your rea­son for reach­ing out is more than an excuse (I have some free days, and I’m work­ing on my con­tent cal­en­dar, so I was won­der­ing if you guys have some­thing to pro­mote.) What you can do instead is to give them a con­text about why you think you iden­ti­fy with their brand and what made you reach them out
  • Always keep your audience’s needs in the back of your mind and try to get some answers to the fol­low­ing ques­tions: Will your tribe res­onate with this par­tic­u­lar brand? How like­ly is to engage with this brand? You need to make sure this deal will seem like a nat­ur­al choice.

Let’s assume that you man­aged to get your­self a brand deal. How­ev­er, the work is not fin­ished yet, so here’s what you should do next:

  • Trust the prod­ucts or the ser­vices you are endors­ing by get­ting your hands dirty and using or, at least, test­ing them (be respect­ful and hon­est with your audi­ence, don’t mis­lead them)
  • Use the best pro­mo approach for your par­tic­u­lar tribe and pack the mes­sage authen­ti­cal­ly and gen­uine­ly (avoid to sell a one-size-fits-all kind of strat­e­gy because it doesn’t bring results)
  • Stay close to that brand by being an active lis­ten­er and fol­low­er to ful­ly under­stand the mis­sion and which prob­lems are try­ing to solve (don’t try to show up only when you have some­thing spe­cif­ic to earn)

If you represent a brand:

  • Pic­ture a 360-degree image of the blog­gers you are work­ing with (most of the time, we had far more suc­cess with those who are hav­ing 3K fol­low­ers on Insta­gram, not 300K); on top of that, the com­mu­ni­ca­tion was more pleas­ant
  • Start small by cre­at­ing a deal with a hand of blog­gers to see how things turn out and keep track on the results.
  • Choose some­one from your team to be a go-to bud­dy for any ques­tions the blog­gers have, no mat­ter if they’re tech­ni­cal or non-tech­ni­cal.
  • Work with peo­ple who have a clue about how a busi­ness works and they’re will­ing to cre­ate long-term part­ner­ships, not explor­ing growth hack­ing strate­gies.
  • Cre­ate a first draft of an ambas­sador­ship pro­gram, kick-off with one sin­gle per­son and gath­er feed­back to iter­ate as fast as pos­si­ble.
  • Offer your part­ners spe­cial perks, such as access to upcom­ing prod­ucts before they’re launched.
  • Make room for them to cre­ate their strat­e­gy, just let them know what you want to achieve, not how. It’s up to them.

⌛️ Conclusion

We’re huge believ­ers that blog­gers and brands can work togeth­er and achieve valu­able results if the above basic rules are tak­en into con­sid­er­a­tion. This way, blog­gers of all kinds could increase and diver­si­fy their rev­enue streams and con­tin­ue to do what they enjoy most, while brands have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to reach new audi­ences and cre­ate stronger bonds with the cur­rent ones.

Every­thing can be summed up in a few com­mon sense direc­tions, but most often the obvi­ous is the hard­est thing to see. So next time you approach a brand or vice-ver­sa, make sure you already have gone through this guide­line. Best of luck!

Learn more about how you can monetize your blog's content by working with brands.
Oana Filip
Oana Filip

Digital storyteller @Pixelgrade and community builder for creative industries. A true believer in the power of making the world a better place.