How should bloggers and brands work together

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.

June 12, 2018
Reading time 6 – 10 minutes

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!

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