It is inevitable that your blog is going to connect with brands at some stage. Unless of course you are blogging in a remote shed with no accessible internet, in which case you are actually keeping a journal and not so much a blog. You may or may not invite the blogger-brand connection, but one day you will receive a media drop in your inbox and your first reaction may well be like mine: “Total surprise that anyone other than your mum ever read your blog!”
This post is written because of a number of brand related questions I have received in the past couple of weeks. I think the key thing for bloggers and brands is that you are working together and building a platform together, one which should enhance your blog and the brand. The thing is blogging with brands is a bit of an adventure, a journey into unchartered waters so to speak. There are no clearly defined rules and each relationship has it’s own parameters… it is not a matter so much of whatever floats your boat, but rather how to keep your boat afloat. There will be calm seas and there will be storms… but by the time you are working with brands your blog “boat” should be able to hold it’s own…
Se7en + 1 Tips for Blogging With Brands
- Your Blog and your Social Media Presence are your Brand: I know, it is a bit of a surprise to realise that you are your brand. It is easy to think of brands as folk that want to share products with bloggers, but in actual fact it works both ways… Our brand is a family friendly lifestyle blog, who loves the great outdoors. There are some brands that are just never ever going to align well with us and others that do. Whatever you do, keep in mind that you are the face of your brand and be polite and professional at all times.
- Brands Will Approach you: It is just a matter of time… make sure that you have a very clear idea about what you are blogging about and what your brand is, across all the social media that you are on. While I firmly believe different social media should have different content… our Instagram feed is not the same as our Pinterest feed for instance, the theme is consistent. For a long time I was not quite clear about our exact niche, so it was a lot easier for me to know what we didn’t blog about. For instance it is very unlikely that as a family without pets, that we will ever blog about dog food – no matter how much dog food is shipped to us.
- Make it Easy for Brands to Figure Out if you are a Good Fit: Almost all the brands we work with know of us long before we work with them. Share their content because you believe in them, the brand will notice you and your voice with your readers will remain authentic. There is no problem being a super fan, not a stalker so much (!!!) but a super fan. Demonstrate that you believe in them, by being a great follower. This requires effort and work on the part of the blogger… you are unlikely to get noticed for a bi-annual retweet. But a blogger that consistently engages with a brand, and proves that they are not just in it for the money, is a blogger that I think will appeal to a brand. This is how we have met most of the brands that we work with, they expect our authentic and consistent voice, and we anticipate the same from them.
- Have a Clear Idea About What You Are/Are Not Prepared To Do: Working with brands can indeed be a bit of a balancing act and working with too many brands at once, I believe, can be fatal. That being said, make sure you know what you are prepared to blog about: I for instance don’t publish media drops… I prefer to use my own words. I won’t publish content about products that we don’t use ever… but I am occasionally prepared to try something new, that I may or may not share with our readers. Also be very honest about your expectations, for instance if a brand wants to do a GiveAway with us, then I expect two of the products – one to try and one to give-away, that just makes sense to me. Some brands will be happy with that and others won’t. Honesty and transparency are the best policy. You do not want to find that down the line either of you misunderstood one another.
- Behind Every Brand is a Person: A brand doesn’t approach you, a person does. That person may or may not work directly for the brand, but they do work. Treat their time with respect… reply to them timeosly and politely. If their deadline is a week away and you take a fortnight to reply, then don’t expect royal treatment. If is is an obvious misfit “mail drop approach” go ahead, completely disregard it. But very often a PR has done their homework and there approach is a good one. Treat them with honesty and respect, I have no problem politely declining something that I don’t think is a good fit and saying why. And if there expectation or approach was not professional, go ahead and politely say why. That way a PR person, knows where they stand. I think just by replying and saying “no thank you” politely, you are standing out from the crowd, that PR person may very well remember you down the line, when they find a better product or campaign fit.
- Your Readers Want to Hear From You:
- When a Brand Let’s You Down Drastically:
- When You Gather Together:
Remember why you have a blog, and stay true and transparent to your readers. Unless you are a specific product blog, you cannot post branded posts daily and expect to keep your authentic voice. I limit our brand posts to one, at most two every week. While our readers like to know about our favourite kitchen tools, and so on… I know they want to read the “hows and whys” too. I know when I see “this is a sponsored post” at the top of a blog post I am going to read it with a wary eye and if a blogger has that on every post I am unlikely to keep on following. And as for special treatment because you are a blogger: appreciate it, but don’t expect it. In order to give my readers an honest review of a product or experience, I certainly don’t want to get “better than the rest” service that goes beyond their normal work ethic. It means that any reader that follows after us will have a lesser experience and I would never want that.
I think most bloggers have at least one if not many terrible tales of being let down by a brand. It can be absolutely devastating to the blogger as we see our integrity with our readers crumbling. If you have promised something to your readers and your brand doesn’t follow through, then you end up looking bad and so does the brand. No one is a winner. Our relationship with our readers is fundamental to our blog being a place they like to call home and somewhere they want to stop by each day. If a brand doesn’t come through, and I have had my share of brand fails from teeny tiny miscommunications to galactic non-deliveries, the cost is dear not only to the blogger but to the brand.
I will try and keep our readers none-the-wiser, it is the professional thing to do. But it can cost the blogger dearly, not only financially, a trust had been broken and being let down hurts. I think the trick is to remain professional, and while it may feel like your blog is disintegrating around you, keep in mind that you are a brand and your followers will stand by you through thick and thin. It is not your blog that is at fault but rather a brand that has not delivered. I do believe when there is a galactic fail, for example a massive non-delivery of GiveAway prizes… it is better to explain to your readers that there is a problem than to malign the brand. You cannot win by calling folk out or retaliating, you will look bad and it just isn’t professional. By all means communicate with the brands and explain your distress but don’t name and shame, or post a nasty retaliatory review. That sort of unprofessionalism will close doors to you of many other fabulous brands that will be taking notice. Be gracious and sincere and you will be noticed. Try not to take it personally in the midst of a brand fail… it is alright to feel overwhelmed and mistreated, it is even all right to take a couple of days off to recover, yes it can feel that bad to have a blogging disaster of the brand-fail variety, but then move on.
And the se7en + 1th…
I remember when I was first married and the ladies in the office would gather around at tea-time and the conversation often became a lamenting of whose husband was the least help, not to mention whose husband was the worst patient, it was honestly embarrassing to be there as folk tried to have the last word. Let me tell you as a blogger, and when bloggers get together, they are often happy to lament the brands that they work for. Many times I have found myself literally cringing, not only does it spoil it for other bloggers, who may have thought that that complimentary gift was a lovely gesture, but it sets a very negative tone for all blogger-brand relationships. I am sure it is not meant to be a competition, and it is just unnecessary for a brand that I already align with to feel a need to woo me to get my best work. Seriously, avoid any conversations about any brands unless they are positive conversations. It is just not done to malign a brand in public ever, it makes you appear to be a non-team player, and frankly you look unprofessional. And certainly never say a bad word against a brand online, it will always reflect far worse on you than on the brand. Bloggers want to be treated professionally by brands, and bloggers should behave professionally too. I am firmly convinced that the polite and gracious blogger will stand the test of time, as will enduring and authentic brands.
To be honest it is a wild and stormy sea out there. Bloggers working with brands is a fairly new thing and both sides are trying to find a way that works for them. There are no rules, only a few guidelines and plenty of discussion available. Just like there are fab brands to work with, there will be less than fab brands, there will always be those that try and push the window and get more from your blog than you are prepared to give. Keep in mind that your blog is your brand and it is up to you to be a fabulous brand to work with. In any professional environment there will be folk that are great to work with and those that aren’t. Make sure that you are one of the good ones, because I have a feeling that those that aren’t won’t be sailing the se7en seas for very long.