You’ve seen it around the blogosphere- bloggers are getting big ticket products and cool event invites from major brands, and you want a slice. You see that little juicy clue-in: “I received complimentary product to facilitate this review” in italics at the bottom of posts and wonder how they do it.
You don’t have to have huge traffic stats to start working with brands, in fact, if you’re looking to earn perks & monetize your blog, working directly with brands is the fastest, most effective way to both grow your blog faster and to get payback for your hard work much quicker. Sadly though, many bloggers are clueless on how to work with brands, what brands look for and how to get their blogs noticed by major companies for campaigns.
Truth is, sometimes brands will find you, but most of the time, many bloggers have set themselves up to be discovered- here’s how:
Many bloggers write aimlessly as they figure out what they want their blog to be about, hoping it’ll all come together someday. While it’s okay to have a personal blog that’s a bit…scattered, you do need to be known for something now, even if it changes later. Every blogger needs keystone content or a “voice” that is uniquely theirs and would fit well as a brand ambassador or reviewer later on. Your blog needs to be polished with personality and you need to be known as someone with an opinion. I can’t tell you how many blogs out there have “About” pages and profiles that don’t say much about anything at all. You need specifics- passions, hobbies, location, background, quirks.
Your content should be filled with personality and your About page & all social profiles should let people know who you are- wife, mother, single gal, college grad, yoga junkie, pet lover… if you want brands to find you, make their job stupid-simple by letting people know you meet certain demographics. Brands look for bloggers that meet certain demographic criteria- if people can’t get a basic picture of your life by visiting your homepage or your About page, you’re making an epic mistake. Use lots of specific nouns, add pictures and truly take time to describe who you are- knitter, new mom, camper, runner, alumni, student…etc. etc. These specifics won’t alienate, they’ll illuminate, and so many bloggers overlook these gorgeous details.
People, including brands, will sum up your site in 2 seconds or less. Brands have big budgets, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to spend it on just anyone- your blog is your brand, is it sending the right message? Under NO circumstances should you ever use the defaults when it comes to design- that applies to social media and your blog’s homepage. A brand will notice your blog’s layout before they go digging for your stats, but if your blog is “straight out of the box,” or looks like a newbie blogger put it together, you will be ignored.
Bloggers agonize over their stats, but trust me, brands won’t even notice your stats if they’re turned out by a creepy bathroom self-photo on your About page, a ugly free layout and poor grammar. Little things like having an up to date About page, a gorgeous layout and beautifully photographed or well written posts will pique their interest long enough so they don’t immediately judge you on stats.
When I first started working with brands my stats were, well- small and I was super self-conscious about it. I can’t tell you how many times brands would tell me “We typically work with more established bloggers (meaning more traffic, more followers) but we’re willing to make an exception for you.” How did this happen? Trust me, stats can sometimes shut many doors, and abruptly- but, if you play your cards right and appear as an up-and-comer instead of a greedy newbie, you’ll get your foot in the door. Invest in a high quality layout, a professional headshot and move to self-hosted on WordPress with your own domain.
Also- if your stats are low, you can “tuck” them in a professional media kit in PDF format. Brands will take you more seriously as a blogger if you have a media kit, treat it with the same time and respect as you would a résumé. Give your media kit only on request, after you’ve built a conversation with a brand or they’ve asked for it. Even if you have low stats, looking professional with a media kit that includes your bio, site stats, offerings and rates is key.
Before major brands find out they want to work with you- know they’ll do their research. They want to know that you know what you’re doing before they even bother sending an email. Your page can be titled “PR Info,” “Media Info,” “Advertising” or “Sponsor,” but the gist is the same.
You’ll want to include a quick summary of your blog and who reads it, what kinds of services you offer (sidebar ads, reviews, giveaways), any brands you’ve worked with or special media features, and of course- a quick way for brands to contact you. Whether or not you include your rates and stats publicly is up to you. If your stats are low, you can add a note that your “media kit is available on request,” but can play up some of your stronger points if your social media and Google Page Rank are strong, but leave your traffic off unless a brand specifically asks.
Ad Networks like BlogHer, Burst, Glam & others are a mixed bag for bloggers. Some require that you put an impression based ad (similar to Google Adsense) on your blog above the fold on your blog and their badge, in order to participate- among other participation stipulations. Beyond that, it can be hard to get into with traffic requirements and barred blog topics, but- if you want to start working with major brands, many networks also offer sponsored campaigns with major brands.
When I started, my first reviews and paid campaigns were negotiated by BlogHer & Burst. Usually, these campaigns were book reviews with very small compensation or a giveaway, or they’d send a product with a “discussion topic,” to include to coincide with a major marketing campaign or product launch. Keep in mind, working with brands through a “middle man” might help you gain experience and have some noteworthy mentions on your PR/Info page, but remember that working through a major ad agency won’t put you in direct contact with the brand personally down the line for bigger, better projects- since these are usually one time deals.
If you’re nervous about cold pitching brands with no experience, this could be a good way to ease into product features and brand collaborations- but trust me, any blogger could start from scratch by implementing the strategies mentioned above. Brands will find you!
Every blogger deserves to earn perks, money & freebies with their blog. If you want grow your readership & work with major brands, I offer blogger coaching services.
If you’re ready to make an investment that will pay for itself in 30 days with the right hustle, I’d love to work with you!
All new coaching clients will receive a $54 value bonus in March- A Gold Version of Rockstar Blogging