How to Navigate Sponsored Work with Bloggers

There’s no question that working with bloggers is the most effective way to gain access to potential customers. As brands discover this modern way of marketing, they’re diving in head first with no real knowledge of how the whole blogger relationship works. Through our own work with brands on The Shelf, we’ve discovered that there are a lot of pain points, from identifying bloggers and reaching out, to devising collaborations and tracking success. But the biggest pain point we hear is how to navigate paid work with bloggers. There’s a whole bunch of stuff you need to do before you can even dive into the budget conversation though. Ahead, we're offering a few tips and best practices for navigating those tricky conversations so you can nail down some solid blogger collaborations - PRONTO!

Identify Bloggers

Start off by finding the perfect bloggers for your campaign. Look at demographics, audience size, keywords, and brands they’ve worked with in the past. When identifying bloggers, you’re looking for a natural fit. Do they share the same values? Does their lifestyle align with your brand? Always keep in mind that if your brand doesn’t fit into their lifestyle, naturally the partnership won’t feel organic for them OR their audience. Most importantly, make sure their audience matches your target customer.

Once you’ve identified bloggers that could be a good fit, take the time to read through their blog posts. Find out what they write about, how often they publish, what brands they've partnered up with, if those brands share a similar demographic. Read comments from readers and analyze the sentiment, so you can gage whether your product would resonate with their audience. It’s definitely worthwhile to engage with the blogger through social media as the majority run their own channels. This can be a great way to get on their radar before you reach out.

Reach Out

The best way to peek the interest of a blogger is to show that you’ve taken the time to get to know her. Devise a personalized pitch that speaks to her personal brand as a blogger. As a blogger myself, I can’t tell you how many untargeted pitches I’ve received that show the person hasn’t taken the time to get to know me or even see if I would be the right fit for their brand. On the flip side, my heart skips a beat when a brand takes the time to get to know my blog and devises a pitch that’s’ really customized to me. This lets me know they are really interested in working with me, not just any blogger. To that end, it’s crucial that you take the time to investigate as much as you can before blasting every blogger in your industry with the same outreach template. Trust me, we can all see through it.

Start by establishing common ground with the blogger. You can bring up a post you recently read on their site and how you think her readers would really love your brand as well because you have a similar aesthetic. For example:

Hi [bloggers first name],

I absolutely love that style story you did on [designer name] jewelry. We create beautiful quartz pieces that are great for street style shoots. I think both you and your readers would love the jewelry. The pieces would be perfect for your detail shots and style of photography.

This tells me the brand knows what I write about (street style), has read my blog, knows my aesthetic, and thinks my audience would love their brand too. Great.

Next, be sure to have a campaign idea in mind while still being flexible to the blogger’s input. Be very specific with the campaign requirements so that the blogger can figure out what compensation is required to fulfill the collaboration. Knowing all the details will also help the blogger envision whether the campaign is a good fit.

Ask about rates

Now that you’ve introduced your campaign idea and the blogger is interested in working with you, it’s time to inquire about rates. Be respectful and aware that blogger rates can vary drastically. The majority of bloggers have media kits where they list their rates for the various services they offer. Since most campaign rates are determined on a case-by-case basis, their media kit serves as a jumping off point. From here, you should be able to at least gage whether or not you can afford to work with her and in what capacity.

If you’re more flexible on the campaign angle and less flexible on budget, you may want to inquire about a media kit before you get into campaign details. Also, getting familiar with rates in advance will help you narrow down to the right bloggers or types of campaigns that are within your budget. For example, you might really want to work with one particular blogger but can only afford a sponsored social post, not a full-blown giveaway. Depending on your situation, choose the approach that best works for your brand.

how to do a sponsored blog post

Be respectful of the blogger

If you’re hoping to garner some solid results from blogger campaigns you have to be willing to offer fair compensation. Some of the biggest bloggers still receive pitches that involve unpaid work. But the truth is – no matter how big or small the blogger is – she needs to be compensated for her time, talent and effort. Make no mistake, blogging takes serious commitment, creativity, and smarts.

If you’re planning on adding sponsored work with bloggers to your marketing strategy in 2015, treat it like any other media buy. It comes at a price. And while it can be way less expensive than other forms of marketing, it can also be far more beneficial in the long run.

Conclusion

While asking about rates is an awkward part of the outreach process, it’s a necessary one. The sooner you get comfortable with the fact that bloggers charge for their services, the easier it will be. Think of it this way: you would pay to run an ad on Google Adwords, why would you not pay for a sponsored post on a blogger’s site? If you get 100 clicks from Google Adwords, you might pay around $100. Bloggers are generally much less expensive than that, yet their audience is far more targeted.

Once you start reaching out to bloggers at different influencer levels, you will become more familiar with their rates. You will know what to expect and this, in turn, will help guide your outreach efforts.