Whether you’ve been blogging for six months or six years, no matter how much the technology changes, the importance of building relationships doesn’t. But it does evolve as bloggers, brands and their agency representatives learn how to navigate the online world.
I’ve helped plenty of brands and agencies understand how to work better with bloggers. Now the tables have turned and I’ve been tasked with sharing some ways you can get the most out of working with brands. I put the question to my Facebook community and assembled this list of top 10 tips from bloggers, brands, PR consultants, marketing pros, community managers, and my own two cents.
1. Produce engaging content
The saying “content is king (or queen)” holds true. In order to have a successful blog, there’s no way of getting around this one. Blog posts must be well written and edited. Be sure to include beautiful visuals. As a food blogger, seize the opportunity to tell your story in pictures too. If your writing or photography skills are lacking, consider exchanging tips with a friend.
2. Have a publishing schedule
Brands want to know that your blog is being updated regularly and that you’re publishing new posts frequently. You don’t need to blog every day but brands will, want to see that your blog is up-to-date before they approach you with opportunities. If you’ve published 800 posts but haven’t blogged in more than a year, no matter how high your search rankings, a brand worth its salt won’t be interested.
3. Make it easy for brands to get to know you
“About” pages tell new readers what to expect from your blog and who the blogger (or blogging team) is behind the site. Share your story and why you blog – let your passion shine through. Be clear about what types of stories you tell and who is the intended audience.
“Recently, after getting an invitation to an event in Vancouver, I realized that I didn't have my home city listed on my “about” page, so I changed that,” shares Andrea Toole, who blogs at Andrea the Gastronaut.
Consider adding a “Work With Me” section or page with your pitch policies, guidelines and rates, if applicable
4. Include your contact information
This sounds like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how many bloggers make it difficult to contact them… unintentionally. Publish your email address or use a contact form on your site and make it easy to find. Let people know the turnaround time they can expect to hear from you and if there are specific requests you’ll ignore. (Note: linking to your Twitter account doesn’t count!)
5. Be transparent and disclose relationships
Brands want to work with bloggers who follow best practices. It’s that simple.
Building relationships is all about trust, whether it be with other food lovers or brands and their agencies. The best way to ensure your reputation remains intact is to be transparent and disclose any relationship(s) that may influence your writing.
6. Be brand loyal
Michèle Bosc, Director of Marketing at Chateau des Charmes says, “Don't be afraid to endorse a brand you love. Stay loyal to that brand within a category… Be professional and true to your voice.”
Promoting multiple products for competing brands may lead readers to question whether or not they can trust your product reviews, endorsements or anything you have to say. You don’t want to be that blogger who will do anything for attention or a quick buck.
“Don’t be shy. Introduce yourself and your blog. Let us know what type of news/information you’re interested in and what your readers like to see,” suggests Mary Pretotto, Senior Manager, Social Media Community at Rogers Communications.
Alanna Glicksman, lifestyle blogger and Digital Marketing & Community Manager at MasterCard Canada, says “Have a firm understanding of the company/brand they rep and provide partnership ideas to show how you (and your blog) are an asset for the company.
Take advantage of opportunities to network with brands and agencies at conferences or events.
Alanna suggests you ask the PR rep or community manager out for coffee, “Once you’ve formed a bond in real life, it will be difficult for them to forget you when they are looking to partner with bloggers on initiatives.”
8. Think beyond the blog
“Be prepared to offer your content ideas up for brand usage,” suggests Matthew Stradiotto, Co-founder, Matchstick, “today brands want to ‘co-create’ content with publishers. Think about how your content could live brand-side, and not JUST on your blog!”
Don’t be discouraged if a brand turns down your amazing idea; it may not fit within their budget or business objectives.
9. Honour your commitments
Jeanette Miller, Principal and Owner, Limelite PR, advises, “If you commit to doing something, then actually do it… Understand that if you are working with brands and expect to be paid then you are committing to a business transaction. So treat the PR rep as your client and operate like any business should – with great customer service.”
And Andrea Toole replied, “… Same goes for the PR company. I’ve emailed reps after events with questions, been promised a response, and never got one. In one case they didn’t get the write up.”
10. Think like a business
Andrew Dobson, who blogs at DobbernationLOVES, recommends you “… think like a business person and not a writer. Show the brand you understand their marketing goals, that you get their audience and that you wish to showcase their products with a creative and unique voice.”
Visit Andrew’s Brand Me page where he shares the highlights of successful partnerships with brands he loves.
Following these 10 tips won’t necessarily prevent you from receiving bad pitches (it won’t guarantee all brands or their agencies will do their homework either), but they should help you improve your blog and attract more of the opportunities and relationships you want, whether you’re blogging for passion or pay.
What helps you get the most out of working with brands? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Eden Spodek is a digital communications strategist with a unique perspective on emerging media. Client-side, agency-side and high profile blogger and community builder, she’s seen the digital world from all sides. Most recently, Eden added curriculum developer/instructor to her role with the launch a new Digital Strategy & Communications Management certificate program at University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. She’s happiest helping colleagues and clients to be a little disruptive, challenging the status quo and how people think about brands. Eden is also outspoken about the importance of building online engagement and targeted relationships, one influencer at a time. Eden is based in Toronto and can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram where she loves sharing photos of her adventures in food.
Great post Eden! I am nodding in agreement with everything here. I second the idea of the pitch policy. I posted one a few years ago when the quantity and quality of pitches became totally out of control and it’s definitely helped stem the tide. In it I outline exactly who I am, where I live, and what kind of things I will (and won’t!) write about. I’ve had a lot of great feedback from PR people about it too. I think it makes everyone’s life easier! Now, if only everyone would read it… ! 🙂
Great article! Sharing ideas with brands is such a great idea- we’ve really gotten some great ideas from our bloggers and even if we can’t use them exactly, they give us a great idea of the direction to go in!
Wonderful article, Eden! Lots of great tips, I am off to update my ‘about me’ page right now. 🙂
[…] friend Eden wrote an article called Ten tips to help you get the most out of working with brands for the Food Bloggers of […]
Andrea, thanks for your comment. You’re known in many circles for your excellent pitch policy. I hope you don’t mind my sharing it here: http://www.quietfish.com/notebook/?page_id=1762
Cooking With Cutco, thanks for your feedback. I’d love to know how you recognize bloggers who share ideas you implement and/or adapt.
Jill, thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found the tips helpful and I can’t wait to see your updated About page. You’ll need to let us know if you notice a difference as a result.
great article – thanks so much – i was always curious how the brand relationship worked with bloggers! i’ve been approached by some companies but have never been interested in the product. some helpful tips here, thanks!
Extremely informative for someone fairly new to this aspect of blogging. I definitely need to do some work. Thanks for all the great tips.
Lyndsay and Jacquee, Thanks very much for your comments and you’re very welcome. I’m glad you found this post helpful. It would be great to know which ones you implement and how they may a difference.
Lyndsay, will you be adding an About page to your blog or have you thought about what else you can do to give brands a better sense of when they should approach you, if at all?
Great information, Eden! I would be interested in hearing about some real life examples of #8.
Hola Misty! I regularly collaborate with brands on my blog. This sort of brand collaboration can be a one off product feature or a more long term relationship such as my Ambassadorship with Canada Beef or Eatzclub.
You can see a list of my recent brand collaborations here:
Hope that helps!
A memorable recent example of a blogger ‘co-creation program’ is The Gap’s “Styld.By” campaign. Bloggers were asked to develop content (styled looks featuring some Gap clothing items) which lived both on the blogger sites (blogs, Tumblrs, etc) as well as on The Gap’s owned channels. Here’s a recap of the campaign basics from the LonelyBrand Blog:
[…] on an blog post originally appearing at Food Bloggers of Canada. Photo credit: Flying […]
Great blogging tips and i think contact information must be added in blog because it shows the loyalty.
[…] Bloggers and Brands: 10 Tips for Working Together by Food Bloggers of Canada […]
Great tips Eden and nice to see you again.
Wow! This information has added a new level of knowledge for me to the concept of sponsorship and partnering with brands. A new path that I will soon be following. Thanks for the info!
[…] friend Eden wrote an article called Ten tips to help you get the most out of working with brands for the Food Bloggers of Canada […]