Sponsored Posts

Trey George at the A Beautiful Mess office tableHi there. Trey here, the ad guy. So we just put out our Blog Life e-course and being our ad guy, I wrote a few sessions on sponsorship basics. While I get into the nitty-gritty of pricing and all that in the course, I thought I’d give you a look inside our sponsored content process.

If you would’ve asked me how I felt about sponsorships when I was a kid, I probably would’ve rolled my eyes and pointed to my super rad 5 Star Notebook that said “MONEY CORRUPTS” in whiteout—well, if you could find it in the sea of bands my mom wouldn’t let me listen to. I think I wrote N-I-(backwards)N over 20 times on that notebook. I was pretty cool. While it’s hard to argue with all that upper-middle-class angst, I have to say that at 29 I feel a little different.

I think living in the online world, where we essentially get all media for free, has us pretty accustomed to the word “sponsored.” It makes it possible to continue to enjoy our free content, while the content creators sustain a business. And the value of banner ads seems to have maxed out. Enter sponsored content. I think there was some justifiable hesitation mixing editorial and advertising at first. No one wants to see their favorite bloggers sacrifice their content for a dollar. That said, having been in the industry in one form or fashion for pretty much all of my career, I’ve noticed people don’t really care whether it’s sponsored as long as it’s authentic.

Now, it can be argued as soon as money enters the door all authenticity goes out the window. But ultimately, I think that’s up to the blogger. It can be true, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s your blog, so it’s your terms. Sure, it’s unlikely you’re going to read a lot of negativity in a sponsored post. But frankly, if you’re looking for critical analysis on a brand, a post sponsored by that brand might not be the smartest place to look.

While I definitely hunt down leads at companies we want to work with, a lot of my job is just filtering requests we get through the sponsorships email. And we get every kind of company inquiring about our program, from car brands to tech start-ups to insurance companies to “adult” products to brands that actually fit our content. My inbox is awesome.

I have a pretty simple filtering process for our sponsored content inquiries:

• Is it a brand E+E like? We will not work with a brand they’re not into. Simple as that. Aside from it feeling super shady to write, you guys are too smart for that. We would justifiably get called out immediately. Like, you see our Macs in every other post it seems like. We couldn’t just spring a “10 Reasons Dell is the best!” on you.

• Does it fit our content? There are plenty of brands out there that E+E like that just don’t fit within the type of content we run. We won’t invent a whole new feature for a sponsor. We have to design features around readers, not sponsors. It would be pretty weird if all of a sudden we posted about the benefits of off-roading in our Subarus.

Do they actually want what we offer? We’re very narrow about the kind of sponsored content we offer. We have a short list of features a brand can get within our posts for a firm price. Often we get requests to do things we just don’t and won’t offer.

The first two are pretty easy to manage. It’s as simple as looking at the brand and politely declining. The last point is where it gets tricky. It typically takes a couple of back-and-forth emails to figure that one out, especially when ad/PR/media agencies get involved. They sell this whole blogger campaign concept to their clients, complete with $50,000 consumer research, dorky hashtags (#PeopleHateHashtagsEvenWhenThey’reNotSponsored), photo editing requirements, over-the-top legal language, royalty-free rights to your brand, and a continued laundry list of actions they expect the blogger to take—all in exchange for a Facebook shoutout and a gift card.

But they build out this whole proposal without ever checking if that’s something bloggers even offer. It’s just strange. I wonder what it’s like going to a restaurant with these people. Do they walk into McDonald’s, shut their eyes, and shout, “I want a pizza with a side of sushi for $3 and a Jiffy Lube coupon!”?

Having worked in marketing and for agencies, I totally get the lengthy process of getting your client’s/boss’s blessing on something. All the approvals you need sometimes are a nightmare, and all bloggers do it a little differently. So I can appreciate wanting to be as complete as possible with a plan, but we just need a little flexibility if you’re going to ask us after the fact.

For the most part, I’m able to be pretty upfront and clear about what we offer, so we can sort out relatively quickly if we’ll be able to work together. In fact, I have an almost perfect track record of never canceling after we’ve started work with a brand. Almost perfect—except this one time…

Sponsored PostsSo we work with a handful of media agencies or publisher networks who develop relationships with hundreds of bloggers/publishers and connect them with brands interested in sponsoring a blog or a group of blogs. What’s nice about the particular media agencies we work with is that they specialize in blogs. So for the most part, they thoroughly understand what we offer and our challenges.

This one agency in particular had been a great partner to us over the years. Now I can’t disclose names here, but we’ll make some up. And our contact (we’ll call her "Jenny") came to us with a three-post campaign from a juice brand (let’s get creative and call it “Juice”) that could’ve made a great partner for a recipe post series. I ran it by Emma, and she was immediately throwing some ideas at me. So, as clearly I could, I spelled out exactly what our sponsorship program entailed and how we could work with the brand: (I’m paraphrasing here) ABM would post recipes using Juice, and Juice would be featured in the photography, called out as a partner in the copy, and linked accordingly. Jenny is and has always been a great person to work with and said that was fine and she’d get back to us directly.

A month passed, and we hadn’t heard from her. Then she emailed me something like—

“Hi Trey,

Sorry for the delay! Finally heard back on Juice. It looks like we’re a go! Just to recap the details:
– 3 posts featuring Juice. The post will show Elsie and Emma’s blended interests and how their generation is always working on so many things.
– 3 Facebook posts tagging Juice
– 3 Tweets with #JUICERATION (made this up obviously, but it was equally lame)
– 3 pins
– 3 Instagram posts with #JUICERATION

I look forward to hearing from you!

Jenny”

Not quite what we discussed, but I’m sure there’d been a lot of back-and-forth since we’d last talked. So I figured I should clarify.

“Hi Jenny,

I think I must’ve misunderstood. We should definitely be good, as long as the posts can be teaching-oriented. Essentially the only way Juice could really fit into the content is through some recipes Emma dreams up. Sponsored lifestyle posts aren't something we can offer.

And just to be clear, our social won’t include @s or #s. We just promote the post, like we do all our content. If that works with Juice, this sounds great.

Thanks!
Trey”

We clarified a couple more things, and we seemed good to go again, or so I thought. The problem was this became a little bit of a pattern. Every time I thought we were on the same page, a month or two would pass, and she’d email the exact same list of deliverables: the weird lifestyle posts, the hashtags, etc. And again, I would insist that the only way Juice would be in our content was through recipes Emma wrote. This whole cycle went on for nearly six months, and every time we tried to back away entirely we were told our terms were fine.

We finally got to the point where everyone agreed we were doing the recipes, and Emma came up with some awesome concepts on a crazy fast timeline. We sent our first post for them to review, and we got a mile-long email worth of input, leading off with how Emma’s writing tone didn’t ladder up to the JUICERATION concept document they sent over. Then they went on to say the recipe itself wasn’t good enough and didn’t reflect the “Juice Generation.” So by the time I got to the full paragraph of legal language they wanted us to add to the post, I was done. We were canceling. No more emails. No more hashtags. We were done.

They were asking Emma not to be herself, and that’s exactly why people hate sponsored content. So yeah, canceling sucked. We wasted a lot of time and passed on some money. But it just wasn’t worth it. At the end of the day, when it comes to sponsored content, the sponsor can never be your first priority. It always has to be you guys, the readers. Without you, sponsors wouldn’t want to talk to us in the first place. There was nothing inherently bad about what Juice was asking us to do. It just wasn’t something we thought you guys would like and therefore not something we believed in. If you’re a blogger considering sponsored content, I can’t stress enough not to back down. If you don’t stand up for your blog and your brand, sponsors will definitely overstep and drive readers away. It's your blog. You call the shots.

There's more about all this in the Blog Life E-Course, as you could guess. And feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

-Trey

Credits // Author: Trey George, Photography by: Sarah Rhodes

  • Just a tip, using the term glass ceiling to describe the cost ceiling of banner ads is pretty whack here—it’s not a colloquialism—it actually refers specifically to politics and feminism. It would be cool if you edited the post to change that. Thanks.

  • This was so great to read, especially since I’ve been receiving more sponsorship opportunities on my blog. It’s so refreshing to hear someone thinking what I think (I hope that made sense…). You guys are awesome!

  • Loved this…as well as the many fabulous analogies you used to explain everything. Thanks for the tips and reminding us it’s all about the blog and the brand.

    xx Sarah | Loser Girl Wins

  • Awesome post!
    You’re so right that one of the biggest draws to A Beautiful Mess is the authenticity of Elsie & Emma. Not filtering that through would be crazy & obvious.
    It’s fun to have a peek into the inner workings!
    Very cool, thanks!

  • I want to send a belated congratulations to Emma for her marriage to Trey. This is a fantastic post, and he sounds like a keeper! 🙂 It’s been fun to get to know the whole [expanded] team better. This is my favorite year of ABM posts so far.

  • Thanks for sharing Trey… (although this post DID make me want to jump ahead and read your sections of the Blog Life e-course!) I love how you used a real story to put it all into perspective. You also have a great writing style! E & E are lucky to have you 🙂

  • Thaank you for writing this post! As a tiny blog the number of offers we receive is so few that it’s hard to turn down that money, but so so important to stay true to ourselves. You’re right – it’s only worth it if you can be authentic!

  • Loved the post Trey, you guys really do a great job because I never feel like the posts are too obvious, they always fit your style ( which obviously its the style your readers like and aim to achieve). Thanks for being a blog that I follow almost daily for more than 3 years and still love very much!!

  • Edited. Leave it to me talk about banner ads and social progress in the same language. I suck real bad sometimes. Sorry about that.

    Thanks, Kate!
    Trey

  • Part of the reason I love ABM so much is how real everyone is, sharing the successes and mistakes. Thank you so much for sharing this! I can’t wait to get further into the e-course and learn more about all of this!

  • Great posts. It had all the elements! Personalized with some history, humor, advise, an interesting example story, and life lessons. Trey is a good writer and I’d love to see more posts from him. Way to be honest and true to yourself guys!

  • This is such a great post! I think it’s a serious struggle for newer bloggers or bloggers who recently left their day job to do this full time (like me). Unfortunately, sometimes money is the driving force when bills need to be paid and the work isn’t coming in as quickly as we’d like. But with that said, I love this reminder and it’s great to hear that even ABM has struggled with some of these agency weird rules. It’s super frustrating to find out after you signed on and did the work that they also insist on 5 Instagram shares. FIVE! Seriously? Five is way over the top. Thanks for this post!

  • This was a great read – really enjoyed it, and awesome writing style too! I’m fairly new to blogging, so am soaking up all the tips and advice I can, so thanks for posting this! 🙂

  • Thank you for this great post, it’s nice to read how you handle this stuff! Trey, I really like your writing style too, and the insights how you try (and from my point of view: pretty well!) match your own and your readers interests, while keeping a growing business … not so easy sometimes, I guess. Writing blog posts might not be your first priority on ABM but boy, I really enjoyed every single post you published so far!

  • Thanks for these insights! Really enjoyed your post and writing, Trey 🙂

    I think a lot of the issues you describe in your Juice case have to do with old-fashioned thinking by marketing teams of big brands, is that your feeling as well? I mean: would they tell a celebrity they pay to promote their product in their popular real-life-soap to change their voice because it doesn’t fit with their branding? Probably not. I work in web design and it’s so often that a client has a budget of hundreds of thousands for a traditional media campaign, and five thousand for a digital one. Of course including social media, website and all that 😉 It’s just like Elsie wrote in her article on young industries – blogging (or the internet) is a real job. Advertising on the internet is just as real as it is in traditional media, I really hope that will soon be the standard.

  • Trey, I really enjoyed hearing your voice through this post. You and Emma have the same sense of humor. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing–this is something I, as a non-blogger, am totally ignorant to. It was nice to get some insight!

  • I echo what Hannah said. Really great post, and good to hear Trey’s point of view. Thanks!

  • This. A million times this. It gets so frustrating to hear a brand say they just don’t have the budget to pay the bloggers. But they do have $100,000 to spend on a coupon in the Sunday paper. Or $50,000 to spend on the press kits they send to the bloggers.

    Luckily, I think I’m slowly starting to see a big change. Hopefully you are too.

    -Trey

  • Thanks so much for sharing this honest story! I really appreciate how you keep this blog authentic while still incorporating sponsored content- it’s why I keep coming back to read. And P.S. I love Emma’s writing tone, she should never change it.

    -Kelcey
    hellokelcey.blogspot.com

  • We completely relate. At a certain point, we need to keep the lights on, you know? So it’s hard to pass on the money. But just know there are normal, reasonable companies out there. They will come. I promise.

    Is post-signature stress disorder a thing? Because it should be. There have been all too many fine print paragraphs that turn my stomach in knots.

    -Trey

  • Thanks for your insight Trey! This post alone may have sold me on the blog live e-course with your lame examples and all 😉

  • Haha “I want a pizza with a side of sushi for $3 and a Jiffy Lube coupon!” – I’m cracking up. I don’t have a blog or anything but I CAN tell you that ABM is the only blog I read these days. I ran into too many sponsored blogs that really killed the blog’s authenticity and what I love about Emma and Elsie is the fact that their posts really do always feel genuine, whether sponsored or not. I admit that I’m a little envious you are able to be paid so well for doing such a cool job but you all put MOUNDS of work into your posts and I love that you now support a full team of people that allow you to post multiple times a day. Sorry for the long post, but keep up the amazing work!

  • Trey, you are an amazing writer. I really enjoyed your post and will be purchasing the blog life e-course. You should write more often!

  • Great post! Very cool hearing about the other side of things. The worst is when I’m reading a blog and then near the end the blogger tries to tie in the sponsored content, ‘and that’s why Tide fits into our lives.. blah blah blah… here’s a chance at a Visa gift card’ It makes me feel a little used or something.

  • Your honesty and explanation are refreshing. Bravo for sticking to your guns!

    Ps. Tell Emma I’d love to read about (non-sponsored or sponsored) juice related recipes! Summer is coming and juicing is grand for sun time!

  • Hi Elsie and Emma! I am a loyal fan and enjoy the honesty of all of your posts.. the sponsorship post surely portrays that ethical perspective as well.
    It left me with one important question. If someone wants to talk to you about sponsorship, do they have to go through an agency to be able to open that conversation? I would love to know..

  • Thanks for the comment, Michelle! Yeah, while there’s definitely some hard work from these girls, we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t so awesome to get to do what we do for a living.

    -Trey

  • Hi Amy, awesome question! And the answer is definitely no. They don’t have to work through an agency. But a lot of them just do, because it’s easier on the brand. They can lean on the agency to manage all the little details that go into it, rather than taxing their own staff.

    That said, it’s always better when you can get a direct relationship going, as it just streamlines communication. That’s what we have with Canon, and it’s awesome. They’re so awesome to work with.

    -Trey

  • Wow trey, I literally had no idea this was how it worked. So much to learn. I think you’re absolutely right though, I love this blog and a big part if that is that I love Elsie and Emma’s style and they’re intrrests. I’d stop reading fast if you turned pushy on us. Thanks so much. Zoe

  • This is a great post and I think that it really needs to be read by more bloggers! Thank you so much for sharing this and yes, Trey definitely needs to write more!

  • thanks for this. i have a tiny blog which i take care of as if it was one of my most precious possessions (and it really is). I get a few sponsor requests a month and it really upsets me how brands and agencies try to step over bloggers. This is such great advise. Can’t wait to get home and purchase the ecourse!!!!!

  • I LOVE THIS POST!

    And I so completely agree – sponsorship /advs fuel the blogs I love to read – but I’ve dropped more than one once they turn it into you’ve got to buy this or that product.

    LOVE how y’all incorporate it all into a blog post that is authentic!

  • You just sold me on the blog life e-course, haha! I wish more blogs and content creators would learn from ABM’s fierce stand on authenticity. I absolutely hate it when I’m reading a post on a blog that I love and suddenly it’s like “Hey I use such and such product, it’s great!” and it feels so forced and fake. And hashtags are AWFUL. Honestly, as a baby blogger, I’d rather juggle my full-time gig and my blog for as long as it takes before taking money for a post that could tarnish my brand and baffle my readership (no matter how tiny it is in the beginning).

    @jennifermalise

  • This is such good advice, thank you. My blog is only small, and so I was so excited to be contacted by a company interested in a sponsored post. When I looked at the detail, it just wasn’t my style and I couldn’t fully believe in what they wanted. Even though I would have probably greatly benefitted from the sponsorship I’m really glad that I got my priorities right. Maybe one day I’ll get a sponsorship that is right, but for now I’ll just keep blogging in a way that I am happy with 🙂

  • Totally agreed! I’m new to the blogging world and hearing about the business side of it is very interesting! 🙂

  • Trey, I love your personality. You are funny and witty. I love it when ABM allows us to see into their beghind the scenes world, as well as getting to know other staffers better. This was very informative. Thank you! 🙂

    Love and luck,

    Laurali Star

  • Definitely enjoyed this post! I would love to read more from Trey.

    And I’m glad to see that this is how you all do sponsored business; just another “hey we’re real!” kind of post like the weekly random pictures you all post… that’s what I love! 🙂

  • I really enjoyed this post and would love to see more like this in the future. I also can’t wait to purchase the Blog Love E-course. I think it will do good things for my blog!

    Thanks again guys,

    Mickie

  • Thank you for explaining your views on this topic- there’s been a lot of talk about this subject on instagram/blogs lately. I think you do a wonderful job handling your sponsors on this blog 🙂

  • “people don’t really care whether it’s sponsored as long as it’s authentic.” YES! I think this is true for more things besides blogging.

  • I’ ve been reading ABM for years, but this is my first comment 🙂 I don´t write english as good as i read it, but i want to say Trey that i found this post so helpful, so interesting and i´ll love read him more often at the blog. Thanks for sharing your knowledge about blog marketing!

  • Hi there Trey,

    Thanks so much for this post! I already commented on this once, haha, but I have a quick question. I am at the very beginning on my blogging journey, I used the blog design love e course to help me set up my blog, I have defined what I like to write about, and I have been writing regularly for a few months. I really want to purchase the Blog Love course, but do you think the info is too advanced for me right now?

    Thanks so much for your time,

    Mickie

  • I just loved this post. I’ve been back and forth on this blog for years. Sometimes I’ve loved it and sometimes I’ve felt like there’s almost too many ideas and too much content and too many personalities, but posts like this draw me back in.

    Thanks for an insightful and honest reflection on the business side of blogging. It does feel very genuine.

  • I’m lucky enough to work for an awesome non-profit human services agency that is committed to being transparent with our staff regarding our business decisions, but I know that not everyone gets that honesty from their workplace or brands they enjoy. I really loved this piece and I think it speaks a lot to why I enjoy ABM so much. I might not always be into a recipe or want to make a certain project but what you do is authentic to you and your personalities (I love reading posts by Emma, she’s dorky and I love it!) and that’s what keeps me coming back.

    I think it’s amazing what you’ve all built, so keep makin’ money and staying true to yourself!

  • Great post, Trey! So glad you all agree to stand your ground and be yourselves. Your transparency and honesty are appreciated.

  • It’s funny, because almost every brand or agency I talk to all says the same thing: “Oh we totally want this to feel authentic.” But when it comes down to execution, they insist and insist and force fit product descriptions where it’s just not natural (i.e., fake).

    You have the exact right idea. Hold off for the good relationships and the brands that fit your content.

    -Trey

  • Always check those agreements. The intro emails can be so inviting and promise the world. But they can completely change their tone, when it comes to something you’re actually signing. All of the sudden, they’re asking the world of you far outside your comfort zone.

    Thanks for the comment!
    Trey

  • Good point. I think I’m gonna go start this Juice® company make this JUICERATION campaign myself. Can I count on She Learns Things to write a 7-post series for me? 😉

    -Trey

  • This was such a great post Trey. Thanks for sharing. I love this about you guys and I want you to know that we (your readers) do appreciate that your sponsors match your content and posts. I always appreciate too how you never just use subtle advertising but let us know when you have a partnership with someone – for example Cannon printers.

    Love you guys! Love all your hard work and your dedication and passion to staying true to you.

    Thanks for being so honest and giving us insight into ABM world.

  • Hi Mickie,

    While we definitely dive into some subjects that get a little bit advanced, it’s all written with beginners in mind. Elsie and Emma specifically have several sessions for blogs that are just starting out. Of course, you don’t want to try to monetize right out of the gate. The first priority is getting your content right, and that’s what the bulk of the course is about. Highly recommended for beginners. Thanks so much for the comment!

    -Trey

  • Great post Trey and so insightful as I have just begun to explore sponsored content for my own blog. What I loved the most was your willingness to share something which didn’t work out after a lot of effort. I agree, integrity and honesty is key when producing sponsored content.

    Have signed up for Blog Life too and look forward to your sections Trey. It has been a pleasure to see the ABM team grow with such rad and inspiring people. Keep up the good work!

  • Thank you so much for this post! I can’t tell you how many blogs I just stopped reading because they became one weird sponsored lifestyle post after another (so many about toilet paper!). You guys are really the best example of how to turn your blog into a business without compromising integrity. It’s reassuring to know that you don’t have to just follow whatever bizarre instructions brands send to you, and that bloggers do have negotiating power and control over content. I love that you guys are so open and willing to share from your experiences. 🙂

  • Thanks Trey! I was trying to decide whether or not to purchase the blogging course and this post tipped the scales…This is awesome and useful insight into a successful blogging business…I’m purchasing!

  • And this is EXACTLY why I LOVE your blog!!
    There are 3 blogs (which I won’t name) which I had been following for years, but as time passed they had more and more sponsered posts until their blogs turned into basically, a giant add.
    Collaboration is what you guys do, which is completely different, collaborating with brands that reflect your values and personal style, which is why I have loved reading your blog for years, and need my daily fix of it 🙂
    *your faithful reader, from Montreal, Canada*

  • ” It’s your blog. You call the shots. ” It’s so easy for bloggers to get caught up in it all and not remember these precious facts. We ARE a business and we ARE in charge.

    Thanks, Trey. Well written, I second/third/fourth that we hear more from you. Not that we don’t love E+E.

  • Just to echo everyone else, I really enjoyed this post. It’s great to hear how the different aspects of your business work, and you always explain things so clearly.

    One thing I’ve always liked about your blog is that you’re up front about sponsored posts, and they really do fit in with your normal post style 🙂

  • Thanks for sparring us the juice post! But more importantly, thanks for your honestly and sticking with your principles! I too am focused on building content and keeping my (9 years now) day job!

  • Thanks so much, Trey! I appreciate your policy on this so much, it’s why your readers are with you. I check this blog probably 3x a day. And, because you guys are so honest, because the girls are so creative and stylish and only recommend things I know they actually believe, sponsorship works really well with you guys, because I know it means something. I wish sponsors could know how true that was, because if they knew the extent of the effectiveness of your strategy, you could get everything you want as you want it, first try, and for big bucks. I’m not a person swayed by commercials etc generally, but I’ve bought into so many of the products featured on this blog. It sounds lame to admit, but I don’t feel lame about it. Its not much different than being recommended something by a friend, not on my end at least.

  • I thought this post actually had some good advice but talking bad about another company (especially one you said was a “great partner to us over the years”) is just in bad taste imo.

  • Thanks so much for sharing! Just starting out in the blogging world and I have been following ABM for 3+ years. Your authenticity is appreciated!

  • Great advice! I am huge about authentic blogs! Even though money may be temping, I don’t want to turn into a blog that blogs about everything that comes my way – like tampons and toilet paper.

  • This is such an interesting post, thanks for sharing some of the behind the scenes stuff. I hope other bloggers take notice of these really great guidelines, I can only roll my eyes so much when someone tries to incorporate toilet paper into one of their regular feature posts.

  • How do you guys deal with Google’s policy of sponsored links being marked as nofollow? Most marketing agencies/companies that approach me seem to want follow links, which I don’t feel comfortable using in case it affects my google ranking.

  • Hi Wendy,

    Google’s policy there is to protect their search functionality and continue to provide useful content. They don’t want ads showing up in searches, because that’s not useful content. This actually lends to my greater point of considering your content and your readers before your sponsors. That way, even though it may be sponsored, the content stands on its own and is therefore useful.

    Some of our best SEO is on sponsored posts, because it generates lasting meaningful pageviews from the Google search. So my overall point here is that you can feel comfortable using follow links, as long as the content is strong. Otherwise, Google will sort itself out. Make sense?

    Hope that helps!
    -Trey

  • This is the greatest. I work in radio advertising, my husband works in podcast advertising. I could relate to A LOT of things in this post, and found much of it informative, as well! Thank you for sharing. I love hearing from Trey.

  • This was a really wonderful, insightful, and fascinating post!

    It’s really refreshing to hear all of this, specifically the part about no @s or #s policy. I’m really not a fan of those, but never considered that I had the option of asking not to do those.

    Can I ask (or maybe this something I should look into with the ecourse), did you ever sign a contract with this company that had to then be broken? Or do you normally wait to sign a contract until after content is approved?

    Thank you so much!!

  • Brilliant post. it is so abundantly clear when a blogger sacrifices their authentic voice for a quick buck.

  • Wow, it always amazes me as a PR pro to see how often some of my colleagues get it wrong. Can’t believe brands are that difficult to work with!

  • Awesome question. Because the timing was so crazy, we never actually signed anything (thank God). Truth be told, I doubt I would’ve been able to sign anything they sent, because it sounds like no one was ever actually clear on what we were willing to do.

    But any time we sign something, we always look closely at their termination clause and ensure we have the right to walk away at any point.

    -Trey

  • As someone in advertising this post gets a huge “amen!” from me. The struggle is real on both ends and is a reminder to try and always be better at what I do on my end! Very cool post.

  • Quality post. Loved your words and to the point. It would be great to hear from you more often!

  • Wow. I’ve never commented here before but I had to break my silence to say that was an amazing post.
    Glad to see you guys keep it real and don’t sell your souls for a few extra bucks that I see so many other bloggers doing.
    Keep up the amazing work ABM!

  • I’ve been loving your Blog Life ecourse and am glad you also posted this story. It’s great to learn more about the business of blogging, especially when things don’t go as smoothly. Thanks for keeping your readers first and foremost, just as you should!

  • seriously, the best part of ABM is its authenticity. you certainly can’t fool your readers and the authenticity of ABM is why we all love you guys. also, very helpful post from Trey! ABM team is the greatest!

    –Leeda
    at this volume

  • Finally, an honest post about sponsorship. Thanks Trey! Would love to hear more from you on here sometime 🙂

  • THIS WAS SO INTERESTING. Maybe I’ll ask for Blog Life for my birthday!
    Thanks ABM team!
    xoxoxo
    -kate

  • Thank you so much Trey for sharing!
    I love the more business side of the blogging life!

  • Thanks Trey! I’ve been a ghost reader but I just really wanted to leave a comment and how great your post was. ABM is my one absolute favourite blog and I just couldn’t seem to like any other blogs – today I was perusing numerous other blogs to understand why. I think this must be it! So many blogs are doing really obvious sponsored posts incorrectly, which was a huge turnoff for me (without even me realizing)! Would love to hear more from you!

  • Really great and interesting info! I love it (and greatly appreciate) that you share your business knowledge. Many thanks and keep up the awesome posts!

  • Really loving the post from Trey… Such an accessible writing style, and I love the “behind the scenes” perspective here. This was a smart and thoughtful post, and I found myself feeling more favorable toward your sponsors (i.e. Almond Breeze, etc) after I finished reading this.

  • I’m in awe of these great lessons that I find on ABM.

    Not only for the beautifully curated content, but the smart business acumen that the team has gathered over the years and a willingness to share that information.

    Thank you so much! I certainly loved the course on Blog Love and I’ve no doubt I’ll equally love the course on E-Life too!

  • Thanks so much for this, Trey! I started blogging last July and am kind of struggling with the monetization end, but I’m trying to hold out for the right sponsorship opportunities. I’ve had a few that worked the way I wanted, but I’ve also had a few that I had to turn down or stop working with because they wanted things I didn’t feel comfortable doing. The best sponsored posts are the ones that don’t seem like they are!

  • Love the candidness of this post! As a blogger who loves blogs, I hate when I see a post that just doesn’t make sense for their ‘brand’. I have a much different point of view as I work for a branding agency so I take the opportunities offered to me very seriously and only thing I would actually use/purchase on my own. Excited to see what other amazing thing you and the ABM team dream and share with us. Love what you guys are doing!

    xoDonna
    http://www.soyouagree.com

  • Hi, Trey!

    Great post! It’s striking how similar your and Emma’s writing “voices” are. You both seem very light-hearted and witty. If I remember right, I believe Emma has an improv background (and it shows in her writing)… This is a little off topic, but did you also dabble in improv? Just wondering. Anyway-looking forward to hearing more from you!

  • Just another reason I love you guys and come back to you every day. The honesty, the integrity, content, and vision you all have. Thank you for sharing your lessons. As a “baby blogger on the block” just messing around with ideas of ads, sponsors, etc, it is refreshing to read this at the beginning of it all. I am so pumped to sign up for the course!

  • This is awesome! I really love how you handle this on ABM, it never feels weird reading a sponsored post on here. You are doing a great job :)!

  • Great post ! I think this is exactly why I love reading your blog, your authenticity and how you make us feeling special.

  • you rock guys, very inspiring.
    and (since there were tons of post in the other comment… i shal thank here for answering me for red velvet.
    fan and fanner (??!!) from Uruguay!

  • Honest, straightforward and inspiring, thank you Trey! Exactly what the doctor ordered. I am currently on defining your purpose from BlogLove, I didn’t think when reading how helpful the lists would be, I woke up this morning bursting with fresh ideas to add 🙂 Your advice reminds me there is huge possibility in blogging but ultimately it is vital to stay true to yourself! Thank you team ABM!

  • As a noobie blogger I can totally relate! Thanks for sharing Trey 😉 I can’t wait to get the course, it’s not going anywhere though right? It will still be available in half a month of so? I need more info like that. Negotiations are always so stressful and difficult.

  • I agree with Hannah!! Great post by Trey and his writing style is a wonderful addition to the ABM family!!

  • I found this really useful and loved the writing style and honesty of Trey’s post! Thank you for sharing this info!

  • I really enjoyed this, I don’t have a blog or anything but I just liked that you always stand by your readers 🙂

  • Mary, you definitely don’t have to do everything a contract says. There are very few scopes of work we’ve signed as is. Agencies love to drop “I’m sorry, but this just needs to happen.” Or “That’s a legal mandate.” By legal, they mean the brand’s overreacting legal team’s preferences and not the law.

    -Trey

  • Hi Kasia,

    Thanks so much for the note! I’m so glad you recognize the difference there. We work really hard to uphold that distinction.

    -Trey

  • Hi Jazz,

    It’s totally true, and a lot of sponsors acknowledge it at first. But then, once you get down to it, they default to trying to treat us like another agency that will just do anything they say, because they’re paying us. They’re not paying us for our work and time. They’re paying us for our audience, and what they’re asking sometimes compromises how that audience will receive it.

    -Trey

  • Thanks, Aquila! I feel like true PR professionals get it. Our contact at Canon used to be in PR, and I think that’s why they’re so empowering to us.

    -Trey

  • Totally, yeah, this definitely comes off a little harsh on agencies. But the reality is it has nothing to do with the people and more with the process. There are just so many people to please. And you have to get approvals from people who will only give you 1 minute of their time and 1 sentence of absolute feedback. So then you have to push your vendors to deliver something that wasn’t necessarily that thought-out, you know?

    -Trey

  • Hi Chelle,

    Yeah, Emma was in Groundlings in LA for, I think, a couple years. She loved it! I never did improv or any performances, but comedy is probably my superfan subject. So not a practitioner, just an admirer.

    -Trey

  • How long will the E-Course be available? I don’t have the spare money right now, but would love to buy it in the future. Thanks. 🙂

  • Fantastic post Trey! So well written and very enlightening. Thanks for sharing.

    And thanks to the whole ABM team for such a fantastic posts lately. It’s obvious your team has grown in such a dynamic and healthy way. Nothing about that seems haphazard or rushed, but instead, calculated and authentically considered. It’s wonderful! As a reader, I’m definitely grateful for the hard work, care and attention you’ve placed on your content and on your brand. It is a pleasure to read along. Carli 🙂

  • It’s nice to know that there are bloggers who have ‘made it’ that are willing to be honest and stay true to themselves 🙂

  • this was super helpful (and funny!) and a genuine response to sponsored post-ness! a great reminder that authenticity and staying true to your blog is what counts – for both bloggers and their readers! JUICE!!! heehee…

  • This is a really cool post and puts everything into perspective. Awesome read!

  • I lcve the beautiful mess blog, but I have to say I disagree on a few points. Maybe that is because I’m not a blogger, but I find sponsored posts to be a waste of time, from the reader standpoint. You mention that if you’re looking for critical analysis, you probably shouldn’t be reading a sponsored post. I totally agree, which is why I tend to skip over blog posts that are sponsored because I don’t know what to think of it. Part of me wants to get excited about it the way I do with a really great entry from a blogger when they have something to share they truly and organically love, but another part tells me to move on and look for ideas/advice that feels more genuine.

    So, ultimately I really do think people care whether a post is sponsored or not. Not trying to be rude or anything at all, just thought I’d share the opinion. I totally get why bloggers do it and I support it because it keeps my favorite blogs running! It’s just not something readers overlook or ignore- or at least me!

  • I normally don’t comment, but I just wanted to say that I loved this post! It’s so great to see a behind-the-scenes of how the blog works, especially because I read an article that said how most lifestyle-blogs are pretty fake, which made me kinda sad, so it’s great to see how you guys avoid that! And makes me feel not naive anymore for believing that you’re genuine!
    Libby xxx

  • This is a really great and informative post, thanks Trey. Great to hear a real example of when things sadly aren’t as clear cut and you have given some fantastic points to consider if deciding to go down the sponsored route.

  • Thanks for this post! It’s rare that influential bloggers ever share what goes on behind the blog which is such a shame because there is so much learning to be done! I don’t dislike sponsored content, but i’ve unfollower a few blogs that just seemed to do a sponsored post every day about extremely odd things that didn’t seem to fit with the person. It felt very forced in the bloggers writing. I’ve never ever felt that about your blog – i read your blog for many reasons, but i love that you pass on so much of your knowledge!

  • This is really interesting to read! I hope that one day my blog will even have one opportunity to try this.

    I actually really like the sponsored products. I check this blog at least twice a week. I talk to some of my friends less than that haha! So I think of the sponsored posts the same as I would a friend talking to me about something they liked.

    I’ve tried all (???) of the sponsored cocktails, sometimes trying the brand sponsored and sometimes not.

    Anyways, thanks for the info, trey!

  • Thanks for such an honest post,it’s always great to hear about how it doesn’t always work out instead of just hearing all the positives, really love hearing your perspective, meabh

  • Although this was an interesting read, it will not change my mind about sponsored posts : they suck.
    As soon as I see a sponsored post, I am ready to skip the post entirely, and it bothers me. It puts a doubt on the author’s honesty in it (I’m not saying the author can’t be honest, but it puts a doubt on what is said anyway), as he literally has been paid to write on this, and will not obviously be objective, as all possible negative points will not appear. I don’t read blogs to read this kind of biased things. I seek honesty, objectivity and freedom of speech.
    I hope sponsored posts will remain a minority on this blog (if they could disappear…. but I guess it’s not going to happen)

  • Thanks for posting this Trey! A Beautiful Mess is providing a valuable service – teaching things that are more useful than what we paid to learn in uni, for so much less. Keep it up, we’ll keep reading!

  • Great post~~! I think this is the first time I have seen someone explain behind the scenes of sponsorship on a blog.

  • Thank you for sharing, Trey! I love these looks behind the scenes.
    As a blogger whose day job is working in a media agency I can totally relate to both sides 🙂 It can be a great partnership as long as everyone is on the same page about expectations and style.
    Also as an artist with a small business one of the most important things I’ve had to learn is to say NO when it doesn’t feel right. I’ve never regretted it.
    I second all the other commenters, loved this post and would enjoy reading more business and more Trey 🙂

  • Hey I run myself too (a kinda smaller than yours anyway :D), but I have been in the same position once or twice, it’s like as soon as they hear an “ok, let’s discuss that sponsor idea” your blog it’s their to do whatever they want. pfff no

    Oh and trey, I lost the discount from your survey last month and I hoping to use it now for the “Blog Life” course. Is there anything that can be done?

  • Hi Trey,
    I have a question. First off I wanted to say this post is great and I love how you write. But what bugs me is that I scroll up to search for another post and right above the E+E photo there’s an ad for testing how acidic is your body and its one of those annoying neon ads… I feel that it doesn’t fit with the atmosphere of this blog. Why allow it?

  • Hi Cindy,

    Good question! For sponsored posts, we have complete control over every single sponsor that comes through. That ad in particular is running ad networks. More than likely what you saw was fed by Google Adx or Google AdSense. It’s why you probably feel like those ads follow you around the web (most sites run AdSense in some form). We don’t have the staff to sell each individual impression we serve, so a handful of 3rd party companies pay us to run their tags in the sidebar. And we only have the ability to block based on technology. So we don’t want any auto-play videos, pop-ups, anything with unprompted audio, etc. When we see any particularly weird or annoying ads, we copy that link and go in and block it.

    So next time you see an ad that particularly sucks in that spot, screenshot it, and email it to me: trey AT redvelvetart DOT com. I’ll block it.

    Thanks so much!
    Trey

  • Thank you for being so honest about the whole process. It’s so difficult to find someone in this industry so cool about opening up to the readers about the way they make money. As a reader and a brand content professional, I appreciate your honesty!

    PS: Trey should definitely write more often!

  • Trey, Elsie or Emma
    So I read thru most of the comments so I apologize if this is repetitive.
    I own 2 small boutiques in Orange County, Ca. and we are just launching our online website.
    We offer men’s women’s and kid’s apparel and accessories. 90% of our stuff is under $100

    As a clothing store that has to compete with large online stores like Madewell, Modcloth, Anthropolgie and Lulus. How do you recommend we stand out?

    **One of the ways I feel that we personally stand out is that we offer cool unique mens apparel and accessories. Brands: Pendleton Surf, Almond Surf, Altru, Super, Herschel, Krochet Kids, JACHS. Our focus is trying to keep the majority of what we offer under $100. However I am not sure if creating a men’s focused “blog button” would be a good idea on blog like a Beautiful Mess. Thoughts??? **

  • Such an interesting post, great to know more about how the sponsored post business works.

  • Out of interest, how do you politely reject requests (as I imagine you get loads in your inbox) especially the obvious disconnect ones?

  • Us new bloggers really appreciate you guys sharing all your wealth of information. Love this community and a Beautiful Mess, such a bunch of wonderful people. So selfless and caring xo

  • This is such a great post and I completely agree, when we were just starting out (not so long ago!) It was really a hard decision when sponsored posts came knocking, money was bleak and we were faced with the decision of whether to accept and take the money or decline, scrimp by but remain true to ourselves and it’s honestly so reassuring to read this is completely normal and you should always stay true to your readers!

    I also just wanted to say that we purchased Blog Life a couple of days ago and haven’t been able to put it down, we already feel so much more focused on where we want to go and what we want to achieve and feel like we have a clear path on how to get there! Best e-book we’ve ever bought my far, jam packed with so much encouraging information! Thank you for being so bloody helpful and such an inspiration. xo

  • Great post Trey! I loved your example and writing style! I’m looking forward to reading more in the course!