Hi there! I work with Elsie, Emma and the team to manage our sponsorship program at A Beautiful Mess—which also means I get to work with our great brand partners, which I love. Before joining the ABM team, I worked at an advertising agency in Springfield, Missouri that gave me some great insights into how agencies work, which helps in my current role quite a bit. Sponsorships can be a scary word to use when talking about creating content, a lot of people are either scared of it or apprehensive of how people will respond to hearing something’s sponsored. This might make me sound crazy, but when I see sponsored content, one of the first things I think of is how cool is it that this brand has made a decision to support small businesses and a lot of small media companies (that’s us, bloggers!!). Julie Blanner gave an amazing session at Haven last year about that mental shift and how companies are not only ran by amazing girl bosses, but they rely on sponsored content as a primary revenue source.
Part of why I wanted to share tips on how to work with brands is to be transparent so readers know how and why we do it, and why we appreciate it SO much when you are excited about it too. The overwhelming majority of the content we create at ABM is done at our own expense so that we can share it freely, which the team loves to do. It’s because of our amazing brand partners that we’re able to support our business and continue to create that free content. So, although it’s important to pick authentic fits (spoiler alert: that’s one of the tips below), sponsored content is something to be proud of and excited about. Below are three tips I wanted to share about finding, working with, and growing sponsorships.
1. Know your worth
Your content is worth something. It’s one of a kind and unique. Knowing your worth is the first step to a positive relationship with brands. All brands have marketing budgets and are looking for ways to expand their reach. You can take a look at this post as an example on how ABM structured their first sponsorship program. We’ve grown and adjusted since then as channels have grown, platforms diversified, and to respond overall to the growth of influencer marketing, but as a baseline or starting point, this formula is fantastic. Trey actually had my position before me and I will forever be grateful to him for how he started our sponsorship program! Regardless of your pageviews, followers, or impressions (although those are important), your content is worth something. Your engagement may be through the roof, you might have an audience that will buy anything you recommend … no matter what it is, know what unique value you can bring to a brand and don’t be afraid to tell them! You could be exactly what they’re looking for.
2. Pick authentic fits
Sometimes we get offers from brands that we can’t take. I’m not saying “Oh, look at the offers we get,” by any means. What I mean by that is we’ve established guidelines around what types of brands we will and won’t work with. One example is around our clean beauty guidelines. As a company, we’ve decided to make our best effort to only buy, support or promote clean beauty brands. Are we perfect? Of course not. We’re always learning and growing. But, with that in mind, we won’t accept a partnership from a beauty brand that has artificial fragrance in its ingredient list. Two rules of thumb we have for picking sponsors are: Is it a brand we already use in our homes? Or are we interested in this product/brand even if we haven’t tried them yet? Using those two as guidelines allows us to explore new and cool things that we may share with our readers (usually we’ll ask for a sample or trial period before kicking off the campaign or fully executing a contract) or that we know we actually use or would or have bought on a regular basis.
It’s also important from a brand standpoint (and this ties into my third tip) that brands love it when you’re excited about their products. If you are genuinely a fan and think it would resonate with your audience, it’s a win-win-win. If it’s not something you would normally promote, the brand might get beautiful content out of it, but you could lose your reputation with your audience and the brand could see the disappointing engagement and feel taken advantage of, too.
3. It’s all about relationships
One of the biggest things (that I think is easy to forget when working with brands) is that behind the other computer you’re emailing a person. Maybe someone whose followed your blog for a long time, or just really thinks your content resonates with their campaign. They’re typically excited about the partnership and to see what ideas you have to share their product! By remembering we’re all people working together for a common goal, sharing great content is not as intimidating. My biggest advice on this piece is to get everyone on the same page upfront. Have a kickoff call where you talk about the content idea and the expectations around how the brand will be integrated. That way, there are hopefully no surprises when it comes to execution and everyone stays excited and proud of the end result. If expectations are managed from the beginning, it goes a long way in building and maintaining great relationships and even friendships with the brands for which you’re working on content.
Hope this helps you either in working with your sponsor partners or to understand a bit of what goes on behind the scenes for bloggers who do! We also recognize more people are looking for ways to earn a living or side income online through blogging or other social media platforms, so we wanted to offer up some tips that could hopefully be helpful. Thanks for reading! -Claire