I’ve noticed that a lot of bloggers want to work with brands to earn an income from their blogs. Now, I’m still a newby, a total minnow in the blogosphere but in the real world I’ve spent the last decade commisioning and negotiating commercial partnerships for media brands such as Vogue, GQ, Woman’s Own and HELLO! I’ve gained lots of experience negotiating with brands (and the occasional blogger!) so I thought it might be useful to share some of the things I’ve learnt along the way in as brief terms as I can manage….I could go on for DAYS about this stuff.
Blogging 9-5, what a way to make a living…
- Know your worth and know the facts
If a brand has approached you about a give away then THEY WANT YOU. Even if it’s in reply to a speculative approach you sent, the fact they have replied shows that they’re interested in you. YAY. You’re in the driving seat.
This is the point you need to do as much fact finding and ask as many questions as possible. For example:
What are the campaign objectives?
What do they hope to achieve overall?
What would a collaboration entail?
Who are they targeting?
How are results measured?
Why you? (This is SUPER important, firstly you’ll find them selling your blog to you – always a good thing. But moreover, it helps you define your ‘Unique Selling Point’ if you’re new to collaborations. If you’re more established it helps you identify the more commercially lucrative aspects of your blog).
What do they want from you?
What other opportunities do they have?
Who/what else are they working with?
Who else is pitching?
Who’s the decision maker?
and of course WHAT’S THE BUDGET?
There are pros and cons to doing the fact finding over email or on the phone. With email you have everything in black and white for future reference and in my experience it’s how most PRs, agencies & marketing execs prefer to operate. However by speaking on the phone you can potentially cover more ground quicker and establish more of a ‘human’ relationship as well as being able to think on your feet and shoot ideas off one another before committing to anything. This is of course presuming the PR/agency/marketing exec are willing to chat. There is a tendency for them to hide behind email. But if you do get through make sure you pick a good time first thing on a Monday morning or Friday at 5:30 aren’t generally the best times to call…
No matter how you communicate with each other, at this point you need to really listen to what the brand wants and expects. You will gain loads of insight into their objectives and vision, ultimately meaning you can respond to the brief/pitch in a more relevant manner. This is also your time to get creative and come up with ideas that will work for the both for you. So start to think about what you want to achieve from the collaboration both in terms of work needed to be done and financial compensation.
- Don’t (immediately) name your price.
This is the golden rule of negotiation. I repeat, this is the GOLDEN RULE of negotiation.
As your asking your questions you should be forming an idea of how you will tackle the brief, eg does it involve a 500 word review with 1 picture and 1 tweet or is it something more specialised and creative but that will take up a lot of time or content. You need to think hard about how much work is involved, how much time it will take and of course, how much you want to do it.
From this you should begin to gage a rough idea of how much you would do the work for, or even if you would do it for free. But SSSSSSHHHHH! Don’t say anything. Ask what the budget is.
If a clever little marketing exec answers ‘how much do you want for it’ DO NOT GIVE a figure. Let them name the first figure. I find a non committal ‘mmm, I’m not sure, how much have you allocated for the campaign?’/ ‘I don’t normally do this so I’d need you to make it worth my while’ or similar, bats the number ball back into their court.
If they’re really tricksy just get them to give a rough approximate. They’ll go and ask their boss (in reality put you on hold whilst they file their nails) and get back to you with a ballpark figure. Probably at the lower end of what they can actually afford.
So you now sort of know how much budget the brand have got. Chances are they’ve got a little bit more than they’re telling you. I’m a bit cheeky and always ask for more, even if I was mentally prepared to do it for less…If you don’t ask you don’t get! Just do it nicely so you can always go back and say you’ll do it for the lower price…but maybe with a lower word count or less social media promotion (see point 3.)
Even if you’re an established blogger who regularly does collaborations I still wouldn’t name your price. Get them to name a figure and if they come back with something around about or lower than you would normally expect there’s no harm in saying you need more and THEN offering a price that you’d be prepared to start negotiating from.
If you haven’t already I would also suggest you compile a media pack template with your stats, your ‘standard’ package options and case studies to save you having to do it from scratch each time. Personally I’m against naming package prices in generic media packs, but appreciate that lots do and it can be a timesaver/helps get your media pack up the brand’s chain of command.
- Finding the Win – Win Solution
Make sure you get a deal that your happy with. And it doesn’t always have to be about the money. For example it might be worth doing collaboration if you want to build a certain relationship or it’s a product you’re genuinely interested in. A model get’s an absurdly low fee for a Vogue cover, but it’s worth so much kudos it hardly matters.
In order to find the mutually beneficial solution you need to figure out your pressure points. Then make sure the brand know this and ask them what theirs are. If their pressure point is money (standard!) and your pressure point is, as a busy mum, say time available, then there are plenty of ways around this. The key to is that you need to find something that’s not worth much to you but valuable to them (eg. A social media mention) and see if they can increase the budget by way of goods or vouchers (i.e. something that makes Christmas easier for you and is dead easy for them). Win – win for all involved. But only if you are happy with the outcome. Don’t end up with 63 bottles of Domestos if you don’t need them. Stand firm and if you really can’t agree check out point 4…
It totally depends on the collaboration on offer but personally I would be cautious about agreeing to work for free. A mention about Domestos might seem innocuous but don’t forget they’re part of the FMCG behemoth Unilever and you don’t want their mate on the Dove brand getting to hear that you’ll work for free. However, if it’s a charity you care about or a small start up then fill your boots with free collaborations. Goodwill goes along way and it isn’t always about the $$$.
If you do agree a deal make sure you have in writing, EXACTLY what they expect of you, EXACTLY what you expect from them, timescales and when you have agreed to be paid and how. Make sure it’s in writing that both parties agree to these terms.
- Don’t be scared to walk away (nicely)
If you still can’t agree, walk away.
If you don’t know why but you feel uncomfortable about doing it then listen to your gut and walk away.
If it’s just too much for you to take on, explain that and walk away.
Remember, if you do threaten to walk then you must be prepared to do it, but always make sure you do it nicely. You never know they might come back. In the past I’ve even sent a little ‘thank you for your time’ card to a marketing team I spent AGES trying to and failing to negotiate a campaign deal with. Next time they had budget guess who they called first…
It’s also important to remember that your blog is a hobby. Great if you can and have the inclination to earn some money from it but remember to keep WHY you’re blogging and WHO you’re blogging for front of mind.
Martin Lewis of Money Saving Expert takes no payment for anything on his website so he doesn’t compromise the integrity of his advice. I suspect mum blogger extraordinaire, the Unmummsy Mum also doesn’t take money for blog posts so she doesn’t compromise the authenticity of her narrative voice and style. In short, it’s ok to say this just isn’t for me. Maybe this one time, maybe ever.
- Feedback and Follow up
When negotiating the cost/terms of the deal make sure you find out what feedback they require from you and when. In my experience, numbers rule. Let the brand know how many views/visits/comments/tweets/likes/engagements etc etc the collaboration generates. As long as you credit the data provided I simply choose the best numbers (be that google analytics or another source). If there are any blips or low points then I don’t think there’s any harm in identifying these and pointing out a way you could improve that next time around (see what I did there ;)!). Even if the brand doesn’t ask for feedback I always provide it.
It’s a two way street so don’t be scared to ask for feedback from the brand too. The good parts you can use as testimonials or case studies and any bad parts you can learn from and chalk up to experience.
Plus, it’s a great opportunity to catch up and see what other opportunities are coming up. You’ve got an ‘in’ now. Keep using it…
- Be nice
I think this is a fundemental. I’ve seen some people rant and rave to get what they want but I think the best deals are the ones where both parties go away happy.
PRs and marketing bods change accounts and change companies all the time. You never know when and where they might pop up again. Yes, they might not always be that pleasant to you, but that’s not within your control. What is in your control is to stay professional, stay positive and do the work well.
Hopefully this will be of help. I’ve tried to pitch it ‘midlevel’ ie, not too simplistic but not too technical either. If there is anything you’d like me to expand on then please let me know. Equally, if you have got any questions or there is anything else I might be able to help with then please do let me know either in the comments or by contacting me directly.
I’m happy to help and you can always return the favour by helping me figure out what these tag things are/explaining a widget/how you do those fancy text over picture things!