When I’m not attempting to convince people I’m a blogger and a somewhat responsible parent, I work as a creative partnership bod for HELLO! and HELLO! Fashion Monthly magazines, associated website and social sites. This means that I work on brand collaborations day in, day out and have done in various roles and on different magazine brands for the best part of the last decade. So, I thought I’d raid my brain for my top tips of working with brands. I hope they’re useful….
1.LISTEN & QUESTION THEN LISTEN & QUESTION
My number one pet hate is when I go to a meeting with a brand and an overenthusiastic colleague goes in all guns blazing, reeling of loads of ideas that they think will work PERFECTLY and don’t give the brand-folk chance to get a word in edgeways. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a time and place for wowing the brand with your creative prowess and limitless ideas but initial conversations are not the time or the place.
At the start of each collaboration if possible meet face to face or at least get them on the phone. Find out WHY they want to use bloggers? Why you? Is their aim to reinforce the brand message or to extend their reach to a new audience? Is it part of a wider co ordinated marketing plan or some ad hoc activity? What do they want to achieve? Do they have set ideas in mind how to achieve this or are they open to ideas? Ask open ended questions, don’t assume anything and listen REALLY carefully to their answers.
I’ve lost track of the times I’ve met with the PR/brand manager to discuss, say working together on an event, but from chatting and asking questions we’ve finished the meeting with them wanting to do a magazine shoot based collaboration and no event or vice versa, or ideally, both. It’s not that the PR/marketeer don’t know what they’re doing, I think that it’s more the case that they know the results they’re after but are open to different ways of getting there. But through chatting, asking questions and thrashing things out together you can come up with a much better strategy that utilises your unique blogging talents in a way that will meet their needs most effectively.
2. THERE’S A TIME TO BE HUMBLE…
If I haven’t stressed it enough above, the collaboration is not about you. It’s about the brand and using your blog to help and enable the brand to fulfil the aims of that particular campaign. Also, to really take a hit to the ego, it’s worth remembering that it’s not you that the brand necessarily want, but rather access and endorsement to your audience. Your blog, and you, are just the conduit through which the message gets passed (hopefully) effectively.
3. …BUT THERE’S ALSO A TIME TO BLOW YOUR OWN TRUMPET
Brands love a blogger. You provide ‘Peer to Peer’ marketing, which is effectively word of mouth but with your added credibility of being an authority in that field. And you are an authority. I know it doesn’t always feel like it but you writing about your life and publishing it gives you agency.
For example, you blog about family day trips. This is something you do regularly so you’ve learnt what not to do and you’ve also got a few ideas on what to do. Now imagine you’re a new mum googling ‘Visiting the natural history museum with baby’ and your blog comes up with your post on it. Yep. You’re the authority. You recommended to go early to avoid the queues. New mum reads the post and does just that. For some reason it resonates so much more coming from someone in the same situation as you than it does from the National History Museum website even though they deal with hundreds of mums and babies every day. This is why brands love bloggers.
So, even though you are the messenger to fulfilling the brand’s campaigns aims, you’re a very effective and useful one. Don’t undersell yourself, you’re a valuable asset. Plus, if you now go back to point 1, you’ve questioned and listened and questioned some more so you and brand are on the same page about what they want, how to meet the brief AND that you and your little blog are uniquely qualified to deliver. BOOM. I know it’s sometimes feels pushy but it is SO worth reinforcing that your blog is indeed uniquely qualified to deliver their results. I can tell you from experience it’s heartbreaking to see your idea used elsewhere and you not getting a dime.
4. KNOW YOUR WORTH
Of course you also need to chat money. I won’t go into too much detail here but here’s another post I’ve written on how to negotiate with brands and get the readies you both feel happy with.
One thing I will add though, don’t worry if you’re not an uber blogger with sky high numbers. Numbers matter less than how engaged your audience is, as this report on new research shows. The larger a blog gets the less intimate it also gets and consequently the engagement drops. Having said that, I’m not sure my paltry 62 Facebook followers and 240 instagram followers are enough to even register on an engagement-o-meter, so if you wouldn’t mind doing this little old newbie a favour and look in here and here, I would be ever so appreciative, thank you.
So, I hope by now you’re happy collaborating away and I’ll use this opportunity to quickly slide in my other pet hate. It really irks me when bloggers go so aggressively after brands that they stop posting their original content (i.e. none paid for articles). The magazine I currently work on, HELLO!, has always had an 80:20 editorial to advertising ratio, therefore vast majority of the magazine is articles with only a teeny bit of advertising. MADNESS! some might cry and I certainly have done when we’ve had to turn away advertising. However I think HELLO! is unique in taking this stance, but then HELLO! is also unique in not having the falling circulations of all other women’s magazines. Coincidence? I think not. People like to feel they’re getting quality and value and not being sold to. Collaborations are great, you can earn money and they’re fun. But please, don’t sell out to the man and lose your authenticity in the process.
5. PROVIDE FEEDBACK
Even for the smallest review provide a post campaign report. Yeah you will might feel ridiculous providing a report on a tweet but it shows you’re professional and reliable. It also gives you an excuse to get back in touch and see if anything else is coming up and put yourself front of mind for any future campaigns. It’s hard to say what to put in PCR’s, I’d always do screenshots of the page and any social links and then whatever figures work best, be that shares, engagements, views etc. It might be worth looking at google analytics as well as say facebook’s own in order to present the numbers in the best possible way, unless of course the brand specify how they like reporting to be done – which takes us back to point 1, question, question, question.
I hope this helps. I know it feels pushy to pick up the phone when you get a press release or email through about a collaboration. Sometimes the PR/marketeer will want exactly what they say, but sometimes they will want more. Either way, it’s a way to make you ‘human’ to them and build rapport which can only stand you in good stead going forward.