EPISODE 004: WORKING WITH, APPROACHING, PITCHING AND NEGOTIATING WITH BRANDS WITH ALYSSA BRANTLEY
Blog Title: Everyday Maven
About Alyssa: I grew up in a cooking family. My Mom went to culinary school when I was a small child and taught both my brother and me to cook at a young age. We explored flavors and ingredients and were taught to savor food and be open-minded.
While living in New York City for college, I interned at both ABC News and The Food Network when it was in its early stages! It was a crash course in cooking and I was privileged to learn from Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay and David Rosengarten.
After getting married and moving to Seattle, I decided to start sharing some of my creations and started EverydayMaven. Since then, I’ve continued to refine my cooking skills by taking world-class cooking classes with top chefs (including an immersion at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, California) and continually educating myself on food production, supply chain, and ingredient quality.
Notes from Episode #004: Working with, approaching, pitching and negotiating with brands you know and want to align with.
Learn how to know which brands are a good fit for you. Working with Brands allowed Alyssa to learn how to monetize and make revenue while working with brands Alyssa loved the most.
Recommendation for bloggers new to working with Brands - take a pad of paper and pen and look at your kitchen. Open the fridge, the cupboards and look in your pantry. Make a list. What brands are you loyal to? Who do you always buy from? What kitchen tools do you love? What do you always use? What do you share with friends/family? You have a personal story for those brands. That is authentic and personal. Genuinely assess what you’d want to share. Don’t pick something you aren’t passionate about or just got on sale. Find the Brand story.
Now that you have a clear picture of which Brands to look towards, you need to learn how to find their contact info and know that you are talking to the right person. Start with their websites, check out their social channels. It’s appropriate to send emails and PM on socials.
Brands want spokespeople that have authenticity. They are looking for people to show everyday life with their products. Use a funny story or a fact that is useful to them in learning how you use their products when reaching out.
The MOST important thing is: Do not take it personally when you don’t get a response from Brands when you’ve reached out. There are so many reasons why - it’s a numbers game. There are a lot of different contact points to the right person. You might not get to the right person right away or know where your email was funneled to.
When you find contacts online, send a simple paragraph with 2-3 sentences. Keep your first content short, sweet and concise.
P1: This is who I am. My blog is this. This is my audience reach and this is who my audience is.
P2: I’m a fan of XX for these reasons and here’s my personal story about this Brand.
P3: Here’s how I work with other brands. I’d love to have a conversation with someone about your Brand. If you’re not the right person, can you put me in touch with the right person.
Don’t be afraid to reach out again - Try the same route 2-3x to a Brand representative before changing routes to connect to that Brand. Check out different formats to reach this Brand depending on their active, online presence.
Money - be up front that you’re not working for free. *You may work for little to nothing to gain relationships but that’s up to you. You don’t want to devalue yourself though. You don’t work for product or “mentions”. You must know your value and be realistic.
If you are pitched a product by a Brand, try it and then if you love it, and be willing to buy it yourself, then let them know you can have a conversation about working together. But be clear that you don’t create original sponsored content in exchange for product. Tell them, 'here are examples of my work and here’s my rate card to work together.
Sponsored content - You want to deliver and knock it out of the park for your Brand but know it’s double the work. It’s a revenue stream that’s worth it but a lot of work.
Alyssa shared that there are a lot of road blocks with achieving good content on socials. So how do you counter working against the grain with the built in road blocks? Alyssa said, '“Play the game that the social channels want you to play. They want you to PAY. So build into your campaign with the Brand these X number of static posts on social channels and for X weeks. Negotiate your rate and then build in a rate of $25 per post for social promotion online.” She said a Brand may or may not agree to that. You can decide if you’ll pay it then if you determine that relationship with this Brand is worth the continued relationship.
“It’s definitely in your best interest if you want to work with Brands to think about long term partnerships...If you’re going to work with Brands, the best way to do it is to establish long term relationships so that you’re not doing all these one-offs. One - dependability of money. Two - you can tell more of a story, more of a creative story.”
Some brands have different targets:they may want content for a specific product or content for reaching different audiences.
Working with an agency: they are trickier. The relationships came through meeting at an event or being recognized online and then they’ve reached out.
Alyssa doesn’t recommend reaching out to an agency or making them your goal. Reach out to the brand and use the socials to make a connection. Focus on the product you want to promote and your story is with the product.
It’s like a snowball effect when working with Brands. Other Brands see you working with other brands and they love your content and then they reach out.
Contracts - you need a contract. An email is not a contract. With contract negotiation, know there is no “typical”. There are 2 things to think about. Who’s providing the contract - you or the Brand?
If the Brand is providing the contract
Ownership - maintain ownership over your content. If the Brand wants to license your work for digital or print ads, they need to pay for that. You don’t want to sign away your rights and perpetuity
Payment terms - generally speaking when working with new Brands is to ask for payment up front and in full before the posting date. You can also set up a payment plan of 50/50. For brands that you’ve worked with that pay on time, you can set Net 30. Long term contracts could be monthly/quarterly, whatever works for you. Late fees should be assessed too if they are late and built right into the contract. If they are 40/60/90 days late.
Deliverables - Be sure they are clearly outlined in your contract to avoid miscommunication on what is expected. Write out rules to handle “revisions” into the contract, like one allowed per set. You may allow a courtesy change but the rate to re-do something is X. This eliminates potential obstacles up front.
If you aren’t aligning with a Brand, then you might want to part ways.
You need to keep editorial control - Decide up front. You know what makes you relate to your audience so be sure to include that in your contract because the Brand may want access to your blog or socials to edit what is said. Alyssa doesn’t recommend this.
Who draws up the contract -
the Brand can provide a contract. Be sure to read it thoroughly. It may not reflect what you agreed upon because they often use a standard contract which their legal dept prepared. If they weren’t in the personal conversation you and your Brand rep, key things might be missing. If that happens, write out the revisions to reflect what was agreed upon and send it back. This is normal and expected.
You can have a lawyer draw up a simple one page contract that is your template that you can use and offer to Brands if you want. Alyssa has one set up with all her must haves set up and offered to Brands to use.
It’s important to have someone double check a contract to make sure that it’s all good.
Networks - she feels that this is not a good option for bloggers anymore. Her experience is that they have a different set of contracts that aren’t flexible. They are inflexible on payment terms. They don’t pay enough, have found ways to keep most of it for themselves. They have terms in the contract that have licensing rights in perpetuity so you will be signing away the rights to your likeness and photos and content to them and assign it to anybody or in the future.
Stay on top of your deliverables and contract terms if you want to develop long-term partnerships.
Do the work for the brand (or agency). Make their job easier and you will be more appealing
If your pitch isn’t accepted is it OK to re-approach them later?
Yes, it’s always OK to follow up. Always leave communication on good terms. A simple way to word it would be, hey I’ll check back with you before my busy season in X month or I’ll follow up with you next quarter.
It’s important to remember there’s a lot of changes to positions within a company so by the time you do connect later, it may be a new person in that role.
You can also toot your horn by sharing a positive experience on a campaign that you completed (without sharing confidential information) but here’s some of the results. If you want to get on my editorial calendar, let me know.
Helpful references from the episode:
I have partnered with over fifty national brands and dozens of small and region brands to produce original sponsored blog content, professional videos, and more.
Here’s a list of some of the brands I have worked with. I’m sharing this for credibility. Please be respectful, this is not a list for bloggers to reach out to.
The Shrimp Council
California Giant Berries
Salt For Life
Below is a quick script food bloggers can use to reach out to brands via social media
“Hi BrandILove Social Media Team!
My name is XXXX and I am the founder of XYZBlog, which focuses on grilling recipes. My site reaches 100 readers per month and 100 followers across my social channels.
I am a huge fan of BrandILove products and (give an example of how you use their products or what you love about it).
The reason I am reaching out today is that I have a story idea in mind featuring BrandILove product and wanted to connect with whoever runs your paid sponsored content program.
I’d love to chat more and share details about what I have in mind. Or, could you let me know the correct email and name of who to reach out to in your organization?
Thanks so much,
Name | Title
Blog Name | URL