I am very lucky to have relationships with some amazing companies and brands — but to get there, it’s been a long journey with a LOT of frustrating dead ends, and even now, I work very (very very very) hard to try and make working with me a positive experience. Not only for me, but I’m keenly aware that what I do affects the entire blogosphere…it only takes ONE bad blogger to ruin things for the rest of us.
So I thought I’d share some of the things that I have learned about finding, approaching, working with and keeping a relationship with people who can sponsor your work and travel.
This seems like it would be the easiest — but it’s tricky! As hard as it may be to put into practice, I strongly urge you to reach out to people that you already have relationships with.
- Who do you “talk” to on Twitter and Facebook? Ask the person who the best contact is when it comes to submitting sponsorship proposals. Don’t just send or post a link to your “ask.”
- Get to know the brand as much as you can, and also get to know what works best in terms of contacting the decision-maker. Do they prefer emails or phone calls? Have they sponsored other bloggers for previous events?
- Make sure that the brand is not already sponsoring the event you are hoping to attend — it’s not only silly, it’s disrespectful to the event organizer, who has spent a lot of time working with the brand to secure the funding.
- Before you approach any sponsors, be sure that you know the “rules” for sponsorships. Some events don’t allow bloggers to hand out swag, wear sponsor gear, etc., so find out the guidelines first!
Ahhh, crickets. The most critical step and the one that presents the most obstacles. There is an art to this — and the #1 tip? BE YOURSELF. And follow all of the kindergarten rules: Be nice. Don’t lie. Keep it short and sweet. If the answer is no, say thanks and walk away with a smile. Don’t pester people. Don’t beat up on yourself if it takes longer than you’d like.
- If it’s the very first contact OR the very first contact when it comes to asking for money, keep it very professional.
Dear REAL NAME HERE NOT TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN PLEASE HEED MY ADVICE,
My name is ABCD and I have a blog called “EDFG” (http://yoururlhere.com). I blog about Topic 1 and Topic 2, and I would love the opportunity to talk to you about some upcoming projects that might interest you and COMPANY HIJK. I’m a big fan of your product (in fact, I posted about it on my site here: http://yourlinkhere.com) and I also appreciate the work you’ve done with social media — it’s great to see brands pulling back the curtain and showing the real people and stories behind the company!
I will be traveling to the CONFERENCE NAME HERE on DATE HERE, and I think that I could be a great ambassador for your company at the event — I have references to share and would be happy to send you my media kit and a list of some ways that I could help you with your marketing goals. I’ll be interacting with hundreds of bloggers, all of whom are in your target audience, and since I’m passionate about your company, I’d love the opportunity to let people know about all that you have to offer.
Please let me know when you might be available for a 10-minute phone call to discuss details!
- Have an updated Media Kit (your latest social media reach, blog page views, etc.) along with specific package offers. But don’t send that in the first email. Send it once the company indicates interest in working with you — otherwise it’s waste of both of your times. And please don’t just send the same package offers to everyone. If you want these brands to spend their money on you, you owe it to them to take 20 minutes and craft a pitch that helps the company. So think about the things you can offer — blog posts? swag giveaway? demonstrations? — and break the packages down into 3-4 options.
- Example: $100, $200, $300, $400, $500 packages; also include one exclusive sponsorship that can go over $500, but make it an awesome deal — give the brand some spectacular benefits for sponsoring you at those higher levels.
Once you’ve gotten to the point where you’re negotiating either the price or the specific details of what the partnership will entail, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE draft a contract. (This is where I should remind you that I’m not a lawyer and unless you consult with a lawyer, this contract may not be legally binding. Proceed at your own risk.)
The contract can be super simple — a paragraph explaining the overall project (Blogger X agrees to represent Brand Y at the Conference Z, demonstrating the product, handing out samples and helping increase awareness about Brand Y’s service).
Then, I’d include a series of bullet points or numbered tasks.
1. Blogger X agrees to wear Brand Y apparel on Days 1 and 2 of Conference Z.
2. Blogger X agrees to hand out product samples, provided by Brand Y, and answer questions about said products.
3. Blogger X agrees to represent Brand Y with passion, integrity and professional conduct.
4. Brand Y agrees to fulfill the financial terms of this partnership, as stated below:
a) Brand Y will pay 50% of the contract at least 14 days before the start of Conference Z
b) Brand Y will pay the remaining 50% of the contract within 14 days after the end of Conference Z
Even if you have a friendly, casual relationship with the brand, please don’t skip this step. It protects you both and helps cut down on miscommunications.
Go above and beyond. If you have promised 2 blog posts and Twitter and Facebook updates, do 3 blog posts, put a badge on your site and do routine social media updates with pictures, hashtags, etc. Let the brand know that you’re NOT just in it for the money…that you really do want to help them meet their goals.
Be available and visible. Let the brand know that they can contact you at ANY TIME, even during the conference. And do absolutely everything that you said you’d do in the contract. If there is an issue, call or email the brand ASAP and let them know. This is a job — you don’t get the money for free!
If you have taken my advice and gone over and above the contract, it’s likely that the brand will be enthusiastic to talk to you about how things went. But don’t let it stop there. I always send a final report to my sponsors — including pageviews or other appropriate analytics for posts, screenrabs of any activity related to the sponsorship, pictures of people holding up the samples, etc. I sometimes even ask for testimonials from people at the conference (“I was so excited to try Product ABC and it was great that Blogger X was there to help show it off!“).
I ask: “Was there anything else that you were hoping to get out of this project? Is there any way I can help follow up on any leads you might have gotten from this conference?” And if the answer is yes, and it’s easy for me to do, I do it without any extra charge.
More likely, the brand will love what you did and want to know what the next step is, so I like to send a new proposal for ongoing work with that brand. Again, using bullet points for specific tasks and goals, with pricing options to choose from.
Once you have that relationship, treat it as if it’s fragile. If you want to approach the brand about future sponsorships, start at the very beginning — and don’t over pitch. Be very, very selective so you don’t burn your bridges.
- I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve made that have been un-returned, how many emails have gone unanswered and how many times I’ve heard the word “no.” It may take you 10 rejections before you even get a bit of interest. So keep trying, and be patient.
- The earlier you start, the better your chances. Brands don’t want you to come to them 2 weeks before and event begging for money. Remember — it’s not about what you need. It’s about what you can offer.
- Asking for money is a bit like selling your house. You can’t ask for what you want; you have to ask for what the market allows for. So be very, very honest when assessing the value of what you’re offering to do, and make sure that your proposal fits that value. Don’t ask for the number that will cover your costs. Ask for the fair market value for the work you’ll be doing.
- If it feels wrong — even after all your hard work — walk away, politely. No amount of money is worth selling your soul. And if you do something that goes against your ethics or your gut feeling, you’ll suffer (and so will your readers and the sponsor).