The number one question I get in my email, my social media direct messages and in person from my followers is how to get brand partnerships. “How do I find the right contacts? What do I say in a pitch email? What should I price my content?” In general, these are the questions, I get. And if you’ve been following me for a while, you know I love to share information about turning your blog into a business.
However, I’ve avoided answering this question for a while. Not because I don’t want to help, but the answer is more of a four layer cake answer. If I tell you one part, I need to tell you the other. Yes – and you’ve heard it before – you have to build relationships, but that’s only one part of it.
You need to be clear on quite a few things before diving deep into this influencer world. It isn’t what it seems on the surface. Today – finally – I’m going to share with you the truth about brand partnerships and how to get them.
HOW TO LOOK THE PART
As an influencer, you have to look the part. “The part” meaning you have to look like you’re the aspirational version of yourself. To be clear, I’m not telling you that you have to look like someone you’re not. But if you’re a style blogger, you have to look stylish. Yes, even if no one is sponsoring you yet. If you’re a food blogger, people want to see good food whether you make it or go to a restaurant and get gorgeous photos of it.
Consistency has a lot to do with it
A lot of the issue is that bloggers and content creators early in the game are trying to reach out to brands to pay them for things they don’t know how to do yet. If you want a brand to send you clothes for an outfit post, then you have to post outfit posts consistently. And wait for it, they have to be good. Am I saying you need to be decked out in head to toe Givenchy? No, but you do need to know how to put a look together and make it look good in a photo for at least 6 months before asking a brand to pay for an outfit post. If you don’t know how to do something well for free, don’t expect anyone to pay you for it.
You need capital
This is going to be a tough pill to swallow, but looking the part costs money. Whether it’s the tools you use, the clothes you wear, the food and drinks you buy to stage for blog posts, video and Instagram videos – those things cost money. And while I believe in before reasonable and keeping things affordable, things still add up. This is why if you don’t have parents or a spouse that will foot the bill for your lifestyle before brands start sending checks your way, YOU NEED TO KEEP YOUR DAY JOB. If you lost your 9 to 5 (I understand, it happened) and the checks aren’t coming yet, get a part time job and create captial that will pay for your content. Before you get paid for the influencer lifestyle, you have to pay for it.
As someone who blogged for 3 years before landing my first big check, I know this from experience. My first big check was five figures and I still kept my job for another year and a half. I paid for my own camera, my own outfits, paid for many trips to fashion week in NYC before any brands seriously looked my way and gave me a chance. That’s part of the game. You have to play the game before you can change it.
HOW TO KNOW WHAT YOUR VALUE IS
It’s frustrating to hear people say “you have to know what your value is” when they answer the how to work with brands question. Mostly because it’s incredibly vague, because the person asking it probably doesn’t understand what value is. I’ve said before and I’ll reiterate: VALUE = USEFULNESS. Before you’re trying to jump in the inbox of a brand asking them to pay, what makes you useful to them? This is something you should know inside and out. It’s something you should be able to explain in seconds without hesitation.
Experience breeds usefulness
Most people will need to blog and/or be in business for years before they truly realize their usefulness. And by years, I don’t mean 12 months, I means more like 36 months. (That’s right, 3 years.) This is mostly because people are inconsistent and will drop the ball on staying the course. If you are consistent and discipline, it will happen faster for you. Most people blog once a week. In 3 years, that’ll definitely bring some traffic and build a reputation with an audience. One that a brand is willing to be a part of. I know, 3 years sounds so long. If you’re not in it for the long haul, go ahead and walk away from this lifestyle now.
Wanna speed up the process? Increase the effort
Now, for those of you who just swear up and down that 3 years won’t work for you, and it just HAS TO happen faster for you, I’ll be honest: it can. It just takes way more effort. Like blogging 3-5 times a week and making sure those posts are AMAZING. Which takes time and money. So if you have the time and the money, you can move this influencer train along faster and get brands attention easier. But you and I both know that it’s usually one or the other, if you have the time, you don’t have the money and if you have the money you don’t have the time. Pace yourself and allow yourself to make it in due time.
WHERE TO GET THE RIGHT CONTACTS
You have to show up to go up. That’s just part of it, friends. “I just can’t find the right people to build relationships with.” Well answer this for me: how are you going to build relationships with people you haven’t met? You think people are getting brand partnerships and campaigns because they simply Googled or briefly chatted it up with someone on Twitter. It. Doesn’t. Work. Like. That. You have got to get yourself in the room with people who are like minded and connected.
Blog Conferences Are Contact Gold
I understand that many of you may be in a modest financial situation. If that is the case, if you only have wiggle room for 1 or 2 big purchases towards your growth as an influencer, spend it on a blog conference. Blog conferences are so incredibly full of other awesome content creators, bloggers and influencers (that you can learn from!) and make friends with. It’s always a little peculiar making friends as an adult but at a conference you’re meeting people with a common goal. Those are the best kinds of friends.
The other jackpot of blog conferences (aside from the gift bags) are the incredible sponsors and they send representatives there. I have met everyone from VPs, PR directors, social media managers, Founders and CEOs from a slew of both independent and household name brands just because I went to a blog conference.
They hand you their business with their direct contact. What I love even more? If you meet someone from a brand at a blog conference that means they are interested in working with bloggers and influencers. The contact you meet there might not be the one to give you a brand partnership but they’ll almost always be able to tell you who you need to be in contact with. Gold, gold, GOLD.
From every blog conference I’ve attended (see Blogalicious, Create + Cultivate, Alt Summit) I’ve been able to land a brand partnership triple the cost of attending the conference. Absolutely worth it if you ask me.
HOW TO BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
Build relationships. Build relationships. Build relationships. I will say it again and again and again. You have got to take this seriously. I know it isn’t glamorous and your audience won’t see you doing it but that’s especially why it’s the most important rule in landing brand partnerships. It’s the behind the scenes work.
Think about if someone popped in your inbox for you to pay them to do something for you, you don’t even need. You’d probably look them over, right? Now think about if you received an email from someone you met or interacted with several times on social, you like them and they offered to help you with something you actually need? You’d probably discuss the email further with them. That’s how brands look at influencers. They’re interested in working people they like and have direct value for them.
Pick up the phone
We’ve become incredibly reliable on email, but most business deals – even in the brand and influencer world – are made on the phone. Once you get a brand interested or even considering work with you, ask to get them on the phone for a BRIEF call. That way you can explain your idea verbally without things getting lost in translation thanks to email. The phone call also allows you to show your personality to the brand and prove that you’re a real person.
Out of the 50+ brand partnerships I’ve had this year, I’ve been on the phone with each of them with the exception of 2. If a brand wants to work with me, I make it my business to get on the phone with them for no longer than 10 minutes. It proves how serious you are.
Do intense research
While I’m not easily annoyed, the one question that grinds my gears is “Where do find brand contacts?” There isn’t one answer because every brand operates differently. But the question I have for you is: how do you find anything? YOU LOOK FOR IT. And Internet looking glass is this thing called Google. But between social media bios, researching who top influencers are working with and what brands in your niche are releasing new products, services or collections, the answers are all around you.
You know those new friends you made at that blog conference or workshop you attended? Call them up and pick their brain. Ask them if they have any leads or contacts they can throw your way. If they are in fact a new friend excited about your relationship, they’ll be happy to do so.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that someone will throw you a bone, you will have to put in hours and hours of research to find contacts. Industry websites like WWD, PR Newswire and other outlets are a good place to start. The research is ongoing because these brands grow and switch agency/PR representation often. Sometimes, quarterly. Get your head in the game and RESEARCH.
The goal is to make sure a brand likes and respects you. If someone at a brand likes you, they will pay you.
At the end of the day, if your content doesn’t speak for itself to a valuable & engaged audience then you need a relationship with a brand to land a partnership. YOU HAVE TO DO THE WORK. There is no shortcut. It takes all of the steps above before you even get into money and pitching ideas. But once you do get to the money and pitching part, you’ve got to say the right things.
That’s why I created #FirstPaidKit – to give you the tools and templates necessary to land your first (or more) paid brand partnerships. This 30+ page document tells you what should be in your press kit, what to say when you pitch and much more. And for less than $50, it will equip you for the most nerve wrecking part of being an influencer – talking to brands!