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The relationship between brands or public relations firms and bloggers are often complicated and everyone ends up frustrated. If you’re in the former group or are just interested in working with bloggers in the future, here are a few tips that will help make your collaboration as successful as possible.
Dear brands, businesses, PR reps and anyone else interested in working with bloggers and other influencers:
I’ve been a blogger a long time – it’s coming up on 10 years! During this time, I’ve seen the blogging landscape change so much; sometimes the changes are for the better and sometimes for the worse. It’s an interesting field because anyone can start a blog, anyone can make money blogging, and anyone can have influence. You might say it takes luck, but what it really takes to be a successful blogger is an extreme amount of hard work.
Over the years, it seems like blogging has become a laughable profession to some but at the same time, brands also vie to work with bloggers and other influencers because unlike traditional advertisements that are often tuned out, we have the eyes and ears of the networks we have cultivated.
You don’t need a million-person audience to be a successful blogger. You just need sway. Bloggers need to know their audiences and know how to tell stories, which is something it’s nearly impossible for a brand to do on its own. While I know many of you respect bloggers, or at least want them to work for you, the disrespect also runs rampant in so many ways.
As a blogging veteran who’s not afraid to tell it like it is, I wanted to put together a checklist of some of the ways that you, perhaps unwittingly, disrespect bloggers and influencers, as well as options that will easily help make things better. Please know that I’m not attacking anyone, but we all need to do better if we want blogger and brand collaborations to flourish.
Tips for working with bloggers and influencers
Know our names
If you’re sending out a cold email, first and foremost, please take the time to get our names and our blogs right. I know you’re busy, but so are we. My name is Lisa, so if I get an email addressed to “Laura,” I immediately hit delete. I’m sure others are nicer than I am, but respect starts at the beginning.
Tip: Double check that our names and sites are right, or leave them out altogether.
Stop spamming us with press releases
I know some newspapers and magazines will run glorified press releases in their publications, so sending non-stop press releases to them makes sense. We aren’t journalists and most of the time we have very little use for press releases, especially when they have nothing at all to do with our blog content.
Tip: Send your press release once and follow-up once if you must, but after that, let it go. We will let you know if your press release is a good fit for our sites!
We don’t work for free
Some bloggers will work for a product, others only want money, and others want money and product. Payment can take many forms and it’s up to each individual blogger or influencer to decide what is in her best interest. If you want us to really sell a product to our followers, we need to test it out and make sure it’s a good fit for our audience. Bloggers don’t have bosses, so when we say we charge in exchange for coverage it’s because we otherwise won’t get any sort of payment for the work will do on your behalf. It can take hours to test a product, photograph it, and then write a blog post and update social media.
Do you do your job for free? Assuming you don’t, why should we work for you for free?
Tip: If you can’t offer anything in exchange for a post, explain why to the blogger and then back off quickly. Assuming we are happy to work for nothing is the #1 thing most bloggers find irritating.
We aren’t going to pay to test your product
Sometimes, instead of offering payment or a free product in exchange for coverage, a brand will just offer a coupon so that we can buy it ourselves at a slightly lower price. Oy.
Tip: Just don’t do this.
Don’t pit us against one another
The blogging community is surprisingly small. You may think there’s a bunch of different Facebook groups for bloggers and whatnot, but many of us are in the same groups. What this means is that we talk. Frequently. If you’ve made a deal with one blogger and you’re trying to cajole another to accept the deal that the first blogger accepted, chances are we’re going to hear about it.
Tip: Don’t use us against one another in attempt to pay someone less than she charges.
Small blogs are valuable, too
We know, every brand wants to be prominently featured on a blog that gets a million visitors a day. Chances are, though, that you’re going to pay out the nose to appear on that site. What should be more valuable is finding bloggers that fully align with your product and mission, because chances are their readers will, too. When it comes to finding successful partners, bigger isn’t always better.
Tip: When considering potential partners, look at how they represent their niches. Look at their styles. Look at the kind of stories they tell.
Respond to your email
If you reach out to a blogger to tell her that you’re interested in working with her, respond to her if she responds to you. This might sound silly, but I can’t tell you how many times I have received an email saying something along the lines of, “We are so excited to work with you! Please respond so we can get started,” only to respond and never hear back again. I get it. Projects might switch hands or get canceled or whatever. Things happen, but we won’t have any way to know that unless we hear it from you.
Tip: If a project gets canceled or you decide to get in a different direction, send a quick message letting us know there was a change in plans so we can move on.
Don’t tell us you’re sending product and then ghost
There is one PR company I can think of that’s notorious for sending out regular emails filled with the products they represent and a note that limited samples are available. More often than not, if you request a sample from this company they will reply excitedly that they’ll get something in the mail, but then you’ll never hear from them again. I know, you’re busy and things happen. But again, we’re busy, too.
Tip: If you have no intention of sending a product (and I don’t believe the aforementioned company ever does), either take the note about samples out of your email or send a quick response that nothing is available. Don’t tell us it’s in the mail when you know it’s not.
Don’t tell us we need to work for free before you pay us
One of the more bizarre changes I’ve seen in the blogging industry is companies reaching out to us to partner on a project, but then telling us that you won’t pay us for the first post because you want to see how it does. What kind of con job is that? Do you want to see how we write or what our social media posts look like? Take a look through our blogs and our Instagram feeds. If you like what you see, you like what you see. Nobody should give you free coverage in the hope of winning more business with you.
Tip: Just don’t do this.
Just say no to giveaways
When I first started blogging, giveaways were where it was at! People loved entering giveaways and I loved running them. But then the amount of time I spent running giveaways started outweighing the number of people interested in entering. There was giveaway fatigue and for me, at least, it still continues. I find it laughable when a brand reaches out to me offering the “opportunity” to run a giveaway on my site. Frequently, they don’t want to pay and they don’t want to provide a product for review. They are solely interested in me running a giveaway for them.
Heads up: Bloggers KNOW this is not a good deal for us. You are asking us to do a ton of work for literally nothing in return. Please don’t waste our time.
Tip: Work with the blogger to come up with a more creative way to market your product to their readers. If you absolutely must include a giveaway as part of a larger project, please include it in your terms for the entire collaboration.
Respect our time
Most bloggers and influencers aren’t sitting around doing nothing all day. If you’re planning an event and don’t get enough RSVPs, don’t send us an email the day before saying, “we REALLY want you there!” No, you don’t. If you really wanted me there, you would have invited me a month ago so that I would have had time to find a babysitter and get my nails done.
If it’s an emergency and you actually do need people to attend, why not try sweetening the pot, instead of just assuming we are jumping at the chance to attend an event tomorrow? For instance, a few years ago I told a company I couldn’t attend an event. They got back to me and not only offered to pay me to attend but also chartered a driver to pick me up and take me home.
Tip: Respect our time. Don’t be surprised when last-minute invites and events are a no-go.
A deal is a deal
If we work out the terms of an agreement, don’t come back to us later asking us to do more work for free. Not all campaigns are going to be a hit with our audience. Or, maybe something is a wild success. Regardless of which way it goes, none of us are interested in adding Instagram posts or more social shares or anything of the sort for free.
Tip: Be upfront about what you want from the beginning, but if something comes up and you want us to do more work, be prepared to pay us more money.
“We have no budget”
Here’s something that really gets my blood boiling. Nobody likes receiving an email from a PR firm expressing interest in a collaboration, then when the blogger indicates she’d like to get paid, the response is, “we have no budget for this campaign.” The problem with this is that I can guarantee you the PR firm is not working for free. You may not want to pay bloggers and influencers to promote your product, but “we have no budget” is hardly the reason.
Tip: I believe the real problem is that you don’t want to pay some bloggers and influencers, but you will pay others. If that’s the case, just let us know the minimum reach you’re looking for before you’re willing to pay. At least then you’re being honest and not insulting our intelligence. If there’s really NO budget for monetary or product payment, perhaps you shouldn’t be promoting your product.
Dofollow links are a no-go
Any brand or PR agency worth their salt isn’t going to try to convince bloggers to include dofollow links on their sites, especially when money or product has switched hands. Yet, some still do! Google hates this and can penalize both the blogger and the company being advertised.
Tip: Don’t hope the blogger doesn’t know about Google’s rules about dofollow links. Trying to be sneaky can hurt both of us.
Blogging is a long game
If you want to promote a product and you want to promote it NOW, perhaps traditional advertising is in your best interest. Yes, some people may see a post written by their favorite bloggers and immediately purchase said item. Chances are, though, that the impact of a well-written blog post that has been optimized for search engines will be felt in the coming months once that post begins to pick up search engine traction.
Tip: Let us know the keywords you want to rank for so that we can optimize our posts so you’ll get more traffic in the future. We want you to succeed but we want you to know that success isn’t going to come overnight, at least from our end.
If you want more clicks, give us some budget
Our reach on social media seems to dwindle daily, thanks to Facebook and Instagram algorithms. I know many bloggers spend their own money on boosting their posts on these platforms because they don’t want the brand to think their post was a failure. My recommendation is that brands should start including some extra money in their terms for social media boosts. If you want to help the blogger (and your brand) out further, include some information about the demographics you’d like to target with the paid advertising money.
Tip: Include a little bit of money for post boosting in your budget. Even if it’s an extra $10, that money could go a long way!
Give us adequate deadlines
We know that you want your post and you want it now, or maybe yesterday, but putting together good content takes time. You can’t contact us today and expect a 3,000-word manifesto about how awesome bananas are by the end of the day tomorrow. It’s just not feasible, especially if we are waiting on products to arrive, taking pictures, or producing video content.
Tip: Contact us as early as possible in the process and let us know the deadlines you’re up against.
Help promote our posts
Something that’s super easy for brands and PR companies to do, but which I rarely see done, is having the brand share the sponsored post on their social media channels. Why not send some traffic to posts you think are well done? This can ONLY help you because it will bring more attention to a post highlighting your brand.
Tip: Have brands add our evergreen posts to their social media queues.
Give us all the info we need
If you want to work with us, give us everything we need. The more information you can send us, the better. For instance, has the product won any awards? Can it be used in multiple ways? When was it released? Have celebrities used the product? Are there social media accounts we should include in our post? Is there special disclosure text you’d like us to use? Do you have stock images that can be used, if necessary? Are there any keywords you want us to target? We want to get this right, so please give us all the tools we need to make things perfect from the beginning.
Tip: The more information you can give us, the heartier our posts will be.
Pay us up front
Over the past couple of years, there have been more and more instances of networks closing (RIP Mode Media) or brands simply not paying for the work they’ve commissioned. Personally, I’ve stopped working with most networks because I don’t think the risk is worthwhile. Most networks pay 30-90 days net now, which is far too long. I prefer to work with companies one-on-one and when doing so I show them a copy of the post so they can suggest revisions. Then, before I publish the post, they must pay me in full. If you work directly with bloggers, there’s no excuse for trying to pay them at some point in the future.
Tip: Pay bloggers and influencers and pay them on time.
Provide constructive feedback
Do you know what all bloggers would love? Ongoing partnerships with brands. If you like our work, consider working with us on a long-term basis. If you don’t like our work, consider providing constructive feedback about what would have made it better.
Tip: You don’t have to go overboard with the criticism, but let us know what you think would have taken the post from good to great.
We want to work with you
I know some of you are reading this and thinking that I sound like a real jerk. I know that you work hard. I know that you spend a lot of times putting out fires and trying to keep a lot of people happy. I know your job is difficult and there can be a lot of turnovers. The thing is, though, all of the items mentioned above have happened to me personally, which means they’re happening to all bloggers and influencers. Working with bloggers and influencers need not be difficult. We want to work with you, we want to promote your products, and we want to help you succeed. But please, help us help you. A little bit of respect will go a long way.
For the other side of this post, check out our tips for becoming a serious blogger.
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