One of the biggest questions we get here on BFK? How to work with brands!
(Duh, don’t we all want to improve in this area?)
It seems like a simple question, right? Well, it’s not exactly the simplest answer. Every situation is unique, every city and market is different, and every blogger/brand relationship varies from person to person.
However, we’ve discovered (through quite a bit of trial and error) that there are a few factors that each and every brand looks for in a blogger partnership.
Here are six big one’s that you won’t want to miss below! (Plus, a free checklist to ensure your media kit is on point!)
1. A well defined brand
There’s nothing more disappointing to a brand than landing on a blogger’s page only to find that her focus goes in about a million different directions. For example–she often changes the colors and fonts of her graphics, she’ll blog about a topic once and never revisit it again for another 6 months, she wears designer one day and Forever 21 the next.
Here’s the tough truth: If you don’t know what your brand is, another brand isn’t going to want to pair up with you. An “all over the place” blog tells them one thing–you don’t have your you-know-what together.
So–how do you avoid this? There are a couple things you can do to really refine your brand:
Narrow your niche. Do you cover about 15 different subjects depending on how you feel on a given day? (Don’t worry if you do–we did too when we first started out!)When your focus is scattered, growing your blog is going to be an uphill battle. Instead, narrow down what topics you cover as much as you possibly can. If you don’t know where to begin, we’d recommend conducting a reader survey to figure out what your audience likes and doesn’t like. Then, figure out if there is a “common thread” you can weave throughout. What do I mean by that, exactly?
For example: Blair found in a reader survey that her audience didn’t like food posts, but they’re still fun for her to do, so she started to weave more “style” into her outfit posts, taking photos of what she wore while preparing dinner, styled shots of the dishes she uses, etc.
Another example: Let’s just stick with the topic of style for consistency’s sake. Are you a style blogger? Great! How can you make that more focused? What kind of style do you have? Can you narrow it down further? For example: “A style blog for preppy working girls on a budget” is much better than just a style blog where you dress preppy one day, trendy the next, and edgy the next.
Why would you do this? It A. Builds a loyal following MUCH more quickly, and B.–when the Vineyard Vines teams is in town, who are they going to invite to their event? The blogger with a well-carved-out preppy niche, or the blogger who’s style is unpredictable with diluted, all-over-the-place blog content? (Thought so!)
Invest in a professional blog design. It doesn’t have to be expensive! There are so many professional themes out there that don’t cost an arm and a leg. In fact, our site is built on one of them! (Plus, there’s a pretty exciting redesign in the works–also built from a pre-designed theme!) Check out our “start here” resources page for our list of theme favorites.Also–if you haven’t invested in WordPress yet, now is the time to buckle down. Yes, it is worth it, and no–there are not any alternatives if you want to take blogging seriously. For more on that, check out this post!
Develop a brand identity, and stick to it! Come up with a list of fonts you’ll stick to, a list of colors you’ll use throughout all of your graphics, and don’t stray from it. It’s SO hard, we know–but it’s important to build a brand that readers and brands alike can come to recognize.
2. Professional imagery
If you take your own blog photos, it’s important to dedicate yourself to mastering the craft of photography. Is it daunting? Absolutely! It’s still the biggest thing I struggle with. However, it’s a really fun hobby, and it’s a skill you’ll use throughout so many different areas of your life! Plus, it’s totally doable to teach yourself. However, if you’re looking for classes, we love Creative Live!
Investing in a DSLR camera is a must–we both shoot with a Canon 60D and a 35mm f/2 lens. Are they the best you can get? Of course not. Not even close. But they’re budget-friendly and a hell of a lot better than your iPhone.
Professional imagery is one of the #1 things brands look for, so this is definitely not something you want to glance over! If you’re looking to improve your photography, this post on how to get that “blurry background” in your photos is definitely a must-read!
How you edit your photos is also key. (And a big part of your brand identity!) Our favorite way to edit photos is with Lightroom–it’s the best way to take mediocre photos to great ones! For more photo editing tips, see this post first, followed by this post!
3. A clear understanding of your audience
Brands and corporations spend thousands, even millions of dollars per year to get a true understanding of who their audience is. Because of this, it’s important for them to know that if they partner with you, they’ll be reaching the right people!
That being said, in addition to knowing your site traffic–unique visitors (how many people visit your site per month), your unique visits (how many times those people visit your site total) and pageviews (how many total pages were viewed on your site per month), it’s a huge bonus for you to be able to provide demographics, like age, geographic location, and even an idea of what their interests are! All of this information is available via Google Analytics, which you can install with just a couple clicks on your WordPress site.
These are all great points to list in your media kit. Which brings us to our next point…
4. A great media kit
One of the best ways to make a great impression with a potential brand partner is with a killer media kit. Think of this as your blog’s resume, and their first taste of what type of content you offer on your site.
It should highlight your unique selling points, your personality, your brand, and give potential partners a taste of what it’s like to work with you.
We actually did a whole post on media kits right over here, and we even created a free “media kit checklist,” too. Just click the graphic below to download it now!
5. A regularly updated blog
Another thing that can take the wind out of a brand’s sales? Landing on an absolutely wonderful blog, and then discovering the blogger hasn’t posted in 2-3 weeks.
I know what you’re saying.
“JESS. Posting on the regular is HARD. It’s so time consuming and I just don’t always have the time! How do I think of that much stuff to write about?”
Yes, I get it. 100%. We’ve all been there, but again, if you’re serious about wanting to work with brands, this is the level that they demand. You should be posting regularly, on a schedule, at least a couple times per week.
How to do that exactly? Batch brainstorming, lady, is the magic word. Check out the full post on that here.
6. An “above and beyond” attitude
Think of it this way. Working with brands is a little bit like being in sales. Do you know the biggest key to succeeding in a sales role?
Might sound crazy, but it’s true! Sometimes, working with brands can be a marathon, not a sprint. Network as much as you possibly can. Approach brands with the idea of a two-way collaboration–make them an offer that they can’t refuse.
Still trying to build your numbers? Instead of free product or payment, you could reach out to a local boutique and ask to simply borrow clothes to shoot on your blog–offering promotion in exchange for absolutely nothing. It’s a win for you because you get to build your resume, and you get new clothes to shoot with! It’s a win for them because they get to work with a local blogger, and any publicity, even if it’s small, is better than no publicity!
Fast forward a year later, once you’ve established yourself as a reputable blogger, you can bet the same boutique will be willing to pay you for your services!
Additionally, when you do land a gig–always remember to under promise and over-deliver. Charging for one Instagram? Give them two the first time around. Working with them on a sponsored post? Throw in an extra round of social. Going the extra mile and making it known that their brand is one you believe in and that you’re in this partnership for the long-haul will keep them returning to work with you again and again.
Have you worked with any brands? What advice do you have? Share with us in the comments!
(Plus, don’t forget to download your Media Kit Checklist by clicking on the graphic below!)
Additionally, we’re also going to begin offering our Webinar series again soon! We go over a lot of these topics in more detail, so if you’re interested, make sure you’re signed up on the list below–and you’ll be the first to be updated when we release our new webinar schedule!