Going Pro: Best Practices For Brands and Bloggers
This piece was written for Conde Nast and Lucky Magazine, appearing online and in print for the LuckyFABB Blogger’s Conference in New York City for September 2012.
Why Do You Blog?
- If you had 60 seconds to tell me about you, your blog and why you’re relevant to my brand, products or services, what would you say?
- Even more importantly, how would you distinguish yourself from the hundreds, no, thousands of other bloggers out there?
- What makes you so special?
Hint: It has to do with who you are as an individual and your personal story, or at least it should.
In the fashion and beauty worlds – which really should be classified as the retail/lifestyle industry – there’s no shortage of bloggers. In fact, having a blog has become an integral part of building a personal brand and achieving your professional goals.
“I think there are a very select few bloggers that can make this a lasting career. Everyone out there has some kind of expiration date. What happens when a personal-style blogger wakes up and she’s 35 and not the cute 20-year-old girl in Brooklyn anymore?” – John Jannuzzi, digital editor at Lucky & Style Collective, a blogger network.
Here’s the thing, not everyone is cut out to be Bryan Boy, Susie Bubble or The Man Repeller. For every ONE blogger that manages to build a successful presence, there are maybe FIVE that can build niche audiences and ONE HUNDRED that will fail. Let’s take a look at some sobering numbers, according to Technorati:
- Only 14% of bloggers make salary from blogging, the average is $24,087 dollars per year.
- 25% of bloggers have been writing 2-4 years; 50% over four years.
- Professional bloggers spend 40+ hours per week producing content.
Are You Running A Business or Just A Blog?
$24,087 per year? Isn’t that about the starting salary of a new editorial assistant in media in New York or Los Angeles? Yes.
While there are bloggers that earn $50-1$00,000 per year, the money they earn is tied to professional careers that leverage their blogs as marketing tools or they’re one of few that have turned their blog into a full-fledged media business.
For example, Michael Williams started blogging in 2007. Williams is the founder of A Continuous Lean, and also runs marketing/PR firm, produces films and even has an e-commerce business.
Erica Domesek of PS I Made This… is a published author, conducts live workshops with brands and is currently starring in Craft Wars on TLC. Erica herself is a brand, with her tumblr-powered blog leveraged as a marketing tool.
These two individuals are busy! They’re also businesses, not just blogs.
What Brands Want – Business Minded Bloggers
Brands are getting more familiar, and comfortable with, working with bloggers. They’ve come to learn that bloggers are an integral part not only of social media, but marketing and PR as well. But with this knowledge, brands have also learned to measure the value of individual influencers and influencer programs. Because of this, the smart brands want BUSINESS-MINDED bloggers to work with. I can’t say it any more clearly that.
So how do you get to work with brands?
Define what your blog is and isn’t
The first thing you must do before even considering working with brands or any other form of strategic partnership is clarify what the purpose of your blog is.
- Is your blog a marketing tool to help you land your dream job in publishing?
- Is your blog your personal resume to land a brand or agency job?
- Is your blog something you want to build your own media company out of?
- Is your blog a creative outlet, a hobby, that lets you express who you are?
The answer to this first question is going to be key in how you market, or don’t market, your personal brand and blog. It’s okay if your blog isn’t your full time job and is a side business that provides additional income. It’s also okay if it’s just a marketing tool. But you have to clearly define what it is and isn’t and make sure you’re leveraging it to reach your professional goals.
Do your homework
No matter what the purpose of your blog is, you have to do your homework.
- Make sure you understand FTC and government laws around content, products and disclosure.
- If you’re going to monetize your blog and make money in any form, then you must set up a DBA, open a dedicated bank account, create an advertising/press kit and get formal agreements in place. If you find that your blog is becoming a business, speak with a lawyer to set up a LLC for your company. Invest in business advice and legal help before you invest in that CHLOE or CELINE handbag. The couture can wait, your business can’t.
- Identify the types of brands and companies you want to work with. Reach out to them and see if there are opportunities to collaborate. Look for someone in the marketing department versus the PR department as marketing controls the budgets for most brands.
Set reasonable fees
As a person who leveraged her blog to land her dream position and as someone who’s constructed award winning influencer programs, I’m going to give you straight facts about fees and expectations.
Most blogger fees are getting a little out of hand these days. As a brand professional, I may only have $10,000 to spend on an influencer program (that’s if I’m a large brand). If a blogger I want commands $4,000 to $5,000 for one post, then up sells the social media distribution around the content, I’m most likely going to pass on working with that person due to budgetary constraints.
To be honest, for that amount of money, I can work with three bloggers who are excited to work with my brand/client and are willing to create content that is deeply integrative and yields the same, if not better results and ROI, than if I’d gone with just one blogger who did a post and didn’t further engage with me throughout the campaign.
When it comes to appearances and travel fees, setting a day rate is perfectly acceptable, as long it’s not too exorbitant. Depending on your audience, reach and industry status, brands are happy to entertain day rates of $600-1200 per day. More established bloggers generally ask $2000-4000 per day for deeply integrative campaigns or projects, giving a percentage break for multiple day arrangements. The brand is responsible for travel and accommodations, but be aware, it’s not going to first class flights and 5-star luxury hotels, not even journalists on media tours get that.
As a marketing professional, we’ve come to expect fees that range from the $500 – $2500 for article/photo post that are all inclusive and most of us will happily pay that based on audience, reach and relevance. If bloggers create video, the numbers are slightly higher at $500 – 3500 per video post. If a brand does a designer collaboration with a blogger, the standard fee is $10,000 – $20,000 depending on the collaboration and marketing campaign behind it. For collaborations with larger name personalities, it’s standard to request a percentage of sales, but few get it.
Please note: There are exceptions to all the numbers above, but we’re talking industry standard.
As a blogger, you mustn’t overlook the opportunities you have to build additional revenue streams. Brand affiliate programs like One Kings Lane (which pays up to 20% commission) are great ways to monetize content. Some brands will only work with bloggers through affiliate relationships.
Social commerce and product discovery play a huge roll in the way consumers shop online. So if you’re a blogger whose followers buy, then investing time into social commerce sites designed for bloggers like LYST are strategic moves you want to make. Currently, over 3,000 bloggers use LYST’s blog connect, email, social media and Pinterest programs; some earn thousands of dollars a month via the social commerce model.
Set reasonable expectations
Setting reasonable expectations in conjunction with payment is also important.
It’s also important for bloggers to be aware that many brands they may love don’t actually pay bloggers to collaborate with them. Why? Not because they’re cheap, but because they don’t have the marketing budget to do it.
Finding mutually beneficial ways to work with brands that you adore is okay. You’ll find many brands and agencies are open to working on ideas to create better opportunities for them and for you. If you don’t ask or propose, how can you know what you can collectively do?
I’ve seen partnerships created that weren’t based on money, a simple balance of product (disclosed of course) and prestige (brand recognition and PR) have created fantastic results for all parties involved. As a blogger, it’s up to you to decide what to charge for and what you do for relationship and personal brand building.
Set professional standards
In aspirational industries, which are what fashion and beauty are, professionalism goes a long way. Over the years, I’ve worked with many bloggers, both large and small. The thing that kept me coming back to a certain influencer was the experience I had working with them; professionalism keep me coming back.
It’s lack of professionalism that drives brands away. If you are difficult to work with, don’t conduct yourself with some restraint on social media and become known as a bit of a wild card when it comes to delivering on a campaign, brands will stop working with you. While brands are becoming more social, they still have images and corporate guidelines to adhere to.
Note of Advice: If you’re not enthusiastic about a brand that approaches you, it’s better to politely decline the offer than force that brand on your audience and have the brand walk away with less than a stellar experience with you.
As a new form of marketing machine/PR vehicle, bloggers can’t be treated like traditional media nor can they be treated like marketing tools. Influencer marketing is an art form all itself.
On the brand/agency side, most of us find ourselves not only working with bloggers, but educating them as well. We’ve taught bloggers about SEO and importance of product links, why certain words are linked, how timing is key in publishing their posts as it fits into our content strategy, how to use hashtags and interact with a brand or other influencers; the list goes on and on.
Bloggers that proactively educate themselves on content strategy and distribution, mobile content and apps, SEO and general marketing are more attractive to work with as the knowledge they possess allows marketers to scale campaigns in a more efficient and timely manner.
Your education should include understanding of the trends and topics that have a foothold on current culture. You should not only be reading Women’s Wear Daily and Vogue, but you should be reading The Next Web, Mashable, TechCrunch and even GigaOm. Why? Well, what happens when you’re able to connect the dots between cultural and technology trends that allow you to propose a stellar idea you have for a campaign to me? Well, I’m going to buy it if it’s a good as you say or work with you to develop into something that fits my brand.
Under promise and over deliver
This point is simple and sweet.
- You want to work with brands and continue to work with them?
- Do you want to earn additional revenue off of your blog through ads?
Then deliver a great experience for your brand partners and advertisers; under promise and over deliver on their expectations. Proactively being a part of the marketing plans will solidify your place with them in the future.
Great Resources For Bloggers
- Network: Lucky Magazine Style Collective
- Affiliates: Lyst, Bonfaire, Reward Style
- Education: FMM – How To Build A Successful Blog
- Editorial: Yahoo! Style Guide – Buy It Online
- Community: Independent Fashion Bloggers
- Legal: CMP.LY, Creative Commons
- Social Metrics: Kred, Traackr, Social Bakers, Tweet Reach