How Bloggers Develop Relationships with Brands 2 of 3

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Once you've gotten in the door with brands, as a blogger, you'll need to work hard to develop a proper working relationship. Use these five techniques to develop a relationship with brands you'll work with.

She shares five really useful techniques for developing relationships with brands.
As with any good and stable relationship, there needs to be balance in the relationship between a blogger and a brand. Both parties need to be aware of each others capabilities and limitations for the partnership to be a success.

From the point of view of established brands, this is simple. The reputation of any established brand proceeds them and straight away we form opinions just by listing off their names. When it comes to most bloggers and smaller, niche brands that aren't as well known as the big guns of the industry, this can be a bit more challenging. This is when having a good, working relationship with brands is key.

A high percentage of my blogging works comes from repeat brands either through a brand's in-house marketing strategist or via a third party PR team. It doesn't really matter with whom you liaise, you should seek to create the most functional relationship possible. Functional relationships are free from drama, involve open communication, are displayed by both sides holding up their end of the bargain, are adult-level collaborative projects that end in results for all involved.Use these five techniques to aid you in developing relationships with the brands you work with and you'll start to see repeat assignments.

How Bloggers Develop Relationships with Brands

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How to Develop Relationships with Brands

  1. Ensure that you stick to the plan

    It may seem like a bit of a no-brainer, but when working with brands, ensure that you do what you say you'll do [tweet this quote!]. Whether you're receiving free merchandise, press passes to events or a cash payout, the company you are working with and acting as an ambassador for, have had to shell out to cover the cost. As a blogger, you need to be respectful of their bank account and their time and do what you say you'll do.

    In agreeing to work with a brand, you're saying to them that they can count on you to deliver a certain piece of work. Whether it's a review, a sponsored tweet or a sponsored post. It's down to you to clearly determine what the brand wants and to deliver your end of the bargain on time. Do this and you'll be quickly regarded as a mature, professional and trustworthy blogger. On top of that, deliver your greatest quality work and you'll find that the brand or PR will flock back to you with repeat custom.

  2. Ensure that you remain relevant with your post
    The quickest way to ruin any relationship is to consistently bulldoze in on the conversation and dominate it. You know that friend that can't help herself but to over-share? The one who, after you start telling her about a dream or an experience, butts in before you're even halfway done and tells your about her dream or her experience? Don't be that friend to the brands you work with.

    When you do your post for the brand, be sure that you remain relevant. [tweet this quote]. If you're writing a post on an El Paso brand taco kit, for instance, that's not the place to start throwing around information or links to a Discovery or Mission brand taco kit. Unless of course, that is the point of the El Paso campaign and they've asked you to.

    One other thing you'd want to avoid: when you're writing this post for El Paso, be sure that you stick to what would be relevant for the brand. That means leaving out your you-had-to-be-there anecdote about the time your sister tripped on her shoelaces and spilled frozen yogurt over your grumpy Uncle Bill's bald head at the family summer barbecue. On the other hand, you could include a funny anecdote about when your sister squeezed the bottle of guacamole too hard and it shot all over her tacos, ricocheted off the plate and landed in her hair.

    Catch my drift? Keep it relevant. And keep it relevant with the blog posts you recommend at the bottom of a sponsored post, too. Be vigilant not to include recommendations for any posts praising rival brands. If you are writing a post for El Paso, link to other Mexican food recipes on your blog, whether they use El Paso products or not. Linking to the type of food El Paso's customer base have come to associate them with is always better than linking to nothing or to something unrelated. I'll be frank: this isn't the time to link to your super amazing curry recipe. Or your fried rice recipe. Or your blog post filled with funny cat memes.

  3. Ensure that you assert your authority
    The most difficult part of working with brands can be asserting your authority. From the outset, many bloggers are notoriously bad about flaunting their own clout and using it as leverage. There's no shame in telling brands straight away what they can expect from you. [tweet this quote]. There's nothing wrong with talking numbers and saying, "I've got xx number of Facebook fans and xx number of Pinterest fans that this post could reach."

    For whatever reason, bloggers feel a bit embarrassed calling attention to their social achievement when soliciting for or securing work with brands. Think about it from the brand's perspective. They're not out to give you free products just because they have a surplus from the warehouse. They're after marketing. Just like back in the day when advertisers asked about newspaper circulation before placing an ad in the paper, brands want to know your content circulation.

    I said it in part one and I'll say it again: brands rely on bloggers to introduce them to a following of potential customers they may not have reached or have found a hard time getting to. It's up to you to make the introduction, but first you need to tell the brand who you're introducing them to!

    Once you've secured the sponsored post, continue to assert your authority when necessary, but do it gracefully. Simply remember that just because you are receiving a product for free doesn't mean you're working for free. Stick to the plan already set out between you and the brand and ensure that they do as well.

  4. Ensure that you remain yourself
    If you get approached by a brand, it is because they have actively sought you out and like what they see. If they didn't think you were a good fit, they wouldn't have contacted you in the first place. When you do your post for the brand, stay confident in who you are and in what you blog is about.

    Maintain the same level of charisma and the same quality that attracted the brand to you in the first place. Remain confident that you know how to reach your readers and how to encourage them to care about the brand you are being an ambassador for. That's what the brands are counting on you to do: generate a buzz. And produce the same quality content you ordinarily do. In short, it's down to you to make their product look good and appealing and to do it in a way that will resonate with your readers. [tweet this quote].

  5. Ensure that your post is open and honest
    Remember that you are developing a relationship with the brand you're working with. Think about it in the way you would any other relationship. If your boss bakes you a cake that you don't particularly like, what would your reaction be? How gracefully do you handle a delicate situation? How honest are you with your opinion and your feedback?

    Brands want your honesty. If they didn't, they wouldn't solicit sponsored posts. You're not going to like every product you're given, even if it's a product from a trusted brand that you love.

    Case in point: I tend to buy predominantly Schwartz brand herbs and seasonings. I have for years. I started working with them early last year and got sent my first parcel. I used the products and developed a few recipes as per our agreement and genuinely fell in love with them. In fact, I still purchase one of the products from the supermarket to this day. The success of my first campaign with them led to another.

    On this instance, I received another new product and absolutely hated it. There were no redeeming qualities, in my opinion; it just didn't work for me and my family. I wrote a review to that effect (after a bit of Dutch courage!) and braced myself for the barrage of anger. It never came. Schwartz handled themselves beautifully and gracefully. They listened to my opinion, thanked me for it and disclosed that another blogger given the same task reported the same findings.

    Schwartz does more than just ship out products and wait for the praise to pile in. They accept that sometimes not everyone is going to like everything. I admire that; it shows that they have integrity and that they're in touch with their customers and that my opinions are valued. From that post, I've gone on to continue to develop recipes and receive products from Schwartz, in fact, they have become one of my most loyal brands.

    You owe it to yourself, your readers and the brand to be honest and open with your feedback. [tweet this quote]. Do it gracefully, do it tactfully, but if you don't like something; you need to state it. Your readers have come to trust you and many of them are prepared to try a product off of the back of your recommendation. If they were to try a product you recommended and felt the same way as you, that may encourage them to try some of your own recipes, building your following and cementing and solidifying yourself as an authority figure in your niche category and as a blogger who can be trusted.
This was part 2 of a new series on developing and maintaining relationships with brands. Read part 1.

How do you develop a relationship with the brands you work with? Do you actively stay in communication with them? 

Previous Posts on Working with Brands:
Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3

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