Recently I was approached by a clothing company about becoming a Brand Ambassador for their company. They seemed like everything I'd want to work with: small, made in the USA, and catering to a wide range of women, coupled with a desire to make all women feel beautiful. How couldn't I get behind this? I had already seen the brand on a couple of sites that I admired greatly, so I felt confident trying to build a relationship with this brand.
Their PR person and I chatted on the phone and via email for a few weeks– at this point, there were a few things that were making me uncomfortable, but so much is behind a smoke screen on the internet! I was seeing more and more “brand ambassadors” popping up– enough so that I was worried about the market (and my readers) becoming saturated and overloaded. I was concerned about their demands for inclusion of specific information in my review (despite my review policy saying I maintain 100% editorial control) and desire to see my post prior to publication. (See Vahni's great post, The Perks and Pitfalls of Product Placement for more on this.)
For all of this, I wasn't making a dime.
After receiving the item for review, I mentioned that the item of clothing was snug and felt it was my obligation to share that it was a less than ideal fit for those my size/shape. They began pushing, “If you can make it positive and truthful” and “If you can share the story and message we are trying to share”– which was made all the worse when they suggested I could buy the dress if I didn't want to review it.
To solidify my own feelings, I was hearing rumblings from other bloggers about the same company– they they were pissing off fashion bloggers, were asking for too much, and that they were pushy and demanding. And our relationship? It was politely ended.
Social media, working with brands–it's still the Wild West. It doesn't take much to become an “expert” on the internet, unfortunately, and many people feel qualified to work with bloggers, make requests, and build relationships, without knowing much about bloggers. A great PR person is like gold– and you'll recognize them the instant you work with them.
If you think an offer seems too good to be true, your tummy is giving you “Danger!” rumblings, or you just aren't sure, keep these tips in mind.
Tips & Tricks For Brand Requests:
- Where does their request fall within your editorial guidelines? Is the brand making requests outside of them? If so, you can tell them. Just politely refer them to your policy page, and let them know that unfortunately what they are asking is outside your blog's guidelines.
- Are they asking for coverage, a review– or are they really asking for sponsored content…without actually paying you? In her book, Fashion 2.0, Yuli breaks down definition in the following ways:
- Sponsored posts: posting information the brand wants to communicate to the audience. This information sometimes requires more text than you can fit into a banner ad, therefore, a blog post is a better format.
- Advertorial posts: written in a blogger's own voice, these include the blogger's opinions or recommendations, and sometimes even include custom content the blogger has created for the brand.
- Paid Reviews: payment in exchange for a review of a product. Often the expectation is that the review will be positive, and could potentially put the blogger in an awkward situation.
- Don't be afraid to ask a blogger who has worked with them for feedback! And bloggers… don't be afraid to (politely) tell the truth! The blogging community is only as strong as we are willing to make it. If we withhold information from our peers, we're doing a disservice to ourselves and to our community. You don't need to shit talk, but you can definitely express pleasure or dissatisfaction openly and politely.
- Does the brand and product fit in with your site, your readers interest, and your OWN interests? If not, it's okay to say you don't feel that the relationship will work. I love to work with brands that want to make women feel good, that cater to women of all sizes, and who fit my own personal sense of style. And be honest with yourself– it may sound awesome to receive a free dress, but if the brand isn't REALLY a right fit with you… is it really worth it?
- How many bloggers are they working with? And what KIND of bloggers are they working with? Content is king– so you don't want to share the same content, reviews, giveaways, or information as 40 other bloggers. When you notice the same company, keywords and phrases showing up on many blogs, you may want to consider if they have anything of value to offer you and your readers. Do you feel that the other bloggers they are working with are on par with your site– in terms of quality, reader engagement, and community role?
If all of these are pointing in towards a bad business relationship, or even if your instincts are saying something feels off… it's OKAY to say NO to a partnership. It's okay to ask for more time to consider their offer, and it's okay to negotiate. Just remember to interact with them like a professional!
For those who may have “lesson learned” experiences with brands, who have turned down offers, do you have any other tips to offer & share?
Image by Kio.