Why Brands Don’t Want to Work With You (And What To Do About It) – Part 1


Does it ever seem like some bloggers get all of the love from advertisers and media? You're not crazy, and the reality is that gifted product, sponsored features, CPM display ads, collaborations and all of the things that allow bloggers to go pro aren't spread evenly across the fashion blogosphere. Regardless of how you choose to monetize your site, chances are it's going to involve working with brands in some way. Whether it's a PR request for product or a larger collaboration, interaction with the marketing department or an agency to sell ad space, fashion and beauty brands collectively dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars each year towards advertising online. That's the good news, of course. The bad? There are a number of reasons why brands don't want to work with you, and won't invite you to take any coins from their ad budget pot of gold.

It's Not You, It's Them

Like any relationship, building a relationship with a brand usually depends on a number of factors. Some of them will be totally outside of anything that you can control, but there are a few “it's them” reasons that you can adapt to.

1. The Timing Is Off

Most of the advertising and publicity campaigns you see now were actually planned months ago. There were likely meetings where people working at the brands got together, looked at a bunch of numbers from previous months and years, and decided how much they were going to allocate to social media, and influencer (that would be you, the blogger) marketing, and display marketing and so on.

So while you may have an awesome series on swimsuits, that could have done really well with ads for sunglasses, or sunscreen or any multitude of related beach things, if you weren't on the radar of these brands in February or March while media planning decisions were being made, you'll probably be left out.

The Fix: Print is a dying, decaying dinosaur that's big and slow, right? Sort of, but as fast as tweets and blog posts can be published, the collective online asteroid that threatens to kill it hasn't taken it out yet. Your favorite magazine has their editorial calendar lined up months in advance. While cover stars and other specifics might change until the last minute, the general overview doesn't.

Year after year, Vogue always has a “shape” issue where they remind readers that there are clothes available for ladies with bodies of a different shape than the models and celebrities usually featured (who knew?!). Vanity Fair has their “Young Hollywood” issue because there are only so many cover stories you can do on old, sometimes dead Hollywood (still love you Marilyn M.). Take a note from the old school and plan out certain editorial sections a few months in advance. It might seem predictable, and a bit formulaic, but it's easy for advertisers and publicists to understand when considering how your blog can fit in with their planning.

Do This Right Now Hint: Now is the time to start organizing your pitches to brands for September and fall ads, when brands allocate more money to advertising. It doesn't matter if you're in a bikini taking long walks on the beach this minute, start planning and pitching fall fashion ideas now.

And in September? Make sure your gift guide ideas or whatever you're planning for the holiday season hits the inbox of those same brands

2. The Budget Is Off

This is closely related to timing, but an issue of its own, and applies to brands at every level. Part of why you need to get in early is because you have a better shot at getting the best rates. While it's not impossible for agencies or brand representatives to get an increased budget in the middle of or towards the end of a campaign, it's not as easy for publishers to get top rates once half the budget is already gone.

In other cases, even at big brands, there is no budget. While there may be a brand manager who really strongly believes that they should be working with bloggers because they influence people to buy, that person's boss may decide that the company will only work with bloggers on an unpaid basis – even if the brand could afford to pay. More than a few high end brands fall into this category. Those $70-100,000 per page magazine ads are how they've always done it, and it probably takes 10 meetings  before someone who feels like fashion blogs are over will give the okay for even a test campaign. At smaller brands, there may not be an advertising or PR budget at all, so it's not just a matter of selling them on working with your blog, it's a matter of selling them on spending money on advertising at all.

The Fix: Find your data-backed, proven strength. Data and numbers can be a much more convincing argument than anything else when pushing for brands to work with you on a paid basis. Do you have a strong Facebook following? If you're a page manager, you can use Facebook insights to see what countries the people who like your page are from. Using Graph Search, you can also see what other pages or brands they're into. If you have a high concentration of people from a targeted country, who like brands similar to the ones you're pitching, that's a compelling reason why the brand needs to do business with you. Find out what it would cost to target those same people using paid ads, and use that to make the case for why advertising through your blog and social media accounts is worth what you're asking.

3. The Brand Is Changing

For those in the US, do you remember Burger King's ads with the creepy king, and the over the top overtures to the frat boy type of guy? Going on the fact that “the King” and his giant, nightmare inducing plastic head are gone, at some point brand executives decided to try something different. If you had a blog that appealed to that crowd, you may have been a fit with the old advertising and brand image, but might not be a great fit for current messaging or the direction they want to go in.

And these shifts are often kept private for months before they happen, so you don't get a convenient memo announcing “we're shifting from a focus on classic, professional  style do edgy, downtown style for the next two seasons.”

So while your workwear focused blog may have been the perfect partner for a previous collection, if the current brand strategy is to target a more casual audience, you may not fit into the media plan any more.

The Fix: The answer here is definitely not to overhaul your blog focus on the whims of brands. If your audience trusts your opinion on a certain kind of fashion (and you're happy with occupying that niche), you'll attract other brands who do want to target your audience. Just as brand messaging changed once, it can change again, and being consistent in your own blogging will make your site even more appealing.

If you find yourself consistently being turned down for opportunities with brands though, it could be you. In the second part of this post, we'll explore some of the reasons why brands don't want to work with you when it's not them (it's you).


[Image Credit: Shutterstock.com]

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27 Responses

  1. Dunia

    Thanks for the tips, although they are a bit useless for me at this point, but I will definitely look back at this post, if I get that far 🙂


  2. Krystal Orr

    This article is awesome!! Coming from a background in the fashion industry and now making the switch over to the journalism part of the industry, I know that timing is everything. Sometimes fashion industry insiders work years ahead of what’s going on right now. I am currently in the process of shaping and maneuvering my pitches for fall of 2013 and spring of 2014. Hearing someone else say that this is a good move is quite reassuring!

    • YM Ousley

      Fashion timing doesn’t always make sense, but at least once you know what the timing is, you stand a better chance of getting in. Last minute budgets do exist – sometimes agencies won’t make final decisions until weeks or days before a campaign starts, but being part of the largest buys usually happens months in advance.

      If you’re familiar with the production side of fashion, I’m sure the blogging and/or journalism schedule will be an easy transition. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Isabel

    Great advice. Is really important to understand what we can do for ourselves and for our blog.


  4. Clever Little Buttons

    Great tips! I will definitely be looking at how I will be pitching now. The main thing that I think will help me an other bloggers, is to get together an analytical audit of my blog that can be sent with pitches.

    What do you think?

    Love Cass @ cleverlittlebuttons

  5. The Science of Happy

    Very true! I was contacted by one brand asking me to do a collab and feature them and they weren’t offering anything in return. No feature on their site, no tweet, no compensation or anything. They just wanted me to give them something for nothing!


    • YM Ousley

      I think when a brand isn’t just sending announcements, but asking for specific things you should feel free to kindly let them know that what they’re asking for is out of balance with what they’re offering (if you do want to work with the brand under better conditions). It’s one thing to send updates about their products or events, and let you decide whether or not to post about them. It’s a different story if they’re attaching requirements to that.

      If that’s the case, hopefully enough bloggers pass on that brand and they start to ask themselves “why don’t bloggers want to work with our brand?”

  6. Nasreen

    great tips! I still really don’t understand PR and brands though in terms of collaborating. I mean, I love reading these posts and tips but I still feel like I don’t understand it all, as a beginner. Pitching ideas, Pr agencies, ads etc…I think I get it but then once I want to take some action, send emails etc. I really don’t know what to do! It’d be great to see a beginners guide to the business side of blogging.


    • YM Ousley

      Thanks for the feedback Nasreen. A beginner’s guide is a great idea for a future post. Not sure I’ll be able to tackle it next week, but I’ll definitely keep it in mind!

  7. Ellen

    Another tip is to outsource the whole sale process to an Agency. These agents take 10% to 50% of the ad-income, but they have the connections and are specialized in getting the brands. Plus if you don’t get paid, they don’t get paid and their goal is to get the best value for you.

    They usually have more blogs as clients and can offer a whole package to brands. My experience is that it is worth the costs and this way you can focus on what you do best, blog about fashion.

    • YM Ousley

      Hi Ellen,
      Thanks for your comment. It definitely helps when you’re starting out to go with a network. By combining your site with others, they can offer brands the bigger numbers of visitors, pageviews, etc. that you probably can’t on your own.

      That said, sometimes you’re better off trying to work with brands directly. It does depend on the agency or network, but in most cases their strength is combining similar sites to get the scale advertisers want for campaigns (i.e. “I need 1 million US people interested in fashion to see this” – brand “okay, we have 12 sites that will give you those numbers” – network). Most agencies won’t pitch your blog specifically though. Their job is to find advertisers who match as many of the blogs they represent as possible, but unless your site is really big, they’re probably not approaching advertisers about your blog on an individual level.

      Certainly when it comes to pricing, and negotiating rates, networks and agencies can be worth their weight in gold. But for really targeting specific brands, getting collaborations for projects where the company has decided not to involve an outside agency, it can be worthwhile to test the waters of pitching your site directly.

      • Ellen

        Yes, it all depends on the situation, site and brand.

        My experience in the last 7 years is that even when a brand approaches you directly for an exclusive deal, an agency can add value by negotiating a better deal. And if you are big enough they will pitch for you on an individual level.

        However, the downside of an agency is that they are always looking for the next up and coming blogger and will move you to the side if they can make more money off someone else. Especially if that someone is willing to give them a much higher percentage.

        The thing is to make sure you have a good relationship with the brand, the media agency and your agency and to make sure the brand and media agency want you.

  8. Jennifer Rose

    So, this is spot on! From working in PR, I know how the glossy schedule works which is great, and very true. When reaching out, it helps to know that you know what’s going on from their POV. Also, a lot of brands do work on their budgets September – December for the following year, so do keep that in mind. -JR of SpoiledLittleLAGirls.com

  9. Trish

    Great advice! It definitely makes sense to plan months ahead, and I certainly run along the lines of more adhoc blog posts depending on what I like right now. Good idea to make plans into the future, for some posts anyway 🙂

    Trish x

  10. Jinelle

    Coming from a retailer I agree with the brand portion. I am on a marketing team and we were looking for Youtube beauty gurus for a fashion segment. I chose almost 10 popular girls and the feedback on many of them were that they are either too sexy or too annoying. The company brand and vision has a lot to do with who might be the right fit. It’s important to be yourself and the right company will find you.

  11. Mallory Brown

    But how do blogs that don’t have a ton of publicity get brands? There are thousands of smaller blogs waiting on an opportunity with a brand to kick start their blog!

  12. Jessica Blankenship

    With as many companies and PR Reps that I’ve worked with, I can tell you that this is head on. There were a few months that I was having problems with my internet company, so I told them to shut it off. When I got it back on, I was checking my email and seen a couple really cool pitches.. but by the time I’d responded– the promotion of those items were done.

    _thanks for the tips!
    Jess from Southern Rambles

  13. Miss Jena

    Maybe it is old fashion, but I have always been a value added person. Promote and work with the business a few times for free before asking for the cash. That solves a lot of the problems mentioned here. IMO