A few months ago, I attended a pre-Oscar's Social Club event hosted by Vanity Fair. During one of the panel discussions, “A New Paradigm: The Power of the Social Influencer,” I started to reflect on my own journey as a blogger and social media influencer. As the moderator, Louise Roe, and panelists, Wendy Nguyen, Andy Torres, Marianna Hewitt, and Rocky Barnes, shared their personal stories, I was inspired to look beyond my usual fashion and beauty blogging box to see how I could stretch myself as both a blogger and businesswoman.
Based on lessons learned from the mistakes I've made early on in my career—from not knowing my worth to partnering with brands for the wrong reasons—just like the panelists, I've been able to the transition from amateur to professional.
Making a successful switch from blogging as a hobby to blogging as a business wasn’t easy, especially when it came to landing paying partnerships with credible brands while maintaining my integrity as a blogger.
But with my new perspective, I reached out to Kura Nutrition, a premium brand from New Zealand that provides grass-fed dairy protein smoothie powder to kickstart your day in a happy and healthy way. At first glance, it may not seem like a natural fit for a primarily fashion and beauty blogger. But as I learned more about the brand and was able to speak with Louise Anderson, their head of digital and commerce, I found that both our brands had a similar ethos and vision. I was able to connect with Kura on a deeper level than just Instagram likes and pay-per-clicks.
Together, we created a blueprint for what it means to have a successful brand partnership that would translate into a meaningful experience for the brand, the blogger, and most importantly, the core audience.
Below are the five elements of how to create a successful brand partnership from the perspective of both the blogger and the brand.
1. Authenticity + Meaning: From the brand's perspective
According to Louise at Kura, authenticity married to meaning is the most important element of a successful brand partnership. Customers are intuitive and smart enough to know when they are reading a press release that is disguised as a “blog post.” When that happens, all credibility for both the brand and the blogger goes out the window.
Both the brand and the blogger must be clear on who they are, what they stand for, and what value they are adding to their consumers and readers. The partnership has to be rooted in a deeper meaning than just exposure and a paycheck.
To achieve true authenticity and meaning with their blogger partnerships, Kura is doing more editorial-type blog posts rather than just reviews. The nutrition brand prefers to align itself with engaging, entertaining, and useful content. For example, Kura partnered with Rachael Hartley of Avocado A Day Nutrition, where she shared her personal experience using the dairy-based protein smoothie powder that was connected to a bigger and more important message, you can review the post here.
2. Collaboration + Common ground + Connecting live: From the brand's perspective
Louise advises us to create a genuine connection between the blogger and the brand prior to agreeing to do a partnership. She suggests getting on the phone or FaceTime for at least 15 minutes to discuss ideas, share experiences, and to get to know each other on a personal level before jumping into a partnership. The blogger should be prepared to discuss what his/her goals are, what trends that you're seeing, and any preliminary ideas that you have for a partnership. The brand should do the same to see if there's a genuine connection.
Louise makes the crucial point that those 15 minutes early on can make a huge difference when it comes to the partnership’s content and will determine the parameters of the ongoing relationship. Connecting in person can also prevent any confusion or misunderstandings as to what is expected of both the brand and the blogger. It's best to connect live and then confirm the goals and terms of the partnership through a written proposal.
3: Diversification: From the blogger's perspective
One thing I’ve found to be super beneficial to my professional career as a blogger and social media influencer has been diversification. This means expanding beyond my usual offerings, brands, and types of content that I cover. Instead of just focusing on fashion and beauty, I turned my focus to lifestyle, entertainment, and health brands, which led to my partnership with brands like Kura Nutrition, Yoplait, and WeTV. It has also led to branching out from just blogging and social media to creating YouTube videos and being a consultant to fellow bloggers looking to expand their reach, get specific about their branding and marketing, and begin to generate some serious income doing what they love.
What makes diversification so beneficial to brand partnerships is that it opens up both the brand and the blogger to an audience that they may never have been exposed to previously. A nutrition brand may not have been able to reach the fashion community without the benefit of a blogger partnership and a fashion blogger may night be able to expand their reach without going outside of their fashion bubble.
The trick to success through diversification is to ensure that regardless of the genre, both the brand and the blogger share a similar vision and goal. If the partnership is rooted in common objectives, it’s bound to be lucrative and meaningful for both parties.
4: Tangible results: From both the brand's and blogger's perspective
Brands would love for the blog partnership to result in direct sales through coupon codes and clicks, Louise says. But there are additional ways that they measure the value and success of a blogger partnership.
For example, the engagement on the blog post and social media shares are also important along with traffic to their website. Additionally, we can't forget about the importance and value of aligning yourself with a blogger or brand that has a strong mission and presence that can in turn strengthen your own brand's mission and presence. Once Louise discerns direct benefits for Kura through the partnership, she typically will then expand the relationship with the blogger into a larger series or partnership.
As a blogger, before signing up for a collaboration, I get clear on what I’m looking for out of the partnership, which can range from a combination of any of the below:
- Compensation: I put a dollar amount to what I believe the collaboration is worth.
- Gifted products: Am I willing to accept only products in the collaboration? Or products and compensation? Know this before agreeing to partner.
- Exposure: Will partnering with this brand mutually increase our brand awareness and visibility to key audiences? Figure out this component before signing up and create a strategy to best leverage the partnership from a public relations standpoint.
- Brand equity: Will this partnership elevate and strengthen my brand? Does it make sense to align ourselves and our messaging? Will my audience truly get value out of this content? Be sure that you can answer these questions before going into business with a brand.
5: A clear contract: From the blogger's perspective
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it bears repeating and emphasizing. Be sure to have a clear agreement of what is expected from both the blogger and the brand before, during, and after the campaign.
Get in alignment with the nitty and the gritty of the partnership. Things to confirm include:
- Duration of the campaign: How long will the campaign last? What are the exact dates that the campaign will run?
- Total number of blog posts: Agree on word count, number of posts, and key messaging.
- Total number social media shares: Be sure to be specify how many shares per social media platform.
- Specify the exact social media platforms that you are expected to share on: Maybe you're not big on Periscope and want to skip that platform, just get clear on where and when you are sharing.
- Compensation: Confirm how much the compensation will be and when compensation will be received (before or after the campaign? How much time do they have after the campaign to pay you?) Be sure to agree on the exact dollar amount and/or the amount of product.
- Photography and video content: Confirm if you're expected to provide original photography and/or video content. Also confirm if this is worth a higher rate.
- Hashtags and handles: Be sure to confirm the official and relevant hashtags and handles to use on your social shares during the campaign.
BONUS INSIGHTS FROM KURA NUTRITION:
Stand for something that goes beyond your product or blog:
For example, Kura Nutrition is a big supporter of Animal Welfare. Their cows are healthy and chomp on grass 365 days a year and roam in beautiful pastures. Unfortunately, some animals are not as lucky and Kura donates to and partners with an incredible organization called Global Animal Partnership. GAP has a 5-step rating system to help you understand the treatment of animals in the food production process and enable you to support positive animal welfare practices with your purchase. You can read more about Global Animal Partnership here.
How can a blogger stand-out from the pack and get a brand's attention?
- Be an awesome person: Have great credibility within your community of bloggers, brands, and fans.
- Be professional: Be responsive and don’t sell out to brands on your website. Produce useful content.
- Be creative: Try different, unexpected content and channels.
- Be surprising: For example, curate your Instagram with a grid of photos along with short, on-point videos.
Where do you find bloggers for your brand partnerships?
According to Louise, Kura frequently collaborates with bloggers they already know—as a small company it saves them time and they are can get personalized introductions.
Kura also finds a number of bloggers through general Internet searches and social stalking. Louise will review social media conversations to see if any blogger stands out in the comments that might be a good fit for Kura. She will also respond to bloggers who reach out to her directly but it needs to be
an authentic, non-spammy communication in order to catch her interest.
Should a blogger work with agencies?
Louise says that although a lot of bloggers and brands work through agencies, it might be best to reduce the number of engagements and focus on quality that will result in better business for both the brand and the blogger.