Um, No…How to Turn Brands Down Without Burning Bridges

girl back bridge

For those that know me, I'm the queen of passive, and quite arguably the best “good cop” you've ever met, which means I always appreciate someone more than willing to play the “bad cop” in uncomfortable scenarios. I squirm under awkward situations and try to keep the tension to a minimum and the goodwill at a maximum. So every now and then when I find myself in a professional situation in which I may be unfairly taken advantage of and have to say no or explain why an offer or relationship may be unbalanced, I anguish over how I will assert myself firmly and get the point across but still maintain my sense of self which naturally wants to bubble everything over with warmth and humor.

An important exercise is to strive to prove that one can be professional, nice, genuine, and treat others well, while still continuing to grow in her/his career and achieving a considerable amount of success.

It's crucial to maintain good ties and positive relationships with brands, publicists and colleagues, as you never know where these companies and people may pop up throughout your career, which may enable some incredible opportunities for you down the road.

Here's  three scenarios that could viably occur, alongside responses for each that you can execute which politely say no, without being rude, overly confrontational, and can still cultivate a relationship going forward.

If a brand repeatedly sends you emails about something you'd never write about, you can:  let them know what you do cover (because they obviously didn't do their homework)

Dear ____,

I appreciate you including me on your list, but I tend to not cover _____. I would be glad to consider your clients for future coverage if could send me information, promotions, and events related only to the topics that I focus on in my blog, which are largely ____, ___. and ____. Thanks so much for understanding, and I look forward to working with you with content in those categories soon.”

 If a brand expresses a deep interest in working with you, and after several back and forth emails, you realize they aren't planning to compensate you, you can: quickly tell them no way!

Dear ____.

I'm truly honored that you would consider me for this particular campaign, and as much as I'm a fan of the brand, I'm only able to take on sponsored opportunities at this point in time. Please see attached for my rate card, as I'd love to work with you on a future endeavor in which a budget is available.  In the meanwhile, thanks again for thinking of me for this, and let's touch base in about a month so that I can let you know what I'm working on and if there may be an opportunity to work together in another capacity.”

If you already agreed to a campaign and set terms, and afterward the list of requirements change, you can: stick to your guns, reference past documents as back-up, and ask to be compensated.

Dear ___,

I'm  very much looking forward to working with you on this exciting venture, and just wanted to reiterate our agreed upon deliverables. From our email correspondences/contract signed on ____ and copied below, I committed to ___, ___, and ___. As promised, I will complete this items by ____, and if you would like me to additionally perform ___, _____, and ____ during the course of this campaign, we will need to rework the contract as these services will add an additional ___ to the previously determined  rate. If you are unable to confirm that the compensation will be adjusted accordingly, then we will agree to stick to the original terms of the contract. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to your response.


What situations have you encountered and how have you politely said no?

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About The Author

Blogging at her site Fashion Pulse Daily since 2008 and working on fashion's editorial side since 2003 has lent Julia the acumen to think creatively and endure in the colliding worlds of blogging, fashion and beauty. New York City is her backdrop for inspiration (and many a outfit photo), where she is often found on her couch, feverishly typing away at her latest post, with her trusty feline at her side. Follow her on Instagram , Twitter, and Pinterest.

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14 Responses

  1. Onianwah

    You were certainly reading my mind Julia *phew*. I have been in these situations so many times –
    In the first case, I ignore the mail
    In the second case, I accept the items and review them at my own time (because if I bought them myself I would still take a picture and talk about them anyways. I just won’t rush to review it or anything of the sort)
    Well, the third case hasn’t arisen before. The beauty brands here are more inclined to just send you loads of products and then expect you to talk about them and promote them.

    Lagos, Nigeria

    • julia

      Hi Barbara So glad to hear the timing of this piece was good- thanks for weighing in; it’s interesting to hear how brands approach bloggers in different parts of the world! Beautiful FOTD from Tues, btw! 🙂

  2. BikePretty

    These are great. My favorite is definitely the gentle reminder for the brand’s rep to do their homework. I understand that a spray & pray approach can be very effective, but I’ve seen some doozies!

    • julia

      Thanks so much Bike Pretty! Love the “spray and pray” analogy; it just feels so impersonal, although it is time effective for PRs…

    • YM Ousley

      I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve tried to tactfully, then explicitly, tell PR/marketing people to target, rather than relying on spray and pray. It may seem like it’s more time effective, but I’d bet that if there was actually time put into the outreach, and some crafting to how they approach bloggers – a pitch to Refinery29 is probably going to need to be different than a pitch to a personal style blogger, and don’t get me started on the ones who’ll send makeup announcements or something similar to guy bloggers (who don’t wear, or talk about, makeup). I’m probably just crabby at this point, but I secretly hope that the bloggers who do respond give a blunt “this feels like spam since it has nothing to do with what I blog about” response.

  3. Catherine @ Not Dressed As Lamb

    Thank you thank you thank you Julia – the templates are a godsend as I think I rewrite drafts every time I have one of these scenarios come up! The lack of payment offered is the biggest bugbear I have, and while I’d never dream of being anything other than super polite, all I want to reply with is ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!! I’m so fed up of agencies telling bloggers they have no budget to pay us, but think that by offering us shares on social media, etc. for hours of work and free advertising that will somehow put food on our table.

    Really well written, and thanks (again)!

    C x

    • Catherine @ Not Dressed As Lamb

      I should have mentioned that as a result of being super polite in turning down an offer because there wasn’t a budget that time, I have had a couple of agencies come back to me with offers of paid work from a different brand. So it’s essential to be nice as you say 🙂

      • julia

        Awesome to hear that you’ve gotten some gigs later, and thanks for weighing in Catherine. I know what you mean about wanting to replay “are you kidding me?” – I have a friend who replies with “lol”. 🙂

      • Catherine @ Not Dressed As Lamb

        Hehe wouldn’t “lol” save so much time…!

  4. HauteFrugalista

    I am the queen of straight-forward honesty sugarcoated with politeness. I have encountered this situation so many times, I’ve become a pro. Unless you let them know from the beginning your expectations and lay out the boundaries, anyone would try to take advantage.

    Don’t be afraid to say no in a nice way. If its not meant to be, something better will come around. Sometimes we are scare that the “opportunity” might not come back, but I have realized when they really want to work with you, they will find a way.

    Always stick to your values and don’t settle. Know your worth. Remember that is also a community and if others are getting paid, why shouldn’t you? Your voice, skills, audience and reach have a value regardless if its 100 followers or 10k.

    Dee T

    • julia

      Hi Dee,
      You are exactly right! I couldn’t have said it better- thanks for commenting!

  5. Kyryl

    My website is still new. This post will definitely come in handy when I (hopefully) start to receive emails. Thanks for this article!


  6. Anastasia

    Great post and tips!!!
    Why should we be so worry about how they took it? Besides, PR people are so used to every tipe of communication, that a polite deny hardly would kill them)


  7. Lisa a la mode (blog)

    YASS! This is JUST what I needed. I need to create a “rate card.” as well, becausethese companies are ALL about sending you product for work…and oftentimes if you factor what the product is sold for against the time you put in, we work for less than the federal minimum wage. Some random company wanted to send me a $14.99 facebook to not only review on my blog but to also review on my youtube chanel within one week of receipt. To produce this content I’d be using my 999.99 camera, and spending about 5 hrs of labor…all this for $14.99?? And can you believe this company wanted me to pay for my own shipping? And run a giveaway in which my subscribers would have to pay for shipping? #crazy…so these days I’ve just been ignoring requests….