Travel Blogging and Working with Brands. For many bloggers, working with brands is like the Holy Grail. Here are some excellent tips to assist you.
By Johanna Castro
Travel Blogging and Working with Brands
Sponsored posts can pay well, and affiliate sales for products or services you know, use and love following a collaboration with a brand can also add up over time.
But in a crowded market it’s getting increasingly difficult to get picked up by brands, and you can’t expect to sit back and wait for companies to approach you. You do need to be proactive.
Before a brand decides to collaborate with you it’s beneficial to show some evidence that you either use or love their service or product, so don’t be afraid to mention brands on your social media channels in an effort to gain their attention first.
You need to spend many hours building your own brand, gaining a readership, writing great content, demonstrating that you’re up for business, and that you are a professional, before you start approaching companies for paid collaborations.
When you are ready then approach smaller companies to begin with, perhaps local ones, and test the water from there.
If the collaboration with a smaller company is successful make sure to ask them for a testimonial and include this when you approach larger brands, both national and international.
Tip: Jo’s written about her own experiences in this post: ‘How to make Money Blogging’
What Interests a Brand in You?
A brand is interested in your audience, and the sales and promotion which will come from that.
What you should be trying to do is to engage in a mutually beneficial arrangement delivering value to companies who want to connect with your readers/followers.
From my experience you don’t need a huge amount of traffic to work with brands, but you do need good engagement.
Large amounts of SEO based traffic is great of course, but may not be the most interesting aspect for a brand. An engaged audience which hangs off your every suggestion might appeal more.
What to include in your introductory letter or email
Keep you introductory email short and sweet. People are busy.
It’s important that you ‘sell’ your biggest and most engaged audience to the brand, so if you have a huge following on Instagram then mention the benefits of this as the main advantage for the company you’re approaching, and if you have millions of blog readers then use this as the main hook.
Your introduction could include …
- Who you are and what your blog are about.
- Why you love the brand you’re approaching, and why it would be a great fit for your audience.
- Why a collaboration with you will be a win for the brand.
- Your blog’s readership statistics.
- Your social media following.
- Your email newsletter subscribers.
- Any awards you’ve won,
- A testimonial from a previous brand you’ve worked with.
- Link to your media kit, if you have one.
Try to let you personality shine through in your introductory email. The idea is to pique interest so that the company is intrigued to find out more.
Tips on Email Introductions
We all hate getting emails which either don’t address us by name, or otherwise clearly have no idea who we are at all, and others which just say, “Hi” or “Please let me introduce myself” as the greeting.
If you don’t have a contact within the company then do some investigation.
You could type into Google “PR contacts for (insert brand name)” , or “Media contacts for (insert brand name)”.
You might decide to ring the company from the contact number on their website and ask if you could have the email address for the person dealing with marketing and media.
Or if you’re faced with a contact form on the website then a short sentence or two to customer support might provide you with a reply and contact email.
Tip: Always foster good relationships with PR and Marketing personnel, and always have a can do attitude and be pleasant to communicate with.
What can you offer a brand?
You can offer much more to brands than just a sponsored blog post, and you should think about all of the following.
- Sidebar advertisements.
- Instagram promotion.
- Facebook promotion.
- A giveaway.
- Writing about a product or experience.
- Paid sponsored post.
- Mention of the brand in a post which is about a relatable topic. (If a company gets a good result from a simple text link, then maybe they’ll find the budget to work with you on a more in depth collaboration.)
Have a different rate package available offering different services so that you can suit small, medium or large budgets. My advice is to not publish your rate package on your blog, because if you do there’s no room for negotiation.
For instance you could offer a slightly discounted rate to include all of the above (1 – 6)
You could charge a certain rate for the blog post, and then include add-on rates for each Facebook/Twitter/Instagram post your publish.
Then Deliver, Deliver, Deliver and exceed expectations if you can.
A note on Experiences
I’m not talking about organised ‘famils’ here, but about independent experiences arranged between you and the company you’re working with.
Should you accept a complimentary tour, or a weekend away without being paid for it?
I think it all comes down to expectation, and how much the brand wants to engage with your audience.
A free trip can be considered a perk but freebies won’t pay your grocery bills.
If the experience comes with an enormous amount of publishing expectations, hashtags, time frames and dictates from the brand, then you need to weigh up if the experience is worth the work it will entail.
Weigh up what the experience includes, what the expectations are, and things like if your spouse or family can accompany you.
For any complimentary experience you should be prepared to write about it, but you don’t have to be hijacked by brand dictates, PR principles or gush in a tourism related way – no travel journalist writing for a mainstream magazine or newspaper would do this, but they would probably offer a fair and objective story.
Tip: Disclaim. A blog post of this nature should mention that the service or product has been ‘gifted’.
If you are writing about a brand which you mention regularly on your blog then it might pay you to become an affiliate first.
Check out if they have an affiliate scheme and sign up for it.
Then if you make some affiliate sales, approach the company, detail the success you’ve had, and pitch for a brand collaboration.
Writing the sponsored post
Many bloggers are anxious about including sponsored posts on their blogs in case it somehow interferes with their voice or their story.
But it doesn’t have to.
Make sure that the post is relatable and includes advice useful to your audience whilst highlighting how the brand you’re promoting can add to this.
Let your personality shine and maintain your voice even if the brand has several brand messages they want included. Nobody wants to read a commercial or a post that reads like a press release.
Make sure there are takeaway tips for your audience. What are they getting in return for reading?
If you read it through and it reads like sponsored content, then you haven’t done your job well enough. You won’t get clicks and you’ll lose readers.
Make sure your post is easy to share. Do you have share buttons for all the main social networks and are they easy to find, share or Pin. Personally I hate it when I have to scroll up and down a page to find them.
Consider having a call to action at the end of the post, followed with ‘share with someone who would find this post useful.”
Disclose. Disclose. Disclaim.
Trust and authenticity are important, so too is staying abreast of the law.
Always make a point of disclosing your interest with the brand.
If you received something for free, make clear that it was ‘Gifted.’
Write ‘Sponsored Post’ clearly near the top of your blog post if you are being paid to write it, as in this one. https://lifestylefifty.com/planning-a-trip-to-ireland/
I don’t think there’s any point in cloaking or veiling things these days as people are way too savvy.
So I think ‘in collaboration with’ is pretentious and wordy as is, ‘in partnership with’. Unless you really are in partnership, or you are a brand ambassador – that’s different and should also be disclosed.
Make sure you add #AD or #SPON upfront on Instagram,Twitter and Pinterest.
As you’re probably already aware, ‘do-follow’ links are not in accordance with Google’s guidelines for sponsored content so make sure the brand understands that they are paying for a no-follow link for advertising purposes, not a do-follow for manipulation of search results.
What to charge
There are all sorts of $ amounts flying around the internet about what to charge for sponsored content and advertising.
As blogging is such an unregulated and various industry I don’t think there’s a one rate fits all.
To protect the integrity of the industry and because everything is worth something, you shouldn’t write for free.
However, be realistic about what you charge.
- If you were writing web copy or copywriting as a freelancer what’s the rate you might charge clients as per industry standards?
- How much would you get paid to write a similar story for a magazine?
- Are you writing for a large corporation with a big budget, or a small non-funded charity?
- Is there likely to be follow up work?
How long will it take you to source ideas, to write the post, to format the post, to source, re-size and add photographs, and then promote the post on social media? Your time is money.
Let the brand know how many words you will write for this amount and how many photos you’ll include, and how and where you’ll promote the post.
Apply all these considerations to the blog post you will write for the brand and negotiate a price.
Don’t sell yourself short. It’s always easier to discount than it is to raise your prices.
I found this Rate Map which might be helpful for you : https://influence.co/go/rates
Do set yourself some guidelines from the start about how much you’ll charge, and how you’ll write content based on PR pitches you might receive, experiences you might be offered and product that might be gifted to you.
Tip: When you invoice a brand make sure you have a ‘Payment Expected by” date.
Don’t give up
All companies have different goals, strategies and opinions. Some will be happy to work with micro-influencers for a smaller fee, others will only want to work with celebrities with millions of followers.
You’re likely to get more rejections than yes’s but believe me, a Yes is worth a lot of No’s.
Jo Castro is a veteran freelance travel writer and online publisher. She’s lived in 11 different countries and travelled to many more. She writes ZigaZag (https://zigazag.com/seven-point-plan-for-successful-blogging/) a travel blog focussed on Western Australia, and Lifestyle Fifty (https://lifestylefifty.com/how-i-make-money-blogging/a blog catering to a mature audience interested in world travel and a healthy, stylish lifestyle. Find Jo reclining under a thatched cabana on a tropical beach sipping a long cold cocktail, or mostly just glued to her Mac.
DISCLOSURE Some of the links in articles may be affiliate links where we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. We only link to products and services we recommend.