Whether you’re just starting your blog, or you’ve built up a decent following and wondering how to reach out to brands, there is no better time to start pitching and building relationships than right now.
Figuring out what to say and when to pitch brands for a collaboration can sometimes feel overwhelming. If you think you’re not ready because you’re a new blogger or you don’t have enough followers, let me stop you right there. You don’t need thousands of likes or a swipe up feature on Instagram to start working with brands. Most brands want to make sure you have an engaged audience who trusts and values your opinions and recommendations.
Want to get noticed + start working with brands?
- Know your why. What’s your purpose? Who is your target audience? What makes you unique?
- Are you trying to work with brands just to get free stuff? Free stuff doesn’t pay the bills. Make sure you’re clear on the expectations and how long it will take you to produce the content. Your time isn’t free.
- Be picky about who you work with. Would you buy their products even if they weren’t paying you? Align with companies who share your values.
Jennifer Polito, Founder and Creative Director of Jenerate PR, a public relations and marketing agency, specializing in restaurant PR, knows all about connecting brands with the right ambassadors. Based in Las Vegas and Hawaii, she works with top Luxury Retail, Travel, Fashion and Hospitality brands. Her client list includes The Shops at Wailea in Maui, Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, Koloa Rum and Bikini Bay.
She chatted with us to share her top tips and resources on everything you need to know to connect with brands the right way. We dive into:
- How to stand out
- Ways to connect with brands and who to contact
- What to include in your message
- How to build a long-term relationship with a brand
How to Reach Out to Brands: This is How to Stand Out
Before you think about who you should email and what to say, make a list of brands you want to work with. Take a look at each brand’s website, social profiles and check out any past influencer campaigns. This will give you an idea of their brand voice and what type of content they’re looking for.
“We look for influencers who have existing knowledge or experience within an industry. For example, for our food and beverage clients, we may gravitate toward an up-and-coming chef who has an active and robust social media presence. Also, someone who isn’t afraid to be genuine and authentic on their channels,” says Jen.
“I think having familiarity within the industry is really important for us because we need to be speaking the same language as we move forward with collaborations and partnerships.”
When you’re ready to send that first message, remember that first impressions count.
- Be responsive and thoughtful in your communication.
- Don’t spend too much time talking about yourself. You want to show the brand how working with you will benefit them.
- Pay attention to the details. Do your research on Google, LinkedIn and Facebook to find the right contact’s first name.
- Proofread your message before you hit send!
“We see some influencers who copy and paste their emails, and sometimes we’ve received emails with another brand’s name,” she says.
Wondering What to Say? Here’s What to Include in Your Message
When you’re sending an email, remember this isn’t all about you. You want to show the brand that you’ve done your research and thought about content ideas. (Get creative and think outside the box. If an idea has already been done, try to think of a new angle.)
Jen’s advice, “sharing examples of past collaborations are helpful for us to determine whether we’d like to move forward, or whether an influencer would be a good fit,”
How to Collaborate + Reach out to Brands:
- Show any past examples of partnerships and collaborations, even if it’s just a quick overview of a recent experience you had with a brand, what that partnership and collaboration goal was, and whether or not you achieved it and if it was a success in the eyes of the brand.
- Share how successful that collaboration was—or if you have any analytics or metrics to support the viability of the partnership. (Always ask for testimonials.)
- Include a quick reference to social media numbers or engagement rate.
- I usually don’t include a media kit in the first email, but you should have one ready just in case they ask.
Don’t have one yet? Use these media kit tips to get started.
How to Reach Out to Brands As an Influencer: Focus on What You Can Bring to the Table
When reaching out to brands for collaborations, focus on what makes you unique. Put yourself in the brand or PR rep’s shoes – show them why you’re a good fit to promote the product. Highlight your skills and mention the different social channels you use to connect with your audience.
“I tend to gravitate toward influencers who have a strong web presence and strong writing ability,” says Jen.
“It also helps SEO, and we see that with certain blog posts drive traffic to our client’s websites. We are able to measure that success. And based on how many people are reading these articles, and then visiting the website, whether we point them to purchase the merchandise, whether we point them to a booking engine on one of our client’s sites. Whatever that call to action is, it’s great to be able to measure the success.”
Pitching: The Best Way to Connect + Engage with Brands
Once you’ve figured out who you want to work with, spend some time connecting with the brand. Like their posts, share their content, tag them, so they know you use and love their products. There is no need to rush the process. Engage with the brand, so you’re on their radar when you’re ready to send your pitch.
“We really like when an influencer reaches out via the social media platform they’ve been following. We also enjoy seeing they have been following the brand for a while, and that they can reference a past image, a campaign or a contest that really resonated with them and attracted them to the brand.”
Don’t be shy about reaching out via DM on Instagram to ask who is the best person to contact.
Once you’ve got the right contact, send an email pitch that highlights:
- Why you want to partner with the brand
- Introduce yourself and include what industry you specialize in or your interests
- What the potential partnership would entail
“We always like seeing some ideas from them, so the more proactive they are, the quicker we can assess if we are brand aligned with that influencer, and want to develop the relationship. Seeing a media kit from the start is helpful. We still conduct our own research, so we do look into their platforms, analytics, and engagement.”
How to Reach Out to Brands: Building Long-term Relationships
Building trust with your audience doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to establish credibility, and you should always be transparent about the products you’re being paid to promote. When working with brands, create a positive experience for the client, so you’re on their radar the next time there’s a new opportunity.
“One of the things we look for as we are researching potential partners is if we can grow together. We want brand loyalty and brand ambassadors who are with us for many years to come. Many of the influencers with whom we have worked may have just been starting off in their content creation careers. We want there to be an opportunity to partner with them on a long-term basis and to create a deep relationship. The ultimate goal is to make sure that they are representing the brand well, and that happens over time as they become familiar with the mission and nuances.”
Ways to Work with Brands
- Sponsored Post or Content
- Affiliate Links + Marketing
- Brand Collaborations
Brand Collaborations: Watch Out for These Red Flags
- If a brand emails you and addresses you by your IG handle, they’re probably not legit. Brands who are genuinely interested in working with you will take the time to write your first name, and spell it correctly.
- DM to collab? If you see a message pop up on your IG feed that says this, delete, block or ignore.
- If a brand wants you to buy a product and says they will give you a discount code to share with your followers, you are basically paying them to post about and advertise their content on your feed.
- Is a brand asking you to pay for shipping? Politely decline and move on.
- Does the sender’s email address look suspicious? Don’t click on any links! Look up the person’s name on LinkedIn to make sure they’re who they say they are.
If you reach out to brands, and they’re not interested in working with you, don’t get discouraged and or take it personally. The recent pandemic may have impacted their budget, or they’re testing out different marketing campaigns. Make a list of brands you want to work with and start engaging before you pitch. Include a catchy subject headline and keep your intro short. Make it more about how the experience will benefit them, and not all about you.
More Blogging + Branding Resources:
- Powerful Tools to Grow Your Blog
- The Best Travel Photo Apps To Edit On Your Phone
- 10 Tips for New Bloggers
If you have any follow-up questions about how to work with brands, let us know in the comments!
To connect with Jennifer, visit Jenerate PR.