This post is the first in a series of ‘how to’ blogging tips. I promised to start it back in January, but better late than never hey! I want to share my experiences and the knowledge I’ve learnt from them in a free, accessible and honest way. Posts will be coming out monthly and will cover everything from pitching to payments and invoices, to improving your traffic. If you’ve got any particular topic requests then feel free to DM me on Instagram!
So you’ve decided that you want to start reaching out to brands and PRs, either with the goal of being added to outreach lists or even in an attempt to begin (or further) the monetisation of your blog and social platforms. Now what?
Let me start by saying there is absolutely nothing shameful about pitching, in fact it’s pretty much essential if you want to get yourself out there. In any industry you are expected to have ideas, to share them and perhaps most importantly to prove why you are worth it and I do not understand anybody who thinks blogging is any different, or belittles anyone for doing so. Equally, as Chloe Plumstead recently wrote very eloquently, there is nothing wrong with wanting to make blogging your career and striving to build an income off of the back of it.
The below information is an amalgamation of my own experiences and of things I’ve learnt through chatting to PR agencies and brand marketing consultants. I get asked a lot about how to ‘get ads’ or be added to mailing lists; now, the majority of the work I do lands in my inbox but early on I dedicated a lot of time to reaching out and making myself heard. Building those relationships was absolutely crucial to where I am today, and to where I hope to be in the future too.
FIRST AND FOREMOST: HAVE AN IDEA
Most PRs are inundated with emails from bloggers who all want to be considered, so a vague blanket email with a link to your blog and your Instagram handle just isn’t going to cut it. If you are reaching out to a brand then you need to know why. If the answer is simply ‘to get free stuff’ then close that laptop and reconsider. All collaborations; paid or gifted, must be mutually beneficial. There has got to be something in it for the brand and simply the chance to appear on a random bloggers Instagram story isn’t really enough.
Before you even start typing out that email, workout what it is you have to offer. What can you bring to the table? Do you have a specific reason for reaching out to that particular brand? If they were to send you the product you’re after, what will you do with it and how will it benefit them?
Usually when I reach out to a PR it’s because I’ve seen a specific product that I think my followers will be interested in, or because I have an idea for a post that would be the perfect fit for their client.
HOW TO FIND THE CONTACTS TO PITCH TO
Google is your new best friend. It helps to have an idea of whether or not that brand works with bloggers first, but regardless of whether you’ve seen them collaborating with others or not, it’s always worth a shot. It is amazing how much you can find with a quick Google search: something along the lines of “[insert brand name] PR/press office]” should do it. Some brands even have a press email address under the contact section of their consumer site.
Very occasionally I’ve come across PR contacts on Instagram, usually where someone has tagged a particular individual in a post to thank them for it and I’ve spied a little ‘PR for X’ in their bio. Be a bit careful with this: I would not recommend simply messaging someone on their personal Instagram account, even if they have advertised their job title. Instead, be savvy and Google the name or figure out the company email address formatting.
Finding PR companies (who may work with multiple relevant clients) is even easier but for goodness sake please do your research. By all means Google ‘Fashion PR Companies’ or whatever you think is relevant but don’t just then bombard all the results with a copy and paste email and hope for the best. Research exactly who their clients are and as above, decide why you would be right for them.
What not to do: do not ask people that you barely even know to share their contacts with you. It’s a little rude, it makes people uncomfortable and it steps over data protection boundaries too!
KNOW YOUR WORTH AND BACK IT UP WITH STATS
Knowing your worth goes both ways: don’t undersell yourself, but don’t feel entitled either. I can’t stress enough that mutual benefit is at the forefront of each and every collaboration, whether it’s a full on three month paid campaign deal or a gifted release. There has got to be something in it for the brand and so there is no point going in all guns a blazing and expecting that you’ll get a new lipstick out of it purely for the effort.
I wrote about this extensively in a previous blog post, but I feel quite strongly about stressing that you are not automatically entitled to gifts or to payment just because you own a domain and a few thousand Instagram followers. Your worth is defined by your reach and the engagement of that reach, not by how long you spend on a post. Quality content should be a given so at the forefront of everything is numbers. I know that a lot of people get quite testy about this, but you have got to understand that for brands, sending a blogger a freebie is a business decision, not just a kind act.
How many people are going to actually see it? How many of those are likely to go and buy it? How many people now have the brand or the product on their radar that didn’t before? Consider all of the above in relation to your own audience. Trying never hurts but don’t be disappointed by rejection either because it’s very unlikely to be personal.
If you have decided that you would be an asset to the brand and that they are right for your audience then prove it. Pretty media kits are fine but they are no substitute for cold, hard stats. Research and share your demographic and be willing to send screenshots of your social insights and your blog dashboard. Prove exactly why you are worth investing in.
CAN YOU PITCH AND GET PAID?
This was something I struggled to get my head around for while. My first paid collaboration was with a brand who I had worked with on a purely gifting basis for about six months, and honestly I hadn’t ever expected anything more. I was so thrilled that not only did they want to send me free things (I hope that novelty never wears off) but that they actually wanted to pay me. What! I had no idea what I was doing and looking back, the figure I accepted and the terms I agreed to were ridiculous, but it’s all a learning curve.
Once I was actually regularly getting paid for my content I tried to figure out how I could be the one to instigate communication with a brand or an agency, and make it clear that I’m worth paying too. Actually, it turned out to be really simple. In amongst my email (we’ll get on to how to lay that out shortly) detailing my ideas, my following demographic and reach and why I would be great for the brand, I added a really simple line:
“I’d love the opportunity to discuss my ideas and rates with you at your convenience.”
HOW TO WRITE A PROFESSIONAL EMAIL
The lovely Rhianna Olivia included a fab section on her post on the same topic which clearly showed how she lays out a pitch to a brand and I’d highly recommend reading it and drafting some emails using that template as a starting point; you’ll soon find your way. There’s no use me re-writing what Rhianna demonstrated so well, so instead I’m just going to add a few tips:
- Try your hardest to find a first name. It isn’t always possible, but it really shows you’ve done your research. If you can’t find a specific contact then I tend to go with a “Good morning/afternoon,”
- Demonstrate that you know the brand really well or that you know what the PR company is up to by mentioning something relevant; a new launch or client perhaps? Research.
- If you’re going to copy and paste, for the love of god please be savvy about it. I nearly wrote, ‘don’t copy and paste’ but honestly that’s probably a bit unrealistic and most of the PR’s I know do it themselves. By all means have a template, just please make sure you tailor each email as specifically as possible to the person you are writing to. Name dropping the wrong company is a sure fire way to end up in the trash folder.
- If a PR company you’re interested in building a relationship with works with multiple relevant brands then your email may not be quite as specific as if you were addressing one particular brand. That doesn’t mean you can’t still show why you’d be great: talk about their clients and reference your interest clearly, e.g. “I noticed that you run the blogger outreach for Rimmel; I’ve been buying their Scandal Eyes mascara for years and I featured it in this post on my favourite beauty products.”
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
This has two meanings: firstly, know who is consuming your content. How old are they? Where do they live? What kind of brands do they tend to favour? What kind of posts do they engage the most with? Are they high street or high end consumers on the whole? Knowing your audience inside out will allow you to clearly demonstrate why they are the right audience for the brand too.
Secondly, know what they want from you. Don’t just pitch to any old company who you’ve seen send out blogger mail; workout whether this is a brand or a product your followers will actually be interested in. If it isn’t then hoping for gifts anyway because you fancy a new protein shake even though your followers are not following you for fitness advice is just silly. It removes the all important mutual benefit and you risk damaging your authenticity with your audience, which I would argue is the most important thing of all.
Understand that it doesn’t just happen over night. At worst, what you’ve done by sending a pitch is you’ve put yourself on their radar. They may not think you’re relevant now, but you might be in a years time or for a campaign of a different purpose. Equally, if your email is successful it’s unlikely that the opportunities are just going to start flooding in: the PR will want to watch closely what it is you do with that gift that you just told her was perfect to show your audience and how genuine your claims were.
I hope that was helpful! The next topic will be on setting your rates and how I’ve calculated what to charge, if you don’t want to miss it then consider subscribing at the bottom of this page or in the sidebar.
Photography by Kaye Ford