The Five Things Brands Look For When Seeking Commercial Blog Partnerships

Blogging has become big business. Every day there are new blog-brand partnerships popping up across our feeds, in an attempt to provide a relatable and engaging way to tell a brand story. With many brands reducing significantly (or even eliminating) their press and television advertising in favour of working with digitally savvy influencers, there's a crazy amount of money entering our once rough-and-ready industry. More and more of us are able to take a once-loved-hobby and turn it into a full-blown career, with sponsored content and collaborative opportunities allowing us to keep the free content coming to loyal readers on a daily basis. It's now an aspiration of many to turn their little site into something that's paying the bills, but what do you actually need to do in order to create something commercial and 'sell-able' to those with the budgets? Having worked on my blog for over six years (three of them 'full time') alongside a career in blogger outreach, strategic digital planning and social media management, I definitely feel like I'm well placed to understand what brands look for - and how I can work with them on a collaborative basis to fulfill their objectives and ensure return on their investment. With campaigns across some of the biggest global names being brought to my readers on a regular basis, I've identified five key things that I've learned will help sell your blog and ensure you're part of campaigns that are as fruitful for you as they are for the brand.

It's all very well bloggers wanting to work with brands commercially, but without real influence the possibility is unlikely. Whether that influence takes place on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or the blog itself, it's incredibly important to a brand looking to generate sales. Although numbers are important, the likelihood of those numbers translating to purchases is increasingly vital in order for a brand to be able to justify the cost associated working with you. This doesn't mean you have to have a million subscribers, it just means your audience have to trust what you say and act upon it. My stats aren't anywhere near as huge as some of the other bloggers making a living from their sites, but what I can offer is influence - because you come back and tell me what you love and what you've bought! 

A strong affinity and natural fit with the brand in question is vital. A bold and bright makeup brand partnering with a blogger that never steps out of the nude spectrum screams of a collaboration that hasn't been thought through. Brands want to partner with bloggers that genuinely fit with their offering, ethos and product type - including featuring competitors before and talking about the category in which they fit with passion. (See point below!) There's little point in a brand connecting with a blogger that doesn't have any interest in them usually, and readers won't find it hard to spot what you've done just for the money.

When you're the sole owner of a business, it's important to get your account management and marketing hat on. Key to delivering an effective partnership is a real understanding of the brand, what they're trying to achieve and how you can help tick their boxes. Most brands will want the blogger to offer feedback and help shape a brief, rather than coming to them with a finished idea; you should never be afraid of pinpointing the elements that may not work for you and creating ideas that are a more natural fit for your readers. This is what makes you stand out as a partner over others and is really the key to a successful collaboration.

It's not all about the numbers when it comes to partnerships - it's about engagement. From likes and comments, to shares and views, brands want to see that your content has resonated with your audience; if you're receiving 500k views but generating little over two comments per post, your engagement is incredibly low and not necessarily going to garner the results that a brand needs. On the flip side, if you only have 30k views but every post has ten comments then you're doing really rather well! Sometimes it's much more fruitful for brands to partner with smaller bloggers with an engaged audience, rather than opting for huge sites whose followers only want to know when the next meet-up is.  

Above all, brands want to see passion from those they're collaborating with. Whether that's enthusiasm for the campaign, excitement about the category or a genuine love of the product, passion goes a long way; it naturally spills over and creates a portfolio of content that the brand will be proud of and you'll want to share. When I've collaborated on something I'm really excited about, I'll talk about it as much as possible and keep driving traffic back to the post; this benefits both parties and ensures a result you'll be pleased to share with the brand when it's over. 

In the interests of ensuring anyone interested is equipped with the information they may need to turn a hobby into something more commercial, I spoke to some of my PR colleagues about what they personally look for from a blogger relationship - and what convinces them to part with hard cash. Unsurprisingly, their comments reiterated my own understanding and proved there's so much more to a great partnership than just big numbers.

"For us to work with someone commercially they need to be the right fit for the product and produce the right creative content that fits the brand. It is essential that they have also supported the brand in the past as we want to work with someone that has a natural affinity - and we want partnerships to be as genuine as possible. The engagement/comments that the influencer gets on their content is key to us, we don’t just look at the numbers. As the creator we want your suggestions and direction on what you think works best for your audience; we’re open to new ideas as the creator is the expert not us!"

"REN builds relationships with influencers progressively and steadily. This is largely to establish an ongoing relationship so that some integrity can be then seen in the reviews.  A genuine on-going interest in REN and its products play a key factor when selecting blogger partnerships, as the campaign will in turn resonate more with the reader. Of course, the end goal is to have a high reach in awareness as well as translate into sales."

"At Virgo Health, we always prefer to work with bloggers that we can work collaboratively and flexibly with when seeking or developing a commercial relationship. This is vital to ensure we build a fair agreement from the outset, have an open and honest partnership and hopefully, a longer term brand connection. The blogger’s level of influence and reach figures are of course very important to be able to justify the work with our clients - but we also look at their blog status, equity and integrity. In other words, does the blogger’s values and content on their posts fit in with our brand’s purpose, product and audience? Are they regularly posting and are they authentic, genuine stories? Have they featured any competitors recently and will they plan to again? Are they active on social media with a strong following?"

"We look for a true brand fan, someone who already engages with us and has used the products historically out of choice. I would look at sponsored work if it was content that I knew we were going to use to promote across multi platforms; the bloggers we work with have a collaborative approach, immersing themselves in the campaign so that they too can suggest ideas that can work across their platforms. The blogger should also have a demographic of followers who suit the personality of the brand and are either being used to recruit new consumers or provide loyal consumers with content. We also look for individuals who wish to have a long term investment in the brand; the relationship should be nurtured so that it exists outside as well as inside the parameters of the paid for piece of work."

So there you have it. I hope it helps and gives you something to think about, particularly if you're considering making the jump into full-time blogging. Remember: you're your own best marketeer, so make sure you're selling yourself effectively and setting yourself up to win.

Are you a brand, PR or digital marketer? Please do share any additional thoughts or things you look for when seeking blogger partnerships in the comments below. 

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  1. this is great and eye opening! I knew about some but not all! thanks for sharing Hayley!
    Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

  2. This is a really good post. Very informative. I wish I had continued with my blogging when originally started as I feel there were less blogs around then and I could of grown quicker in this time. Saying this, I definitely produce better quality content now probably due to age and accessibility to better quality equipment.

    It's definitely complimentary working with brands but I think having reoccurring readers is definitely the biggest compliment :)

    Jaynie Shannon * / Morphe & Zoeva Giveaway Running


    1. Absolutely Jaynie! It's all about the readers at the end of the day.

  3. This is such an interesting post and it's great to read what brands think as well. Thanks for sharing x

    Tiffany Tales – A British Beauty & Lifestyle Blog

    1. Glad you found it interesting and useful!

  4. I'm quite far from all this and don't have the numbers or the influence to think about partnerships, but still, this was really informative and will help me down the road.

    Mimi | According to Mimi

  5. This has been so useful and really interesting to read. Also helped me understand some blogging lingo a bit more!


    1. I forget about blogging lingo - maybe a post on that in the future?!

  6. This was really helpful as I'm hoping that I'm able to grow my blog more in the near future & make more partnerships - thanks for sharing! :)

    Gemma Louise

  7. This was a really interesting read, thanks for sharing, Hayley. Brand partnerships can work so well when the match is well made, as you say!

    1. 100% - it's all about the right match, for a fruitful collab.

  8. This was a really interesting read Hayley, thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. My blog grew quite quickly to start with, but seems to have hit a wall recently and I'm struggling to gain followers and get comments on my posts. But what you've written about it very interesting and certainly something I will keep in mind as I move along with my blog.

    Jenny xx


    1. Glad you found it useful! And good luck in the future.

  9. This is a really great post and some real food for thought!

    Lyndsay | Fizzy Peaches Travel & Lifestyle Blog

  10. Anonymous10.8.16

    Such a great eye opening post Hayle,thank you. I better get cracking so. x

  11. I am quite far from this! I've been blogging for just over a month and am sooo happy when I get over 100 views in one day! (I'm so excited to see this happening more often.)

    How would you suggest increasing my readership from just other WordPress readers and my Facebook friends? I have twitter and instagram which I stay active on, but I don't find these great platforms to gain more readers. I probably don't know how to use then properly for my blog though!

    I would absolutely love to do collaborations with brands such as Burt's Bees, (saw in your pic), the body shop, Pixi, Caudalie, among so many others, but it's not viable until I get some more interaction on my blog posts rather than views (although I will need more views too).

    Thanks! I hope you are well xx

  12. Really informative and interesting post.

  13. This really gives me a lot to think about when developing content and intent. This is an awesome help. Thank you!

  14. Such a useful post, especially nice to hear that we seem to be on the right track too. We have been going for less than a year but have been growing steadily and organically with engaged, active followers and content which is genuine to us and of a quality (hopefully). We've been lucky to collab with brands that are well known as well as up and coming ones. We haven't been shy to say no to collabs that don't fit and I think that is what has made our blog stronger and trustworthy. Our social media followings are smaller but genuine, real and engaged. It is hard though, as we have seen many brands working with blogs that clearly buy followers, likes, comments etc so have big numbers...but shockingly bad content/writing/website/reblogging old content/relaunching again and again and it is so frustrating. But...we are keeping our chin up, keeping true to our ethos and working on our own content and offer, engaging with brands and the community and it seems to be working for us!

    It's fab to hear brands want to hear our input or slant on how to make their products work for our audience too! Bloggers are the way forward 😃

    Thanks for sharing!

    Leigh at Fashion Du Jour LDN x


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