I get asked a lot how I happen to team up with some of the incredible travel brands I’ve been lucky enough to work with and the truth is most of the time it’s because I asked. I do get approached by a lot of brands but the majority of my sponsored campaigns have come about because I pitched to the brand first.
I started this blog 8 years and since about the second year of blogging I’ve approached brands that I know would be a good fit for my blog and started an open discussion about what I can offer them and what I am hoping for in return.
Every brand is different but if you are just starting out these are some of my top tips for pitching to brands and PR companies, from my perspective as a travel blogger.
Top tips for pitching to brands as a blogger
Before you start
This is an obvious point to start on but such an important one. No matter how well crafted your pitch is, it will get nowhere if you send it to the wrong person.
A hotel, for example, may have a PR agency, an in-house PR or marketing manager and an SEO agency. If you have any previous experience working with anyone in the above teams I would recommend you start with them but remember to adjust your pitch accordingly. The PR may want to know the advertising value of a post, the marketing manager wants the page views and the SEO manager wants to know your domain authority. Find the right person to speak to according to what you have in mind for the pitch.
In terms of finding the right contact, I find the best ways are via sites such as TravMedia, by attending networking events for the travel industry, and by using the powers of Google. If the PR/marketing contact is not listed on the website, search for a recent press release and see who the contact person is listed as. You will also find many PR agencies on Twitter so have a dig around or put out a #journorequest until you find the right person.
Crafting an email pitch
If sending a pitch via email to a person you haven’t previously met, start with a very concise explanation of who you are and what your audience demographic is. Also include a line on what you normally write about (just the parts that are relevant to their brand) and include a link to examples.
Share top-line stats
Include some key stats to give a sense of your audience (monthly page views, unique visits and main social media following) and include a Media Pack as an attachment to paint a fuller picture.
Make it very clear what you are offering the brand you are approaching and be as specific as you can. When talking about blog coverage include the number of words, show them where the post will sit on the site, state how long it will be on the home page (if relevant) and include details of anything extra you are willing to offer i.e. live social media coverage, images or copy for their own website, or an inclusion in your newsletter.
You know how your audience likes to receive content so make it clear how you see the collaboration between yourself and the brand working best.
Try to set a minimum expectation so that you can later exceed it.
What you want
Once you’ve laid out your side of the proposal it’s time to explain what you are looking for in return.
(When I worked for a travel brand and was on the receiving end of pitches it was so surprising the number of times bloggers got in touch showing their value but not explaining what they wanted in return. I found it a difficult way to start the conversation.)
At this stage you may not want to be too specific (the best campaigns I have worked on have been borne out of an open two-way conversation between myself and the PR – see quote from Karen below) but I believe you should lay some foundations at this point. Ask for support that is proportionate to the coverage you have laid out above and see where the conversation goes from there.
Once you come to an agreement, perform exactly what you have promised (go above and beyond if you really want to wow) and you’ll likely never have to pitch to that PR/brand again.
So much of blogger/brand collaborations are about good relations and doing a good job means they may work with you again and potentially send other people your way too.
Once you’ve done an awesome job, don’t forget to follow up. Always send the brand a link to your coverage plus any other stats if previously agreed. I also tend to include screenshots of any relevant engagement I think they should see and give them feedback on the overall experience, if helpful.
When it comes to travel, in particular, things don’t always go to plan. Everyone has their own ways of working but it’s worth asking yourself what you will do if, for whatever reason, you can’t or don’t want to produce the coverage that’s been discussed.
In the first instance I believe you can minimise the risk of being in a tricky situation by only pitching or accepting opportunities you would be happy to pay for yourself in normal circumstances. Being your honest, consistent self is most likely what attracted readers to your site in the first place. Don’t alienate them by suddenly writing about luxury hotels if you have always been a budget blogger, the readers will see through it.
Similarly if a PR suggests you do activities on a trip that you have no interest in, be honest with them. It doesn’t benefit anyone if you write half-heartedly about a topic neither you nor your readers have any interest in.
And finally if, for whatever reason, the place you arrive at is not what you expected, first and foremost get in touch with the PR or brand involved and explain your situation. Most will be very keen to alleviate any problems immediately. If the situation can’t be resolved then you can discuss between yourselves the best course of action. (Ranting on Twitter is never the answer!).
From the brand’s perspective
I asked a couple of my good friends in PR to weigh in with their thoughts.
“Be prepared to have a two part transparent conversation and expect the same of the PR representing their client:
- Bottom lines for you as a blogger in expectations of support and bottom lines for the PR in terms of content/angles, particularly where flight partners for example are an integral part .
- Expect to guide a PR in what’s best for you and the readers. This is who the collaboration is being designed to speak to, and authenticity is vital. Expect also that a PR, after the bottom lines/deal breakers are agreed, listen to your expertise. You know your readers: content, frequency, style, disclosure.
For me, an honest detailed exchange at the beginning of a project and ideally creating that project as an original concept together is the ideal. By launch, blogger and PR not only know what to expect and what’s expected but also really understand the point, which I’ve found makes an organic social feed, in particular, a great bonus.”
“Ultimately when working with bloggers, we want it to be a long-term relationship, not just a one-off project. So we initially look at whether their style and tone suits ours and what they stand for. What is their reputation like among their peers in the blogging community and other brands they have worked with, and how dedicated they are to blogging. It’s always useful to show a portfolio of assets such as writing, photography and video work, as well as endorsements from other companies in terms of campaign results. We’re always impressed by internal site stats in terms of a blogger’s analytics. Huge followings can be purchased, so show us what’s really going on with the blog, which posts work best and how engaged readers really are.”
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