Bloggers: How Not to Work with Brands

Being a Blogger Isn't always a Party

Last week, my post about How Not to Work with Bloggers evidently hit a chord. I guess there are still plenty of brands out there that aren’t treating bloggers right. But in fairness – there are plenty of bloggers messing things up, too. So here’s the other side of the story:  What Bloggers shouldn’t do when they work with brands.

1. Don’t just assume you’re getting free stuffJust because you want free stuff, doesn’t mean a brand has to give it to you.  They are in the business of selling something – not in the business of giving that something away.  If you are going to ask for free stuff, you’d better have a good reason: you have a measurable following that listens to you, or you have so much social media Klout that every time you Tweet about something, you get re-tweeted many times over.  Or you have such a demonstrable passion for the brand/product/place/genre, that you are able to include links to previous posts of yours about the topic — posts that someone other than your mother and husband read and enjoyed.

So if you are a food blogger who suddenly decides you really, really need a new wireless router, but you have never written about anything more technical than a food processor, you can’t be upset that some brand doesn’t want to give you one.  It would be like KMart being upset that a blog all about supporting small business didn’t want to partner with them.  Be logical and reasonable in your requests and brands will be too. (well, mostly)

2. Don’t be shocked and offended when one blogger is making more than you for the same work.  Guess what? Lebron James makes more money than Jerome Jordan.  Never heard of Jerome Jordan? That’s why he doesn’t make as much as Lebron James.  And that’s why another blogger with more page views, more Twitter followers, a higher Google Page Rank and a better known blog will get paid more than you do. Just like commercials on the SuperBowl cost more than commercials on the OWN network (sorry Oprah).  Once you start monetizing your blog, you are running a business – and business rules apply.  Translation: brands will pay each blogger according to her social media reach and worth — not according to some vague idea of “fairness.”  This is business, not the playground.

3. If you go to an event, don’t just go for the swag. Recently, KidzVuz had an event with MomTrends to celebrate the launch of J&R jr, their new children’s store. One blogger showed up three minutes before the scheduled end of the party, grabbed a swag bag (and a free HP e-printer – everyone got one – how awesome was that?), tried to grab one for her sister and her boyfriend (ummm….NO!) and left.  She didn’t even bother to pretend she hadn’t only come for the swag.

Guess who will never be invited to a MomTrends or KidzVuz event again?

Look, you are under no obligation to write a blog post about every event you go to.  But at least send out a few tweets.  And if you really want to be nice – how about you only go to events you think you might actually have an interest in writing about? There are no guarantees, but at least you will have attended with good intentions — not just greedy swag hands.

And one more thing – if you RSVP yes – show up. Or at least call with a legitimate (or at least legitimate sounding) excuse.

4. Do be professional.  If you promise to post something on April 5th.  Guess what?  You should post it on April 5th. If you take payment from a brand, you must deliver. (Sounds obvious, but recently over at KidzVuz, we paid a blogger with a $100 gift card, and she never delivered a thing.) If you represent a brand at a conference, provide a recap of your tweets from the event, and of how many times you were retweeted.  Send them links from your posts.  And say thank you.  Seriously.  Just because it’s business, doesn’t mean you can forget your manners.

5. Do be discriminating.  If you write a blog about vegetarianism, do not do a promotion for the Pork Farmers Association. ( I don’t know if such an organization really exists, but you get the idea.) If you write about teenagers, don’t accept a giveaway for every baby product that comes your way. Brands don’t want to just be thrown in willy nilly with every other product on the planet.  This is not to say you can’t diversify.  But take every single freebie and giveaway that comes your way, and you’ll diminish your value. Readers like to know you are supporting brands you care about and support – not just brands that come your way.  And brands know when your audience is just there for the free stuff, or when they are there because you are a true digital influencer.  Guess who gets paid more?

6.  Don’t oversell yourself. If you inflate your traffic numbers to impress a brand — guess what?  They have ways of checking.  Ditto for your Twitter reach.  Plus, nothing pisses off a brand more than spending their money only to find they’d been duped into thinking you were something/someone you’re not. Nobody wins.

7. Do Treat Brands with Respect – If something does go wrong when you are working with a brand, don’t immediately eviscerate them on twitter or on your blog. Give brands (people!) a chance to rectify whatever is wrong, ask yourself if you’re being reasonable and professional in your complaint.  And if things still stink?  Have at ’em.  But do so knowing that other brands will see it, too, and might be wary of working with you in the future.

What are your tips? Have at me!


    • says

      True. But I guess that’s only part of it. The other part is while principles matter to us as people – they’re also good for your bottom line because they translate to readers that trust what you say.

  1. says

    Nodding. My favorite: “This is business not the playground” also— even though I am trying to build my network and my “footprint” as I move toward self employment, I believe emphatically in only working with brands or attending events that I can relate to me or that I feel strongly about. Whenever I get an email for an event that I know I have no interest in attending, I respond politely explaining that it is not a natural fit with my brand–and I always ask if I can share the event with other people that might be a better fit.

  2. says

    I personally know many bloggers who have gotten certain opportunities that I haven’t gotten… and I realize they got them because they have way more page hits and twitter followers than I do. But… the blog posts are awful. They barely say anything at all and you can totally tell they are only doing it for the money… or the product. That is frustrating for those of us who put a lot of time into writing and promoting and meeting deadlines.

    • says

      I so hear you on this one. And the only thing I can say is this: eventually, brands will catch on. Bad writing is BAD business. At some point, brands will start to realize that lesser quality posts are not in their best interest. Until then: hang in there.

  3. says

    really fabulous post — this is something that should be shared with all bloggers. we need a union or something so everyone can read this 🙂
    There is so much written on how to approach bloggers – darn it, I wrote a guest post on that today….but very little on how WE as bloggers hold up our end of the bargain.
    You say it perfectly — thanks

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