I have had one too many emails today from a PR or marketing team, wanting to work together, but who aren’t willing (or perhaps in some situations, not able) to pay for my work. Because that’s what this blog is, it’s work. It’s also my hobby, and perhaps that’s where lines are blurred.
I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt, however blogging, vlogging and social media have become big business over the past few years, surely brands know that by requesting my services to help them promote their product, race or launch, they are in fact entering in to a business agreement. Most brands now have influencers as part of their marketing campaign, and PR strategy, yet they fail to put any budget into this area of the campaign. It takes time, and effort, and not forgetting money, to run a blog – sadly a jar of sauce or 20% off a pair of shoes isn’t going to cut it in exchange for my work.
I was recently invited to an influencer conference in Atlanta and thanks to the organisers and speakers of SITsum, I started thinking more about my blog, and more importantly, my value and the value of my blog.
Bloggers – Remember the fact that a brand is contacting you means that your blog has value. Don’t undersell yourself.
We as bloggers and influences are offering a lot more than print magazines and even some other social accounts – because we are real, we are the brand, and we often have a higher engagement rate than the brand themselves. In fact, studies have shown that younger people are more influencer oriented than ever before, trusting bloggers and peers rather than information from brands.
Establish your price, whether as an influencer that’s in a brand partnerships and social content, or in your job negotiating your salary. For bloggers, make sure to take into account the time spent on the collaboration, and any money you’ll be spending on outside work, such as a photographer, props, ingredients, and boosts on Facebook (another post in itself!).
Back up your value with your analytics. What have you achieved in the past? Share your blog stats in terms of readership and unique views, plus your social channels (have you added Instagram insights yet?). You may have 6,000 followers, but your reach could well be far more. A friend of mine has about 18K followers, yet her images had over 1 million impressions in the last month. Additionally, a smaller number of loyal followers is oftentimes worth more (both to you and to a brand) than a large group of inactive, indifferent readers.
‘Use your internal network to expand your external network’ You probably have connections, within your own industry and in complementing industries – don’t underestimate their value. For example, I’m friends with quite a few bloggers, both online and in real life – if a brand gives me say 10 places for a race, and I give those to 10 bloggers – that reach is going far beyond my own blog readers, but to all of theirs too. Similarly, in a working environment, you may have friends and colleagues from previous jobs and projects that you can call upon for advice and assistance.
Always be nice, polite and kind to everyone you meet, you never know when that connection could prove invaluable to you. Indeed, if you are turning down ‘offers’ from brands that don’t align with your ethos, or that don’t have budget to pay for your work, try to be as professional as possible (I’m definitely guilty of not following my own rule here when asked to work for free at the end of a long/bad day), you never know what other brands a PR agency look after, plus individuals in the PR world move around, talk to colleagues and you don’t want to get a bad reputation. I read a tip recently to have some pre-saved template emails for such occasions so that the disgruntled voice after a commute from hell doesn’t come through in your email tone!
What is the unique angle that you bring to the table? Everyone is an individual, think about the qualities, skills and attributes you bring to your blog, the brand you might be working with, or even your day job that makes you invaluable. Let’s be real, we often underplay our value at work whether you work in a 9-5 but we shouldn’t (unless you’re on The Apprentice, then you literally think you are amazing at everything and will tell the nation about it).
Don’t forget that your work is your CV; utilise previous content to show your worth. Whether it’s sponsored posts from your blog, reviews from brands you’ve worked with in the past or pitches you have nailed in your office job – think of all the time you’ve proved your value and use these examples as your ‘show reel’.
Have the confidence in yourself, your ability, and your worth.
Do you have any other tips for bloggers out there working with brands? Or about how to negotiate and evaluate your worth in a more typical job environment?
I think we often underestimate our worth, what we know and the connections we have. Personally, I get caught up in the trap of comparing myself to “bigger” bloggers and think that I am not “worth” as much when in reality, I have a lot of value and probably should be charging more! Thanks for posting this!
Exactly, but then I found out that big bloggers were charging in the region of £10,000 for projects and I thought ‘I am way better value than that for the brand’!
I recently started pursuing my blog as a business. And like you feel like marketers reach out and want me to work for free, so if the company aligns with me and my blog…I’ve just been getting brave and asking them waht their budget is. It’s a great way to just start the dialogue…and to my amazement it has worked and we’ve negotiated product, compensation, etc. Don’t be afraid to talk about money. If you know you will provide a good piece of content, you deserve payment! It shouldn’t feel slimy!
Totally agree Sarah! I tend to ask ‘Is there any budget for this collaboration” which either results in them asking about my fee – (sometimes I even tell them my fee upfront) or a reply that there is no budget. Then you can decide if its something you’re willing to do anyway or not!
Charlie this is brilliant! I think people are quick to forget that one doesn’t go Tescos and not pay for the goods!
LOVE that analogy!!
Well you know I agree! …I’ve learnt a lot over the past year especially, more so when it comes to my time, travelling to events on the other side of town etc and these days, the minimum I appreciate is travel expenses. Since working freelance (full time) I’ve learnt to value my time much more and have to prioritise more and it usually comes down to money as sadly product samples wont pay my mortgage! x
great advice. smart lady.
This is great – thanks for sharing, Charlie! Jess and I certainly find it frustrating (love you free jar of sauce comment…) but are also terrible at underselling ourselves. Looks like you had great time in Atlanta! x
Haha so frustrating, you guys do such a great job. Will have to chat more with Jess while I’m in Vegas about it all! 🙂
Great post! Thank you for sharing. I am just learning (the hard way) how this applies to blogging… It’s funny, because I learned it a long time ago as far as being applicable to makeup artistry and modeling! I think it’s hard as service providers to feel like we should ask for money initially because it’s easy to give our time and not keep track of how much we spend on a particular job… It’s not as easy to see our own value as it would be if we had a product with a materials cost to keep in mind! Thanks again!
As the owner of a PR agency, I thought I’d weigh in here, since there are so many great bloggers commenting on a very important post (and topic). Charlotte, I totally see your point, but you hustled past a really critical distinction in your opening.
You can’t lump together “PR” with “marketing”. PR is a subset of marketing. We personally are thrilled when bloggers can get revenue from our brand clients. We encourage it, and not infrequently direct it. But a PR agency communicates news about a brand, it doesn’t pay for news about the brand. If you want advertising, you have media buying agencies and ad agencies to pitch. If you want to sell branded content and campaigns, you have marketing departments to sell that to; and heck, the smart PR firm will even facilitate that and cheer you on.
But our role is (or at least, should be) fundamentally different. If we bring you something you think your readers will enjoy, or ought to know, that’s payment enough. If you don’t judge it to be worthy, you don’t run it. But keeping a distinction between news and advertising/paid content is best for absolutely everyone in the long run.
In fact, if you’re interested, you can read our policy on blogs: http://outsidepr.com/2013/03/01/outsidepr-blog-policy/
Thanks so much for weighing in – I actually do agree with you in terms of PR being a subset of marketing, but nonetheless a massive part of strategy. My understanding is that a PR team’s job is to earn coverage – both paid and unpaid. OK, magazines don’t charge however the people working there are paid, and many of the brands they feature are big advertisers so this coverage is paid for one way or another – having worked in a big magazine for years, I do know that a lot of the preferential coverage was for the big advertisers within the business.
You say ‘that’s payment enough’ which is fair enough, and often products that I’ve raved about are items I’ve bought myself, or been given with no payment. I actually don’t accept payment for a review as I feel it loses authenticity, however there are overheads to running a blog; I’m only just making money after years of spending money on it – and that cost is not passed on to readers (as in magazines) rather the brands who foot the bill – in exchange for advertising.
I have to say, although I appreciate your viewpoint, I do think your blog on bloggers is a little outdated. I think the way forward for influencer marketing and PR is through longer term, paid collaborations and ambassadorships, rather than just throwing random kit at ‘big’ blogs.
Appreciate your input Jeff – thanks for reading and sharing a PR point of view!