Collaborating with brands is one of the most complicated aspects of blogging. From determining whether or not an opportunity is legitimate to figuring out the best way to present content, there are a lot of things to consider before you start working with a brand.
In my time blogging, I’ve been contacted by several brands for possible collaborations. I’ve found collaboration opportunities to sort of a mixed bag. Some of them turn out to be really positive experiences, while others seem to be on the sketchy side. Based on what I’ve learned, these are my dos and don’ts of working with brands.
Do: Your research
Before you agree to a collaboration or sponsored post, make sure you’ve thoroughly researched the brand you’ll potentially be working with AND the PR person who contacted you. Although you may be inclined to immediately reply to the first collaboration offer you receive, there are a lot of things you must consider before accepting. Is this brand legitimate? Does it have a credible looking website and social media? Have other bloggers worked with it? Is the person emailing me actually employed by this brand? What is their email address?
Through the initial stages of a brand collaboration, it’s always best to be skeptical. If you don’t want to get caught up in a scam, you have to do your research.
Something as simple as a few quick Google search can tell you a lot.
Do: Make sure you’re being treated fairly
Even after you’ve verified a brand is legitimate, you shouldn’t immediately agree to a collaboration. This is especially important for all the new bloggers out there who are receiving their first-ever inquires.
It’s sad to say, but there are some brands out there that will try and take advantage of bloggers by reaching out about “collaborations” that don’t actually benefit the blogger. Most commonly, I see brands offering these faux collaborations in the form of discount codes. Essentially, the brand will offer you, the blogger, a special discount on their products and then another smaller discount code that you can share with your followers to earn commission.
This is a lot closer to affiliate marketing than it is to collaboration. A collaboration should be beneficial to both the brand and the blogger. But in this case, the blogger is expected to buy something from the brand, develop content around it, AND promote it to their audience. Sure, the blogger could earn back the money they spent if their discount code is used enough. But still, it’s a little deceitful to call this a collab.
Don’t: Work with brands that don’t fit your blog
Every now and then, I get emails from brands that want to collaborate that simply don’t fit my blog, and whenever this happens, I politely decline. It’s nothing against these brands, but if I don’t think my audience would have any interest in a particular set of products, then I’m not going to write about it.
Do: Keep them posted
Once you’ve committed to a collaboration with a brand, it’s good practice to keep the brand updated on your progress. Try to let PR/marketing person you’ve been in communication with know whenever you’re ready to move on to different stages of the collab. Whether you’ve just received products for testing or you’ve already written your review, you should always let them know.
Don’t: Agree to something you’re uncomfortable with
Similar to making sure you’re not being treated unfairly, it’s important that you don’t agree to any terms you aren’t comfortable with. If a brand wants you to do something that doesn’t sit well with you or expects you to meet a deadline that you know you can’t meet, don’t be afraid to say something. I once had a brand ask me to review a product without disclosing that I received it for free, which is something I would absolutely never do.
Just because a brand wants you to do something doesn’t mean you have to do it. After all, it’s your blog and your name the brand wants to use to promote its products. No one should expect you to put aside your personal values and beliefs for the sake of a collaboration. If it doesn’t feel right, DON’T do it. There will be other opportunities that won’t make you uncomfortable.
Do: Inform your audience of any gifted items
Arguably the most important aspect of working with brands is informing your audience of the fact that it is happening. This isn’t to say that your audience shouldn’t trust your opinion of a product that you received for free–it just means that your readers are counting on you to be as transparent as possible. It will only seem like something isn’t right if you fail to disclose information.
Don’t: Give out personal information without caution
I feel like this is the overall theme of this post, but I also feel like it can never be said enough. You should always be cautious when giving out personal information (your address, phone number, etc.).
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Have you ever worked with brands? What was your experience/s like?