Advice on Working with Bloggers From The Bloggers Themselves

A few months ago, I wrote for the Moz Blog on the fundamentals of Blogger Outreach for your brand. Essentially, bloggers are online influencers who establish trust and build brand discovery for their readers, which ultimately influences consumer purchasing decisions.

Since this post, I’ve been asked for specific examples and feedback from the blogger community in regards to what brands are really doing right and wrong when reaching out. Sure, Technorati reports there are a few top pain points for influencers with unsuccessful brand partnerships, but what really are those pitfalls?   

Let’s delve deeper into those common pitfalls via a Q/A interview with three popular bloggers.

Amy Latta via One Artsy Mama

Amy Latta, who blogs over at One Artsy Mama, usually receives as many as 50 email pitches per week. She loves working with brands of all sizes and typically writes one to two posts per week that developed from a pitch or ongoing brand partnership.

Ideally, in what way would you like brands to pitch to you?

I like emails because I can get to them in my own time and don't have to drop everything for a call.  The more specific the pitch, the better.  I don't want to have to waste my time emailing back to ask for more information.  I want to know: a) what/who the brand is, b) exactly what they want me to do, and c) what my compensation would be.”

Are there any immediate "turnoffs" you have with email pitches based on a first look at the email itself?

Where do I even begin, there are so many?!  1. Misspelling my name or blog name. 2. Asking me to promote a product or service that is obviously not relevant to myself and/or my audience.  3. Sending me a pitch in a different language. 4. Using a tone that implies you're doing me a favor by letting me write about your whatever-it-is for free.  5. Not valuing my time. 6. Not offering adequate {or any} compensation.”

What is an example email pitch you’ve received that seemed lacking to you?

Hey Ruth,

My name is X and I’m reaching out to you from X, an online sign and printing company. I came across your site,, and read through a number of posts. All of them were very creative! For that reason, we would love to partner with you in some way. We could offer a discount for your readers, do a product review for us, or something along those lines.

I look forward to hearing from you soon!”

What are some of your favorite types of partnerships with brands?

I enjoy reviews and giveaways if the product is valuable enough to be of interest to my readers as a giveaway and if I am adequately compensated.  Getting a $200 tablet to review is worth my time, but reviewing a $2 bottle of hand sanitizer? No way. You better be sending a big check too.”  

Jennifer Lifford via Clean and Scentsible

Jennifer Lifford, who blogs over at Clean and Scentsible, usually receives about 20 pitches per week. She occasionally loves working with brands, but on a once per week basis or two to three times per month basis, as she doesn’t want to overwhelm her readers with branded posts.

Ideally, in what way would you like brands to pitch to you?

I love it when a pitch is authentic {i.e. it doesn't sound like a form letter where they are just filling in the blanks} and I can tell that the brand contact has actually spent some time looking around my blog. While they do not need to go into all of the specifics, I do like to have a general idea of what they are looking for {i.e, one blog post, a series of posts, a review, etc.}, the time frame they are looking at {if this is a concern for them}, and if there is a budget involved. Personally, I prefer email correspondence, as most of my blogging time is in the evenings, but I am happy to do telephone conversations during business hours if they prefer.”

Are there any immediate "turnoffs" you have with email pitches based on a first look at the pitch itself?

By far the biggest turn off for me is when a brand/company underestimates my time/value.  A typical blog post will take at least four to five hours to put together {plus often time with social media promotion} and I take a lot of care as to what I put up on my blog.  Sharing my post through their social media or offering a $50 gift card in exchange, is just not going to work for me.  Most blog owners run their blog as a business so it is very frustrating when companies expect us to work for free.  That being said, I do accept gift cards/products in exchange for posts at times when it is something that I would be buying anyways; however, I do rely on my blog for income so I can only do this on a limited basis.”  

What is an example email pitch you've received that seemed lacking to you?

Hi Jenn,

My name is X, and I'm the Community Manager for X is the first online marketplace to buy and sell gift cards, where you can buy discount gift cards to your favorite stores or sell your unwanted gift cards for cash. From Walmart to Staples, our marketplace is full of gift cards to meet all your back to school needs.

With the summer slowly winding down, we are reaching out to an exclusive group of influential parent bloggers like you to find out what you're doing to prepare for the impending school year! Whether it's shopping for school supplies, hanging up the swimsuits, or getting the kids ready to wake up early in the mornings, we want to hear about it!

We'd love it if you could help us introduce this idea by creating a post on your blog about what you'll be doing differently this year. From shopping, to organization, to scheduling for after school activities, we want to hear it all. This is a flexible blog post that encompasses anything and everything to do with the upcoming school year - so get creative!

This campaign will run until X; after that, we will highlight some of our favorites on our social media! Let me know ASAP if this is something you would be interested in!”

What are some of your favorite types of partnerships with brands?

While I am happy to do blog posts, reviews, and giveaways for brands, I love getting unique pitches for different events or promotions. I love to partner with brands on multiple campaigns as you can really start to develop a true relationship that goes beyond a simple blog post exchange.  I think this ends up being beneficial for both parties and really allows us, as bloggers, to develop a true passion for the product or brand.”  

Malia Karlinsky via Yesterday on Tuesday

Malia Karlinsky, who blogs over at Yesterday on Tuesday, usually receives between five to seven email pitches per week. She loves working with brands and typically works on about eight blog projects per month that developed from a pitch or ongoing brand partnership.

Ideally, in what way would you like brands to pitch to you?

A concise email pitch is much appreciated. I’m interested in what the product is, what the expectations are and what the timeline is. I also want to know if there is a giveaway for my readers (or something else of value to my readers).”

Are there any immediate "turnoffs" you have with email pitches based on a first look at the pitch itself?

I don’t like overly friendly pitches unless I have a relationship with that person—it doesn’t feel authentic. I appreciate a business-like approach.”

What is an example email pitch you've received that seemed lacking to you?

Hi there,

The September issue of X is available on newsstands today! Check out the attached highlights sheet for more info on the issue, and let me know if you're interested in sharing any of the features with your readers.

[Excerpt of magazine interview]

Looking forward to your thoughts!”

What are some of your favorite types of partnerships with brands?

I like reviews and giveaways the best. I also like doing projects with the products.”

Key Takeaways From Interviews:

As Technorati reports, the two top branding pain points for bloggers are: the overall number of incoming irrelevant pitches, and expectations that the blogger’s time is free. Below is how you can learn from my conversations with Amy, Jenn, and Malia to avoid these common pitfalls with your outreach efforts.

Craft Personalized Pitches--What, Why, & How

In order to better your chance that your email pitches will be opened, read and answered, craft each email to the specific person you’re sending it to. Then clearly identify the what, why, and how for the blogger and his/her readers.

For instance, both Amy’s and Malia’s example pitch emails didn’t include their name (or correct name, at that!), and with Jenn’s example, her blog name wasn’t mentioned. At a first glance, all three of these emails could have been templates used on a mass scale.

More importantly, though, the meat of all three pitches didn’t clearly identify the what (what exactly is being pitched), the why (why should the blog and its readers care; the benefit), and the how (how specifically should the blogger work with the brand; call to action).

Offer a Mutually Beneficial Relationship

The major driving force behind any blogger and brand partnership is the benefit for both parties. However, many times--as seen within the three pitch examples from above--the brand thinks more in terms of what it will get in return instead of offering a mutually beneficial relationship.

For instance, within Malia’s example pitch, there was no benefit identified for her readers. Instead, the brand wanted free PR for their magazine. And while Amy’s example offered a range of possible partnerships, the actual benefit with those partnerships wasn’t clear. It’s great to give bloggers flexibility to add his or her own creative twist to campaigns, but you should also clearly identify the actual gain for the blogger in return. Lastly, the actual benefit being offered to the blogger and blog readers should be of equal gain to that which the brand is getting out of the relationship. For Jenn’s example, the brand wanted her to spend time writing a post to feature on her blog in exchange for the possibility that she may get a mention on the brand’s social media channels, which she noted didn’t offer a larger reach than her own social channels. So there wasn’t an equal exchange of benefits being offered.

Overall, to build a mutually beneficial relationship, consider working with bloggers long-term and offering them an invaluable experience with your product/service/brand.  

Current Blogger Outreach Campaign That Is Doing It Right

With regards to offering a mutually beneficial relationship to bloggers, there are many different examples of brands doing it really well. Below is just one example of a blogger campaign that I am currently ogling this holiday season.

Home Depot’s 2014 Holiday Style Challenge Series

      Image via Lindsay Jackman’s post here.

Essentially, Home Depot gathered a group of bloggers and assigned each blogger different areas of the home--dining room, living room, exterior, etc. Then, the bloggers were shipped surprise boxes to spark holiday decorating ideas to share with Home Depot's blog readers. In the boxes were a variety of quality items that the bloggers would need to complete the challenge. They were also sent a Home Depot gift card for DIYs and a Home Decorator's gift card for decorative items Home Depot didn't carry. So, all in all, the bloggers were offered a unique experience via the challenge and were adequately compensated for their time via the surprise box’s items.

The Home Depot reveals were first featured on their blog here, and then shared on the blogger's own blog afterwards (like this). Be sure to check them out!

What are some Dos and Don’ts you’ve gleaned from working with bloggers? Please share in the comments below!

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