How to Land Brand Collaborations
Are you a rookie influencer or blogger wondering how you can start getting those paid deals for products, hotel stays and trips? Or perhaps you're just curious about how it works? This post will provide a step-by-step guide for how to land brand collaborations.
Okay, so you’ve got your blog up and running and have a decent amount of followers on Instagram. Now what?
Some people think that the hard part of starting a blog and landing paid collaborations is just getting your blog up and running. That’s only half true in my opinion—sure, it’s a lot of work to put together an established blog with enough content to feel robust, or grow a following on Instagram or TikTok, but the work doesn’t stop there. It’s not one of those “If you build it they will come” scenarios (BTW, extra points if you can name the movie reference). Sure, you’ll probably get dozens, if not hundreds, of DMs in your Instagram inbox from brands wanting to do a collaboration, but truth be told they’re all garbage. Most of them are actually just clothing or product companies where they will offer you a discount to buy their product and then post about it, while some do in fact provide a free product (but no payment) in exchange for a post, and some are outright scams. The real influencer income comes from paid collaborations, which in my experience don’t just land in your inbox. You need to work to land these, and in this post I’m going to tell you how.
1. Create a Media Kit
A lot of rookie bloggers and influencers overlook this important step, but I put it first for a reason: it’s super important. You honestly stand little to no chance landing brand collaborations or paid partnerships without a good media kit.
Pitching brands—in my opinion—is probably a waste of time without sending a media kit for them to look over. You have to remember that brands get hundreds—if not thousands—of inquiries on a regular basis with bloggers and influencers all wanting the same thing. If you don’t stand out and tell them exactly what you have to offer and why they should say yes to a collar with you, they are going to ignore your email.
The more robust your blogger/influencer resume is, the longer your media kit should be, but don’t let the fact that you’re new to the game deter you from putting together a media kit. Even one page will do, but you have to have something.
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Your media kit should introduce yourself, include any positive statistics you can share (average impressions on IG, monthly blog views, etc.) and include all your social handles and number of followers. If you’re just starting out, this can be put on one single page and be short and sweet. If you’ve been doing this for a bit longer, your media kit should also include demographic information about your audience, a case study or two, examples of curated content, a longer “about me” section, services offered and perhaps even a rate sheet.
2. How to Perfect Your Pitch
Next, you’ll need to find the contact information for the company or hotel’s marketing director and then email them. A direct contact is better, but if all you can find is a generic email, send your email to that.
You can always reach out to Instagram as well, though I prefer email. Some—I have heard—prefer Instagram. It can vary, so if you send an email first and don’t receive a response, try sending a message to the brand’s IG as well.
What to say in your pitch email is key too. First of all, it should of course be professional, free of any spelling errors or typos, and be long enough to include all the information you need to convey but short enough that they don’t start sleeping halfway through reading it.
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3. Specify the Deliverables
Be specific in your deliverables. What are “deliverables” exactly? Well, essentially what you are agreeing to deliver to the brand in exchange for compensation (or a free product or a hosted stay). Deliverables often include things like Instagram posts, TikTok videos, Instagram stories, dedicated blog posts about the property, brand or company, content creation (often curated, high resolution images that are meant to convey the feeling of the brand, or showcasing a product or property), videography, reviews, or whatever it is you have to offer.
Your deliverables should also vary based on the amount of work it takes to complete these items compared with what you are requesting in return. A free product, for example, is probably only worth one Instagram post. Or perhaps you’re selling a few posts for $50 a piece. What you’re getting in return isn’t a lot, so make sure you aren’t committing to doing a ton of work in exchange for nothing.
If, for example, you are getting paid $1,000 to create content, unless you have over a hundred thousand followers, you probably shouldn’t offer just one IG post. I have done paid product collaborations for $1,000 in exchange for the following: 1 blog post about the product, 2 static IG posts, 10 IG stories and 10 high resolution photos.
Similarly, if you are pitching a hotel property where they have overwater bungalows that cost $1,500-$2,000 a night, you probably won’t get too far if all you offer is a few Instagram posts (again, unless you have like 500k followers). But if you’re like me and you’re a micro or nano influencer, you’ll need to offer more. For my French Polynesia hotel collabs, the deliverables were the same for all of them: 1 dedicated blog post about the property, with backlinks to book the hotel, 2 static Instagram posts per night stayed, 10 Instagram stories per night stayed, and 25 high resolution images (per hotel stay, not per nights stayed).
Again, you should consider how much work you’ll be doing in comparison with what it is you are asking from the brand. If you’re asking for payment of $500, make sure the amount of time and effort you put into the project is worth $500. If you are asking to stay 3 nights at an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora—which costs $2,000 a night to book—you’d better be damn sure what you’re offering is worth $6,000. If not, you’ll obviously get a no… or maybe even a laugh.
Even if it’s a free product, if that product is valued at several hundred dollars, make sure you’re not just offering one IG post. It should be much more, to reflect the value of the product you’re getting.
4. Negotiate, But Be Flexible
Negotiating payment or things like hotel nights in exchange for deliverables really depends a lot on what I just discussed above. If you get a response from a brand and think that maybe what they're offering isn’t a lot, ask yourself first if what they are offering is valued at about the same of what you are giving them in return. If it’s grossly undervalued on your end, consider explaining to them the amount of time it will take you to complete the project, and why you believe you are able to command greater payment or a longer hotel stay, for example.
If they won’t budge on the payment offered, be sure to ask yourself if it really is worth your time and effort to agree to something that might be a bit lower than you want. There are obviously scenarios where it is actually wise to say yes to collaborations where you’re not getting paid exactly what you want, perhaps for exposure or resume-building opportunities.
If you’re pitching a hotel to collaborate in exchange for a paid stay, be sure to be flexible on the dates AND the nights stayed, which will give you a greater chance of them saying yes.
Again, do make sure what you’re asking for is worth what you’re offering. It’s probably not wise to ask the Rosewood Mayakoba for a five night stay when their rooms start at $1,000 a night. But it would be perfectly reasonable to ask for a five night stay at the Curacao Marriott, which is only $150 a night.
5. Insist on a Contract
Contracts are SO important, though they are often overlooked in the influencer world. Don’t get fooled into thinking your agreement doesn’t require a contract: these are the exact scenarios where you’re likely to get burned. I have heard horror stories about influencers doing work for brands and then not getting paid, and having little recourse.
And by the way, contracts do not need to be complex. Though contract laws vary by state, in California it’s pretty simple: you just need an offer, acceptance of that offer, and what is called “consideration” (basically spelling out what you are getting in return).* Contracts do not need to be formal but can simply be written, like in an email. Though it’s better practice to have a document that is singed and dated by both parties, an email that outlines what is being offered, what you are getting in exchange for that offer, and agreement by both parties (basically an email from each person confirming they are okay with the terms) and you basically have a valid contract.
*NOTE: Though I am a lawyer, this post does not offer legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship has been created by the dissemination of this information. If you have questions about contracts, you should reach out to a contract attorney in your state.
6. Avoid Common Influencer Scams
There are so many influencer scams out there, and unfortunately a lot of newbie bloggers and influencers get burned. A super common scam is when a brand reaches out to you, offering a product, but makes you pay for the postage.
To protect yourself, first make sure the person you are talking to is legit. Make sure the email handle is something like firstname.lastname@example.org or if it’s directly from a company on Instagram, that they have a blue check mark. Obviously if you get an email or a message with a ton of spelling errors, or again if they ask you to pay for the postage in return, it’s probably a mass-send fishing scam. And finally, never EVER share any of your personal security details with someone.
7. Make Sure You Disclose Any Paid Partnerships on Instagram
Like contracts, this simple requirement is often overlooked as well. If you are a blogger or influencer who is just starting out, I highly recommend that you look over Instagram and Facebook guidelines for posts (assuming that’s where you plan to promote your content). The guidelines aren’t complex, and you should know them so you don’t get into any hot water.
If, for example, you are posting something for a brand where you have received payment for this product or promotion, you are required to disclose that this is a paid partnership. Sometimes you can comply by simply using the word “Ad” or including #Ad in your post, but the best practice is to tag the business partner on Instagram. Note, however, that you can only do this from business or creator accounts.
It’s also best practice to disclose any affiliate income that you get from banners, links or ads placed on your website. Include language like “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made from links on this page.”
And any time you disclose a paid partnership, affiliate income or a collaboration, be sure to make the disclosure front and center, rather than hiding it down at the bottom of the page or in the middle of the hashtags. If it’s an instagram post, the word “ad” should be first, before anything else, so there’s no question by your viewers about whether it’s a paid collaboration or not.
And that’s it! Follow these easy steps and you’ll be on your way to landing awesome brand collaborations and paid partnerships.
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