Let me preface this blog post by saying that everything I mention below is based on my personal experience in the blogging/digital marketing industry. While I worked in New York, one of the main parts of my job was working with influencers, planning campaigns around them, and measuring the success of those campaigns. Now that I am home, I’ve found myself on the other side of things, which I find very exciting. Bloggers & brands and how it all works and changes is a topic that intrigues me so much, and it seems to be of massive interest to other people too.
Unfortunately, there is definitely a lot of negativity towards bloggers in Ireland at the moment. I totally understand that this is for many different reasons and the majority of those reasons are completely fair enough. There has been a lot of confusion, and misleading incidents that have happened with certain individuals and I feel like this has lead to the current negativity. With that said, most bloggers or people on social media, are completely normal human beings who are totally transparent and honest.
The majority of us had absolutely no idea that by starting a blog however many years ago that it would eventually lead to becoming one of our main income streams. I always wish that people would bear that in mind before deciding that someone is an idiot just because they have a blog. I know that not everyone thinks this way, but so many people do which is such a shame. My friends and family, and myself included, are still so excited about the fact that this is my job. But I won’t lie, I don’t know how proud or confident I would be if I had to get up and announce to a room full of people that this is what I do. Like it or not, and maybe you are not one of these people but, I know for a fact that this is something that people tend to sneer at. I’ve experienced it first hand and it’s horrible.
ANYWAY, this blog post is not about people in Ireland and their attitude towards bloggers. It’s about explaining how we work. The blog posts in this little mini series are hopefully going to clear up any confusion that there might be, because I know that there is a lot of it. I feel like if everyone is on the same page and understands how it all works, then there will be less need for negativity and confusion.
Bloggers & Brands
Ok, so… To me, there are three ways that an individual might come about working with a brand. I’ll get onto gifting and that topic later. In this section I’m only talking about paid work. Paid work exists within the blogging industry for many reasons. There are so many individuals out there who have an incredible community of people who follow, and TRUST them. Trust is key when it comes to this whole thing. When you think about it, it makes sense that brands would want to piggyback on an influencers community, and have this person tell their audience about a certain product/service..if it makes sense. People’s attention these days is on social media, people’s eyes are on their phone and their Instagram. Marketing your product well, is about getting as many of the right sets of eyes on your product. Blogging is a new form of media and journalism, and when people are paid to promote things, it works in a similar way to celebrities endorsing products, or magazines being paid to place ads on their pages. Paying people to promote things on Instagram started slowly, but is so common nowadays. Paying people means that they can put more effort into the work that they provide for a brand. It helps them to cover the costs of cameras, photographers, websites, etc etc. But mostly, it pays them for their time. We all want to be paid when we work, and whether you agree with it or not, people who blog full time are working.
The first way is the most obvious, and this is when the brand comes to the person directly. They’ll typically suggest a way in which they would like to work together, or else they will ask the person how they might see a collaboration rolling out.This might come about if the brand has seen the person talking about or tagging the brand organically (without them asking) because they genuinely use the product. Alternatively, the brand might be working on a specific campaign and the person in question could be the perfect fit for it.
The second way will be the individual pitching an idea to the brand that they want to work with. I actually love doing this if I have an idea that I think a certain brand might want to get on board with. Pitches are different for everyone. Some people might suggest meeting someone from the brand for a coffee and a chat, and they might discuss a few different ideas in person. Others might put a PDF or something more visual together and email it directly to the brand, or have their agent email it on. A pitch for me will include past examples of similar paid & organic work that I have done, information on the idea that I have, and some background information about why I think that the collaboration makes sense and would be successful. I would always include my most recent statistics and my audience demographics so that the brand will know that their product/service will be of interest to my audience and that my audience is real and is engaged with me and my content. (I hope that makes sense!)
If the individual works with an influencer agency, they might have them look after the finer details of the collaboration along with negotiating rates and the requirements after the collaboration has been agreed through either of the ways I just mentioned. Or else, the individual will plan the content with the brand, and the agency will look after the negotiation of rates. It always depends on what everyone is most comfortable with.
The third way that an individual might find themselves working with a brand will be if the brand goes directly to an influencer agency and asks the agency to put together a group of people for a campaign, or one person who is suitable. I’ll talk about influencer agencies another time, but for context here, they will have a number of personalities or influencers on their books who they represent. A brand might want to only work with people from a certain agency for a specific campaign if they want to streamline the job/budget/management of the project, and they might get a better deal from the agency if they are only hiring people from their books.
Brands choose who they want to work with for many different reasons. Maybe the campaign objective is to have someone promote the product/service by creating beautiful imagery which the brand can also use as part of their marketing materials (marketing emails, internal reports, their own social channels, etc.). Or maybe they are looking for someone who has a massive following/reach that they want to promote the product/service to get as many eyes on it as possible. Or, the brand and the individual might have a really strong and longterm relationship which makes them the perfect fit to promote them and their product/service. There are so many different variables.
When the details of the collaboration are locked down, usually a contract will be signed by both the brand and the blogger which solidifies the deal, ensures everyone is on the same page and also protects everyone involved. Dates that certain posts go live are agreed upon and locked in, and sometimes, the brand will require pre-approval of the post. This is to ensure that the messaging is correct and makes sense, and also that the quality of the work done by the influencer is approved by brand standards. I actually prefer when the brand asks to see the post & captions before I post them, because then I know that they are happy with my work. There are plenty of times when brands will not be okay with work that people produce and will ask that they re-shoot or re-do the work again. I’ve had it happen once or twice that a brand might ask me to change a caption, or maybe a photo needs to be shot in a different way for them. It’s never anything personal and is a pretty standard thing to happen.
This is a topic that people are so interested in, and I can totally see why. A day doesn’t go by when there isn’t someone on Instagram showing what they’ve just received from a brand in the post, I’ve done it myself plenty of times! To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure how gifting works with brands and how they decide who to send what. I know from my experience in New York on the brand side of things, we would have had many different lists of different people and their information who we would send gifts to. Sometimes they were seasonal gifts or dependent on different launches, and other times we would reach out to see if the individual wanted anything complimentary from our website.
PR agencies will usually gift the people who they have good relations with, and the people who are relevant to the brand when new launches come about or when gifting makes sense. They might just send whatever they have, or they might reach out to the individual to see if they would like to receive the gift. Or, like in my experience in NY, they might invite the individual to chose something from the brands website.
With gifting, posting on the part of the individual/blogger isn’t necessary. Of course it would be great for the brands if every influencer posted about everything that they receive, because then the exposure that they would get is massive. I can only speak for myself, but I really do make an effort to not post about gifts too often. I prefer to test the product and see if I like it, and then I’ll be happy to post about it organically.
For example, Bobbi Brown kindly sent me a few lip-glosses to try recently. I met their team during the summer at an event and hit it off with them, I also adore the brand and so many of their products, so this felt like a really nice fit for me. So anyway, they sent me a small package, which I didn’t feel was appropriate to post about at the time because I hadn’t even used the products. I started to try one of the glosses and found that I absolutely adored it. I genuinely wear it every day and that’s when I decided that I wanted to post about it and needed to let the people who follow me know how brilliant it is. In a weird way I feel a bit protective over my audience, so I refuse to post anything that doesn’t make sense for me. With gifting (and collaborations) my rules of thumb are: “If I wouldn’t recommend it to my Mum and tell her to go and buy it, then I won’t recommend it”, and “If I feel like I’ll need to explain my partnership with a brand, then I won’t do it. A collaboration shouldn’t require an explanation, it should make sense from the offset”.
We definitely do receive a lot of gifts, and far more than we can get through which is great but also personally makes me feel a bit weird about it all. I always offer my family and friends whatever they want from my stash. I also regularly host giveaways for the people who follow me so that they can try some of the new products, and sometimes charities will get in touch to see if I have anything to add to a gift hamper for raffles and things like that.
Pricing & Payment
For the brand, they would look at the money that they spend on bloggers/influencers as part of their marketing budget, just to put it into context.
It’s definitely hard to know what you should be charging for certain types of content. More often than not, the brand will come to you with a set budget, and you decide whether you’re happy to do the work for that amount. When an agency is involved, they will be the ones negotiating the scope of work vs the budget provided. If you don’t have an agent though, I would recommend just figuring out how much you are happy to provide work for. It’s always going to be brand dependent though. I feel like if a brand that I adored came to me with a tiny budget, I would definitely still do it if I thought my audience was going to really enjoy the content and the collaboration / find it useful and valuable. On the flip side though, you can’t do that for everyone so there will come a time when you have to get a little stricter with rates.
If the blogger has dealt with the brand directly, they will send on an invoice, and pay tax on the amount when they receive the payment at the end of the year.
If the blogger has put the collaboration through an agent, the agent will invoice the brand for the full amount. The blogger will then invoice the agent for 80% of the full amount. ie. the agent takes a 20% cut. This 20% is essentially their payment for representing the blogger, for the negotiation of the price of the job, and for managing the overall nitty gritty details of the collaboration. (20% is what most agencies take, I can’t speak for all agencies but this would be an industry norm). Again though, the blogger/influencer is obviously taxed on their annual income.
Ok, so that’s my first post on the topic done. I have at least two more in the pipeline so stay tuned for them! And as always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch. I hope you found this interesting, I loved putting it together.