Developing Brand Relationships That Pay

Do you consider your blog a reputable source of news and information? Do your readers value your “expert” opinion when making decisions about purchases, travel or family matters? If you answered “yes,” then you’ve probably been approached by a brand (or two) to help them communicate their message to your audience. If managed well, these brand relationships can become a lucrative source of fame and fortune, but they require care.

As a communications professional and brand strategist, my experience with bloggers has run from awesome to outrageous and over the years, I’ve learned that the blog/brand relationship works best when both parties understand these ten simple tips…

1. This relationship is a two-way street!
Brands have specific promotions, sales periods, and target audiences, yet your ideas and unique story angles are valuable – don’t be afraid to share them (in controlled doses). Get educated about the differences between national brands and local franchises or locations so you can tailor your content to best support that business.

2. Timing is everything.
From e-mail responses, to arrival times, to posting your story, timing is everything! A post the day a seasonal promotion ends is far less valuable to the brand. Understand the brand’s sales cycle.

3. Mind your manners.
Even in this virtual communication market, networking and business events remain essential. Dress for the brand and the opportunity. If you do not know the code, just ask. Be you, be professional, but understand that you are an extension of the brands you represent.

4. Surprises are for birthday parties!
Advance notice of special needs, food allergies, etc. is welcome and expected for media/blogger events, but not after you walk in the door. Remember, brands often have multiple layers of departments and although accommodations can usually be made on the fly, planning ahead on both ends ensures a smooth experience.

5. If you can’t say something nice…
Honest, yes. Mean-spirited, no. If you have a less than stellar experience with a brand, have a conversation with the brand’s public relations contact before you share your review on social media or post a story. We all strive for authentic and organic content, however be fair and open (refer to tip #1).

6. Help me, help you.
Some brands are not as cutting-edge as you might believe – the value of a quality blog post remains a mystery to some businesses. However, you can help “sell” your worth by providing updated stats (the numbers and the meaning behind the numbers). Include story samples and a general idea of how your content will be used across all platforms; blog, video, social media, etc.

7. The fine art of RSVP.
Media/blogger events are finely orchestrated with budgets, action plans, and expectations. If you have been invited to attend, kindly RSVP by the deadline and then show up and cover the event (refer to tip #2, 3, and 4).

8. What’s the deal?
There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Know in advance what is and is not complimentary for media/bloggers before you accept an invitation to a FAM trip or event. Brands often outline all terms and conditions in detail and expect you to review these details in advance. The brand must track every ‘comp’ from rooms, to product, to gratuity on the annual marketing budget.

9. Merci Beaucoup
Let the brand (through the PR contact) know that you have posted your story – consider this your “thank you” note.

10. Stay connected with the brand.
Stay connected with your PR contact. Build a relationship with the brand with ongoing communications and ideas to create and build new win-win opportunities.

Just like any other relationship, your brand relationships need attention too. What are some of the strategies/tactics you employ to foster fruitful brand relationships?

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