Pitching Brands: What to Say and What Not to Say
Want to work with that company to review a product or represent a product line? Great! Send them a pitch! Go for it no matter how small you may feel your numbers are. But be sure to first think carefully about what that initial email will say. Compose it, let it sit for a day, read it again, ask a blogging buddy to look it over, and hone it again before you click send.
That first impression is vital to getting to a yes.
Keep in mind that the default answer is no. It’s too much effort, too much time, and too much money to deal with you when they are taking a gamble that you will produce any positive results.
Yes, in theory, they want to work with influencers—especially those that can bring in new leads, fresh traffic, and purchases—but they need to have confidence that you are going to benefit their company’s bottom line.
So what should you include in that opening email pitch?
Don’t Include These in Your Pitch
- Your health—Don’t talk about your disabilities, chronic illnesses, or other medical situations unless they somehow directly tie into the promotion of the product. If you are pitching a company that makes a medical aid, then your illness relates. If you are pitching a curriculum provider, it doesn’t relate.
- Your spouses’s or your employment situation—recently laid off, a poor minister, an underpaid civil servant, a dedicated first responder, etc. These things simply aren’t relevant to the pitch.
- Any sob story, however factual and sad it may actually be.
Bottom line: Don’t try to elicit sympathy. Instead demonstrate your value.
Appealing to pity is not a strong way to start a business deal. Doing so comes off as unprofessional at least and manipulative at worst.
Do Include These in Your Pitch
1. Show a genuine affinity with the brand.
Mention your prior experience with the product, your agreement with the philosophy behind the product, and/or your belief in the mission behind the brand.
Realize that your blog is public. The brand can easily research to see if you really are what you say you are. (And they will.) For example, you say in your pitch that you are a classical homeschooler, but your blog is filled with unschooling and unit study blog posts? Busted. You are obviously not a classical homeschooler. Not only are you now not a good fit for this classical product you are pitching, but you also look like a liar (or at least flakey as you are flip flopping your style out of the blue).
Another example. You pitch COMPANY BANANA that uses approach XYZ. But just last year, you wrote a negative post about COMPANY PEACH that also uses approach XYZ, telling how horrid that approach is for your family. This disconnect makes COMPANY BANANA very uneasy. If COMPANY PEACH which uses the same approach didn’t work for you, why would COMPANY BANANA work?
If you are already a user of the product and can point to existing content about it, the brand is going to be on board and fast, especially if that content has driven traffic to their site in the past. If you come off as a mom who’s curriculum shopping and is merely using her blog as a bargaining chip to get free material, you are not going to get a positive response to your pitch.
Let me emphasize, the biggest red flag the brand experiences is that you are merely seeking free stuff. Brands want to work with bloggers and online influencers who they think will promote their ends. They don’t want to be taken advantage of by sending products and getting no return on their investment. Compose your pitch, and then read it again, asking yourself if it’s focused on the company’s advantage more than your own.
2. Include your URLs
It seems absurd to mention, but it happens all the time. A blogger or YouTuber reaches out to a brand and doesn’t even include a link to her site, YouTube channel, or other relevant social properties in the pitch. Not impressive. It makes you look pretty ditzy.
3. Email, don’t message
Don’t send a pitch via an Instagram DM or Facebook Messenger. Sure, you can use that method to find out the email address to contact. But use email to actually conduct business.
Working with brands? Tell them EXACTLY what you can offer them in a bulleted list. #blogging #hsinfluencers
2. Tell exactly what you can do for the brand.
This is the most critical part of the pitch. If you can’t articulate what you can offer, the company is not going to be incredibly interested. First of all, these people are busy. Don’t make them have to think too hard. Put your offer in a bulleted list so they can easily scan and see what you offer.
- 2 blog posts posted in MONTH (18K average monthly users)
- Facebook shares of each blog post on my page with 10K followers, using the branded content feature
- pinning of the 2 blog posts (2 photos per blog post) to multiple boards over the course of 2 months (at least 20 pins of 4 unique images)
- 4 Instagram shares to my account with 5K followers
- one email to my subscriber list of 4K subscribers (average open rate of 23%, CTR of 7%)
Include a media kit or at least a list (LIST—not paragraph form) of your reach (including traffic stats and social followers). You can see how in the example above I integrated the stats into the offer so it’s very easy to see and evaluate exactly what they are getting.
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3. Be willing to negotiate.
Allow for give and take as you go back and forth with the brand. They are not likely to immediately say yes right out of the gate. They are going to ask questions and probe for a promotion package that suits their marketing goals. Be willing to offer more or take a little less as you adjust your offer. Maybe the brand is focusing on Facebook and isn't really interested in Instagram or email at this time.
Be willing to customize your package to emphasize what they want. This doesn't mean you go to the brand with an open slate, saying "What can I do for you for free stuff?" or "What can I do for you for $500?" That's too open-ended and looks like you are either a total newbie or are desperate. You start with an offer—or at least a skeleton of one—and then you hone the plan, going back and forth with the company until both parties are satisfied.
Be sure to follow up with the links to all the content and social shares you promised. Don't make the client hunt you down for them. And, by all means, if you encounter some sort of crisis or technical disaster that keeps you from meeting your agreed upon deadlines, communicate with the client.
These companies are run by people who have sympathy, but if they don't know that your house just flooded, your child was rushed to the emergency room, or your parent just died (all real situations I've faced with bloggers in the past), they are left assuming you simply didn't hold up your end of the bargain. Approach them first. Don't make them email you asking what happened. Take the initiative, and you will find them more than willing to offer an extension on your agreement.