If it seems that corporate types are speaking a different language, it's because they kind of are.
Words like "leverage" and "synergy" and "value-add" and "objectives" are tossed around as freely as f-bombs from Gordon Ramsay. These terms may trigger a full-scale brain meltdown, but deciphering some of these terms can help you understand what the brand is really looking for in a sponsored post and therefore, guide you in creating something they'll be super happy with.
Happy brands = longer-term relationships in the future.
What you need is a translator. A terminology road map. Good news: I can help you with that. Today we'll be focusing on two things:
1. The brand's campaign "objectives": what they are and what they mean.
2. How to integrate a brand into your content in an authentic way.
When you start working with a brand on a sponsored post, you'll usually receive a brand brief. This is a document that houses all the important information about the campaign — everything from the background and overview of the campaign, who the target customer is, the campaign budget, the campaign "flight" (the start and end date for this particular marketing push), to the goals they want to achieve (a.k.a. the "objectives").
If your brand contact doesn't automatically send a brief, ask for it! It'll make your life a bajillion times easier to brainstorm topics.
Get your nerd glasses on, cause we're diving right in.
Common Brand Objectives
Awareness — This simply means that more people are being exposed to their brand or product. If you were to take a poll of your audience before and after reading your content, more people would know the brand or the product after reading it.
Drive Trial — This means that people will consider buying the product after flipping through your post. This could be accompanied by a coupon the brand is offering to entice your reader to take that leap and buy it the next time they're at the grocery store.
Generate Sales — If your brand is explicitly wanting people to buy, the more you can do to integrate the product into your post in a positive way the better. A good example of a successful sponsored post would be to use the product as a key ingredient in a delicious recipe or a luxurious camel coat into your #OOTD.
Clickthroughs to Site — If a brand has a specific landing page, product launch, contest, or giveaway happening on their site, they would want to measure click throughs from your post to their landing page.
Convey Messaging — This one can be tricky. But let’s say that Yoplait is promoting their new all-natural yogurt and want you to create content surrounding the concept of “Natural is Beautiful."
Their messaging being that their all-new, all-natural yogurt is an easy way to "fit a healthy snack into your busy day." How would you do that? If I were a food blogger, I might create a smoothie recipe full of farmers-market fresh ingredients and include the yogurt in the recipe, while explaining the benefits that all-natural ingredients have on your body and mind.
You see, it’s more than just a recipe, but it surrounds their full message about going natural.
Now that you know what a brand is looking for, you can decide on the levels of integration that you’d allow in each post. This is something you absolutely should decide and document before you start offering sponsored posts, so brands know exactly where your guardrails are.
The most common types of integration I’ve worked with have included:
Thematic alignment with the post topic — This means that the brand and I would collaborate on what the post would be about, but the brand wouldn’t actually be mentioned or talked about in the post (other than the "brand sections," which we’ll discuss in a second).
An example of this would be if Tampax comes to you and wants to surround “adventure,” so you wrote a post about finding adventure in your own hometown. That’s a thematic alignment to their message and you created that post specifically for that message.
Link outs — In what may be the easiest integration ever, a linkout is where you’d link to a partner’s product within your post.
Since this is such a no-brainer, the value will be lower by itself, so I’d recommend using this in conjunction with a thematically-aligned post to get more bang for your buck. This also might be a good integration to use for a brand you’re not so familiar with, but want to see what kind of relationship develops.
Also a quick pro tip here: use nofollow links in all of your paid product link outs. Google wants to distinguish “paid” links from freely placed links in your editorial in order to not unfairly affect search results and Google rankings for the brand. Think about it: if a brand is working with hundreds of bloggers on the release of a new product and all of them are linking to the brands’ site, that site will get LOTS of positive link juice and rise in search results. Google wants to prevent this from happening for paid posts, which is why adding the “nofollow” code at the end of your URLs will tell Google crawlers not to follow your links from that sponsored page to the brand site.
You may think that the penalization would only affect the brand, but not adding the nofollow code will actually negatively affect your search rankings too, because you’re not disclosing that this was a paid post via your links. We’ll talk further about post disclosures later on in this lesson, but until then learn the nofollow, love the nofollow.
Product placement — This one is also pretty easy to pull off, but I’ve ran into lots of interesting challenges when getting a brands’ approval on images, so just keep that in mind and — pro tip — take LOTS of different photos from LOTS of different angles.
It would also help to get any brand guidelines on photography ahead of time so that you can keep those preferences in mind when taking your photos. Of course, your photos should follow your blog’s vision (you’re not taking commercial photos here), but some brands will have certain quirks they’d like you to take into account.
Examples of product placement would be if you created a recipe and your photos included the brands product package, or if you created a packing post for upcoming travel and included a partner’s dress in the image.
Direct Integration — This would be when you actually use and mention a brand’s product in your post. And just a quick sidenote, if you’re getting paid hundreds or thousands of dollars per post, you’re going to want to keep these types of integrations upbeat and positive.
This goes back to the rule of working with brands you love or just saying no. No brand will want to pay your higher fee if you’re knocking their product. For direct integration, brands may not let you have carte blanche on which products you include in your post (since they are usually running campaigns on specific items or line), but you can ask to choose from a selection of items to include in your post so you ultimately get the final say on what you’re writing about.
Some examples of direct integration might be that you style a dress five different ways, you visit a salon to get a new look (when the salon is the sponsor), or are sent on a trip to experience some kind of activity (a Disney cruise would be a good example here).
The types of integration you want to offer really vary by your content and preferences. You may only want to offer thematically-aligned integration, or all of the above in one post which — I know from first hand — are what brands really want to see so if you can make it work, do it and make sure your rate reflects the work and trust that goes into this type of sponsored post.
I mentioned a brand brief, and how it contains all the information about what a brand is looking for in their campaign. Wouldn't it be nice to see an example of what one looks like?
Indeed it would. That's why you've got it coming your way in today's bonus materials!
Check your inboxes (if you haven't already).
I know this was a lot of information, so let's talk it out. I've got a thread started in the Launch Ladies Facebook Group so drop your questions there, or below in the comments!