This is going to be kind of a two-fold post. One to share this super cute mom and daughter look and I thought it would be interesting to kind of share what goes into a sponsored Instagram/post. This post isn’t sponsored, but I did work with Talbots to share their “Great Style Runs in the Family” campaign.
How do sponsored posts come about?
For me, every single sponsored post I do stems from an inquiry from a brand or a larger deal through the agency I’m signed with. I’m pretty lucky that my audience is big enough and my conversion rate is high enough where brands come to me. (Although, I talk about why I don’t recommend reaching out to brands, regardless of size, in my giant “Blogging Tips” post.)
I recently read a blog post from a blogger “spilling the tea” on brands that ignored her… but she had failed to mention that she had purchased about half a million followers plus comments/likes. I’ve worked with ALL kinds of brands over the years and I’ve never had an experience where I felt ignored. Some brands are harder to work with depending on their corporate structure and whether they have a team in-house or use an agency and some are easier… but as long as I’m on top of my communication (e.g. emails), establish clear expectations (from both parties), and execute what’s been asked of me, and deliver the materials on time everything is pretty straightforward. Of course, there are brands that I’d LOVE to work with, but I/my blog might not be a brand fit overall or a fit for a particular campaign, but it’s never a personal diss.
At this point (which is just shy of ten years of blogging), I have so many amazing personal relationships with girls at agencies and in-house. Everyone is always moving around between brands/companies/agencies, so even if someone who I love to work with is at a brand that isn’t a good fit, I still stay in touch and keep a professional relationship with because chances are she’ll be somewhere new a year later. I am also psycho about staying on top of my inbox, so I know I get deals and sponsorships that are last-minute because the PR girls know I’m going to be able to do a quick turn-around. Brands know I’m going to deliver the content on time, from the previews to posting at the right time/day, to following up with analytics at the specific time they asked. I try to stay on top of it so brands remember I was easy to work with.
This is the hardest part but thankfully has become a lot easier over the years. I remember when I was first starting out, I had no idea what to charge and brands had no idea what a market value was to paid. Now people generally know what’s a good value and what isn’t. I wouldn’t even say that my rates are necessarily based on ROI… it’s what I have to charge so that I have just enough sponsored content. That is, I charge based on the demand from brands and the supply I’m willing to do. I try not to do more than two sponsored things a week and charge accordingly.
I used to do all of the negotiations myself, but a couple of things happened all at once where I could no longer handle it on my own. The first was that I was drowning in communication. Since I was doing the negotiations, I would literally be responding to every email and having multiple back-and-forths, 90% of which would not work out due to not being on brand, not being able to fit it into my editorial calendar, or the brand not having enough budget for what they wanted. Basically, I felt like a lot of my time was just running into brick walls waiting for the 10% that did go through… and then I’d still have to deliver the product.
The other part was that I was having to be the “good cop” and the “bad cop.” I’d have to stand up for myself in the negotiation, but then also be the nice-and-easy-to-work-with talent. (I go above and beyond to not be “that blogger” that gives all bloggers a bad reputation…) It was hard to be both authentically. I will say, I think I’m an excellent negotiator, but I’d much prefer to do it on someone else’s behalf.
Anyway, I ended up signing with a manager and it changed my game. I’ve since moved on to an agency and I’m on my second manager there. (She’s AMAZING and I could not do what I do without her.) I connect her with everyone and she filters through all the emails basically so all I see are specific offers and then we can go on from there. She’s the one who makes sure brands pay on time and handles any issues that might pop up along the way so that I don’t have to play bad cop.
What does the workflow look like?
The tricky thing about this is that on any given day, I can be at ten different points with ten different campaigns. It takes a lot to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks and that I know where I stand with each campaign. I might have three campaigns in negotiations/concept development with, two that I’m creating content for, two that I have to write, one that I’m waiting on edits for, one queued up post-edits, and one done but collecting analytics on. Even hour by hour one might switch forward a little bit or back down if there was a hiccup.
As an example, I can share the steps that went into this particular Talbots campaign. (Just keep in mind that it’s one campaign and there’s a hundred other things happening between me, my manager, and the other campaigns we’re working on!)
– I have a wonderful relationship with the woman who does Talbots’ PR. She is one of my absolute favorite people to work with because she’s super thoughtful. I never feel like I’m “just a client.” She invited me to the office to preview the holiday collection. Usually, it’s where editors for magazines go to snap photos and take notes for what they want to include in their holiday gift guides in print/digital issues. I go to see the pieces of course, but also to get in a little face time with the PR team. She mentioned that they were doing a campaign about style running in the family and wanted to include my mom and me!
– The campaign was definitely going to be a great fit. A) I love working with Talbots and B) Talbots always performs well for me analytically, so I know it’s something my audience (that is, YOU!) are interested in. It’s a no-brainer, so I handed it over to my manager.
– The offer came through, but the timing didn’t quite line up. I had a ton of travel and sponsored content lined up for August, so we had a little back-and-forth on what would work for both Talbots’ needs for the campaign, my availability, and my mom’s availability. It essentially boiled down to one day where I could get the photos done… but it meant I had to fly to Florida. I say “had to,” but you know I love any excuse to get down there.
– The details are what usually takes the longest, and you’ll see that this section is long to reflect that! This included booking my flights and coordinating my schedule to switching in-person meetings to phone calls so I could work outside of the tri-state area.
And then my mom and I had to pick our outfits. I know it sounds easy, but it’s what I spend the most time on, every single campaign. (I have been through every page of the women’s section on Macy’s.com a few times trying to pick out perfect outfits.) I have to take into consideration what photographs well (flattering in person doesn’t always translate to a photographable outfit), what will fit my body (for example, I know for different brands that dresses are better for my body or the pants always fit without tailoring), what will convert well for my audience (e.g. price points), and (of course) what I actually like. There’s also taking into account what brands want to promote and what is actually available. So many times I’ve found something cute, only to find out it’s low in stock or completely sold out. Picking out an outfit with my mom took on an entirely new level of coordination because I had to have my mom pick out her outfit and then figure out a way to get my outfit to also coordinate, while still being photographable, flattering, convertible, and available… and something I liked.
I’m sure every blogger has their own system, but I start by opening up every single product I remotely find interesting in a new tab. Then I review what I’ve opened and start narrowing it down. I did Talbots selections on a three and a half hour train ride, and it took just about the entire train ride to finalize my mom’s outfit direction and come up with an outfit for myself that matched.
The worst is when the product sells out before the post goes up, or something doesn’t fit when it shows up, or the brand doesn’t want something to be promoted because it’s low in inventory or a low-margin product. Luckily with this Talbots campaign, we only had tiny, fixable issues. They sent my mom two sizes of everything so we could know everything fit perfectly (and she sent back the sizes that didn’t work) and one of the items my mom picked out sold out, but there was an easy replacement that switched in seamlessly. I actually had planned on wearing a yellow vest with my outfit, but when I tried it on, it didn’t look the way I wanted it to, so I went sans-vest and made the scarf more of a hero piece.
I had an extra detail to hammer out. My photographer couldn’t travel to Tampa for the shoot. With another shoot, I’d likely have more time to be more flexible to coordinate with various schedules, but this was the only day that worked for my mom, Talbots, and me… so I was just going to have to be flexible. I originally started to look for local photographers BUT, again, the timing was an issue. I was going to need the photographer to either hand over RAW files on the spot (which is usually not what photographers want to do) or pick selects on the spot and have them edited within two hours (again, not something photographers want to do). The next best option was going to set up my camera and have someone else take the photo, so I could edit myself. My mom’s best friend volunteered and, honestly, the photos came out even better than I could have imagined. We were both totally at ease since we were shooting with someone we knew versus working with a professional photographer we would have only met a minute before the shoot started. (THANK YOU CAREL!!!!)
We went shot for about 40 minutes inside Oxford Exchange, which thank goodness has air conditioning and good lighting. There was no way we could have shot outside in the Florida sun in our fall outfits!! Then I ran home, uploaded photos, narrowed down my selects, edited those, uploaded them into Dropbox to send over for approval along with my caption for approval. The Talbots PR team was on standby so they sent over the tweaks (an item had a name change, they added one word to the caption, and let me know which hashtags to use) but otherwise, everything was approved to post!
The final product!
Sometimes I’ve completely moved on to every other campaign I’m working on by the time I get to post some piece of sponsored content. For this one, it was actually nice for me to be able to post it in “real time,” (i.e. only hours after it was taken). But this is RARE in the blogging world because usually, brands need weeks to send everything through all the layers (brand, agency, legal, PR, marketing, etc.) for approval. I also do my best to respond to questions/comments, which, while easy, does take time.
(all items c/o Talbots!)
There’s so much that goes into one Instagram, even though it takes less than 15 seconds for the photo to upload into the app. It’s easy to look at it and think, “Oh it’s just one photo, and it takes half a second to snap a photo!” But there’s just so much thought and coordination that goes into it.
After sharing my thoughts on social media earlier this week, I thought you might be interested in a little behind the scenes of a sponsored post? Let me know if this was interesting or totally boring… something new or something you already knew!