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Episode 004: Working With, Approaching, Pitching and Negotiating With Brands With Alyssa Brantley

In episode 004 we talk with Alyssa Brantley, food blogger at the Everyday Maven who has forged successful relationships with many different Brands and shares her expertise on this topic.

We cover information about working with brands you want to align with, how to know if they’re a good fit, know your value and be realistic and information about contracts and what’s important!

Listen on the player below or on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast player. Or scroll down to read a full transcript.


Guest Details

Connect with Everyday Maven
Website | Instagram | Facebook

Bio
Alyssa grew up in a cooking family. Her Mom went to culinary school and taught both Alyssa and her brother to cook at a young age. They explored flavors and ingredients and were taught to savor food and be open-minded.

After getting married and moving to Seattle, Alyssa started sharing some of her creations and Everyday Maven was born. Since then, she’s worked to refine her cooking skills by taking world-class cooking classes with top chefs (including an immersion at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, California) and continually educating herself on food production, supply chain, and ingredient quality.

Takeaways

  • Recommendation: take a pad of paper and pen and look at your house – open the fridge, the cupboards and look in your pantry. Make a list. What brands are you loyal to? Who do you always buy from? What kitchen tools do you love? What do you always use? You have a personal story for those brands that is authentic and personal.  

  • Learn how to find contact info and know that you are talking to the right person. Start with their websites, check out their social channels. It’s appropriate to send emails and PM on socials.

  • Brands want spokespeople that have authenticity. They are looking for people to show everyday life with their products. Use a funny story or a fact that is useful  to them in learning how you use their products when reaching out.

  • When you find contacts online, send a simple paragraph with 2-3 sentences. Keep your first content short, sweet and concise including who you are, who your audience is and how you’d like to work with them.  

  • Be up front that you do not work for free. Don’t devalue yourself. You must know your value and be realistic.

  • Sponsored content – You want to deliver and knock it out of the park for your Brand but know it’s double the work. It’s a revenue stream that’s worth it but a lot of work.

  • It’s like a snowball effect when working with Brands – other Brands see you working with brands and they love your content so then they reach out.

  • You need a contract. An email is not a contract. With contract negotiation, know there is no “typical.”

  • If the Brand is providing the contract, be sure you maintain ownership over your content. If the Brand wants to license your work for digital or print ads, they need to pay for that. You don’t want to sign away your rights and perpetuity

  • Generally speaking when working with new Brands, ask for payment up front and in full before the posting date. You can also set up a payment plan of 50/50. For brands that you’ve worked with that pay on time, you can set Net 30. Long term contracts could be monthly/quarterly, whatever works for you. Late fees should be assessed too if they are late and built right into the contract. If they are 40/60/90 days late. 

  • Stay on top of your deliverables and contract terms if you want to develop long-term partnerships. Do the work for the brand. Make their job easier and you will be more appealing

Resources Mentioned

I have partnered with over fifty national brands and dozens of small and region brands to produce original sponsored blog content, professional videos, and more.

Here’s a list of some of the brands I have worked with. I’m sharing this for credibility. Please be respectful, this is not a list for bloggers to reach out to.

Flatout, Fred Meyer, QFC, Kroger

Below is a quick script food bloggers can use to reach out to brands via social media

Click for full sample.

“Hi Brand I Love Social Media Team!

My name is XXXX and I am the founder of XYZBlog, which focuses on grilling recipes. My site reaches 100 readers per month and 100 followers across my social channels.

I am a huge fan of BrandILove products and (give an example of how you use their products or what you love about it).

The reason I am reaching out today is that I have a story idea in mind featuring BrandILove product and wanted to connect with whoever runs your paid sponsored content program.

I’d love to chat more and share details about what I have in mind. Or, could you let me know the correct email and name of who to reach out to in your organization?

Thanks so much,

Name | Title

Blog Name | URL

Email”

Continue Building Long-Term Brand Relationships

Episode 030, Alli Kelley helps you make a plan to under promise and over deliver!


Transcript

Click for full text.

Intro (00:01):

Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, where food bloggers come to get their fill of the latest tips, tricks, and insights into the world of food blogging. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll provide you with the tools you need to add value to your blog. And we’ll also ensure you’re taking care of yourself, because food blogging is a demanding job. Now, please welcome your host, Megan Porta.

Megan Porta (00:25):

Hey there, food bloggers. Welcome to the Eat Blog Talk podcast, the podcast made just for you, food bloggers, who are wanting to add value to their businesses and to their lives. In today’s episode, I will be talking to Alyssa Brantley, Everydaymaven.com and we will be discussing working with, approaching, pitching and negotiating with brands. Alyssa grew up in a cooking family. Her mom went to culinary school when she was a small child and taught both she and her brother to cook at a very young age. So they explored flavors and ingredients and were taught to savor food and be open-minded. While living in New York city for college, Alyssa interned at both ABC news and the Food Network when it was in its early stages. It was a crash course in cooking, and she was privileged to learn from Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, and David Rosengarten. After getting married and moving to Seattle, she decided to start sharing some of her own creations and started Everyday Maven.

(01:21):

Since then, she has continued to refine her cooking skills by taking world-class cooking classes with top chefs and continually educating herself on food production, supply chain and ingredient quality. Okay. Wow, Alyssa, what a fun history you’ve had with food and cooking. Food Network and Bobby Flay? Oh my gosh. That’s every food blogger’s dream right there. You’ve hit everyone’s passion. I love that you grew up being taught to love cooking and food as well, because I feel like that is not the norm. Before we get into our topic, take a minute to tell us a fun fact about yourself, aside from having interned at the Food Network, or tell us something fun about interning at the food network.

Alyssa Brantley (02:02):

Yeah. When I was an intern at the food network, I think the most fun part was, this was the early stages. So they were in their first studio building in New York city. And it was a very intimate environment and they would film 20 to 30 episodes a day, of different shows. So Emeril would come in and he wouldn’t film one show. He would film like 15, right? So these shows would be going off and the kitchen prep teams would be just prepping the recipes and setting everything up. Every 15 minutes somebody would make an announcement over the PA. They’d be like the food from episode 2A is in the break room. All of a sudden it would be like a stampede, every 15 minutes. Everybody’s running to eat. Like get a taste of like this dish that Emeril has made or that Bobby just made or that somebody else made and it was hysterical. Nobody can get any work done because everybody’s stampeding to get the food.

Megan (03:01):

A hindrance to the job, but also a perk.

Alyssa  (03:04):

It was a lot of fun.

Megan (03:04):

That is so fun. I love that. Not many people can say that they have that sort of history. So thank you for sharing that, Alyssa. Let’s get to the topic you came here to chat about today, which is working with brands and all that comes along with that. Working with brands can be very daunting, I think for a lot of food bloggers. So I’m super excited to explore this topic with you because you’re the expert. I am eager, personally, to hear your tips on this subject, because this is not something I’ve explored a whole lot myself. So I have a ton of questions for you today to start. I would just love for you to share with us how you got into working with brands and how that process evolved for you.

Alyssa  (03:39):

That’s a great question. I started my blog in late 2011 and the first year and a half, I made 20 bucks. I think the first time I got a check from Google, I didn’t believe it was real. I’m like, what is this for? My husband was like, I think that’s for your website. I’m like, no. And it was a hundred dollars. Because there was a threshold, it was like Google ads, you know? What, that’s for me? I always intended to make it into a business, but I didn’t really know how to. So I started seeing that this actually could become something. I wound up joining Blogher back when Blogher started reaching out about working with brands. They were doing back then, BlogHer food was a really good conference. I started looping into some of those relationships and it really opened my eyes to a whole nother world, another revenue stream, another way of monetizing and also really working with the brands that I love the most. And so I would say back in the early days, it was going through blogging conferences and meeting the brand representatives for the brands that I already bought and loved and making those relationships and starting to sort of develop over time ways to work together.

Megan (05:04):

That’s really cool. I started the same way, I did BlogHer too. I loved their program they had where you could pick and choose who you wanted to work with. I had a really bad experience with the brand early on. It was just kind of a nightmare. I wish that I wouldn’t have had that because I think I would have pursued it and kept going. But I’m here to learn from you because I do want to get back into it. I appreciate you sharing all of that with us. Am I right by saying that a good starting point for someone who’s starting now, today, is just figuring out which brands are a good fit and vice versa. And how do we figure that out?

Alyssa  (05:38):

So my recommendation is that you take a tablet and a pen and you go into your kitchen, you open up your pantry and then your fridge and freezer, and you start making a list. What brands are you loyal to? Who do you always buy? What do you feel passionate about? What do you usually share with your friends and family? Who are you saying, you have to buy this product. This is the best.

(05:58):

Write all of those brands down because you have a personal story that already exists for every one of those brands. And that is super powerful and that is authentic. And for me, authenticity is everything. I only talk about brands that I genuinely buy and use in my own kitchen. I do not promote products to my audience that I wouldn’t spend my own money on. And it’s super important because the brands want authentic brand ambassadors or brand spokespeople. So if you can come to a brand and say, Hey, listen, Larabar right, making it up. I love your bars. I buy your bars for my kids. These are the reasons why we depend on them. We always have them in our pantry. Here’s a funny story about the Apple pie. It’s a staple in our house. You have brand loyalty. That expertise is really powerful.

Megan (06:43):

And that sincerity shines through, I’ve found. When I don’t believe in the product, it’s so apparent when I read it. I’m like, Oh dude, that that was a bad call.

Alyssa  (06:53):

I’m a food blogger but I’m a blog reader. There are literally blogs that I absolutely love. And then I’ll read a post that I think, there’s no way you use that product. And it’s a turnoff.

Megan (07:02):

Absolutely. I totally agree.

Alyssa  (07:03):

I am less likely to believe the next thing I see there, because I’m like, I don’t know about that.

Megan (07:08):

Yeah. I like your pantry pitch. So simple. Just walk into your pantry. What do you use? And that doesn’t have to be necessarily food. I mean, it could be kitchen products too. Right?

Alyssa  (07:19):

So like for instance, I am a diehard Cuisinart mixer person, and I’ve had a Cuisinart mixer since I was very young. My mom gave me one of hers, you know? And then when I got married, I got a new one. Then I upgraded to like the big one when my business became a business. I love cuisinart, that is my food processor. And so I have a natural affinity and I understand the product. So I actually have never worked with them, I just never pitched them. We’ve never had that conversation, but that would be a perfect example, go into your kitchen, start making that list. Who are you loyal to? Is it Vitamix? Is it Blendtec? Is it, you know, NutriBullet, whatever it is. Those things matter. If you have loyalty there, if you don’t have loyalty there and then you don’t necessarily have to put it on your list. The pitching from your pantry concept is about finding the brand story. It’s not just making an inventory of what you have in your house. I think that differentiation is really important because you may have something because it was on sale, but you don’t actually feel loyal to the brand.

Megan (08:17):

Right. That makes total sense. So before we get into the actual pitching, I was just curious. So some of the food blogging conferences, like you had mentioned, are good places to find brands. Some of the conferences that I’ve been to recently, actually have brands go to the conferences so that you can meet and connect with them. Are there other good spots that you recommend either in person or online to find similar opportunities like that?

Alyssa  (08:45):

I think that with the saturation of the market, I think it’s a lot different now. I think a lot of people would go to Expo West or Expo East, knowing that is sort of a brand marketplace, but it’s important to know why the brands are there. Most brands are at Expo to talk about their new products and they’re not necessarily there looking for those sponsorship relationships. If you are looking for just kind of new products and then you may try them and then try to find a way to reach out, that’s an interesting way to do it. Because usually with a product launch, there is going to be a marketing budget, unless it’s a really small company, then they’re really not looking to invest in marketing yet because they have to grow their revenue and overheads and all of that stuff. However, I think that finding your own authentic products and then reaching out to those brands directly is a way better use of time. Then sort of going from conference to conference or show to show. I genuinely think that you’re better off going in your pantry, going in your kitchen, making a list of who you’re brand loyal to. And literally just going through the finding of the contact information and reaching out to those people. You’ll save time and save money rather than traveling around. You know, going to conferences, going to stores, it’s a heavy time investment.

Megan (09:55):

The pantry pitch sounds like it’s way more effective than chasing down brands at conferences, et cetera.

Alyssa  (10:01):

There’s a lot of competition. So, if you already have brand relationships, generally speaking, if I’m going to a conference, I have meetings set up with brands that I’ve either worked with in the past, working with right now, or have been talking to about working with. And so a lot of those brands have their time allocated. If you’re new to that brand or to working with brands, you may actually have a harder time at a conference like that because they most likely are engaging with people that they’ve been chatting with.

Megan (10:29):

Thank you, Alyssa. That was awesome. So now going on to pitching, what are some things to consider even before you get to the point of pitching?

Alyssa  (10:37):

So the most important thing is not to take it personally. Repeat, do not take it personally. It’s not about you. It’s okay. Sometimes people don’t answer. Sometimes people don’t get back. There are so many reasons why that usually have nothing to do with you. So it’s getting out of your own way. It’s a numbers game. People have a lot going on and remember that there are a lot of different contact points. So an example would be, a company like Bob’s Red Mill. I love Bob’s Red Mill. I work with Bob’s Red Mill. It’s a fantastic company, but Bob’s Red Mill, they work directly with bloggers at corporate. They have multiple agencies they work with that work with bloggers. They also work with blogger networks. They also have people that go out and just try to send people product and get them to put it on their blog or their social channels. So you don’t know who you’re going to talk to. If you reach out via social, you don’t know who’s managing the account that day. Or if you reach out to a direct email, you don’t know where it’s going to get funneled. So you may not get to the right person right away.

Megan (11:39):

So how do you know how to get to the right person?

Alyssa  (11:42):

That’s a great question. So if you think about your initial pitch and if it’s a cold contact, and you say, I want to work with Bob’s Red Mill. I know they’re working with other people. I use all their flours. This is a perfect fit for me. I want to promote their products and use the products in my recipes. Let’s figure it out. Right? So you may go do some research online, and you may be able to find contacts at corporate. Let’s say that you are able to do that. Okay. You would send an email that’s very simple. You would say something like a paragraph long. When I say paragraph, I mean like two to three sentences, max. Okay. Keep it short, sweet and concise. So you’re saying, this is who I am. My blog is this. I reach this many people.

(12:22):

This is the type of audience that I have. Next paragraph. I am a fan of Bob’s Red Mill for these reasons. This is my personal story, like we were talking about. When you get in your pantry and you’re like, Hey, I have 14 Bob’s Red Mill products. What’s my story with Bob’s Red Mill, right? Why do I trust them? What is the dependability? Have I found that their coconut flour is more reliable, et cetera. What’s the story there? So then you want to communicate that story to them, next paragraph. Here’s some of the ways I work with other brands. I’d love to have a conversation with the right person in your organization. If you’re not this person, could you please put me in touch with that person? So your ask is to get in touch with the right person.

Megan (12:58):

And then if you do not hear back, do you follow up and how many times do you follow up?

 (13:04):

Absolutely. Absolutely. And again, this goes back to don’t take it personally. People are busy, people change jobs. People don’t have authority. Sometimes your email might get to an intern and they say, I can’t answer this. I don’t know what to say. Reach out again. Hey, I usually reach out two to three times before I move on to a different route. So I might go to a social channel. I might go to LinkedIn. I might go to Twitter. It depends on the brand because you can see presence on different channels, right? So you’re like, Oh, well this channel or this brand is super active on Instagram. So maybe you DM them. And you say, Hey, you know, this is who I am. I’m looking to get in touch with the person who handles sponsored content. Or I’m looking to get them in touch with the person who handles social promotions. Some people want to do blog work. Some people want to do social only. So what are you looking to do? And then you want to find that person. You don’t want to reach out and say, I want to work with you. Will you pay me? Right. Like you want to say, I just want to talk to the right person because I bring value and I’m loyal to the brand. And there’s a really good synergy here.

Megan (14:07):

So email is the good place to start. And then I like what you said about scoping out whether they’re active on Instagram or Facebook or whatever, and going that route too, if needed. That’s really great advice.

Alyssa  (14:18):

Absolutely. A couple of years ago, I would have said oh no, no don’t approach somebody on social, but that’s changed. I think it’s totally appropriate. There are people who will say don’t do that. I think that it’s totally appropriate.

Megan (14:30):

I love your template that you went through. It’s short and sweet to the point. And I love the way that you ordered it too. Okay. And then I was wondering too, about money. At what point do you discuss money?

Alyssa  (14:42):

Good question. I think you need to be upfront that you’re not going to work for free. Let me say that when you’re first starting out, you may make a choice to work with one or two brands for free. That’s a choice that is individual and that everybody has to make, depending on what their situation is. What they feel like that investment is worth from a time perspective. It’s not out of the question. I think that you have to quickly pivot away from that, if you decide to do it, otherwise you will devalue yourself in the long-term and take on too much work that you’re not getting paid for. So assuming that we’re talking about relationships where you are getting paid and you are saying, I don’t work for a product, I don’t work for mentions or whatever. I like to be very transparent and very upfront.

(15:24):

So if a brand is pitching me and they’ll say, Hey, we have a new beef jerky, and we would love for you to try it. And then I’ll go back and say well one, can you tell me more about the product if I haven’t tried it yet? Where could I purchase it? Is it online only? I’ll find out more. Is it organic? Is it non-GMO? The things that matter to me. Then I would say something like this sounds fantastic. I’d love to try it. If I try it and absolutely love it and it’s something that I would buy myself, then we could have a conversation about ways we can work together. Then if they were like, Oh, can we send you the product? I’ll say something like, I don’t create original sponsored content in exchange for products. Only for compensation. Here’s some of the ways that I’ve worked with other brands. And here’s my rate card.

Megan (16:06):

I think starting out people are much more willing to work for a product. I know I was early on. I’m like, heck yeah, I’ll take a bag of Apple chips, but then once you get farther down the road, you want that money, honestly.

Alyssa  (16:18):

It is a lot of work.

Megan (16:19):

It is a lot of work.

Alyssa  (16:21):

It’s a lot of work. Content is double the work. Don’t kid yourself. It’s a fantastic revenue stream, but it is not a passive revenue stream. It is a lot of work because if you want to deliver, which you do, if you want to take on brand work, you want to knock it out of the park. You want to make the brand proud. You want to make your readers feel like this is authentic and that this is something you deeply care about because that’s what people relate to. There’s a lot of deliverables along the way that you have to be conscious of. So it is not like, Ooh, let me just go partner with this brand and I’ll make this much money. I would say it’s easily double the amount of work.

Megan (16:55):

I also think that there’s added pressure because you’re like, Oh my gosh, I have to perform well. And so when you’re posting on social channels, just fingers crossed, this does great, way more than your own work because someone’s relying on you to do well. So there’s pressure too.

Alyssa  (17:11):

Absolutely. And not only that, there are roadblocks now, like in the system. So like if you use ad or sponsored tags, which you have to on Instagram, you automatically are going to get less engagement. You know what I’m saying? When you use those tags, the algorithms don’t favor that content. It’s not organic.

Megan (17:28):

Is that a fairly new thing?

Alyssa  (17:30):

So, I mean, I don’t know that I can say that is definitive. Like if I get an Instagram person that works there, I don’t know if he’s going to say that’s true. But that’s what everybody who works with brands sees across the board.

Megan (17:41):

That’s so interesting.

Alyssa  (17:42):

And there’s definitely outliers. It’s not that your content can’t spike or go viral or anything like that. It just seems like there’s a harder climb up that mountain.

Megan (17:50):

So how do you counter that? Working against the grain? Are there ways to kind of cheat the system or?

Alyssa  (17:57):

I think you have to cheat the system. I think you have to play the game that the social channels want you to play, which is paying. So you could build into your campaign, like say you’re working with a grocery chain or something, and you have a series of social posts only, like one per week for six weeks. So you have six posts. And you would negotiate a rate for those six social posts, say static Instagram posts, you charge X for. And you may say, Hey, let’s also build in an additional $25 per post, just for social promotion.

Megan (18:28):

Gotcha.

Alyssa  (18:28):

So not every brand wants to do that. If they won’t, then you may decide, well, it’s worth it for me to spend, $10 or whatever that I’m willing to allocate for each one of these posts. Maybe it’s twenty-five, maybe it’s more, because maybe long-term you see that potential client as a much more long term client. And so you want to make that investment, but either way, I think that those boosts, those social channel pay boosts definitely help sort of that climb go faster.

Megan (18:55):

And I can see if it is a brand that you do want to carry on a relationship with down the road, that you would be willing to put in that extra money upfront. So that things progress.

Alyssa  (19:04):

Definitely. It’s definitely in your best interest, if you want to work with brands to think about long-term partnerships. Brand work is a lot of work. We already talked about that it’s pretty much double the amount of work, but if you’re going to work with brands, the best way to do it is to establish long-term relationships. So that you’re not doing all of these one-offs. There’s one, dependability of money. Two, you can tell more of a story. You can tell more of a creative story. So let’s say that you wind up signing a year long contract with Bob’s Red Mill for a content piece every other month or a content piece every month. And you can really flesh out a story, maybe it’s a baking story and maybe you feature 12 of their products in baking posts that sort of tie back into each other. How I would use muffins, I’m going to make coconut flour muffins, almond flour muffins, hazelnut flour muffins, gluten-free muffins, whole wheat muffins, I don’t know, right on and on and on. And you can tell like a really kind of neat story that supports the underlying current of that brand relationship.

Megan (20:07):

That’s really cool to think about because I’ve never had a long-term relationship or a partnership with a brand. So it’s interesting to think on that scope. That’s really cool. I like the idea of building a story together. So I’m assuming you’ve had a few long-term partnerships. Do the postings get easier or are they still taking double your time?

Alyssa  (20:26):

So it depends on the product. I have had a lot of long-term relationships. The longest was four years with one brand and then I’ve had two year relationships, one year relationships. And then the minimum I’ll do for a longer relationship is three months. And I’ve done some of that seasonal stuff, just for the summer or once a year. Like there’s kind of nuances in all of that. It really depends on the product. Some products really speak well to being like all cohesively connected. And then some are just all over the place. If it’s a bigger brand that has a very large product line, you may be doing Instant Pot recipe, a baking recipe, a smoothie bowl. It could be all over the place because every brand is going to have different targets. So they may say like, we really, really care about creating content around this specific product, or we really care about creating content for a specific type of audience. We want to reach busy moms, or we want to reach vegan bakers or whatever.

Megan (21:21):

So you get a variety. I mean, just depending on who you’re working with, it can either be very cohesive or maybe all over the place. You never know.

Alyssa  (21:27):

I know that’s not like an easy answer.

Megan (21:29):

No, but every company is different. I mean, every blogger is different. Anyone you work with is going to have different forms of communication and different styles.

Alyssa  (21:38):

Yes. That will also change if you’re working directly with a brand versus with an agency. Because if you work directly with the brand, you can make things happen faster. So if you have to get clearances through an agency, the agency then has to go to the brand. And so you have to be able to prepare to work ahead.

Megan (21:54):

So working with an agency. How do you go about doing that?

Alyssa  (21:57):

That’s tricky. I have worked with a bunch of agencies and a bunch of agencies on long-term projects, as well as shorter term projects. I would say that for the most part, the relationships that I’ve developed over a period of time, by getting either on their radar or meeting in person at an event.

Megan (22:14):

Do they come to conferences?

Alyssa  (22:16):

They definitely come to conferences.

Megan (22:18):

Interesting.

Alyssa  (22:18):

A lot of big brands are repped by a handful of agencies that work in the industry and then there’s other outliers. They’re definitely at conferences. They’re definitely active on social media. If there’s a specific brand that you’re really interested in and it’s one pitch from your pantry brands and you’re really figuring out how can I align with them? And you start engaging with them on social media. And you’re talking to their social media person, that could very well be an agency representative.

Megan (22:47):

So if there is someone listening today who has never worked with a brand and they’re interested in going the agency route, what would you recommend for them?

Alyssa  (22:56):

I wouldn’t recommend starting there. I would say focus on the brand itself and if it leads you to the agency, that’s great. Then you can establish that relationship. I think that you have to prove yourself with the brand relationship first. So if it’s a peanut butter brand, and you say, I love this brand. You don’t really know who’s repping them, or if they work in house and I don’t think it matters yet. I think it’s more about your story is not with an agency. Your story is with that peanut butter. Why are you loyal to it? Why do you use it? Is it easy to stir? Is it because your kids love the taste? Is it the texture? You know what I’m saying?

Megan (23:31):

Focus on the product.

Alyssa  (23:31):

Yes, it’ll happen. The more brand work you do, the more brand work you do. It’s one of those things. So it starts as like a little bit of a snowball effect because other brands see, Oh, XYZ blogger is working that peanut butter company and she’s creating awesome content. Let me get in touch with her and talk about my muffin mix.

Megan (23:51):

Okay. So I have more questions. Is that okay?

Alyssa  (23:55):

For sure!

Megan (23:55):

So we talked a little bit about pitching and how to get to the point where you can pitch to somebody and what you need to think about beforehand. Can you walk us through what a typical contract negotiation looks like?

Alyssa  (24:09):

Yeah, sure. So there is no typical contract negotiation because they’re all different. There are certain things that you should look for. So there’s two ways of thinking of it. One, are you writing the contract? Are you providing the contract or is the agency providing the contract? Usually if the brand or agency is providing the contract, you’re going to want to look for three key things. I like to work these things out in advance so there’s no surprises. One ownership: you want to maintain ownership over your content and if the brand wants to license that content digitally or for print, then you want to charge an additional fee for that. You don’t want to just sign away your licensing rights in perpetuity. Okay. Number two: payment terms. Depending on your history of working with brands, you may or may not be comfortable with asking for payment in full upfront, but generally speaking, what I do with new brands that I’ve never worked with before, I will ask for payment in full upfront before the posting date, if that doesn’t work for some reason and I’m comfortable with it, then I’ll do like a 50/50.

 (25:12):

50 in advance and then 50% within two weeks of the post going live. For brands that I’ve worked with over time or have paid on time, then I’ll go net 30. For long-term contracts, that’s all over the place. It could be like half up front half at the end of the contract, quarterly payments, monthly payments. It really could be whatever works for you guys. So you’re looking at ownership, you’re looking at payment terms, and when I say payment terms, there’s also late payment. You want to make sure that there’s fees there, in case they do pay late. There is a way to assess a penalty after like 40 days late, 60 days late, 90 days late, things like that. There’s some repercussion for you to recover. It doesn’t happen that often, but it does happen unfortunately. 

The third thing that you want to look for is really that the deliverables are clearly outlined so that you don’t have miscommunication through the process and people having disappointment around things they haven’t been clear about. For example, let’s just say that you have four photos due with the deliverable and you’ve agreed to allow them to utilize those photos on their social media channels to promote the content. But there’s one revision and you write that into the contract. So if they’re not happy with the photos, you’re willing to take one revision. You don’t want to go down the road of, they’re not happy, another set of revisions. They’re not happy, another set of revisions. That’s a lot of time, a lot of money. There has to be some discretion of trusting you as the expert to deliver a product that you know will work on social, and on your blog and speak to the audience.

Megan (26:44):

Sp listening to you makes me realize that my bad experience with the brand years ago was kind of my fault, because I didn’t say any of that upfront. I didn’t look for those specific details. I basically went through an entire summer of doing revisions for this one video.

Alyssa  (27:01):

Oh my gosh.

Megan (27:01):

Yeah, I was ready to throw my computer in the lake. It was so frustrating. There was nothing in the contract that we had signed saying that I’m only going to do one or two; please trust me. They didn’t, they didn’t trust me. At the end they were like, can we reshoot this?

(27:16):

So at that point, you could just flat out say no, or you can say I don’t think we should work together. Or you can say, listen, I’ve already reached out this one time or two times, as a courtesy. But the rate for me to redo this is X, Y, and Z. If your guys aren’t aligning, then you have to rethink the relationship. I know sometimes that’s really hard if you’re desperate to work with brands or maybe you really need the money. But this is why I like to have all of this stuff lined up in the beginning because you eliminate some of these potential obstacles that can cause a lot of problems.

Megan (27:51):

It can be a lot of extra work upfront, but definitely I can see where it would pay off down the road. Just talking about money is not super comfortable for everybody. But if you establish that and you make boundaries for yourself and your business, ah, I can see this just being such a smoother process than if you don’t have those conversations.

(28:10):

Totally. It is going to be talked about, so you’re going to have to talk about it at some point. So why not make it clear at the beginning and make everybody align that they’re on the same page and then have a smoother relationship. Then one other thing I would say is to look for editorial content ownership. So sometimes brands will want editorial control and that’s something I would never agree to. I know how to talk to my audience. I know what makes me relate to my audience and to my social followers. I am never going to allow a brand to edit my work and give it back to me and say this is how you should say it.

Megan (28:46):

That’s a really good point too. I love that. So, contracts. Who typically draws up the contract or can it be either party?

Alyssa  (28:53):

So one, you need a contract. So don’t skip that. A lot of people are just so grateful to have this relationship. We have an email let’s just move forward. Just don’t do that to yourself. Do a contract. One, contract can come from the brands, like go over them with a fine tooth comb. Oftentimes it doesn’t reflect what you actually agreed upon because they have standardized contracts. And so sometimes, with the big company in particular, if you’re talking to Kroger or General Mills or whatever those contracts are coming from legal. And so they’re not necessarily aligned with that particular unit and the conversation you had. So that’s not a personal thing. Just go through the contract and say here’s the five changes, I’m ready to move forward as soon as we make those. Don’t freak out.

(29:33):

If it’s a smaller company, you can offer, say, Hey, I have a simple one-page contract. I’m more than happy to provide it if that’s easier for you. There’s a couple of different people in our space who you can buy a simple contract from. You could hire an attorney, if you already have one, to just generate you a template, usually people do that. It’s like a hundred bucks or something. You can get your own one pager, which I have one of those. I will always offer to send that over because it outlines those core things, the terms and conditions, the ownership, the licensing, the payment terms, the deliverables, and it’s just one page, easy. Everybody can just scan it. You know what I mean? It’s not overly complicated. If it’s a big company or small company, you have a legal department, it goes all over the place.

Megan (30:20):

So really there are tons of variables in this process, depending on the atmosphere of the brand, the vibe, and also how big they are. You just kind of have to go in and sort it out and just kind of take one step at a time.

Alyssa  (30:33):

You do. And there’s a rhythm. Once you start working with brands and you’re a few relationships in, you really start to see the rhythm of what the contracts are like. So at first I think it is overwhelming and it’s fantastic to have a second set of eyes, whether it’s somebody who has a little legal experience or an attorney or a friend, just to kind of make sure that it’s clear, what you’re getting and what you’re delivering

Megan (30:55):

And the more you get into it, I’m sure, like you said, it just becomes a little bit easier to read those sorts of things and determine what’s in store for you.

Alyssa  (31:03):

Absolutely. The caveat to that would be, which we haven’t really talked about, which is working with networks, networks have a whole other set of contracts, that generally speaking, they’re not that flexible on.

Megan (31:17):

So can you give us examples of networks that you’re talking about?

Alyssa  (31:20):

Like Rev Influence, like those kinds of networks, like blog networks that connect bloggers with brands for specific campaigns.

Megan (31:27):

So those are the ones, am I right, you just put in your information and then they contact you based on what you’re looking for and they align. So I haven’t done much work with those types of companies either. So could you tell us a little bit about that?

Alyssa  (31:40):

I don’t know if this is going to be a very popular opinion, but it’s the truth. I say, stay away from networks. Okay. Back in the day, maybe a couple of years ago, networks were totally a good option for people, but networks have become, in my opinion, pariahs. So number one, they are very inflexible around terms and conditions. Number two, they take most of the money and don’t pay enough because they’re the intermediary, they’re basically a broker. So they’re taking the money from the company, you know, XYZ hotdog company, is giving them a hundred thousand dollars and their goal is to get 50,000 pieces of content out. They’re like, well, how could we make the most money possible? So let’s cut the rate. Let’s say, Oh, we’ll pay you $600 for a blog post. Maybe you normally charge 1500. Then they will say, we’ll come up a little bit. They start this negotiation and you’re undervaluing yourself by working with them. They don’t usually pay market rate. That’s number one. Number two, they generally will have contracts that have licensing rights in perpetuity. So you will be signing away the rights to your content and your photos and your likeness to them. And they can assign it to anybody, now or in the future

Megan (32:54):

To know though, because I’ve heard, that’s what people are kind of leaning toward because it’s easy. I was not aware that so much money was being cut from what your value is.

Alyssa  (33:03):

Probably outliers. There’s probably small networks that maybe are willing to negotiate and you could get to your market rate or they want long-term partnerships. Maybe they’re willing to take certain clauses out of the contract. My experience and the people that I’m familiar with, are that that is not the norm. So I’m not going to say that it’s not out there, that doesn’t exist. Have conversations. Don’t just shut people down. But I would say, be wary, have your guard up and make sure that you are very transparent about what you are comfortable with and what access you’re willing to give them and what those contracts look like.

Megan (33:38):

So basically, food bloggers take Alyssa’s advice and go into your pantry and do the pantry pitch. It sounds like the way to go. It’s the way to get you the most money and to keep you the most satisfied because you’re standing behind a product that you really love. So I think that’s kind of the takeaway I’m getting here.

Alyssa  (33:54):

And also building long-term relationships for authenticity. If you are a loyal Sprouts shopper, like that is your market. You shop at Sprouts, no matter what you go out of your way, you drive 20 minutes, whatever, have those conversations. It might take six months, but keep having that conversation because that’s a more valuable relationship than going, plugging your stuff into a network and getting these one-off jobs. What if you get to sign six months, one year, two years with Sprouts. That’s an actual revenue stream for your business instead of like, Oh, pay me one time, a couple of hundred bucks to talk about a chocolate bar. So think about the big picture.

Megan (34:31):

I love that. So I have one last question that I would love for you to answer. It is in relation to pitching, if your pitch is not accepted, is it okay to re-pitch at a later date? So what if you pitch a brand that you love and they’re like, no, we’re just really not, maybe they don’t like your numbers or for whatever reason, does that happen often? If so, is it okay to reapproach them later?

Alyssa  (34:54):

So it’s always okay to re approach and you should always leave it on good terms. So you can say something like, great, so I’ll check back in with you in the next quarter, or I’ll check back in with you in a month, depending on the situation. I’ll check back in with you, before I get to my busy season and see if you want to get on my editorial calendar. It’s always okay to go back. There’s always a lot of turnover in these roles. So not every company has tons of turnover, but frequently these people are moving around. It may be a different person in that role the next time you go back. Then the other part is that your stuff might change. You may have just completed an amazing campaign with X, Y, Z company. And you want to go back and say, Hey guys, I know we talked a few months, but I wanted to let you know, I just completed this three month campaign. It was really, really wonderful for me and for the other client. Some of the results were, without giving away confidential information. If you would like to talk about getting on my editorial calendar for the next month or the next season or whatever, let’s set up a talk.

Megan (35:56):

That’s great advice. I’m going to kind of wrap up our chat, but is there anything that we haven’t covered yet that you feel like my listeners just need to know about?

Alyssa  (36:04):

It’s actually so much it’s, it’s definitely a complex topic. I think that working with brands is an amazing way to have another revenue stream and to bring useful content to your audience. And that’s how we really want to think about it, is like, what does this do for my audience? How is this of use? Am I helping them? Am I serving my audience? Am I showing them new ways to use these products? Am I showing them new products that make their life easier? So if you approach it from these long-term relationships and what am I doing to serve the people who read my content? You’ll have a better path than just I’m looking at this as a way to just bang out more money.

Megan (36:43):

Well, it sounds like we need to do a part two because I actually have more questions, but I have to let you go, Alyssa, unfortunately. I seriously learned so much from you today. I really appreciate you being here. It’s seriously been a pleasure talking to you. I know that my listeners are going to find tons of value in everything we have talked about too. So thank you. Thank you.

Alyssa  (37:01):

Yeah, you’re welcome.

Megan (37:03):

Before you go, do you have any favorite quotes or words of inspiration for food bloggers? Not necessarily relating to brands.

Alyssa  (37:11):

So I would say, remember why you started your business. A lot of food bloggers start their businesses to have freedom for their time and obviously to build a business and make money. But it’s a flexible job. So be yourself and run the business that works for your lifestyle. Don’t get caught in the comparison trap. And remember why you started your blog in the first place. Is it to spend more time with your kids? Is it to set your own hours? Is it to become a magazine photographer? Is it to become a chef, make sure that you’re finding that joy and stay there.

Megan (37:44):

That is solid advice. Thank you so much, Alyssa. Alyssa has a list of favorite resources relating to working with brands and we’ll see if we can get just a short template for pitching brands up as well on her show notes page. And you can find that at eatblogtalk.com/AlyssaB, and that’s spelled A L Y S S A. Alyssa, tell my listeners the best place to find you online.

Alyssa  (38:07):

So you can find me at my website, which is Everydaymaven.com. All my social channels are at Everyday Maven. So mostly Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest. I do limited coaching calls for food bloggers who want to work with brands and help break through whatever is holding them back on their path to working with the brands that they love. So I only take a couple of those at a time. So if that’s something you’re interested in, you can email me directly [email protected] We can chat about what that looks like. So if you have any questions, always feel free to reach out.

Megan (38:45):

Awesome. Thank you, Alyssa. And thanks for listening today, food bloggers.

Intro (38:49):

We’re glad you could join us on this episode of Eat Blog Talk. For more resources based on today’s discussion, as well as show notes and an opportunity to be on a future episode of the show, be sure to head to eatblogtalk.com. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll be here to feed you on Eat Blog Talk.

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pinterest image for working with, approaching, pitching and negotiating brands with Alyssa Brantley

Megan
Megan

Megan started her food blog Pip and Ebby in 2010 and food blogging has been her full-time career since 2013. Her passion for blogging has grown into an intense desire to help fellow food bloggers find the information, insight, and community they need in order to find success.

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