Working with brands is kinda the holy grail for many travel bloggers. It’s seen as the ultimate way to get paid for what you love doing. But, how exactly does ‘working with brands’ work, for travel bloggers?
– In action, collaborating with SEAT cars
In this edition of Travel Blogger High, Part II, I wanted to explain to you a few of the ways you see brands and travel bloggers working together to give you some idea of how travel bloggers make money, and how you can pitch ideas to brands based on what’s been done before.
1. Sponsored posts
For example: Ladies! Ever Considered Becoming a Ski Instructor?
Brands and companies will collaborate with bloggers to create sponsored posts like the one above. Depending on the blogger, and the company, they will come up with a mutually beneficial agreement to sponsor a post.
I get so many of these requests every week – mostly from gambling companies (never work with gambling companies) and companies trying to buy sponsored posts on my site for $50 (def not worth it).
Just say no.
I only work with companies I believe in who respect the way I do things and are promoting something I’d genuinely recommend.
I would’ve loved to have done a ski season when I was younger (still time, I know) and after looking at the stats I wholeheartedly agree that more women should get involved with the instructional side of it, rather than assuming they should be chamber maids.
TOP TIP: I have a rate card page within my site that I direct anyone interested in working with me to. I have a bronze, silver and gold package listed, with increasing prices and coverage, and the interested client can look through past success stories and collaborations and decide which one they’d like to go for, and that their budget will allow.
Basically, companies are willing to pay for travel bloggers to promote their product, just make sure it’s something you believe in.
For example: What to Expect from Neverworld Festival
This is always a very hazy area. Some travel bloggers can get sent things, then PR companies have your address and continue to send things. This can be awkward. If you didn’t ask for the product, or they didn’t check with you first, you’re under no obligation to feature it, in my opinion.
They sent it.
Obviously if you don’t feature it, you could damage the relationship with them, but if you don’t even like the product, then you damage the relationship with your readers.
Right now I have some Dorset Cereals, a poncho, a heat-up jacket and some yoga clothes that I need to photograph and showcase on my social media and blog, but they just don’t fit in naturally with what I’m doing right now.
I get this a lot with festival tickets – most of my festival tickets are ‘free’ but I’ll be expected to write about the festival and cover on my social media. So they’re not ‘free’ really, you still have to work for them.
Suits me though and we’ll always have had some conversation before about what we’re both happy with.
Some travel bloggers are literally walking billboards for all the sponsored shit they get – choose your giftees wisely.
TOP TIP: Don’t get overexcited and say yes to anything, but think about whether you’re readers really want it, whether you’d pay for it yourself, and whether you really want to invest the time and energy writing about it.
Basically, brands send travel bloggers products in the hope / understanding that they’ll feature on their social media feeds or blogs.
3. Press trips
For example: My VIBE trip to Israel
To begin with travel bloggers love a good press trip, and then they, generally, start to realise how much hard work they are and so start practising the power of no.
Would I like to go to Marrakesh for three days? What’s the catch? Oh, I have to take pictures of EVERYTHING, visit ten hotels, write about them all on the blog (blog posts now take me at least 5 hours to do) and then compile a report on every tiny little thing we did at every point?
– I went to Canada with Trek America. Totally something I’d book and pay for myself, and I love the company. Had a brilliant time with a bunch of other bloggers!
Sometimes press trips work, again, when brand and blogger understand each other and know how to work together. But many times, they don’t. And someone, either side, is left feeling short changed.
There’s no such thing as ‘free travel’. Just, the exchange of money is eliminated but as a blogger you’re still exchanging your time for a trip. Press trips are not a holiday.
Obviously, you’ve seen, I’ve done a lot of press trips in my time, of varying success in my opinion. Now I look at who the trip is with, what they’re offering, if they’re paying, can I take a +1, what do they expect in return, and how much it’s going to cost me to come (expenses, train tickets, drinks etc).
I weigh all this up and then make my decision.
TOP TIP: Same as the above. Don’t get overexcited and say yes to anything, but think about whether you’re readers really want it, whether you’d pay for it yourself, and whether you really want to invest the time and energy writing about it.
Basically, travel companies send bloggers on all-expenses-paid trips with the understanding / contractual agreement that the blogger will write about it and cover on their social media feeds. Sometimes, they get paid for their time and work in real money.
4. Brand ambassadors
I was a brand ambassador for St Kitts, and have worked for a few companies over the years in the same way. Brands will choose a particular travel blogger to work with on a continual basis – personally I think this is a brilliant idea.
My friend Dan from DanFlyingSolo was in Edinburgh over the summer, covering all their festivals. The collaboration between him and Edinburgh Festivals was called #DansFestivalCity and I love the idea. I went out to see him on a press trip for a few days and LOVED the experience.
More bloggers working with brands like this please!
TOP TIP: Think about the brands you really love, and that you’d naturally promote on a long term basis – like, for me, Marmite, Mac, Osprey, Vans, Tanqueray, Lidl – and then think realistically, and pitch them a long term idea. No harm in trying!
Basically, brands will select a blogger who fits with their ideals and company message and initiate a mutually beneficial long-term relationship.
5. Affiliate agreement
I get so many of these requests a week too, but haven’t quite found one that fits right for me. Emily loves her Water to Go bottle though, and they love her for selling so many.
Don’t let companies offering affiliate programmes take advantage of you. For brands, working on an affiliate basis like this is basically a cheap way to get a sponsored post, and to get a blogger to promote their product.
So unless you really feel like you’re going to be able to shift a few of whatever the product is, then personally, I wouldn’t bother.
– I stay at A LOT of hotels. Makes sense for me to recommend my favourites, my readers book them, and I earn a cut of the earnings.
You could join networks like AWIN or do this privately. At least through AWIN there are a lot of products to choose from, from fashion to flights to hotels, but you don’t really get much money. I’m signed up to earn money through affiliates with Booking.com, HostelWorld and Amazon, but the cut you get is minimal.
Going private, like Emily, ensures you get a bigger cut.
TOP TIP: If you do decide to go for it then make sure you agree on a good affiliate cut, and at least get to try the product first!
Basically, the travel blogger and the brand will come up with a mutually beneficial long-term relationship to promote their product, usually with some money off for the reader, and then a per cent of a kick back for the blogger.
6. Paid advertising
I’ve been paid in the past to blatantly advertise a product, like the TransferWise account, and the Tandem credit card. I didn’t use either before I was approached, but since learning about them, I now happily use both and have done for years / months, respectively.
I had to learn about the product, come up with the script for the video, and then integrate my own experiences into what I was saying. These are clearly adverts, and not just brand mentions. I quite like how obvious they are.
Make sure you charge a decent amount for these kinda collaborations. The TransferWise one was uploaded to Facebook and had hundreds of thousands of views. For them to create something like this with actors, lighting, script writers, directors etc would cost a FORTUNE.
Know your worth.
TOP TIP: I actually really enjoyed developing these videos, but just make sure you totally believe in the product or it’ll be a hard slog and too fake to be credible. Also, don’t do too many, you are not an advertising channel, you are a travel blogger.
Basically, the brand pays the travel blogger to create an advert for their product in their usual bloggy way and gets a cheap advertising campaign with some authenticity from a known-ish face.
7. ‘Personality’ Writing
Brands want me to write for them so they can say ‘VickyFlipFlop’ endorses the product / idea etc. I know, fancy. I get quite a bit of work like this through my festival expertise. It’s so that your name can be used in association with theirs, giving you both more credibility.
I’ve done this ‘personality writing’ for many magazines and newspapers too.
This also works with taking over a brand’s social media channels. For example, I’ve been paid to take over HostelWorld’s Snapchat for a week, and Skyscanner’s Instagram Stories. They’re hiring you as a blogger to align with their brand.
I really like being paid to do this, definitely one of my favourite kinds of brand collaboration, and makes me feel special and wanted too.
TOP TIP: Obviously, like all the tips above, only do this for brands you believe in. Don’t get overexcited by how great the brand is and make sure you charge for your time.
Basically, the brand wants to align with the bloggers to sell more of their products, or make their idea or concept more believable.
How to get on the brands’ radars
So that’s a quick round up of the main ways travel bloggers work with brands, but how, does an enthusiastic blogger get on the brands’ radar in the first place?
Few ideas for you…
1. Email the brand
tell them you love them etc and that you’d love to be considered if they were doing any brand collaborations in the future.
2. Interact with them on social
Brands love a bit of interaction. Often, for some, it’s like shouting into an abyss with no response. If you regularly interact, in an authentic way, you’re more likely to get noticed. Get your name out there.
3. Interact with bloggers already doing collabs
For the same reason as the above, and for the fact that you’re supporting your fellow bloggers and will be more likely to be grouped in a category with them. If you see a blogger on a press trip, or promoting a brand, support them like you’d like to be supported!
4. Write about the brand
If you already show you like the company, and you’ve already given them your support, then they’ll be more likely to pick you up on it in the future. Prove your love by recommending them and writing about them on social and on your blog.
5. Pitch them with a really awesome idea
Make it SO good, they just can’t say no.
Travel bloggers + brands
If you can think of any other ways travel bloggers work with brands, let me know, but I think I’ve covered most of it here.