Red Flags When Working With Brands

.Before I get started – I’m not going to “name and shame” or throw shade at any specific brands here. There’s a time and place to spill the tea but this isn’t it. I’m writing this post to help new bloggers (and some seasoned ones too) to spot the warning signs when you’re negotiating brand collaborations – before it’s too late!

Over the last 11 months I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing companies, brands and charities and I’ve built great working relationships with them. All of the brands who have featured on my blog have been amazing to work with. If you reach out to them or they reach out to you – you’re in for a treat. However, I’ve had some pretty negative experiences too.

These have been some of the biggest red flags I’ve come across:

Impersonal E-Mails

This is probably the most common annoyance. I get a lot of e-mails opening with “Hey MsMegan91!”. To me this suggests that they’ve never read my blog (or made it past my Twitter/Instagram account!). Plus chances are, they’ve probably sent the same e-mail to LOADS of different influencers in hope that some will bite.

I also get e-mails from strangers asking if they can write for my blog. I’m very open to guest posts but when people send back potential post titles about exercise, it’s extremely obvious that they’ve never even visited my blog. Exercise doesn’t fall under ANY of my blogging categories. Guest posting should add value to your blog and any posts by a different writer should ALWAYS compliment your brand.

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Ghosting

I used to think that “ghosting” was something people do on dating apps but apparently some brands are in on the action too! Recently a brand reached out to me about a potential collaboration. I was super excited about it, e-mailed them back straight away with some ideas and then…nothing. So I sent a polite follow-up e-mail to check that the project was still going ahead…nothing.

Unfortunately this does happen to bloggers quite a lot so I try not to get too excited about collaborations until everything is 100% agreed. I’m a firm believer that it doesn’t take much for brands (and bloggers!) to be honest. I totally understand that sometimes budgets don’t stretch. As a result, projects have to be pulled. But it’s only fair to let all parties know instead of leaving people hanging.

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Compromising Your SEO

Once again I had a brand reach out, we had some really good conversations. I’d say we were about 90% of the way to reaching a deal. Right before I committed to the project, I received an e-mail from their marketing team. It said:

“Apologies – I forgot to ask. If you’re happy with the above, please can you provide a followed link back to our website as part of the terms?”

Do-Follow links are a BIG no no for me. It can affect your SEO (how your blog ranks in search engines) AND your Domain Authority. For me, it’s just not worth it. I’ve put in a lot of time, energy and hard work to get my blog to where it is today and no brand collaboration is worth that risk.

If you’re unsure about the difference between a “do follow” and a “no follow” link – Maria has written a great post about it.

Don’t Disclose Your Partnership With Us

Some brands will ask bloggers/influencers NOT to disclose the fact that the post is sponsored. Not only is this dishonest to your readers, it’s also ILLEGAL. Do not fall into this trap. If a brand asks me to do anything shady like that – I will not continue with the collaboration.

At the top of every sponsored blog post (or in the caption of a sponsored Instagram post) I ALWAYS make sure that my readers know that I’m partnered with the brand and/or that they’ve paid me for this content. It’s good practice and it keeps yourself right.

Review Our Product..Without the Product

I think it’s important to note here that if you’re writing a Wish List or a Gift Guide – this doesn’t always apply. As long as you’re not writing about the quality etc of a product when you’ve never tried it. I’ve done gift guides and wish lists for Gifts Less Ordinary and The Old English Company in the past and they’re a lot of fun to do.

Related Post: My Homeware Wishlist with the Olde English Company

HOWEVER

I was recently contacted by a brand asking to collaborate. I promise you this is directly copy-and-pasted from the e-mail I got! Names and brand names have been taken out, of course.

Hi Megan

I am **** contacting you about Megan Says.
 
There is a collaboration we have in mind – the brand is ************* 
 
What do you think about post coverage on your blog about – Bedding Tips for Small Bedrooms – Right kind of bedding can transform any space.
 
If you like we can make the post in two sections– one for small bedroom tips, second for large spaces. So there is versatility for the readers. 
 
This is not a product review so sending items will not be possible right now.

Please get back to me with your budget expectations.”

This blew my mind.

1. They didn’t even want me to write the post.
2. They weren’t going to send me any product – they expect me to endorse their opinion about THEIR OWN PRODUCT without ever having tried it myself. Effectively, they’re asking for advertising space.

There is truly no budget high enough for me to be dishonest to my readers and put my name to anything I don’t 100% agree with or believe in.

 

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Review Our Product..Here’s 20% Off

I wish I could say I was exaggerating when I say that I get at least 3 of these per week. They usually come in by e-mail and through Instagram DM’s!

These messages are typically worded something like this:

“Hello MsMegan91

Here at *Insert Unknown Brand Here* we love your style of blogging! We want to invite you to be a BRAND AMBASSADOR. It’s an opportunity that cannot be missed!

All we need to you to do is write a post about our BRAND NEW products. Here’s a discount code so you can get 30% off  your purchase AND an EXCLUSIVE discount so your followers can get an AMAZING 10% off!

If we like your post, we might even share it with our Instagram followers at no cost to you!

Can’t wait to see your post!”

I cannot stress ENOUGH how important it is to know your worth in these situations. We all have a dream brand that we would happily collaborate with for free but sadly there are a lot of brands out there who are willing to take advantage of bloggers and influencers. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work for brands in exchange for free products. Far from it. But you should never have to PAY OUT OF YOUR OWN POCKET to promote a brand!!

How To Decline a Collaboration

If you’ve spotted one or more of these red flags, and it’s put you off a collaboration, make sure that you always let the brand know.  This can be a bit awkward, but it has to be done. It’s important that you are polite in your e-mail, no matter how ridiculous their requests were. You don’t want to earn a reputation for being rude.

I always make sure to include the reason for not wishing to continue the partnership. This way, it gives the brand the opportunity to reassess their terms and conditions before reaching out to more influencers and hopefully create fairer and more mutually beneficial collaborations in the future.

Here is a template of an e-mail I had to send a company recently when they asked me to include a “do-follow” link in my post:

“Hi ********

Hope you had a great weekend! I am really keen to work with ******* – however I do not place “do follow” links on my blog as it negatively impacts my Domain Authority.

I hope we can still collaborate and I look forward to hearing from you.

All the best,

Megan”

red flags working with brands pin

To round it all up…

As a blogger, authenticity is SO important to me and I would never want to lie to my readers. If I’m sent a product to review – I will be 100% honest in my review. I will not enter into any contract with a brand that states I MUST give them a positive review. If I’m talking about a brand or product on my blog, it’s because I GENUINELY love them and would recommend them to others.

I hate seeing other bloggers being taken advantage of, so if this post helps even one blogger out – then I’m glad I wrote it.

With all this being said, if you’re a brand reading this post and you want to create a fun, authentic and meaningful collaboration with Megan Says, please visit this page – I would love to hear from you!

2 Comments

  1. Roland Legge
    September 17, 2018 / 12:40 am

    Good advice Megan. I appreciate your suggestions. Thanks Roland Legge

    • megansays
      Author
      September 17, 2018 / 9:12 am

      Thanks so much for reading!

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