The phrase sponsored post still leaves a dirty taste in the mouths of many bloggers. Companies are still learning how to work with bloggers, so you might still get a ton of lame offers, ranging from press releases to requests for free promotion for a product or service that has nothing to do with your niche.
But if you swear off sponsored posts altogether, you could be missing out on awesome content for your blog – not to mention a source of income.
The Negative Connotation of “Sponsored”
If you poll your readers, asking, “Would you like to see more sponsored posts on my blog?” I have a feeling that 100% would say, “No way!” But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have sponsored posts. There’s this negative connotation with the word sponsored. People read that word and think crap that has no relevance to me that the blogger published because they were paid.
Stereotypes happen for a reason. Many bloggers do publish crap that has no relevance to their readers simply for the cash, and that’s a problem for three reasons:
- Your readers aren’t getting high-quality content.
- The sponsor isn’t getting any bang for their buck since readers aren’t clicking their links.
- Companies everywhere see this continue to think this is what bloggers want.
There’s a bit of a revolution with sponsored content happening right now, though. Companies are beginning to realize point number two – that they aren’t getting any benefits from the money they’re spending on on sponsored posts. But it’s up to us bloggers to take it a step farther and educate companies on what we really want. That way, the word sponsored won’t make readers shudder anymore.
A Three-Point Rating System
Whenever I’m pitched by a company, I use a three-point rating system to determine whether or not it is a good fit for our blog.
- Is the topic relevant and interesting to my readers?
- Am I being compensated for my work?
- Will the content be unique for my website or is everyone in the niche posting it right now?
So, for example, let’s say that XYZ company sends me a press release about a celebrity chef for my food blog. They offer to send me to his restaurant for a free meal and pay me for the post. Is the topic relevant and interesting? Yes. Am I being compensated? Yes. Is the content unique? Well, it’s a press release, so probably not.
Let’s say that a start-up offers me access to their new social media monitoring product and payment to post a review of it on my fashion blog. In this case, I’m being compensated and since it’s my own review, it would be unique. But will readers of a fashion blog want to know about a social media monitoring tool? Probably not.
Now let’s say that a third company, 123 Travels-R-Us contacts me to write about their new hotel deals site for my travel blog. They offer to send me a unique post about how to save money booking tickets online, which links back to their site. However, they do not offer any kind of compensation for publishing the post.
So I should say no to all three of these offers, right?
Get the Sponsored Content You Really Want
The answer is no: No, I (or any blogger) should not just say no to the above three offers. As bloggers, when we get good but slightly “off” pitches like these, we have the chance to educate companies about their content marketing strategy and get awesome content for our blogs – all while getting paid!
If a company satisfies none of the point on my three-point system, it’s probably not a good fit and working with them will likely be a huge headache. But if they satisfy one or, better yet, two of the points, we can probably work together. They just need a good teacher!
Respond to the email, not in an attacking way, but in an understanding way. They have a job to do – promote their own company. So tell them exactly how they can better make that happen on your blog.
- “Dear Company XYZ, I would love to promote your chef to my readers, as I feel they’d be very interested in visiting his new restaurant. Instead of posting a press release, though, I think you’ll get more interest if I can do a unique interview with him about his food. If that sounds good to you, let’s work out the details.”
- “Dear Start-Up, Your new social media monitoring tool looks great, but unfortunately most of my readers are fashionistas who wouldn’t be interested in this topic. However, I am willing to review it as a guest post for such-and-such blog about social media. Does this interest you?”
- “Dear 123 Travels-R-Us, I checked out your new site and it looks fantastic! I’d love to promote this to my readers. Attached, you’ll find my rates for sponsored posts, and I also have package deals if you’re interested in sidebar or newsletter advertising as well. If you’re interested, I’m happy to talk to you more about my traffic numbers and audience demographic.”
In all three of these cases, the company might not be interested or they might not respond, but you’re sending a clear message:
- Bloggers want unique, quality content.
- Bloggers want relevant content.
- Bloggers want to be paid fairly.
When you can satisfy all three points, you’ll not only be paid for your work, but your readers will enjoy the post you’ve published. Sponsored doesn’t have to be such a dirty word if the details of the sponsorship are very carefully worked out. The vast majority of readers don’t care in the least that you were paid to write something (as long as you’re honest about that, of course); they only care that what you write is something they want to read.