How To Create GREAT Sponsored Content

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First off I just wanted to start this post by saying that in the few years since I started getting paid work across my blog and social channels there’s been a heck of a lot of sponsored content that hasn’t been great. Heck, it hasn’t even been good.

Creating advertorials is very much a learning curve, and there’s posts from a couple of years ago and even a couple of months ago that I’m like WHAT THE SWEET LORD DID I DO THAT FOR?

And spoiler, the answer is usually to pay my bills and to afford to eat. Lolz.

So this is a post for newer bloggers, or bloggers only just jumping on the paid-for content band wagon. But more than that, this is a post for brands and agencies who are still wading through murky water. Brands who haven’t yet started working with influencers on a paid basis, and agencies who just don’t quite get it yet.

 

PUSH BACK

The amount of brands that come to me and say ‘we’re running this campaign with xxx and we’d love you to write a post about how their new product has given you a huge confidence boost for summer’. Which is a lovely idea except a) I’ve never tried said product because it’s BRAND NEW and b) a whole post about a product that’s changed my life? Sure, sure because that doesn’t read like one big giant advert.

I get the impression brands go through 738632 meetings about the angle of the content they want before actually speaking to bloggers and finding out what works for them – what sort of content gets people reading and clicking and shopping and engaging.

And it’s OK – more than OK, it’s important – to push back with your own ideas and say what will work and what won’t work, to be honest, to open up a gateway of communication where you’re throwing ideas back and forth to make sure it works for both of you.

And hey, if they’re not willing to budge with their campaign idea and it really doesn’t feel very you, is it really even worth it?

 

BUILD A LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP

You’ll see that there are some brands I work with over and over again, some brands whose emails I get super excited about seeing in my inbox not only because I know you guys love them as much as me but because FUCKING HELL THEY MAKE MY JOB SO EASY.

Brands like Primark and Cath Kidston and Matalan and La Redoute, brands that are super happy for you to just go ahead and do your own thing.

Brands who say can you pick product and get something up on this date? Brands who haven’t basically written a short novel depicting exactly what they want you to say (because hey it’s only your blog, why should you have a say on how a sponsored blog post reads? Lolz).

If you create content that the brand’s happy with, that your readers engage with and you make super easy to work with (i.e. you can work to deadlines, you actually reply to emails and you’re polite) chances are that brand will want to work with you again in the future and that’s just aces.

 

THINK ABOUT HOW YOU WOULD USUALLY INCLUDE THAT BRAND

I find doing sponsored fashion posts pretty simple because I do quite a lot of stand-alone outfit posts that don’t have an angle aside from LOOK AT MY SKIRT or LOOK AT MY BAG. But with beauty and lifestyle brands I like to think about how I would usually include that kind of brand.

Is it a packing post? Is it a what’s in my bag? Or blogging essentials? Or tips for feeling positive every day? Or fave summer beauty products?

When a brand comes to me, I try and pitch my own ideas where possible because I don’t want my sponsored content to stick out from my non-sponsored content. I want you to be able to go on my homepage and not be able to tell the difference at first glance because everything feels very Hannah.

 

PR OR AGENCY

I work without an agent, so I deal with all my sponsored collaborations myself. When the emails come through they’ll either come directly from a brand, through the PR agency the brand uses or through a company who pairs influencers and campaigns.

My fave way to work by far is directly with the brand, not just because it’s great to build a relationship directly, but because there’s often more room for negotiation on ideas because there’s no middle man.

Often brands are more keen to hear your ideas (yes you, the gal with all those magnificent ideas that have managed to hook in a readership so far) and what works best for you in terms of both reader engagement and the content feeling as organic as possible.

So if you’re a brand wondering if you should outsource, I’d say give it a go yourself – outsourcing often means no-one will be as passionate about your brand/product as you are and no-one will quite get it the way you do.

 

KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO

Often I’ll do a first draft (not all brands want to see a draft before the post goes live just FYI, some are happy to just let you run wild) and a brand will come back to me with a zillion changes.

Which, when they’re spending mega bucks (or just y’know, some bucks), I totally get. BUT, often the changes will be asking me to include phrases and key messaging that sound on par with Nicole Scherzinger posing about with a Muller Light. As in, they’ll be so fake and cheesy that I know you guys will read straight through it and be like HANNAH BBZ, WHAT YOU DOING? Which, if anything, is going to paint that product in a negative light.

So the answer is always to compromise – talk it through with them and never agree to write something that makes you feel just a tiddly bit ashamed of yourself.

DECLARE

Obviously it goes without saying that there’s no great sponsored content without declaration that it’s sponsored.

I like a classic ‘this is a sponsored post’ on a blog post or #ad on Instagram because I find #sp a little misleading if you’re not down with the kids – but it’s all up to personal preference. There are currently no rules that state you have to declare an advert in a blog post title (although this is different for YouTube), which is why I like to make my titles as authentic as any other pieces of content i.e have the same editorial angle.

You can check out the ASA guidelines if you need a little more help.

So in summary – communicate what works for you, come up with your own ideas, always declare and when in doubt SAY NO. Trust me, it’s actually freakishly liberating. Oh and be polite, it’s a small industry and there ain’t nothing worse than getting a reputation as a blogging diva…

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