Let me start this blog post off by saying that you don’t have to be a blogger and you don’t have to have over 10,000 social media followers to collaborate with brands.
This past week, I landed a dream collaboration with a brand called Princess Polly. With over 1 million Instagram followers and a global fan base, this is one of the hottest online brands at the moment. After I shared this collab on Instagram, a few people asked me how; how did I land this collaboration? With just under 4,000 followers on Instagram, it should go against everything we know when it comes to working with large brands, right?! Wrong.
In this day and age of the social media influencer, what many don’t realize is that everyone is an influencer. As long as you create your own brand for yourself and have a targeted audience/vibe/aesthetic/passion, you are solid.
So let’s get down to the basic steps you should take before you go pitching yourself to Ralph Lauren.
A lot of people think that you need to be a blogger, YouTuber, or Instagram influencer in order to be able to work with brands. On the contrary, I’d actually venture to say that if you’re not one of these things, it may be easier for you to work with a brand.
Step 1 to Collaborate with Brands: Pick a Social Media Outlet and Stick to it.
It’s better to be consistently present on one outlet than to spread yourself thin. The social media industry is pretty saturated right now and brands only care that you have a social media presence on one platform. It will be easier to pitch yourself to a brand when they are able to see your history of content, your voice, and your audience, which can all be done with one platform of your choice.
Step 2 to Collaborate with Brands: What’s your “thing”?
Let’s face it; brands receive tons of inquiries from bloggers/influencers on the daily, either via Instagram DMs or emails. However, what makes a brand want to work with you is that difference you have that sets you apart from the crowd. Further, a lot of people think that you need to be a blogger, YouTuber, or Instagram influencer in order to be able to work with brands. On the contrary, I’d actually venture to say that if you’re not one of these things, it may be easier for you to work with a brand. Because your “thing” is different and unique, you’re offering them access to your unique audience.
For example, let’s say that you work in the music industry. If you have a pretty engaged audience on one social media platform, you’re totally able to pitch yourself. You just need that one thing. Maybe you love expressive fashion, or you’re obsessed with sneakers. This is what will decide which brands you reach out to.
I hate the word “niche,” but it really is true that the more specific you get, the more opportunities you’ll have. When you pitch yourself to a brand, you will be able to share exactly who you are and what you love. On top of this, your audience most likely enjoys the same things since they are following you and engaging with your content. Therefore, you have that amazing asset to offer the brand.
Step 3 to Collaborate with Brands: Know Your Worth + Value
Now that you have a presence on social media and created your own brand, you’re able to land some collaborations. There are only two ways to secure these collabs. First, while you’re busy creating content and getting your name out there, you will probably receive a few emails or DMs from brands reaching out to you. Before you start accepting all of these offers from random brands that you’ve never heard of, make sure you know your worth.
You will probably get spammed on Instagram from random online retailers asking you to join their affiliate program. Or maybe you’ll receive an email from a Chinese retailer asking you to collaborate. Don’t make the mistake of accepting things just because they’re “free” because in reality, you’re spending your time and energy creating content for this brand. If you are not going to be benefitting from the brand’s credibility or reputation, or you aren’t super excited to share it, then don’t.
As a creator, blogger, entrepreneur, artist, etc., you have a say when you collaborate with brands. The collaboration is just that: a collaboration between two people or entities that are benefiting from each other’s efforts. When you do find a brand that makes sense to align with, make sure that you always operate from the mindset of value.
As in, how will you create value for this brand? Here are just a few examples:
- creating three high quality images for them to use
- by creating a video for your audience using only that brand’s items
- sharing the brand’s story with your audience through a blog post
- granting them access to your audience, which is a similar demographic to theirs
Step 4 to Collaborate with Brands: Pitch Yourself.
You can sit around and wait for months for your favorite brand to reach out to you, or you can find their email and just do it yourself! The worst that’s going to happen is you get a no. And seriously, who cares? Just keep working and growing and you’ll be on their radar soon enough.
But where do I pitch the brand?
Personally, I’d stray away from pitching a brand through DMs. Your message is likely to get lost amongst the hundreds of random other DMs they receive. On top of this, it’s just not as professional. Definitely email the brand!
But how do I find the right person’s email address?
Typically, most brands have an email address in their Instagram bios. It may not be the person in charge of PR or collaborations, but it will still work. In my experience, I have just sent my pitch email to the generic email in the brand’s bio and they’ve either put me in contact with the correct person or forwarded my message to them themselves.
If there is no email in the Instagram bio, now you can try to shoot them a direct message. Tell them that you are trying to reach their public relations department, or you are wondering if they have a specific email for collaborations.
Aaaand if this still doesn’t work, you can try LinkedIn stalking.
Buuuut how do I know what to say?!
This is where we all get stuck, isn’t it? We aren’t sure what to include in the email and the more we think about it, the more we freeze up and don’t send anything at all! The trick here is not to overthink it and just send the first email. It’s a collaborative process and oftentimes, the email thread will continue for weeks until the collaboration is complete! So don’t overthink the first email. Simply include who you are, what social media/blogging platform you utilize, who you are as a brand, and how you can add value to them.
This is the exact email pitch I sent to a brand that I ended up landing a collaboration with:
See how easy that is?! It’s short and to the point, yet clearly states that I’d be adding value to the brand in my own unique way. After the first pitch email is sent, the brand will either respond back saying that they’d love to collaborate, or that now isn’t the best time. Don’t get discouraged if this happens; it just means that they may not have the budget for influencer marketing right now.
Three Things to Always Include in Your FIRST Pitch Email to Collaborate with Brands:
- who your target audience is
- what you plan on creating from the collab / how you’re going to add value to them
- links to your socials/website/media kit (not necessary, but never hurts!)
Now, you’re probably wondering what the h*** a media kit is. If you don’t come from the world of PR, creating a media kit seems like a daunting task. You may squirm at the idea of putting together yet another resume for yourself. In reality, it’s actually fun putting these together because you can get as creative as you want. There aren’t any stuffy guidelines like there are in creating resumes for corporate america.
Creating Your Media Kit
You don’t absolutely need to create a media kit. In fact, most of my collaborations never even mentioned the idea of one. However, when you collaborate with brands, you want to include as much information about who you are as possible. This includes your engagement rate, your stats, some of your past collaborations, etc.
The only thing that I would stray away from, especially if you are first starting out is including rates in your media kit.
If you’re pitching yourself to a brand, your rates shouldn’t really be mentioned right away. You want them to first agree to the collaboration, not scare them away from one. The media kit should be helping round you out in your pitch email and if you already have created one, then why not include it as just icing on the top of an amazing pitch?!
Here is my actual media kit:
I created this media kit on Canva!Simply go to Canva.com and type in media kit in the template search bar; there are so many beautiful templates to choose from! Or, you can just create your own.
Things to include in your media kit:
- a short bio about who you are
- describe who your audience is
- any social media / blog stats
- any relevant past collaborations
- where the brand can find you
If you don’t have any past collaborations, you can include what types of content or services you provide. Additionally, if you’ve been featured in any type of publications or articles, be sure to include that as well!
Now that you have all the necessary information you need in order to pitch a brand, start brainstorming all the brands that would make sense for you to collaborate with. Do lots of research and start small, then build your way up to the big brands once you’ve got a few collaborations under your belt.
Ideas on how to collaborate with brands if you’re just starting out:
- Find local boutiques in your area and reach out to them.
- Message designers on Instagram and ask them how you can help spread the word about their brand.
- Join Facebook groups. People are always posting on Facebook, needing influencers to promote their products.
- Join third party influencer networks, such as Collective.ly or Obviously.
If you have any other questions about how to collaborate with brands, please leave a comment below or ask me directly over on Instagram! Check out my page here.
I’d love it if you would subscribe to my email list! I will only ever send you amazingly helpful information. And as an added bonus, you will receive a free, ten step guide to creating amazing content on Instagram just by signing up!
Thank you so much for reading and I wish you all the success on your journey to landing brand collabs!
15 thoughts on “Collaborate with Brands; a How-To Guide”
Loving this advice! So important to work with brands that have synergy. Forwarding this along to some clients of mine!
Thank you so much, Michelle!! Appreciate that 🙂
Great tips! I typically don’t include a lot of photos of me, but I guess I need to start!
It definitely helps when developing an audience!! Thanks for reading 🙂
This was a wealth of info. I think I screenshot the whole thing lol. Thank you so much for sharing
Ahhh, thank you so much Sarah! I’m glad you found it helpful 🙂
Love the points you included about doing thorough research about the brand you’re interested in collaborating with. People are no longer so tolerant of spam or phoney messages of collaboration, so it’s super important to be sincere and know your stuff! Thanks so much for sharing.
Exactly, Joscelyn!! I totally agree. Just a simple “hi, I’d love to collab” will definitely no longer work and is honestly pretty rude and entitled of someone to do. It’s a two-way relationship 🙂
Thanks for these thoughts!!
Saved to use this when working with my students on personal branding. Loved how thorough the information was.
Thank you so much I really appreciate that!!
love this content. Thank you very much 🙂
Thank you so much!!
This was great! Thank you very sharing!
Thank you for the great info! I would never have gotten this by myself!