So you’ve had some successes as a travel blogger and you’ve reached the point where you’d like to begin collaborating with brands and sponsors. That’s understandable. I have found that accepting sponsorships is not only a wonderful experience in itself, but it also aids in building the professionality of your brand for future opportunities also.
Of course, before we begin let’s just clarify here that there is no such thing as a “free” lunch and equally, there is no such thing as a free trip. Expect to work incredibly hard for your keep. Acknowledge that this isn’t just a freebie, but a brand putting their trust in you to promote them internationally and therefore they will have several expectations from you in return. Press trips are often competitive to get onto, and once attained, your schedule is likely to be absolutely jam-packed, leaving little wiggle room to keep up to date with other work commitments.
During my recent trip to Israel and Jordan, my sponsor organised an activity or a tour on every day of my schedule. Assured it was amazing, but it meant that the time on this trip was time not earning so much from my regular freelance writing gigs.
So now we’ve got our attitudes in check, let’s look at how you can go about working with a sponsor.
Have an Angle or a Niche
When I reached out to my sponsors in the Middle East, I expressed to them that I wanted to address people’s fears about the risk of terrorism and the “dangers” of travelling to this part of the world at the moment. I advised them that I had travelled to the Middle East several times prior, and loved the culture, food and the people and I wanted to share it with the world and assure them that yes, the Middle East is perfectly safe, even for a solo woman like me! In parallel to reaching out to sponsors, I spoke to travel publications and magazines about my idea and name dropped those that were interested to my sponsor.
Boom! That’s how you create a hook that a travel company or tourism board will love. My message to dispel stereotypes about the region worked far better than a simple “Hello I’m a travel blogger that is looking to travel to the Middle East”
Have an Attractive Package
Uhhh not that kind of package! Pardon you and your smutty mind! No, I’m asking you what exactly can your brand offer the company? Generally speaking, you need to have some substance to your blog if you’re going to be reaching out to brands. If you’ve just started out it doesn’t matter how witty or eloquently written your four blog posts about backpacking in Thailand are, the PR reps are going to want something a little meatier. They want to trust that they are going to get a return on investment and know that you are dedicated to professionally building your blog.
With that said, numbers aren’t always everything. Not all companies are looking for incredibly high site statistics, particularly if your blog perfectly suits the demographic that they are trying to target. My blog now sees 15,000 unique monthly visitors. That’s alright, but I actually started receiving sponsorships when I was at just 4,000 visitors. It’s all about how you word it. For example “fresh young travel blog with 40% growth in viewers month on month” sounds far better than “travel blog with 4,000 visitors a month”.
Some brands expect high site stats, others are happy with simply an actively engaged audience, and others prefer a high Instagram following.
What are you offering?
Travel companies aren’t in the business of giving out press trips to every Tom, Dick and Harry that comes asking for a freebie. What exactly are you offering that makes it worth their while? Generally speaking, the more pies that you have your fingers in, the better. The blogger that is an absolute wordsmith, can take incredible photographs, and has a high social media following is an asset. If you write for external sources, even better – a brand is more likely to want to work with you if the content you will be sharing externally has a wide reach in addition to that of your own blog.
Form a Clear and Concise Email Pitch
Your pitch should be sufficiently detailed that your sponsor knows what you are setting out to achieve without becoming waffly. If you have a media kit, attach this document. In summary, the email should include:
- A brief introduction to you and your brand
- Details of what you want (the more specific, the better. If you want a free stay then ask for it, don’t go beating around the bush!)
- Details of what you can offer in return
- Key statistics (use google analytics to access accurate data on your site stats and reader demographics. Do not lie or exaggerate here as your sponsor can and will check up on you, therefore damaging your reputation)
Be Clear On What is Required of You From the Onset
Ensure that both yourself and your sponsor are on the same page. For example, if you promise them “social media coverage” then what exactly does that mean? 1 Instagram post? 5 Instagram posts? 10? By making sure that you are both explicitly clear from the beginning, you can avoid any potential awkwardness later.
Be a Gracious Guest
By all means enjoy the experience, but deliver all of which you have agreed upon and don’t take advantage. For example, don’t go throwing hissy fits about minor problems with your itinerary or demanding all sorts of additional extras like you’re J.Lo. Word of mouth in the travel industry about a bad apple blogger spreads fast, so don’t be that guy.
Under Promise and Over-Deliver
Ultimately, you want the collaboration to end with your sponsor being pleased that they took the opportunity to work with you. Don’t agree to deadlines that you know aren’t realistic. Confirm timeframes with your sponsors and then aim to beat them. Go the extra mile and add in an additional post or social media share. If the sponsor is happy, it works in your favour as you can request a recommendation from them, which you can then use as a reference when you approach further sponsors in the future. Wonderful!
Of equal importance is to check in with your sponsor – don’t accept the trip and then disappear into the abyss. Let them know how your trip is going, and clarify if they are happy with your work at that juncture, and whether they will require anything further. Always be professional.
Have Confidence in Your Blog
It seems like a lot to consider at first, and when I first started reaching out to sponsors a year ago I was terrified and I didn’t want them to think that I was just being a freeloader asking for things, but what you need to remember is that travel blogs are a channel for international marketing. Working with bloggers is a much more economical marketing choice than a commercial or a billboard as it involves far lower costs, and enables brands to reach their target audience directly.
In summary, sponsorships are a great opportunity for you and your blog brand. As you begin to work with more and more companies, you will find that your own readership and stats improve each time also. The more brands you work with, the more professional your blog becomes and thus the more doors it opens up for future opportunities.
Have a question about sponsorships or have advice that you’d like to share on the matter? Let me know in the comments below!
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