Establishing Long Lasting Partnerships Online

In March I joined the Digital Allies team to bring my social media expertise and relationship building skills to our digital marketing strategies.

Fast forward eight months, I have successfully implemented outreach tactics and created innovative influencer marketing campaigns for our clients. Today my focus is exploring how best to establish long-lasting partnerships online from both a marketing executive and influencers perspective to benefit a company’s online presence.

Relationship building is what makes the world go round. It’s a basic human social skill; we build and work on our relationships every day. I’m on both ends of this relationship we’re discussing today since I’m both a blogger and a marketing executive.

I run a successful North-East lifestyle blog in my spare time called Zest Of Alice. Before I started my career in digital marketing, I had no idea about the blogging community or what a blog space actually was. It really fascinated me when my eyes were opened to it, and I was constantly inspired by other bloggers.

Last year, the likes of Inc. and Forbes predicted that influencer marketing would explode in 2017 and they were correct. inc. recently conducted a survey that revealed 84% of marketers planned on executing at least one influencer marketing campaign during the next 12 months. It’s not surprising after hearing that businesses are making $6.50 from every $1 spent on influencer marketing from the Influencer Marketing Hub, if that isn’t an exceptional return on investment then I don’t know what it!

Something I do know is what brands expect from influencers and what influencers expect from brands. We have to work in harmony with each other or else it just doesn’t work. 67.6% of marketers consider finding relevant influencers their largest influencer marketing challenge according to the Influencer Marketing Hub, which isn’t surprising as this technique to marketing simply needs to be spot on.

Let’s start with how to create a relationship with a brand from an influencers point of view. I always feel rewarded when a brand reaches out to me; they’ve found me of their own accord and they’re excited about working with me. Many public relations or in-house brand marketing teams lay out exactly what they expect from working with you, whereas others aren’t as clear. I’ll be honest, I don’t as a digital executive because I want to build lasting relationships with influencers, not just a one-off job.

When a PR has a personal conversation with me – not just about an opportunity – it makes me more excited as a blogger to work on a campaign. I always reach out to bloggers and influencers in an approach that I’d be engaged with and I truly believe that personalisation is key to that. It’s up to influencers to then be receptive to that. There’s no bigger turn off than an email back that just says “Hi, what’s your budget?’ after that initial interest email.

First impressions are everything when it comes to the creation of a relationship. And that leads me to my next point, it would be amazing if every brand just emailed influencers first and asked to work together, but sometimes it doesn’t work like that. Bloggers and influencers have to put themselves out there. You have to promote yourself, you’ve got to show what you can do and blow your own trumpet.

Again, I’ve been on both sides of this story. I’ve received an email from a blogger asking to collaborate and I’ve sent an email to a brand asking to collaborate. Here’s an example of what not to do; I received this just a few weeks ago: “Hi, I heard you’re the PR person for xxx and I’d be grateful for a pair of shoes in return for a review. Thanks.”

As a marketing executive, I’m not going to want to collaborate with you on that basis. Here’s what to say: “Hey Alice, how are you? Happy Hump Day! I was just dropping you a quick line to see if you’d be interested in working closely together? I hope you don’t mind but another blogger who you’ve been working with gave me your email. I love xxx and would be honoured to share some of their recent ranges with my readers. My social stats include xxx, my domain authority is xxx. Let me know, kind regards.”

Now that would be an email I would be engrossed with. It’s personal, it’s informative and it gives me, as a marketing executive, a chance to explore and research this blogger or influencer’s content and social channels. This is an email that I’ve received and I’ve used as a template to outreach to brands as a blogger. The same applies to ‘cold calling’ a brand. I don’t mean picking up the phone, I mean emailing them directly. You have to present how you’d help the brand, what use you are to them.

From a brand’s point of view, if you want to reach out to an influencer, the same applies. Be personal, be friendly and be your brand. Get to know the person you’re building a partnership with and most importantly, ensure they’re the right person. 54% of influencers say they will work with brands who respect them as they would any other publisher, said the Influencer Marketing Hub. And finally, be firm. You don’t want to go in there straight away demanding whatever it is you’re after, but do outline your objectives because if you just send an influencer something in hope that they might feature it, spoiler… they’ll never feature it. They’ll think you’re just being nice.

So, what’s the next step after you’ve gained their interest and they want to work with you? Clarification of a campaign objective, partnership and budget. Don’t be afraid to just ask what’s expected of you if you’re an influencer. Once you’ve established what their expectations are, you can begin with whatever it is they’ve asked for whether it’s an Instagram post, or a blog post or a link.

Link building is my speciality. For those of you who are unsure of what link building is, it’s the process of actively trying to increase links pointing to a website. Every link you acquire is essentially a vote towards the website, which impacts positively on a website’s SEO and ranking factors within Google.

Budget is a taboo subject within the influencer-brand partnership. Every influencer has a different price and a different media kit and it’s really about knowing your worth. I appreciate blogging and even microblogging is a full-time job for some and is a sole income, so why shouldn’t you charge the same as a freelancer? But, just to reiterate my point about knowing your worth, don’t get ahead of yourself. If you can’t justify why you charge that amount, don’t charge it. It’s a sad truth and an old-school approach but most marketing teams only look at numbers and followers for results. You could be the best content writer in the world but some brands only want to know you for your social reach, domain authority and traffic statistics.

However, as times change, there are a small minority of marketing teams who now concentrate solely on engagement and blog content, which is great for small timers. It’s the approach I take too as a marketing executive; I’d much rather invest in a blog or influencer that is going to make a difference, get that engagement and create good, quality content.

Marketers reading this, my advice to you is to respect influencers and bloggers. Would you go to Marks & Spencer and ask them to produce ingredients for your dinner and then define or even barter down their price? No, you wouldn’t. You’d accept the price and get what you asked for. I do understand that some of you might have brand marketing budgets, so just be upfront and explain. Honesty really is the best policy.

Quality content is the result of a good partnership. There’s no bigger feeling of disappointment from a professional perspective, if you’ve crafted a relationship with an influencer, firstly for them to delay producing a piece of content and secondly for it to be below expectations. Good content and coverage is what marketers are looking for, not a brief mention.

There is nothing more satisfying than sharing a fantastic piece of coverage with a client. And if the client sees it and loves it, I’ll be back in touch with more opportunities and ideas. If you want to create a lasting relationship with a brand or agency, you need to work hard for it and continue to impress them.

For example, I’m currently working with a PR agency who support the online efforts of a very well know British craft company. As a result of the content I’ve published on my blog for the company, they’ve now asked me to get involved in another campaign for a new client of theirs. Now, myself and the PR company are working closely with each other. They produce the opportunities, I produce the content.

A brand partnership isn’t a one-way thing. What I hope you’re taking away from this is three things: how to manage expectations, how to build relationships with a brand or influencer and how to continue that relationship.

Alice Fairweather
Written by Alice Fairweather

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