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What To Discuss Before Starting a Sponsored Post
Over the years, I have done a lot of sponsored posts.
Some of the experiences have been amazing, and I look forward to working with those companies again.
Others? Well, let’s just say there are a handful of companies I would rather eat dirt than work with again.
For the most part, I’ve been able to figure out the best way to weed out potential disasters before they start, and thankfully, most of my working relationships nowadays go pretty smoothly.
Today, I wanted to share a few things to consider when you are going forward with sponsored content. These are things you should always discuss before you agree to anything.
You should come to an agreement on how much you will be paid for your services rendered. I generally don’t recommend listing your prices on your website or right off the bat, as I feel it removes all room for negotiations. Also, this may vary considerably depending on what you are doing (for instance, one of my 5,000 word articles is going to cost more than a 500 word recipe).
Things to keep in mind when it comes to pay:
- How many posts (I occasionally will give a discount for multiple posts booked)
- How many social amplifications do they want?
- Do they provide a budget for boosting a post?
- Who retains the rights to the pictures and content?
- Does the brand want to repurpose the content?
- How fast of a turn around do they want for the post?
- How many pictures are required?
- Are videos required?
It can be helpful to break out your pricing for everything they want (so show them that a sponsored post is $800, a Facebook share is $200, an Instagram Story series is $300, etc.). This can be helpful in case they want to cut down on costs, so they can know which things they won’t required.
You should also discuss grounds for additional payment. For instance, I was recently working with a brand who hadn’t contacted me for over a month, and all of the sudden they were requesting a full post AND social media posts written in just two days. This situation was very frustrating for me, because I typically require at least a week’s notice for a post, but because we hadn’t discussed this, I hadn’t put a rush clause into our contract. Rest assured, this is something I will always include in the future.
I am getting to the point where I ask for half payment up front. Unfortunately, not all companies are honest, and they can take their sweet time to send you your check. I’ve had companies in the past that stopped responding to my emails and never paid me, or brands that paid me, but only after I reminded them months later.
Make sure you talk with the brand about when you will receive final payment, how the payment will be sent, and, if there are any fees involved (which can happen when you use PayPal), make sure they are going to cover those fees.
Make sure you retain the rights to your work. There’s a lot of legal mumbo jumbo when it comes to who has what rights – but make sure you read your contracts careful and consult with an attorney on anything you are unsure about.
If a company wants the rights to repurpose your content, use in their advertisement, etc., make sure you are being paid fairly! I know people use Getty Images to determine how much to charge per image.
Be aware that many sponsored post companies often have a lot of rights given to them, and the brands they work with. I don’t feel that many of these appropriate (you basically sign all rights over to them to allow them to do whatever they want).
Know up front what the timeline for your posts and social media amplifications will be. I find it extremely helpful when a brand sends me a content calendar.
For example, I recently worked with Staples on multiple posts and social media shares. They were awesome! They were very clear in what was expected, when drafts were due, and when posts and social media was supposed to go up. I really appreciated them knowing exactly what they wanted, and I think it made it a lot easier for all of us.
Make sure you know when drafts are due before you sign the contract. It’s not very fun to get a contract, sign it, and then have them tell you your post is due in two days.
Grounds for additional payment
Build into your contract what grounds for additional payment are. Here are a few things that I would ask for more payment:
- Extra social shares that were not initially agreed on
- Rush fees for post drafts required with less than a week’s notice
- Any kind of training that is required (this is mainly relevant with in person events, but I have known bloggers who randomly had to take some kind of training before writing a sponsored post)
- Writing additional blog posts or creating videos
- Phone calls (beyond initial on boarding)
Discuss the length of a post, what angle the company would like you to for, how many images/videos should be included, etc. You should discuss any specific links or content they want included, if you are allowed to take your own photos (or if you are allowed to use stock photography that you have the rights to), and if/when a draft is required.
If a draft is required (which is typically due to legal reasons), make sure you know what types of legal parameters are in place.
I’ve had a few unfortunate expectations where I have gotten a draft of a post back where there was more red on the post than black.
The last time that happened, I realized I needed to let the company know right away what types of edits were allowed. For me, I tell companies that I have the last edit. They are welcome to make factual or legal changes, as well as correct grammar or spelling, but they cannot change how I wrote things, the focus of the post, or make it sound like an ad.
Legal and Contract
Always, always have a contract. This will protect you and the company, and it really keeps things professional.
If the company provides you with a contract, always make sure you read through it carefully. You don’t want to sign your rights away or agree to never work with a competing company ever again.
If they don’t have a contract, you can provide your own. I highly recommend getting a template from Blogger Legal for contracts!
Social Media Shares
Always check and see how many social shares are required – this needs to be in writing. I worked with a company in the past that expected far above the number of shares I normally include (which is four), and they weren’t willing to pay extra. Because I had already written the post, I didn’t feel like I could negotiate any longer, so I had to do a lot more shares than I initially planned on.
Make sure they know what kind of shares they want as well and what the purpose is. Different social shares call for different pricing structure. For instance, you will likely charge a lot more for a Facebook Live than you would for just a normal Facebook post.
I would also ask them if they are interested in providing an additional budget for boosting a post on social networks. This can be a really great way to expand the reach of your post, and many brands are willing to put a little bit of money to boost it.
What is their end goal?
Be sure to discuss why the company wants to work with you and what they want the results to be.
I’ve found that knowing what the company wants in the end from the start almost always pays off in the end. I’m better able to format my post and social shares to promote that goal.
For instance, if a company is all about the clicks, I will participate in Twitter retweet groups, perhaps add it to my HelloBar at the top of my site, and I will make sure to put a direct link to their site in my weekly newsletter.
It can be frustrating for companies and bloggers alike if a campaign doesn’t go in the direction the brand was anticipating – especially if they didn’t give you that expectation up front.
Know who they consider competitors and how long they expect you to be exclusive.
Typically, I will give a company 30 days of exclusivity following the campaign. For anything longer than that, I do require additional payment (especially if it’s a very wide exclusivity…for instance, a major food brand versus a subgroup of that food brand).
FTC, NoFollow, and Beyond
There are a lot of technical and legal items to keep in mind when you are working with a company.
If they are asking for a Do Follow link, run the other way. This is not appropriate per Google’s terms. If you are unsure what these are, basically, if a link is tagged “nofollow”, it is telling Google not to give extra weight to that backlink for a site. Google specifically has said that paid links have to be nofollow (this is to prevent any one company from paying a ton of sites from help aritifically boost their search ranking positions).
Be on the same page as far as the FTC regulations go. I’ve found companies that try and be a little sneaky about it – and I’ve found companies that go way overboard. I highly recommend reading the FTC guidelines so you can know for sure what is required, what is not, and how to keep both you and the company safe (without totally ruining the SEO for a post!) This is an awesome article from the FTC answering common questions for influencers.
Finally, keep up with social media rules. For instance, on Facebook, if you are doing a paid post, you have to use the Branded Content tool. A lot of companies aren’t really sure what this is, and they may be confused when you bring it up. Some of these companies may require you to be added to a list of pre-approved bloggers in order to tag them, so make sure this is taken care of right away.
Make No Promises
It’s important to do your best when promoting a sponsored post. I don’t recommend just writing a post and burying it in your archives without any promotion (why would you want something like this on your site anyways?!)
However, it’s important to not make promises to the companies you work with. Don’t guarantee them x amount of comments, thousands of dollars in sales, or hundreds of thousands of clicks to their site – because at the end of the day, you don’t have a ton of control over that.
Be upfront about how you plan to promote the product/service, do your best, but don’t guarantee things.