Ask Elizabeth: I’ve been thinking about reaching out to other brands to see if they want to collaborate but I want to do it the right way. I don’t want to sound like I am just trying to get things for free. Do you have any tips for collaboration etiquette or something like that?
YES! I am all about collaborating and working together. When we connect and support each other, trade services, buy local products, sponsor bloggers who can create wonderful images of our products, and everything in between we grow stronger. I often say that a rising tide lifts all boats – and I fully believe it! I think there are SO many ways to collaborate there is no right or wrong way to reach out and connect. Maybe you want to ask someone to be on your podcast. Maybe you want to share some local pottery on your blog. Maybe you want to send your friend a book you wrote for her to share on IG. Whatever it is, I want to encourage you to do it! However, it is important to keep some things in mind to make the first interaction and the whole collaboration go smoothly.
#1 KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
This may sound silly, but I cannot tell you how many emails I have received that pretty much sound like this, “Hey! I love your blog. We should collaborate on something!” While it is kind & so fun to get emails from my readers & followers, emails like this are no help. First I have to dig around to see who they are and what they are all about (heck, I don’t even know if they are a blog or shop or just fan!) and then I have to email back with some ideas of my own or – what I usually do – email back to see what they had in mind. More often than not they don’t have an idea, they don’t have a pitch, they just want to work with me. And usually they are new & small. There is nothing wrong with new, small brands reaching out but when they expect me to do all the work (figure out who they are, come up with the ideas, and organize the collab) I’m usually out. I don’t have time to pitch everyone who pitches me.
My first rule in reaching out to anyone is to have an idea and a specific pitch/ plan to present to them. They may get back to you and tweak some things but having a plan helps whoever you are reaching out to envision working with you. And of course, in any organized pitch, you would include information about yourself because you are trying to show them why you would be a good fit! If you want more information on creating that initial email, here is a post I wrote on Formatting Professional Emails and it walks through all the steps!
#2 BE RESPECTFUL OF THEIR TIME & TALENTS (EQUAL VALUE)
So you may want a local pottery studio to send you some mugs so that you can photograph them and blog about them. Don’t just say “Hey send me things for free and I’ll share them on my Instagram” instead, outline what you have to offer and what you will provide in exchange for a set of mugs in a respectful way. I think trade collaborations are great and I participate in them all the time (PS: I also turn some down.) If this is the case, you need to present and equal value of trade when you reach out. Collaborations thrive when both sides feel like they are getting a good deal out of the time, effort, work, and product. If you are a blogger, receiving product in exchange for a blog post or social media posts is one of the most common collaborations. But a great collaboration could also mean me working with Tide on a paid post because I’m providing a blog post, exposure to my followers, social promotion, and high quality photos for them to use on their channels with social credit. With some collaborations I only do IG posts, others blog posts, and others only sponsored posts (product + payment.) To do this well, you need to be aware of your stats, what you offer and bring to the table, and what you are worth. You also need to compare it with what is being offered (or what you are requesting) of the other party.
BUT collaborations don’t always have to monetarily equal out. Sometimes you may want to offer more because you really want to work with the brand or are super passionate about what they do. Other times you may know that working with a brand would require a lot of time and work and effort so you can only do it if you are paid in addition. That is okay! It goes both ways. The main part in all this is to make sure both sides are getting an equal perceived value out of the collaboration.
This also works for asking people to be on your podcast or guest write for your blog or review your product on their blog. This works for any collaboration you may be reaching out about. If you want someone to be on your podcast, realize they are putting aside 2 hours of their time, preparing for your questions, and putting in work to showing up for recording. Make sure that you are offering an equal trade. If you are a small podcast and cant offer payment or exposure – don’t ask the busiest blogger you know to work for free to be help you out. Do you see what I mean? Make sure that equal value is always there!
#3 COMMUNICATE CLEARLY
If there is any delays or problems that come up, make sure to communicate them right away to keep everyone on the same page. Life happens but having someone ghost on you when you sent them free product is not okay. Be open and clear and over-communicate. I also love to email when things are going on schedule. Updates about receiving product, an early share on IG, a fun email about your upcoming photo shoot – all that adds to the collaboration experience. The more you communicate, the better both sides feel. Sometimes brands forget to send product or product is defective – that’s okay, clear communication fixes those problems right away.
#4 DELIVER WHAT YOU PROMISE
YAY! If the other party says yes and you have a plan to work together, make sure you keep your side of the bargain! Whatever agreement you came to make sure you are meeting it and deliver what you promised. Create the content you promised, share it on time, and even go above and beyond on a couple things. I love doing more than I promised because it just makes the collaboration more of a success! It is also easy to throw in a couple other links, include the product in another related post, do two Instagrams instead of just one, etc. If anything comes up, clearly communicate the issues and set a new date of completion – you can’t just say “Sorry the photos didn’t come out.” If worst comes to worst, return the product (so no one is out ) and move on. This has never happened to me and I would try to avoid it as much as possible because it impacts your reputation!
Okay! Those are my tips! If you follow all four of these things, your collaborations will run smoothly and really help build your brand! Together we can do a lot more than we could do on our own! What are some of your experiences with collaborations? Have you had good or bad experiences based of any of these etiquette points?
Do you have a question for Ask Elizabeth? Leave it in the comments or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!