As an Instagrammer, receiving a like on a photo makes us smile, gaining a new follower feels awesome, and opening an email from a company you love fills your whole body with giddy excitement – yippee! There’s no getting away from it that one of the (many) perks of our job, our hobby, our something-we-fell-into-but-had-no-idea-this-was-where-it-was-going-to-lead – our Instagram feed – is working with brands. Whether it’s a small, independent store you have the pleasure introducing your followers to, or a well-known mega company, either way, it feels pretty amazing and can also be the way to make this your full-time occupation. But for some of us, the ones who’ve never had to be our own boss, who’ve never had to communicate with professionals, negotiate our terms, speak money, or have been away from the professional working world for any stretch of time (maternity, paternity, studies, etc.), this can be overwhelming and bewildering. What’s the correct etiquette? Is it formal or informal? Should I contact them? Or wait to receive the emails? Well, this is what I have found over during the last year since migrating my Instagram account from a hobby to a business.
I’ve split this blog post into two separate posts – How To Reach Out To Brands and When Brands Reach Out To You – and this is the first instalment.
Reaching Out To A Brand
Some people prefer to sit back and wait for brands to contact them whereas some prefer to put themselves out there. For me, I was one of the latter and started to reach out to brands once I’d reached the 15k follower mark as I was impatient, wanted to be heard, and wanted to gain further experience in the process of collaborations. I’d received offers of collaboration before this, but not as many as I hoped, so I got proactive and reached out to them instead.
What you need to know:
First of all, the Press office/social media managers/PR contacts are extremely busy people. Mega busy in fact. The social media side of any business is increasingly becoming more important and more influential, as that grows, so does their workload.
If you want to work with that brand – particularly the larger, more established ones – then you can guarantee that 1000+ other bloggers do, too. Some will have bigger followings, better engagement, better images – it’s a competitive world, but don’t be disheartened, we can’t all be what a brand is looking for every time. On the flip side, however, you could be exactly what the brand is looking for. For an extremely busy PR department, receiving an email from someone who they believe to be the perfect fit for their brand at the perfect time, is a major plus for them. You’ve just saved them from hours of traipsing through social media trying to find exactly that. It can go either way, but you won’t know until you make the first move.
There is a chance you could send out ten emails and not receive any responses. It happens. However, some PR teams, (although they won’t inform you of this) may store your details and consider it for future collaborations. You may not hear back within days, but you may receive an email in the following weeks or months.
There is no magic amount of followers that you need to reach before you start pitching to brands, just be realistic. The likes of Topshop aren’t going to be interested if you have a few hundred followers, but a small, independent brand may be worth contacting if you aim your account at a niche market and have an actively engaged audience, even if your following is relatively low. You know what you can offer them, so if you believe that you’re a good match, tell them so.
How Should I Start?
Once you’ve considered your numbers and what you can offer any prospective companies, write a list of your dream collaborations. Whether you dare to reach out to them yet is irrelevant, penning down your future goals and aspirations is a great way to gear you up and have a goal to work towards. Once your dream team is written down, write down a list of brands that you believe would be a good fit for you and your account now. Who do you think you could really shine for? Don’t be too scared to think big; Jaeger reached out to me when I had just 8000 followers, so anything is possible.
The next part of the process is sometimes harder than pressing the send button. You know how I said the PR department is exceptionally busy, well they’re also extremely hard to find. When reaching brands, you can’t just email any employee within the company; you need to hone in on the person who manages the department who you want to deal with. Now, for this, you may have to brush up on your detective skills (you’ll be happy to know that all of those skills you gained from years of Facebook stalking, didn’t go to waste). You need to look out for job titles such as:
Social Media Manager
Start by visiting the company website, although it’s rare, some do list their PR contact clearly on there. If you have no luck, try Googling ‘PR contact for…..,Social Media Manager for…..’. LinkedIn will usually suggest various candidates for you, but always check their current job title and employment dates – quite often they may have moved on from the role and the brand in question. If you manage to uncover a name, but not an email address, you can return to the company website and use the emails listed on there to determine what the company’s emails sign off with – firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. This takes time, effort and some serious digging, but if as a result, you do reach the relevant people, then it proves to them that you’re determined and willing to do the leg-work.
Once you have your list and your contacts, you now need to write a killer email. Keeping in mind the two earlier points – social media managers are busy, and you won’t be the only one pitching. You need to stand out; you need them to notice you. My first pitches to brands were abominable – Hi, I’m Dominique, this is my Instagram account, would you like to work together? – nothing screams I’m just a girl who wants some freebies more than that. Since then, the emails I send to companies have thankfully improved and so has the success rate. So, here’s what I include:
A short description about myself including links to my website and my Instagram feed (my Twitter and Facebook accounts hold a relatively small following, so I don’t direct any traffic to them; but, if yours do, then include links).
Why I’m contacting the brand in question. Why I think my account and the brand work well together, and it doesn’t hurt to tell them how much you admire the work that they do.
My collaboration idea. Ok, so I may have mentioned that social media managers are busy, well I’m going to say it again – they’re busy! PR departments barely have time to read your email, so to also expect them to think of a concept for the collaboration, is asking too much. Give them a narrative behind your vision, explain to them what the collaboration looks like to you. This doesn’t mean creating a shopping list of all the products you hope to receive, but you can divulge on your ideas. For example, when planning for my spring capsule wardrobe, my aim was to delve into the world of ethical fashion. I selected a range of sustainable fashion brands that fitted my personal style and followed the above steps. Within my email I explained to them what I planned to do with their products – I’m an owner of a capsule wardrobe, and my goal is to become more ethical towards my fashion buys. I then digressed further and explained that I would love to include their products within my new wardrobe, which would result in a feature in my spring capsule wardrobe post, my weekly What I Wore series, and on my Instagram feed. By detailing the full story, you reduce the amount of toing and froing, and the amount of email conversations between you both which is a bonus for them. They don’t need to think of a collaboration concept; you did the work for them.
When reaching out to brands should you attach your media kit? This part is down to personal preference. From experience, if I’ve approached a brand they seem more reluctant to pay; product yes, money no. Maybe I’m not forceful enough, I don’t know (perhaps, I should hire Penny to carry out all of my negotiations, she’s scarier than me). I guess it does make sense, though, by being proactive you’ve put the ball in their court. Unlike when they’re the first to make contact, this time they instantly know that you want to work with them, and they haven’t and don’t have to offer you the world to achieve this result. For this reason, talking cash with a company that haven’t made the first move may be out of your comfort zone, however, attaching your media kit – even if you’re comfortable accepting product only – can show the brand you’re serious and that you mean business, rather than just hoping for freebies. You’re showing them what your services would usually cost so that they understand your worth. I’ll leave this one up to you.
Click the send button. Yes, now. You may hear something back, you may not, either way, you’re getting your name out there, you’re being heard, and you’re gaining experience. All of which are positive steps when growing your business. Good luck!