While many exchanges for sponsored posts with brands happen via email these days, there is power in getting on the phone (or Zoom call). In addition to showcasing your sparkling personality & adding a human element to the business exchange, you can also ask clarifying questions that can manage each others expectations, help you establish the appropriate fee for your work, and preemptively make adjustments to the agreement based on your preferences and know-how. Below I’ve listed several key questions you should be asking on every call with a brand, and why these are important to ask.
“Does your team have a budget to support this campaign?“
If you haven’t established a budget already in initial email exchanges, this would be one of the first questions I would ask. Even if you think what the brand is offering (a free trip, expensive handbag, or once-in-a-lifetime experience) is enough for whatever work they’re asking of you, I still recommend asking this question. You don’t know if the brand has set aside additional budget to compensate for this work, and as I always say to the influencers I manage, you don’t get what you don’t ask for. Notice, I am using the term “work” very deliberately. Remember that content ideation, photography/videography, editing, posting, the cost of equipment you use, and the audience you publish to, all have value. Asking if a brand has budget isn’t gauche, it’s business.
“What is your timeline for this project?“
If you’ve been in this industry for any period of time, you know that brands and agencies are notorious for quick turnarounds and expedited timelines. To understand whether this fits into your editorial calendar, and if you can feasibly do the work in the time frame expected, you need to establish an expectation of when the first round of content is due, and how quickly they’re looking for you to publish. If the timeline is aggressive, you can discuss your rush fee for expedited work. This is standard.
“Why did you select me?”
If you received an inbound lead from a brand or agency, meaning they reached out to you first, it is always a good idea to ask what drew them to your account. Was it the fact that you have a primarily regional/local audience, your photography or videography style, or a high engagement rate? It could be all of those! I like asking this question because you can get a better understanding of what the brand is looking for, and where they expect you to add value in this collaboration.
“Do you have a creative brief you can share? And, is there an ideal set of deliverables?”
A crucial asset you should have prior to moving forward in a partnership with a brand or agency is a creative brief. This way, you get a feel for what type of imagery and content the brand is looking for. If the mood board, or sample posts, they provide are a significant departure from your typical style, this may be a sticking point, and ultimately result in an unsuccessful campaign. Having this in your hands, or your inbox, prior to signing an agreement is necessary; largely in part that most contracts require you adhere to the creative brief, even if the brand provides it after signing. If you do sign a contract without seeing the creative brief, and there is language in the contract that requires you adhere to a brief to be provided at a later date, you are agreeing to terms that you’ve never seen before.
“What are your goals for this campaign?”
Does the brand have key performance indicators for determining success of this campaign? Let’s certainly hope so! Goals for collaborations can vary from brand to brand, but some typical KPIs are conversions to purchase, use of promo codes, a certain number of assets the brand can use in their digital marketing and on their social channels, general brand awareness, and program sign-ups. It is important to understand what their goals are, so you can be sure to tailor content to meeting them, and hopefully leverage your successful campaign for future collaborations.
“How is the brand looking to use the content I create?”
Generally, a well-developed collaboration means they aren’t just looking for you to post your content and be done with it. Brands will likely want to be able to use the content that you create on their own social channels, in a newsletter, or even on their website. They may also be interested in whitelisting your content, and you should know for how long and on which platforms. All of these things come along with a price tag. You can either price this separately to a brand, or bake it into your total fee.
“What is your approvals process? Are there any rounds of revisions built into this scope?”
This may be covered in the creative brief, but if not, it is important to know how many hoops your content is going to have to jump through to get approved. Does the agency have to approve it, and then it gets sent to the brand? How long will that process take? If they aren’t a fan of your visual content, are you required to re-shoot? If so, will that push back your publish date? Depending on the type of content they’re looking for you to create, it might be important to establish a re-shoot fee, especially if you have to purchase props, travel to a specific location, or hire a photographer.
“Does your brand/agency have standard payment terms? Are you able to pay a deposit up front?”
You have to know when you’re getting paid. Most businesses are NET30, meaning they pay in 30 days from receipt of invoice, however, I’ve seen them go up to NET120. If they have a longer payment term, I usually increase the fee by 10% every additional 30 days. It’s also worth asking for larger projects whether a brand is willing to put down a deposit up front; I generally ask if there are more than two separate pulses of content for an up front payment. Lastly, are there any late fee terms? Generally a business won’t build this into their contract, but it never hurts to ask.
“Some non-negotiable terms and conditions I have are (insert your preferences). Are you able to make those adjustments the agreement?”
I put together a definitive guide to all of the things you should be looking for in your contract. On calls, I usually make sure that in a business’ standard terms and agreements that there is mutual indemnity, the influencer retains ownership over all the content, and the brand has right to my likeness only for the Term of the agreement and only pertaining to the scope listed in the agreement. You’ll figure out what items are important to you, and it is easier to bring these up on a call prior to receiving a contract to establish an expectation, and potentially prevents you from having to red line an agreement.
“Who do I contact if my payment is late?”
Last but not least, get the Accounts Payable contact. Late payments and miscommunications regarding payment are a reality of any industry, and it is important to know who to reach out to (and even have the contact listed in the agreement). Your current point of contact is likely not the person who is issuing payment. When you ask this question, you can position it in a way where you ask who your invoice will be submitted to, and to avoid clogging up your point of contact’s inbox, the best person to reach out to should there be any delay. Ultimately, you’re doing them a favor by eliminating a touch point, and directing a question to the person who will have the answer to your question.
Next time you’re on a call with a brand or agency, be sure to pull this post up and run down like a checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything. And, if you’d like an actual checklist, I’ve created one for your below. Happy collaborating!