Reaching out to a new brand can be a little nerve-racking. This may be your first formal interaction with a brand, and the first time they’re being prompted to take a serious look at your account. You want to make sure the first time they hear from you leaves an impression and makes an impact. As someone who has deployed influencer marketing campaigns for brands, pitched brands on behalf of influencers I manage, and pitched brands for my own personal account for over five years, I’ve nailed down a formula of best practices in order to get brands excited about working with you. I’ve even shared a sample pitch below for you to use as a template. Follow these steps below, and you’re sure to get responses even from of the biggest brands.
Before You Pitch
Follow and Engage with the Brand
This may seem like a no-brainer to some, but you would not believe the number of times I’ve had someone reach out to me saying they “loved the brand” and they weren’t even following, or, if they were following, hadn’t liked any of the brand’s recent posts. That, to me working on the brand side is a huge red flag, and makes me think that you’re just batch pitching, and don’t actually care about the brand I’m working on.
Share the Brand Organically
If this is a brand that you’d like to work with, you’ve probably talked about them before. Tagging the brand in a post where you’re using the product or service, mentioning them (and linking back to the product or brand website) on your blog, or even providing swipe-up links to products you’re talking about on Instagram stories. Brands receive notifications when you do these things, and especially stories, it leaves a paper trail of every time you’ve talked about a brand.
Join their Affiliate Networks
Are you actively using affiliate links on you social media channels now? Perfect, send a request to the brand to join their affiliate network! This is a great way to preemptively ping the brand and let them know that you’re interested in sharing their brand in a way that is valuable and measurable to them. You’ll be able to leverage link clicks later.
Find the Right Contact
Getting in front of the right person is half the battle. If you’ve done the above, you may have likely gotten a response from someone on the brand team who could be a good first person to reach out to. For example, if the brand “hearts” your story where you tag the brand, then circle back with them via DM and ask for the best person to send an email to for influencer marketing. Since you’re already in their DMs, it won’t get lost in the Instagram ether, and they’ll be able to see how many times you’ve mentioned them in the past. When you’re accepted to affiliate programs, you usually get in touch with someone from the brand, and they’re a good place to start your search as well. If all else fails, look for the media contact online, or just send a note to their general customer service email. Any one of these has yielded great results for me!
Develop a System to Track Your Pitches
Planning on reaching out to a lot of brands? Having some sort of tool or system to keep tabs on every email you send is crucial. If you don’t, you’ll soon find your inbox becomes overwhelming. I like using Trello to track my pitches, and you can learn about it more here: My Most Recommended Small Business Tools. Another tool that I talk about on the blog post is Streak, which is a Chrome plugin that allows you to see when emails are read, and where. This will be helpful info to track through your pitching process.
What Should Be in Your Pitch
Links to Your Primary Platforms
Make it easy for a brand to see your channels by linking to them. Depending on the pitch, and what type of content you’d like to create for them, pick your top two channels that would be of interest. For me, I’m usually selecting from my blog, Instagram, and Pinterest (sometimes I link all three). Alongside those links, call out how many followers/monthly viewers you have on each of their platforms. The goal is to make this as easy as possible for the recipient.
A Specific Piece of Content You’ve Created that Would be of Interest
Alongside links to your channels, consider sending them a direct link to a piece of content that may be of interest. Whether it’s a post where you’re tagging the brand, or a piece of long form content commenting on overarching theme that’s trending in the industry, keep it relevant to your pitch and your recipient.
Identify a Needs Gap that You Would Fill as a Creator
Brands get pitched all the time. What makes you different? How are you helping them solve a problem? When I first started pitching sport-focused brands, for example, I realized that there weren’t many women who were talking about those brands who weren’t professionals. It seemed like such a glaring gap in the content that was out in the world, and I called out that gap when I reached out to those brands. Maybe there’s a way to use a specific product that isn’t being talked about, perhaps because it’s taboo, or only serves a niche community… whatever that needs gap is, identify it, and articulate that in your pitch.
Your Plans & Goals as a Creator, and How They Intersect with the Brand
Giving a peak into your plans and goals for you channels allows brands to visualize how they fit into your content. Sharing specific types of content that you’re looking to create, or overarching themes that you’d like to cover are both effective. I would recommend being a specific as you can. If you have a specific blog post in mind, or a trip coming up that would be a perfect location, tell them that. I would also share how that aligns with your goals… are you looking to educate and empower your audience to make good purchase decisions, or inspire them to try something new? Share that in your pitch as well.
Mention the Brand
Actually mentioned the brand by name. Any brand receiving a pitch wants to feel special; like they are the pinnacle of an ideal partnership for the creator reaching out to them. That means, you need to use their name and call out specific products/services you love.
Here’s a sample pitch that you can base your future pitches off of:
How to Best Follow Up
You may not get a response from the brand right away. Not to worry! Their inbox is probably pretty regularly inundated with requests, which is why you wrote such an awesome pitch to stand out, right? Don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back immediately. In fact, look at it as an opportunity to provide more context, value, info, etc. I always recommend sending a follow up two business days after your initial pitch. From there, 5-7 days for each follow up after that.
Have Your Media Kit Ready
Wanna hit em with all the metrics, recent collaborations you’ve done, and examples of your work? Time to leverage your kick-ass media kit. It’s important that your media kit isn’t included in your initial email because some inboxes may mark an unknown email account sending an attachment as spam, and we don’t want that to happen! Your media kit should include:
- Key performance metrics: Engagement rate, average saves per post, average Pinterest pin impressions
- Relevant brand collaborations: I have three different media kits for my three primary content pillars, e.g. business tips, travel, and outdoor sports. I then select the brands in each category that I work with and include their logos.
- Examples of content: Make sure to share images that are relevant to the brand that will be reviewing your media kit. Do a mix of sponsored and editorial content (if you have sponsored content examples to share).
- Follower demographics: Brands want to know who you’re talking to. Make sure to include gender, age and geographic percentages. If you have even more dialed in info, like brand affinities, average household income, and categories or topics that your followers care about (you can find this through platforms like Pinterest).
- Your rates: We want you to get paid, so let them know that you charge for content. Even if you’re reaching out for a trade collaboration, it’s important to remind them that your content delivers value, and is worth something. Include a variety of a la carte offerings, and also some packages that you find perform best.
- How to get ahold of you: Your media kit may be passed around internally with the brand, so make sure you list your email, and your address (if you’d like to be included on gifting/product seeding lists).
Circle Back in the Brand’s DMs
If you’re not getting a response from the brand through email; touch base with them via their DMs. Let them know you’ve sent an email, include the email address you sent your pitch to, and ask if that is the right contact, as you aren’t receiving a response. If I received a DM through a brand account saying that an email isn’t being answered, it would rise to the top of my to-do list to make sure that they get a response.
Keep it Short and Sweet
Your follow up should never be as long as your initial email. Re-state your interest and let them know you’re looking forward to hearing their thoughts. If you are going to include a media kit, call out that you’re attaching their media kit to have on file and review. Thank them in advance for their time and consideration and call it a day!
Potential Outcomes & Next Steps
The brand got back to you – yay! I’m going through some of the typical responses that you can expect to receive, and how best to respond.
“Tell us what you had in mind…”
Here’s your chance to shine and send the most specific ask you can. Share your exact concept, what the deliverables would be, the expected timeline, how the brand would be integrated, and your ask to the brand, e.g. whether you want to get paid, if you’d like a specific product, the terms of a giveaway, or if you’d want them to syndicate your content on their owed social media channels.
“We’re not working with influencers right now.”
Not right now, no problem? Let them know that you’re going to follow up in a couple months to see if anything has changed, and mark whatever tool you use to track pitching to check in a little ways down the road.
“All of our influencer campaigns are currently full.”
At this point, you know they’re working with influencers. Score! This is a good time to ask when is a good time to follow up for their next campaign. You’re putting the ball back in their court and asking them how far in advance you need to reach out in order to be considered for the next campaign.
“We don’t have a budget to work with influencers.”
If you were hoping to land a paid campaign, this might be a bummer, but they’re still leaving the door open to build a relationship and establish trust. Some of the brands I’ve enjoyed working with most, I worked with on a trade basis for months before asking for payment. You make the decision as the creator what is worth it for you. In some instances, some of my favorite collaborations have been trade because the brand saw that I valued our partnership and provided me with amazing value in product, experiences, and visibility to a highly targeted audience. Eventually, you’ll be able to bring some numbers back to them to demonstrate your impact, and they may consider you when structuring their marketing budgets in the future.
Join our affiliate program.
Find yourself talking about this brand all the time? Take advantage of their affiliate program. It also demonstrates another level of buy-in with the brand. Do your platforms not lend themselves to benefiting from affiliate links? Kindly pass, articulate why you aren’t joining affiliate programs, and asked to be considered for other types of opportunities to collaborate in the future.
“Can you send us screenshots of…”
Time to pony up and send the quantifiable proof that you’re the real deal. With so many influencers purchasing followers and engagement these days, this is a perfect reasonable question for brands to ask. Send screenshots that they’re asking for, and even include screenshots that they may not ask for (blog UMVs, most saved posts in the last 30 days, metrics of some of your most successful pins, etc.)
“I’ve forwarded your request to the appropriate team member.”
What a frustrating road block. They’re not letting you know who the proper point of contact is, and you’re stuck with a customer service or agency gatekeeper who isn’t a decision maker. There are two ways to approach this: 1) Ask them point blank for the proper contact. Perhaps use the excuse that you want to send your media kit directly, or have the point of contact for sending an updated media kit in the future. And, 2) Use LinkedIn to figure out who the proper person is to reach out to, and then ask the gatekeeper for them by name. Say a little white lie along the lines of: “I think Sarah Smith was my previous contact, but I can’t seem to find her email, could you loop her into this thread?” Works like a charm.
“We’re happy to gift influencers, but we can’t pay.”
Make a determination as to whether this is an offer you’d like to consider. Could you parlay this trade opportunity into a paid one with a comparable brand in the future? Do you want to position your social channels with that brand because that is inherently valuable? Is the thing that they’re gifting you going to make your life measurably easier? Is the monetary value of this item equal or larger than what you charge for the requested coverage? Take all of these things into consideration when making the decision on how to respond.
“We don’t think you have good enough performance.”
In my experience, this is largely a scapegoat for brands. I say this because they usually provide this feedback without asking to see any screenshots or metrics. I usually respond asking what metrics they’re referring to, and what type of performance they would like to see in order to be considered for a collaboration in the future. If they provide an engagement rate, ask if that includes sends and saves, which are metrics that they can’t see just be taking a cursory look at your account.
“Your account isn’t a good fit for us.”
What an awesome opportunity to be curious. Don’t take the “no” and walk away. Ask why. Maybe they’ve determined that you don’t talk to the audience you’re trying to reach. Perhaps their mission is about sustainability, and they noticed you featured a fast fashion brand recently. Whatever the reason, it’s always great to have more information, and potentially feedback on something you can work on to be more appealing to brands like theirs in the future.
For all of these potential outcomes the key is to keep the conversation going… even if it’s months down the road. If it’s a brand you really want to work with, figure out a way to get your foot in the door, turn a “no” into a “maybe”, or make a promise to touch base in the future when there may be an opportunity. Let them know that you’re going to continue to be interested, and demonstrate that with thoughtful follow-ups. With that mindset, and the tips I’ve listed above, you are sure to find success.