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I'm editing a podcast about bloggers and marketers this week, and thinking about how much room there is for improvement in the way marketers approach bloggers. I wrote about this in the post below.

If you have a blog, I have some questions for you (and please, pick and choose your favorites to answer):

How many marketing pitches do you get, on average, each week? How many of those are actually well-targeted to your blog?

Would you be willing to market products for companies on your blog? What do you consider to be fair compensation for that? (Money? Traffic? Something else?)

Do you indicate, anywhere on your blog, what your marketing boundaries are?
a special guest post by Diane Gilleland of CraftyPod · bench monday: piled. Image by jessica wilson {jek in the box}, via Flickr Creative Commons. This morning, I opened my email and found what I find...
Amy Johnson's profile photoStacey Trock's profile photoCody Nations's profile photoDiane Gilleland's profile photo
I don't currently get many marketing pitches (maybe I'm not a big enough blogger, yet!), but I'm willing to feature a sponsored product (for money) as long as:
1) it's clear that I will be expressing my own personal opinion
2) I will be providing content above and beyond the 'here's a new product' review
I was approached by Tulip (who does tie-dye kits) to do a sponsored post, and they want a tutorial using their product in a new and innovative way. I jumped at the chance, because it forces me to think outside the box to use a product I don't usually use, and make it applicable to my readers. As a result, I've come up with a fairly exciting yarn project tutorial :)
I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing for craft companies to pay bloggers... it's just a different form of advertising, and a way to get their product out there.
I think it's the responsibility of the blogger to make sure they're providing useful information, and not just being a pawn of the craft companies.
I'd say at minimum 10 a week. I am not willing to market products that come from anyone other than indie biz, and a lot of the pitches are from 'big' companies, whom I politely refuse.

I do state my boundaries on my contact/subs page, but they ignore it most of the time.
+Jessica Van Den, ACK! I feel your pain there. :-) I have a page for publicists, too, but it's always painfully clear how many marketers haven't read it. I like your distinction around indie businesses – and the visual placement and editorial coverage you're giving them on your blog.

+Stacey Trock , I completely agree - sponsored content has to go above and beyond "here's a thing, now go buy it" - our readers just won't respond to that overtly-markety stuff.

I think the blogger definitely bears responsibility to make a product relevant to his or her readers, but I really wish more craft companies would meet me halfway on that. I've been asked to "mention this on your blog" or "share this with your readers" so many times - and then I'm expected to do the work of turning that into something more than a boring product mention. In that case, I feel I really should be compensated, because I'm providing a double service to a company - spin AND publicity.
Here's an additional question for those of you who don't get a lot of marketing pitches:

Do you wish craft companies WERE sending you pitches? And for what kinds of products?
haha... that's me :)
My feelings are mixed. One one hand, I see you guys saying that you're getting 10 a week (or more), and that seems like a huge time-sink! So, I sort of appreciate that I don't get a lot of pitches.

On the other hand, I do reviews of crochet items, and some companies are hard to reach. (For example, Clover is coming out with a new line of crochet hooks that I'd love to review, but the only info on their website is their 'customer service email'... so stuff sent there gets lost in the ether) On that front, if Clover was pitching to me, it'd make my life much easier than trying to hunt them down.

In my experience, a large percentage of my customers (crocheters) shop at big box stores (like JoAnns) for their craft supplies. So, to me, an important part of being useful to my audience is reviewing products that they'll actually come across, which means big-company items.

Overall, I'm happy with my current position- I mostly feature indie businesses (knowing my LYS-type customers love it and hope that my big-box customers become interested), and I pursue big-companies about products I think my customers want to know about.
When I had a jewelry business, I worked with one company - they would give me some sample jewelry supplies, which I would create a design with & blog about. It was a good fit for my blog (and I may work with them again in the future) - occasionally I was approached by very strange/off-topic companies about advertising and things like that, and I just ignored those requests.

My current blog isn't big enough to attract that kind of attention, but I am hoping to build a larger audience and be approached by the right kind of companies in the future (craft and/or jewelry supply companies, maybe indie businesses). I'd like to monetize my blog, and this seems like a good way to do it, if you get approached by the right kind of companies with the right pitch.
1. I haven't gotten any crafty pitches, though I've only been blogging for about a year and am still growing my blog and trying to expand on my readership. I did get asked to feature an article about veteran's issues with mesothelioma. I did not ask for compensation for that because I'm both a military wife and a cancer survivor. I considered that my good deed for the day. I did get asked if I wanted to spotlight a shop that was geared towards breast cancer patients. I haven't responded to that one because, quite frankly, the shop seemed scammy. They claimed that part of their profit went to the Susan G Komen foundation, but they didn't say how much and I couldn't find information about WHO is behind the store. And there were some conflicts with my personal beliefs.
2. I would be willing to market products on my blog. Compensation would vary, depending on who approached me. If it's a one person Etsy shop, for example, I would ask for help announcing that the post went live and perhaps ask for less money than a bigger or more established company. My bare minimum would be asking for traffic at the very least.
I don't have any boundaries listed so far. The reviews that I have done are for products that I have purchased for myself. If it was something given to me for free, I would insist on giving an honest review. I try to keep my reviews upbeat but I do (nicely) point out any flaws or cons in whatever the item is.
+Stacey Trock, one thing I was surprised to discover when I was attending a lot of craft-industry shows last year was that a lot of the bigger companies (especially manufacturers) have a hard time understanding how to form meaningful connections with bloggers. So many of them are still operating in an old-media marketing mindset, where mass exposure is the expectation. I mean, their primary focus is huge-scale things like distribution channels and mass-media, so the idea of partnering with a single blogger feels like another planet. Slowly, some companies are coming around to the importance of the blogosphere, but even so, I have to say, some of the clunkiest pitches I've received have come from larger companies. They're still figuring this out.

You're a wonderful candidate for giving meaningful exposure to crochet tools available through big-box craft stores! You have a strong following for your work, and a recommendation from you would have impact. But I think a lot of the industry is a ways away from understanding this. It's too bad, really - there are rich possibilities all over the blogosphere for mutually-beneficial exchanges.

+Suzannah Hamlin , I respect that you've drawn a firm expectation of being paid for exposure to your audience. I think a lot more of us would do well to decide what specific kinds of compensation we want, and then make that very clear.

...And ACK! I get those generic requests to "guest post" all the time, too. :-/

+Leah Hitchcock Ybarra , that sounds like a nice relationship you built with that jewelry-component company. Your comment is making me wonder: will we bloggers be able to get more of those opportunities by proposing them to the companies we target, or if we wait long enough, will companies bring the proposals to us?
Thanks so much for bringing up trade shows. I'm going to TNNA this year (yarn-y trade show, yay!), and I've printed cards with information about my podcast in addition to my usual business cards... I'm hoping that will open up the conversation about blogging with vendors.
I'll report back :)
I rarely get contacted by companies, but I do plenty of contacting myself. If I want to use a product it feels absolutely genuine to promote it on my blog and I'll see if I can get the product free in exchange for the blog exposure. This works for me with fabric and other sewing supplies. When I've been contacted by companies it has often been the wrong fit and I've turned it down. I simply won't recommend something I haven't used or don't actually want.

It would be nice if companies were more comfortable with being contacted by bloggers. Like you said, they're still surprised at the ideal that blog exposure is valuable. But, when I talk to them, they're usually able to be convinced. Like Stacy Trock said, it can be hard to reach the right person.

I do receive paid compensation for my blog sponsors. I've developed a strong relationship with one manufacturer who gives me free product and who I naturally promote all the time because I use their product constantly. I have realized that it would be more lucrative for me if they were a paid sponsor instead of a donator, but at this point it is hard to see how to switch them over.

Once you accept product, it's hard to make the switch to money.
I would love to contact companies that I personally love but I'm not sure how to broach it. Also, at trade shows how do I talk myself up? What do I, as a small blogger, have to offer? Those are questions that I've been wrestling with.
+Vanessa Laven , I think getting compensation in the form of traffic can be just fine. I've learned the hard way to research the company offering the "exposure," though, because in some cases, they don't really have any kind of online audience, so they can't deliver on that promise. But it sounds from your first comment like you do good due diligence when folks approach you.

In terms of how to approach companies, I'll offer my two cents, and maybe others will, too. I think that the two things any blogger has to offer a company are a) genuine enthusiasm about the product, and b) a readership of people who'd also like the product. Your readership doesn't have to be huge. If a company can look at your blog and they like your blogging style, and they can see some evidence of how you present products on your blog, and evidence that people are listening in the form of comments, then they'll very often be glad to talk with you. I do think that the lion's share of companies will prefer to get blog coverage without having to pay for it, at least initially, so you might have to offer them a free post or two before you can propose paid alliances. And keep in mind: for every one of us out here who wants to be paid, there are many others who are happy to blog for free. So you have to offer ways to share products that are original and compelling enough to justify them paying.
+Rachel Hauser , that's a very good point about product vs. money. I once had someone in the craft industry tell me that many companies simply don't have a marketing budget to pay bloggers in money, but there's much more "budget" available for paying in product instead. I suspect this will change slowly over time, but only if we bloggers stand up and demand payment pretty consistently.

I don't really have a problem with payment in product, either, as long as the value of the product equals the value of our time. I've sure seen a lot of offers of just a tiny sample of product, with the expectation of a big, lavish blog tutorial in return. No way - tutorials take many hours to make!
HAHAHA! Definitely "in the air." Man, I don't even want to know how many marketing pitches a guy like Seth Godin gets in a week. Thanks for the link, +Stephanie Ozenne !
My blog is still in it's growing stages, so I don't get many pitches.  But with the few I get, I usually filter them based on whether it's something I would blog about naturally.  I write a craft blog so I'm not going to right a random post on how I love a certain air conditioner.  But, I would be happy to write about a new kind of paint.  So far, the only product I've received to review was a beading magazine.  That was really fun because I was able to actual make a project and give a user prospective.  It fit so I did it.  I would love to be able to do more things like this.
+Jenny Chang , you're making me think that maybe the thing bloggers should do is put together a little "media kit" for their blogs. This could be a simple PDF with some images of projects, traffic stats, a profile of who the audience is, and clickable links to the blog. That seems like it might speak to craft-company publicists who operate in a more traditional-media mindset. And it might be a handy tool for approaching the companies you want to align with.
+Diane Gilleland That is a great idea, especially for those of us who are starting out. I have low numbers but I'm starting to figure out who is reading my blog. Should this be a link/page on our sites? What should I say? I feel like it's a little "greedy" to write: "Interested in having me review your product? Click here for my media kit and contact information!"
+Diane Gilleland I love the idea of the media kit.  Yes, it would really help us look more professional and give them something more traditional to hold onto.  Now, if I knew what to include!  Wanna make us an example, Diane?
It's funny you should ask this, this week. I usually don't accept such requests, unless they involve feeding my craft book addiction with free copies. And even that is rare.

But just this morning, I was approached by a local science center offering free passes for my family (and a few to give away on my blog) in exchange for a post about our experience at the center.  And now I am actually kind of excited to follow up on this one. Hooray free Summer field trip!

I don't like to accept too many proposals. There is only so much my audience is likely to put up with in that department. I know how I feel, as a reader, seeing too many commercial posts pop up in my feed reader.  As a general rule, I have to have enough enthusiasm for the product that I would consider shelling out my own money for it, before I'll mention it on my blog.  And, I have to be excited enough about it to want to spend the time making it interesting.  I have to be able to do the subject justice and not look like I phoned it in for a freebie.

I'm not sure I can make a media kit based on that ;-)  But I guess that's part of my dilemma - I don't want to come across as "too professional." That, of course, is at odds with my wish to make a little money off of my blog. It's a delicate balance.
+Vanessa Laven & +Rachel Hauser , Hmmm... well, since this is an idea that just popped into my head, I don't know that there's any expected methodology for making a blog media kit. Googling, I see that a number of Mommy bloggers have opinions on the subject:,mod=13&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=how+to+make+a+blog+media+kit

...If I were you, I'd include this kind of stuff:

- Your blog's identity: its name, current monthly page views, average number of comments, and current number of Google Reader subscribers. Ideally, your media kit might also employ the same colors and fonts seen on your blog, so the branding's consistent.

- What it is you want to be doing with companies. If you'll blog for review product, list that. If you only want to do sponsored posts, list that. If you want to build long-term relationships with companies, list that. Be specific, so a company can tell at a glance whether you and they are a good fit.

- What it is you want as compensation. Money? Product? Traffic? What kinds of business relationships are you open to making? Don't assume you can get to know companies and THEN sneak in the subject of money. Companies want to get as much as they can for the lowest cost - that's just a business thing. So you can be businesslike about this, too.

- Samples of what you can do. So, photos from your blog that represent how you've featured products in the past. Links to blog posts (clickable is best) that show off your reviewing skills, or other sponsored posts you've done, or product features you've done. If you don't have any, do some using products you've purchased. Give the company a good idea of what kind of coverage they can expect from you.

I think your blog can have a page that generally outlines what kind of pitches you're open to, and you can keep the more specific info and samples to a PDF. Here's a really nice example from Oh, My! Handmade Goodness:

Is any of that useful? I hope so!
I'd really love to see more conversation about the advertising-editorial divide in traditional media, and how that CAN be applied to blogs. I think sponsored blog posts, no matter how genuine the copy, diminish the editorial integrity of the blog. (This is to contrast with sponsorship in the form of, "This post/show/episode/whatever was sponsored by a company that paid for the costs associated with producing it under an understanding that they have no influence on the topic or coverage.")

Ads on blogs are very obviously ads. That a blog may be a one-woman show, with the same person selling ads and writing editorial, is irrelevant if the blogger is clear that ads are ads and editorial is editorial. It's not actually very hard to do. In fact, I'd say it's harder to do it at a big-media craft magazine, where ad buys are significant and ad managers might pressure editorial to cover advertisers' products more, to keep them buying ads.

If a blogger is compensated for writing editorial about a product, they're essentially writing freelance marketing copy for that company. If a blogger writes their own editorial and accepts ads with an understanding that ads reach their audience but don't affect editorial, that's doing it the old-media way.

This may be the one arena of old-media publishing I think needs to be preserved as models continue to fall apart.
+Kim Werker , I have to say, some days I agree and some days I don't. I mean, I have yet to see a sponsored post I've found truly relevant and credible. As much as I love knowing that the blogger was paid something, I also know that the minute I'm aware that a post is sponsored, I usually drift away from it.

...And I agree with the importance of keeping advertising and editorial separate. But there's one big problem I see with this model: the consuming public isn't accustomed to "paying" sponsors with its attention. We've all been bombarded with "free" content and ad exposures all our lives, to the point where we have a sadly passive relationship to our media.

When I have sponsors on my podcast, I try to draw a really clear connection for my listeners, along the lines of "you're getting this show for free because this sponsor paid for you to have it." It should be a three-way, symbiotic relationship: I make the show, my sponsor makes the show free, and the listener makes the sponsor more successful by paying them some attention. But it's hard, in these confusing times, to get that symbiosis forged consistently.
+Lisa Clarke , it really IS a delicate balance. I don't gravitate to blogs that feel as if they'd been "taken over" by sponsor interests. I like blogs that feel like a real person wrote them. And yet, if any of us is going to appeal to a potential sponsor (or donor, or promotional trade like your passes), we have to be able to prove that we can create some kind of hospitable home for sponsor messages – and more importantly, we have to be able to deliver attention from our readers. And definitely, that gets tough to do when we're trying to maintain personal, friendly spaces.
I've just recently begun working more seriously with companies (mostly book publishers) for product reviews and giveaways. At first it was something I was happy to do simply for product compensation, but with the amount of effort I put into writing reviews and hosting giveaways (promoting, etc), it doesn't always feel like it's worth it. Especially when the companies don't seem to be doing much to drive traffic to your review/giveaway.

I recently heard from a publisher I've worked with several times before about a new book coming out. I have a number of reviews coming up already and have decided to start requesting a small fee. The publisher was unable to do a paid review (stating it wasn't in their budget), but offered a giveaway copy for my readers instead. I declined that particular offer--it didn't seem as good a fit for my readers this time.

I've been blogging for a couple years now, and I'm at a point where I need to start monetizing more to justify the amount of time I put into it all. Not that I don't enjoy doing it, but it's definitely a job--one that I love--and working with brands seems like one of the most viable options for generating an income. It's definitely a challenge navigating the waters of blogging for income!
+Amy Johnson , ABSOLUTELY! Blogging can be the equivalent of a part-time job, and companies really do have to come up with ways to compensate us for the time we spend promoting their products. I think a lot of the craft industry is balking at paying in money right now, but that's mostly because not enough of us are asking for it. So I applaud you standing up and requesting fair payment.

+Jennifer Forest , "Push" is a great characterization of how I see many sponsored posts now - just too overt and forced-feeling. It's really tricky to craft a high-value piece of content from a product placement. I do think that more bloggers could request fees for "sponsored tutorials," though, and end up with content readers would be more likely to read. And since tutorial posts tend to have such longevity in the blogosphere, these would be great investments for companies, too.

+Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard , that's an excellent point about planning! I'd hazard a guess that the vast majority of us have kind of backed into this realm of marketing and compensation. I think a lot of bloggers are looking for some kind of "rules" on how all this is done, but the truth is, there are no universal standards. So it's up to each of us to get brave and stand up for our value. The marketing industry won't change its approach to bloggers until we demand it.

...And definitely, books are in a tricky place right now. I'm really liking the story-based approach to blogging about them, but you're right - it's very time-consuming. If I only do story posts about craft books, then I can only cover a few books per year – and I worry that this isn't enough to support the industry. Still, if my readers aren't as jazzed about reviews anymore (which mine aren't), then what can you do?
I just had an epiphany that made me view this all from a completely different perspective:
I often get requests for interviews (as an artist) to appear on (crafters) blogs. So, in a sense, I'm the product getting some advertisement on blogs.
It struck me: a number of the interview questions I get are really rote, canned questions... so I'm becoming hesitant to do them because the blogger isn't really representing me in an interesting way.
So (seeing this from another point of view), it's true that bloggers get lots of icky, irrelevant requests from companies, but it's probably also the case that companies send their products out for reviews, and get boring, canned blog posts written about them... which isn't good, either!
I suppose it just means that interacting online in a meaningful way requires care, effort and attention from both sides to be successful.
+Stacey Trock , that's an interesting point. It really is a lot of work to craft fresh angles on product – or people. And so many of us are trying out being "media outlets" for the first time, it's natural that many of us gravitate to doing things the way we've seen them done elsewhere (that universal desire to know what the "rules" are, perhaps).

I think it's smart of you to consider this element of being interviewed, and the impact of how this presents you and your business online. I hadn't thought of that before. 

I wrote about the idea of "storytelling partnerships" on the blog a while back -  I'd love to see more marketers working with bloggers to come up with meaningful intersection points between the ongoing story a blogger's telling and how a product fits into that. But this model requires a big sea change in the way marketing professionals think, and that will take time. Though I've sure been heartened lately by the way Interweave and Chronicle Books are diving into this fray!
I have never had a company ask me to do this, but I have had a LOT of bloggers approach me and ask me for a free product to review recently. :\ I'm not sure how I feel about it. Some I feel only do it either get a free product, or to advance their own agenda. I don't think enough bloggers ask to do it because they genuinely LOVE a brand and want to give it more exposure.
I agree with you, +Cody Nations , it's dicey territory. I've definitely taken on these kinds of blogging offers in the past because I wanted the free item, only to discover sometimes that I couldn't give it a glowing review after all. 

We all have brands we love enough to blog about for free, but since, as you mentioned, not every blogger follows this practice, it makes it harder for people who read blogs to understand when the coverage is a labor of love and when it's a trade.
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