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Today I’m excited to announce a guest post from a publishing industry insider. By day, Ginger works as a marketing executive in the publishing industry, and below she has provided some thoughts on how bloggers can optimize their blogs for partnerships with publishing companies looking to advertise. You can check out Ginger’s blog here. Thanks, Ginger!

My company is a mid-sized book publisher with a small marketing budget, and as such we don’t have the budget to use an outside PR firm, ad network, or blogging collective to handle our placements. While the company is becoming more open to the use of online media in marketing campaigns, all of our outreach must be created, researched, pitched, and executed in house. While this entails a great deal of work on my end, it also presents a great opportunity for bloggers who are looking for more opportunities to monetize their blogs.

And yet, again and again, I have run into blogger-created roadblocks that have made it almost impossible to give some people my corporate funds. In fact, to date, every single campaign and project I have started has been limited in scope in this way. Below are some of the the problems I’ve run into when searching for potential blogs with which to partner. Eliminating these kinds of problems will make your blog far more appealing to potential advertisers.

1. Make Buying Display Advertising Easy

The easiest way for a company to give you money on your blog should be buying ad space. This is the most “standard” form of blog monetization, and one with which many companies will be most comfortable. But if you want to sell your own advertising, you need to show me right away that you are interested in selling your own ads. You CANNOT hide this at the bottom of your 100 Things About Me page in 8 point font.

Ideally, I like to see ads or ad templates in your sidebar or wherever you’ll be offering them. This shows me immediately landing on your site 1) that you are selling ad space and 2) where my ad might show up on the page. If you don’t have ads running currently, that’s not always a problem. In fact, it generally can work in my favor because it means the chances of being able to get ad space when I need it is generally higher. But I still prefer to see ad templates in that case.

The next best option is a dedicated Advertising/PR page with your information that is clearly linked from your homepage. Again, please don’t hide this, folks. I understand not wanting to shove it in your audience’s face, but if it takes me more than about a minute of searching, I’m going to just click away. At the bare minimum, you need to have some wording on your site along the lines of “if you’re interested in advertising, please contact me for details.” Again, ideally this would be prominently placed, but at bare minimum, please put it NEAR your contact info.

Of course, all of this is a moot point if you don’t have your contact info easily found, or if you never respond to requests for information. A recent ad campaign I ran was hampered by 2 of 15 bloggers not having contact info on their site and 5 of the remaining 13 bloggers never responding to my requests for media kits/pricing. I wanted to give those bloggers my money, but after three weeks of no answer, I had to move on. Don’t let that be you.

2. Pitch Content Campaigns Directly To Brands That Fit.

Sponsored posts are extremely rare for my company (and I would wager for most small to midsized companies). I believe that content column has very high value, but I rarely if ever have the kinds of budgets that pay appropriately for that value. Where we have had luck is in advertising/content column packages where it makes sense. And honestly, this is one of the places where it’s more likely that we’re going to respond to a blogger pitching us than us actively going out and recruiting a blogger. That being said, I have actually turned down a few pitches from bloggers who, on the surface, would be a perfect fit–even when I’ve had the budget. Why?

As a company, I have to decide if we fit with what you produce. And, I’m just going to be blunt here, if I come to your site and see a lot of negative posts about other companies, or something that is a direct (or sometimes indirect) conflict with a book or series we work on–I’m going to have to pass.

Now, I almost hesitate to say this, because of course I’m not going to tell you how to blog, or what to write. But if you’re looking to monetize your site, you need to remember that what you are saying in NON compensated posts is part of the package you are selling a company. It’ s not just your stats and your readers. If I pay you to promote a book, or my company, we’re aligning our name with you explicitly. So if you are constantly railing on other companies (warranted or not), that looks bad on us. If you question things we are publishing, that can serve to undermine our products.

Let me give you an easy example. A blogger saw one of our books on someone else’s site and contacted us about working together. She did a wonderful pitch–the email was polite, to the point, included her media kit, and she gave us the exact thing she could offer up front, with reasonable pricing. So, of course, we went directly to her site to check it out. Unfortunately for her, the first post we saw was rebuttal to a style of teaching young children that we have in several books in our list. We had to say no.

A company has just as many and varied reasons to look at what you do with a critical eye as you have reasons to turn down pitches. Not every company will be as picky as we are, and some will be more so. Keep that in mind as you look to monetization. Am I going to go through your entire archives to dig up everything you might ever have said? No. But I am going to look at one or two pages of posts. I may check out a category that seems to apply to my brand. I will glance through your Twitter stream. And I may, yes, check to see if you have any posts about other companies or products so I can see how you handle writing about those things.

3. Be Meticulous About Your Disclosure Policies.

Let me be really upfront about this. Some companies don’t know what they’re doing in the world of disclosure. They don’t know there even ARE rules, much less what they are. However, many of us do, and it can be a sticking point. If I see that you don’t list your disclosures properly when I’m researching your blog, I’m going to be much more wary of doing business with you. I may not like that you have to do them, but since you do? Do them right, or I’m going to walk away.

Time for another example. We were looking to do a possible sponsorship for someone for a blog conference. We found one person that seemed like a good fit with our demographic for this event View definition in a new window. But right in their proposal they said that they would “post about the company in the weeks leading up to the event (no disclosure).” Now, maybe that’s a gray area to some, but not to me. We passed.

Sure, we could have just talked to that person about what they needed to do, but honestly I don’t have time to inform bloggers of the rules they might need to be following. It’s my job to make sure I’m not blindly putting my company in any potential negative situation, and the easiest way is to just walk away.

4. Learn To Look At Your Blog From A Marketer’s Perspective.

I firmly believe that more and more companies are “getting it.” I firmly believe there are ways for bloggers and companies to work together. And I also firmly believe that there are a lot of small and medium sized companies who are trying to find ways to work with bloggers–but may be hitting these and other stumbling blocks.

Especially if you want to work with small, mid-sized, and/or local businesses–I would encourage you to look at your blog from the mind-set of a harried marketing manager at that business. They need to find value in your site (not always just about your follower numbers!). They need to be able to translate that value to possibly gun-shy upper management. They need to believe that you’re going to be a good partner for them. Every stumbling block you put up makes those things harder.

And finally, I would encourage you to take the lead. Look around your house/your neighborhood/your community. What products and businesses do you use? Think you have something of value to offer them? Ad space, or a paid post, or a conference liaison in exchange for sponsorship? See if the company or business is online at all. If they’re on Twitter, Facebook or have a blog, chances are good that they are at least open to hearing a pitch. Find a contact and go to them. I can promise you that there are small and midsized companies who would love to be approached. Often, we don’t have the manpower or time to find the right partnerships, even if we know they’d be mutually beneficial. If you want to monetize your blog, don’t be your own roadblock, and don’t let lack of contact with companies be what stops you either.

Everybody wonders why some popular blogs are popular, when there are smaller blogs that are more interesting that stay unsuccessful. Though this is not always the case, it’s often very difficult to discern why one blog makes it and another blog doesn’t, particularly if you are prone to forgetting the reality that most people have no ability to sort quality from crap on their own. Most people do not have a highly developed sense of taste, and they rely on other people to tell them what is good and what isn’t.

There are a bunch of factors that lead to a blog being successful. Only one of these things is quality and talent — there is also longevity, the connections of the blogger to other popular bloggers, the phenomenon of the EVENT View definition in a new window, the ability of the blogger to market themselves, and the blog’s story all feed into how popular a blog is. It might seem intuitive that the best blogs seem like the best when you visit them — and sometimes this is absolutely the case — but often this is not true. Something is considered good, much of the time, because somebody influential said that it was good — people who visit the blog are operating on a recommendation from somebody else.

Here’s the thing: back in the day when there weren’t that many blogs to choose from, maybe you checked out each one carefully and decided whether you liked the blog before moving on. There were like ten blogs back then so, you know, why not?

But today, I’m not in the market for any more blogs. I already have too many to read. So when I see your blog, you need to grab me right away and tell me why I need to read you. You simply cannot rely on me to go through and figure out what makes you interesting, because I’m probably not going to do it. And if I’m not going to do it, then you can bet even fewer of the Justin Bieber adoring public is going to bother with it.

If you want to be successful as a blogger, give me a story that I cannot get anywhere else, and make it really easy to find. You have to tell me what it is, don’t count on me figuring it out. There are tons of LOLCats I could be spending my time chuckling over, after all.

There’s a tactic for promotion in blogs that has been gaining popularity about which I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, it annoys the crap out of me that bloggers who do this assume nobody can connect the dots. But on the other hand I’m kind of impressed with their ingenuity, too, so I’m not above saying that maybe this is a good idea to do, given you have certain goals and certain priorities, particularly since so many brand/blogger campaigns seem to gain success from it. At this point, it’s tough to predict what the ultimate effect on trust capital View definition in a new window will be, if there is any.

Here’s how it works: say you’re a blogger who has some kind of gathering coming up — a party, or a conference, for which you are soliciting sponsors. Or, maybe you already had the event View definition in a new window, and you have a list of sponsors who were promoted at that event that you’d like to keep happy. So what you do is, you mention that brand in your blog (or blogs, if you write in multiple places). And the mention is sort of organic, right? Because maybe you actually use the product and actually want to evangelize about it.

Except . . . then the product shows up a few months later in a gift bag at a party you are throwing. Or, the company that makes the product ends up as a sponsor of your event. You can’t really say these things happened because you evangelicized about them, and you definitely cannot call them sponsored posts because it’s most likely no money changed hands for that particular interaction. But . . . still. It’s not exactly disinterested promotion.

Example No. 1: Tieks

For example . . . Tieks. If you’re not familiar with Tieks, they are a brand of ballet slippers that were given away to the attendees of the Mighty Summit View definition in a new window last year. Except just a few months before that, in an ostensibly unrelated move, Tieks were mentioned on Mighty Girl, the blog written by Maggie Mason View definition in a new window, one of the founders of the Mighty Summit. And just recently, Tieks were mentioned on the blog Laura Mayes (another Mighty Summit co-founder) writes for Babble, along with a coupon to get 15% off.

In both of these cases, there is no disclosure of a relationship between the blogger and the brand. And I don’t think there should be, at least according to the way the FCC rules work. But on the other hand, I don’t see this shit flying in the New York Times.

Example No. 2: OPI nail polish

Did you notice that Number 25 on Allison Czarnecki’s life list View definition in a new window is to “Name an Opi Nail polish color“? I’ve always found OPI polish’s names kind of interesting — not sure I’d put it on my life list, necessarily, but who am I to judge? Except . . . the Social Luxe party (organized by Czarnecki) gave out OPI nail polishes in their swag View definition in a new window bag last year, which is fine because maybe Allison is a huge fan of OPI — many people are. But what about the fact that OPI also appears in a gift guide (along with some Aveda products, which I also received in a gift bag last year from the Social Luxe party), and a mention of a new Fall line of OPI polishes also warranted a whole post. , and . .? Are the two things unrelated? And the fact that OPI was a sponsor of the EVO Conference last year (a conference that Allison Czarnecki is in some way connected to, though I’m not clear on the precise terms) . . . is that unrelated? You tell me.

By the way, there are tons of other examples of this — I am singling these out because they are the easiest for me to document, but I’ve seen this happen again and again in blogs recently, spread among a wide population of bloggers. And in nearly every case, this method of promotion is wildy successful — I’d venture to guess that it’s far more successful (and cheaper) than a traditional sponsored post campaign, in fact. There’s part of me that thinks that this is just how things are done. But then, I also wonder if it will have an effect on a blogger’s credibility long term if they lean too much on this kind of officially unsponsored sponsored post to promote their other projects.

What do you think? Am I being stodgy again? Is this just how things are done, and I should go back to my ivory tower? Does it bother you when you see this stuff cropping up again and again? Do you even notice it?

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