168: How to Add More Value to Your Sponsored Content with Mandi Gubler

Alexa

by Alexa on Sep 18, 2018 in Podcast

Why metrics are important, advice for growing your sponsored content, and how to stand out to brands with Mandi Gubler.

Welcome to episode 168 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Mandi Gubler from Vintage Revivals about a new way to organize and report on sponsored content.

Last week on the podcast, we chatted with Jessica Gavin about investing in your blog and yourself. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

How to Add More Value to Your Sponsored Content

Let’s face it: sponsored content is tough. Determining your work’s value, fostering a relationship with a brand, and actually creating valuable content is certainly not the easiest way to monetize your blog.

That said, it can be an extremely profitable way to monetize your site, and Mandi is here today to chat all about it.

The majority of her blogging income comes from sponsored content, so she understands how the process works and how to deliver the most valuable content possible to the brands she’s working with.

She wants to help you refine your sponsored content process and add more value to your campaigns. She’ll give you advice for standing out to a brand, choosing a project management tool, and more!

Why metrics are important, advice for growing your sponsored content, and how to stand out to brands with Mandi Gubler.

In this episode, Mandi shares:

  • How DIY blogging has changed since she started blogging
  • The common income path for DIY bloggers
  • Where the majority of her income comes from
  • How to determine your sponsored content rate
  • The problem she sees with project management tools
  • Why metrics are so important in sponsored content work
  • Advice for growing your sponsored content game
  • How to stand out to a brand
  • How to determine when you should increase your rate
  • Where you can go to learn more about sponsored content

Listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or check it out on iTunes, Google Play Music, or Spotify:

Resources:

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We’d like to thank our sponsors, WP Tasty! Check out wptasty.com to learn more about their handcrafted WordPress plugins specifically made for food bloggers.

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Transcript:

Alexa Peduzzi: In this episode, I talk about one of my favorite tools for collecting reader feedback and then Bjork talks to Mandi from Vintage Revivals. Hey, hey friend you are listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast and I feel like I say this every week but it’s worth saying again, we are so excited that you’re here. But before we hop into the episode today I’d like to take a second to thank our sponsors WP Tasty. WP Tasty is actually one of Food Blogger Pro’s sister sites, we create WordPress plugins for food bloggers under the WP Tasty brand and we have a recipe plugin, a Pinterest SEO plugin and an affiliate keyword linking plugin. All three are super helpful and slick and if you want to learn more about getting them on your blog you can head over to wptasty.com. And with our sponsorship information for each episode we like to include a little helpful nugget for you and it’s called A Tasty Tip. Today’s Tasty Tip is all about gathering feedback from your readers. First, why is this important? Well as business owners, entrepreneurs, bloggers, influencers and doers we’re constantly making decisions that hopefully grow our businesses.

But how do you know if the changes and decisions that you make will be helpful and beneficial to your readers and customers? Well, you ask them. Whether that be in a more general reader feedback survey kind of style or a more specific I have this idea, do you like it kind of style. Reader feedback is always helpful for making those tough decisions. There are a ton of different tools that you can use to gather this information but one of our favorites is actually called Typeform. Typeform isn’t a normal kind of feedback forum, it’s more of a conversational forum, easier to align with your branding and actually kind of fun to use as a reader. We actually use Typeform for our first round of applications when we’re hiring but I love using it just to gather general feedback from my readers. I know a lot of bloggers like to launch reader survey’s this time of year so I encourage you to check out Typeform and see if it’s the right tool for you.

All right, are you ready to learn about sponsored content? Not gonna lie, sponsored content is one of my favorite blogging topics. I helped make a sponsor content course on Food Blogger Pro not too long ago, I monetized my own blog through sponsored content and we constantly get asked about sponsored content best practices. So today Bjork talks to Mandi Gubler from the blog Vintage Revivals, which is a DYI blog and I have all the respect in the world for DYI bloggers because I do not have a DYI bone in my body, but Mandi is a hard working crafter of all things homey and she’s just awesome. So, she also makes the majority of her blog income from sponsored content, so she’s here today to talk about her sponsored content best practices as well as a tool that’s making her sponsored content process a lot easier. So let’s dive into the episode. Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Mandi, welcome to the podcast.

Mandi Gubler: Hey Bjork, thanks so much for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, super excited to chat with you. I originally reached out to my good friend Bruno from the blog called Curbly and a couple other sites actually and I wanted to talk to him about this new project that he’s been working on with you and he said actually, I’m going to pass but if you could interview Mandi that would be great, so I think we … So here we are. We have made it and we’re gonna have some great conversation about sponsored content and influencer marketing and this new project that you guys have been working on, but I know a lot about Bruno but I don’t know as much about your story. So I know that you’ve been running a blog kind of in the same space as Curbly, which is the site that Bruno runs with his wife but I would love to hear your story because not only are you working on this new project but you are also doing your own thing. You are running your own business and you have your own blog, so tell us your story.

Mandi Gubler: Yes. So I have a blog called Vintage Revivals where I do a lot of DYI and décor and the last year and a half we have been doing a massive renovation and so I started the blog in 2010 and I met Bruno fairly shortly after, I think at a blog conference or something like that and we just instantly hit it off. He’s so, so great.

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mandi Gubler: So as far as Vintage Revivals goes, I have just been creating content since 2010. When I started the blog I literally had no idea what I was doing in the DYI space, you go back and it is quite the hairy archive, so.

Bjork Ostrom: Which is so refreshing to hear ’cause I think so many people can relate to that.

Mandi Gubler: Totally. When I started, it was before a lot of social media, it was before Pinterest and you would do a project about painting a dresser and your tutorial was how to paint a dresser and then you would take the after picture of the dresser in your driveway. There was no staging it, there was no making it magazine worthy, it was literally just about the project. My how things have changed, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, for sure. And so you started in 2010 so you’ve been doing this for a while.

Mandi Gubler: Yep.

Bjork Ostrom: The interesting thing is I love talking to people who are in the same space, which is blogging, building a business online and having a following online but a different niche then what we are. So we can, I think sometimes get locked down in our niche, for us it’s food and recipes, but for you it is obviously home renovations, DYI and the interesting thing is to kind of compare and contrast industries. One of the things that I’d be interested to hear about is for DYI or renovation type blogs, what would be a common path for creating an income from that? Is it common for people to say, like in the food space it’s running ads, so an ad network or a media vine, what are the other things that are common for this different industry of DYI and home renovation?

Mandi Gubler: That is such a great question because I recently within the last probably nine months connected on a really personal level with some food bloggers and they were kind of the first food bloggers that I really got to know well enough that we were talking money and sharing horror stories a little bit, and I was blown away that the source of income is so different for food than it is for DYI. So, in the DYI space, I make the majority of my income from sponsored content. And the food bloggers make very little of their income from sponsored content and just the amount of, I guess maybe the opportunity maybe is larger for sponsored content in my space potentially but just the rates are so much higher in the DYI space than they are in the food space.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Mandi Gubler: So, in the DYI space …

Bjork Ostrom: I remember talking to Bruno about this just recently and I don’t want to share anything that he shared but it’s really interesting just to hear what’s common in other industries.

Mandi Gubler: Oh yeah. In the DYI space it is very … If you have a good following on all of your channels and you have some influence in this space, you can charge … People charge anywhere from like, I don’t know, a few thousand dollars a post on the very low end to 25, $30000 dollars for a post.

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Do you think that is because of the type of product that people are recommending and that being different then food? Or do you think that’s possible in different niches in different industries?

Mandi Gubler: That’s such a good question. I think that potentially some of the scale is different. Obviously doing a whole room make over is a lot more intense a recipe and I think that factors into it a little bit but I also think that it’s just the rate. I think we get in your niches and we talk to each other and we all kind of grow as a niche but we don’t really connect with other groups of people to find out what they’re charging and what they’re doing that’s working and so, we kind of are all our own little islands.

Bjork Ostrom: Right. Yeah, and the more that you start to hear of other people, let’s say with sponsored content specifically, oh I charge this amount, then it creates … It’s kind of like the four minute mile where it’s like, oh that’s possible and therefore you operate as if it’s possible.

Mandi Gubler: A 100%.

Bjork Ostrom: Whereas, if you don’t have those interactions and don’t hear from other people that are charging varying rates then you kind of think oh it’s probably not possible or I’m charging too much.

Mandi Gubler: Yep.

Bjork Ostrom: And that’s the hard thing about sponsored content is it’s such a personal thing and therefore it’s so hard for people to talk about. So this is maybe a hard question to answer but …

Mandi Gubler: Oh my gosh, I’m so excited and nervous to hear what it is.

Bjork Ostrom: … for people who feel like they’re in that category of not knowing if what they’re charging is appropriate, or if maybe they’re not charging enough, what is your advice for kind of that question that is so common about how much do I charge for sponsored … Yeah, sponsored content?

Mandi Gubler: So this is kind of one of the ways, I know we’re going to talk about Influence Kit a little bit later on but this is one of the things that we have really, really thought about and ultimately the answer that we came up with is that you charge what you can get. I mean that’s such a cliché answer but really there are all of these companies that are just commoditizing bloggers and their page views. So you sign up for top influence or you sign up for Izea or whatever and you become a commodity to them.

You’re not a person, and with the sponsors you don’t have a connection with a sponsor, and so the rates that you get through these companies are so much lower than what you would get if you could charge and make connections with the brand one on one without having this middle man involved, so that’s why Influence Kit really is … I’m so excited to talk about it but it really is going to completely revolutionize the way that the blogger industry handles sponsored content because it’s hard to know what to charge but when you can so clearly see the value that you have to offer, it’s a lot easier to do that.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that would actually be a good place to go, so I think the interesting conversation would be around the problem and we can talk about this tool that you guys are building called Influence Kit and how it solves that problem, but first I think it would be worth spending time saying, “Okay, what is the problem? And how can we understand this better in order to leverage some of those things that you’re talking about.” Like leveraging your true value and saying, “Here’s what I’m actually providing,” or “How do you address the problem of connecting with people and being the main connection point?” So let’s start with that, we can talk about kind of the problem that Influence Kit is solving and we can talk about how it goes into that. So what did you guys see as the real issue as it relates to sponsored content?

Mandi Gubler: So we kind of have a lot of issues that we are addressing. The first thing that the Influence Kit is, there are all of these management tools like Asana and Trello and all of these things to help you manage your business and ultimately they work for bloggers because bloggers find a way to make them work. They hack the system enough that the tools can do what they need it to do, but Influence Kit is built exclusively for bloggers. We are bloggers, I’ve been doing sponsored content for nine years, I know what tools I need, the same thing goes for Bruno and for Chris who is our other partner in it, we know what bloggers need. And so, we are building Influence Kit to be that exact tool. Some other company can not come in and use Influence Kit and see any benefit in it whatsoever because they are not bloggers doing sponsored content.

So the biggest problem that we are solving with Influence Kit is we want to give bloggers a way to run their business and their sponsored content like an actual business because for most of us, most of us are female, we come in, we have family, we have kids. A lot of us who have been doing this for a long time started our blogs as a hobby and then it morphed into this business and someone like me, I did not set out to have this be my full-time life. I just wanted to do a project, and I find myself saying that all the time where I’m like, “Oh, there’s just so much to do. I just want to paint. I don’t want to have to worry about all of these other things.” So Influence Kit is here to kind of step in and help create a system that works best for you and the way that you work and give you the tools that you need to run your business efficiently and easily without a lot of headache and stress, so you can actually do the stuff that you want to do.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. One of the things that you had talked about was this idea of communicating value to your sponsors or kind of being the hub for that and in some ways, stepping into what the role of some of these companies would play, which kind of gather all of this stuff up and you talked about being a commodity and saying, “No, this is stuff that you can be doing,” you can communicate that, so what’s an example of one way that that happens and one way that or some ways, if there’s more than one, that blogger’s can be really intentional with communicating their value to the brands that they’re working with.

Mandi Gubler: Oh 100%. So the feature that we love the very most that’s kind of like our pinnacle, angel sing, when you do this it’s the thing, is our recording system. So we have developed a way for you to pull a URL, just a URL, so if you have a blog post that is sponsored and you pull your blog post URL and then you pull the URL for each of the deliverables that you have, so Instagram, Insta Stories, Facebook, Twitter. If you have Mail Chan, so you pull all of these URL’s and you plug them into your calendar event on Influence Kit and it automatically generates a report with your impressions and reach and engagement on all of the platforms. And it updates every single day. So if you … Oh, sorry. Go ahead.

Bjork Ostrom: No, that’s great. So the idea being that let’s say that you’re working with a brand and you are doing a blog post and then maybe some supporting social stuff around that where you’re posting to Facebook and Instagram and doing an Instagram Stories, essentially what’s happening is it’s gathering up all of that information and that data and putting it together in a nice tidy report and saying, “Okay, heres the information as it relates to this single campaign or this piece of content or family of content that we produced for you.”

Mandi Gubler: Yep, and the reality of the situation is that very, very few bloggers are actually reporting on sponsored content because it is so cumbersome and it just takes so much time and then you send the report and it’s completely outdated in five minutes because the content is still alive and it’s still growing and it’s still being shared, and that is so frustrating. That was my biggest frustration was sponsored content and this is how I actually became involved in Influence Kit because Bruno and I were friends and he knows that I do a lot of sponsored content.

We work with a lot of the same sponsors and he reached out to me and he was like, “Hey, I have this app that I’ve kind of been using and I was wondering if you wanted to try it and tell me what you think,” and I was like, “Of course, yeah, that sounds great.” So, I’ve tried a lot of apps, I’m kind of notorious for signing up for things and then the learning curve is just so big that I just cancel and I’m like, I can’t even invest the time to learn if I can learn how to use this, it’s just too much.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Mandi Gubler: So I signed up for Influence Kit, Bruno showed me how to generate a report and I literally didn’t know if I should ask him to marry me or if I should punch him because he had been using this app for his websites for like nine years to generate reports and I was like, “What is going on?” I had been doing this like a caveman, if I had even been generating the reports at all, and I was so in love with it, and so impressed.

It immediately changed my business because the reality of the situation is that brands need numbers. Like right now, bloggers are getting kind of the scraps of the marketing budget because what we are doing is not trackable. Like they can come up with estimations and we can send screenshots and all of that stuff, but it’s not like a living, breathing system to actually track these, and so we get like the ends of things.

Brands are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook ads, and then they’re doing a sponsored post that is really, really great, and paying someone $4,000. Like that’s insane, that’s so wrong. It’s so wrong, because the value that we bring to the table is huge, but up until this point, it hasn’t really been easy to measure. Now, with InfluenceKit, it’s measurable and it’s going to completely change the industry when people start reporting and brands can actually see the value.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. Let’s talk about some of the tactical things that bloggers can be doing as it relates to sponsored content. Let’s say in a case like this, you have the numbers, and this could apply, we could say, for somebody that is using InfluenceKit or somebody that’s not. Let’s say they don’t have the budget and they’re going the caveman route, and they have more time than money, and they’re compiling their own numbers or they’re using InfluenceKit.

When you have that information, how do you use that to your advantage? How do you use that to communicate with brands or PR agencies that you’re working with? Because it’s one thing to have the numbers, but it’s another thing to have the numbers and then tell a story along with it. What is your recommendation and advice for people as they look to increase their strategy? Not in terms of like connecting with brands, but once they have connected with brands-

Mandi Gubler: Right, once they have, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: … really communicating that value.

Mandi Gubler: I charge a lot for sponsored content. When I started using InfluenceKit, I raised my rates like a few thousand dollars, up to, in some cases I doubled my rates just because of InfluenceKit. Because when I get an email from a brand that’s like, “Hey, we’d love to work with you. What are your rates and how do you feel about this campaign?” I can respond and I can say, “I would love to do this campaign. This is my rate, and included in that rate is …” Then I list out a blog post with the deliverables, da, da, da, da.

Then I need to really drive home the fact that I am giving them a report that they can check at any time, day or night to see the impressions. They don’t have to email me to get numbers. They can pass the URL along to the higher-ups in the company, and they look like freaking rockstars, and they love it, like they love it. Not only are you selling the value of what this reporting can do for your brand and for yourself, but you are making it so easy to work with you, that you will just … They’ll just keep coming back because they’re actually getting information. I know it’s more Influence-Kit based, but honestly, Influence-Kit just has completely changed the way that I run my business, so I don’t know how to not talk about it.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, yeah, no, that’s great.

Mandi Gubler: I’d be talking about it like this, even if I was not a founder.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and I think the important thing, the important takeaway there is when you are working with brands and realistically, when you have any partnership, but speaking specifically to brands, it’s really important not just to think about what are they doing for you. In this case it’s like they are cutting the check, they are paying you and you are doing this, but thinking really strategically about how do you deliver what you said you would, but then go above and beyond that? That could be metrics, that could be really clear, consistent communication, and as much as possible, it’s great to have tools that aid you in that. If you don’t have those tools, you can also rely on your hustle to do that. You can work strategically to communicate really clearly, and to be on time, and to deliver stuff when you say you’re going to deliver it. It’s kind of like a friendship, when you think about the people that you are-

Mandi Gubler: Totally.

Bjork Ostrom: … closest with, and that you appreciate the most, it’s probably not people that are inconsistent, unreliable and make things harder for you. It’s people that are really consistent, show up when they say that they’re going to, and probably go above and beyond in some ways to be your friend. I feel like that’s a great example of-

Mandi Gubler: For sure.

Bjork Ostrom: … what that can be with a brand relationship.

Mandi Gubler: It’s all about building relationships. That is the number one thing that I drive home. We hear so often as bloggers and influencers, like, “Don’t work for free. Don’t take free product,” but I have contracts that are year-long, six figure contracts that I started, working with that brand for free product, and I had no idea that it could turn into this huge, amazing thing, but you have to give the relationship time to build. I kind of liken it a little bit … I hope that this is okay. I don’t know, you have to put like an explicit thing on your podcast.

Bjork Ostrom: It, yeah …

Mandi Gubler: It’s kind of like prostitution, so like you have to decide, do you want a one and done transaction that you’re like, it’s just an exchange and it’s done and over with, or do you want a marriage? I want a marriage with a brand, and so that means that I have to give, and I have to be willing to work at it, and to let it grow. I mean, you’re not like come out of the blue. A brand emails you about a campaign and you’re not come and be like, “Yes, 100%. I want six figure contract right now with you.” Then they’re like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a second.” Like you have to build the relationship, so you just have to decide, do you want a marriage or do you want to be a prostitute?

Bjork Ostrom: That’s good. Maybe that can be the show title.

Mandi Gubler: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: We, I know a lot of people have questions around what that looks like to engage in those relationships, so to connect with brands. One of the things, we did what was called a Sponsored Content Bootcamp, and one of the recommendations that I gave was, “Hey, sometimes, especially if you’re in the early stages, it might make sense to work for free and do a really good job with it, or work for free in exchange for product …”

Mandi Gubler: 100%.

Bjork Ostrom: … Because that allows you to establish that relationship. Not that you do that forever or even for an extended period of time, but in some cases, it might make sense to give before asking. I’ve seen a lot of people that have done similar things with building up their side hustle. Like maybe it’s consulting, and they’ll say, “Hey, I would love to do a free month of consulting with you to show how big of an impact I can have with Facebook ads,” or whatever it would be. I think that’s a huge takeaway.

What about for people that, let’s say, are in the early stages? When they hear that you could have a six figure contract with a brand it’s like you can’t even fathom that because they’re just trying to figure out, “How do I get that initial connection with a brand and even get paid?” If somebody’s in those early stages, if they’re just starting out, or maybe they’ve been doing it for a while and they’re looking to move beyond some of the groups that you’d be a part of where you’d get sponsored content from, how do people level up if they’re in the beginning stages?

Mandi Gubler: That’s such a great question. My best advice for this is to be wherever your brand is. When I started my blog, in the very beginning, before … I mean, I was maybe like six months into it. I had just landed my first sponsored post, through Izea actually, for $75, and I thought I was getting like … It’s highway robbery. I was so excited, and I realized in that moment, like, “Maybe this could be something more than just me spray painting in my driveway.” Like, “Maybe it could grow into something bigger.” Right then, I made a dream list of brands that I wanted to work with. Like these were like my end-all, be-all, if I worked with each of these brands, I would be over the moon and feel like I was successful. Those are the brands that I was loyal to from the beginning, way before they were paying me to work with them. I think that that goes a long way.

Like if you want to work with, say Home Depot, then you probably don’t want to be talking about Lowe’s a lot. You want a big contract, you have to be willing to sacrifice, and sometimes the sacrifice is creating content about this brand that you can then like, if you have InfluenceKit, you can generate a report and send it to them and then they’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is so amazing. We would love to pay you,” but just being where the brand is, so engaging on their social media channels. Like the people that are running social usually are connected to whoever works with bloggers, and if they’re not, you can very easily get contacts for working with the brand through social media. If you love, I don’t know, I don’t know what a food thing is. If you love Kroger …

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Mandi Gubler: … and you are engaging with them on social media and you send a message and you’re like, “Hey, I have a blog and I would really love to work with you. Can you give me the name of your PR, marketing contact?” They will send you an email with that information and then that is who you email about working together. Like it’s very easy. I think we make it really complicated, and we like dive into all these crazy LinkedIn profiles, and down the rabbit hole, and like emailing blogger friends, and really, all you have to do is just ask them on Instagram, and they will give you the information because it makes their life easier.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s interesting too how sometimes those non-traditional communication platforms for brands, like Instagram have sometimes a better turnaround than a traditional email or for sure, calling through the customer support line. Whether that be Facebook or Instagram, like just reaching out through those social channels where it’s probably in the same department as like online things-

Mandi Gubler: Yes, exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: … and having more success with that.

Mandi Gubler: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: At this point, is that something for you as a content creator, blogger, somebody who’s doing sponsored content? Is that something that you’re still doing? Or, in the early stages when you did do that, do you now have those relationships that fill your sponsor content calendar and are able to maintain those?

Mandi Gubler: Both, actually. I still do reach out if there is something that I … Like a brand I really want to work with that I haven’t worked with before, I always still reach out. A lot of it is, once you have the contact, how do you foster the relationship? Home Depot is one of my big sponsors. We’ve worked together for a really long time and Home Depot sponsors some blog conferences. I go to the blog conferences. Whether I go to the classes or not is kind of irrelevant to me because I go because of Home Depot, and because I like building a relationship.

You just have to be willing to do the work to build the relationship. I would say no one is exempt from that. I don’t care how big you are, and how much you charge your sponsored content. I have a deal that I’m working on right now, and I’m charging the brand a third of what I’d normally charge because I really want to work with them and I want to show them why they want to work with me, so I’m willing to put some skin in the game. If it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out, and at least we tried. If it does work out, chances are that it’s going to work out in both of our favor in the future.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m curious to know what that looks like when you go to a conference. Let’s say you know your ideal brand, the number one brand’s going to be at a conference. How do you not just be another one of the 300 people that come up and are like, “Would love to work with you, here’s my card,” and get lost in the shuffle?

Mandi Gubler: It’s so hard, it’s so hard to like stand out in that space. Definitely social media. A lot of brands do stuff ahead of time with the conference, like in conjunction with the conference. If you are following the conference emails, you’ll see like, “Hey, Kroger’s doing a specific hashtag,” so then you play along, and you play the game, and you do the hashtag. Then go and talk to the brand when everyone else is in classes, so you can sit down and like actually talk to them. One thing, it was really interesting. I was at a conference, and I was with Home Depot, and I had built their booth. I was like, I was there like working in the booth with them.

It was so interesting how may people came up, and they were like, “I shop at Home Depot all the time, I would love to work with you.” Then that was like the pitch. I was like, “Well, everyone shops at Home Depot.” Like, “That’s not a qualifier for them to give you money or product.” You have to know what you have to offer, so you go up to the brand and you’re like, “Hey, Home Depot, I think that you are awesome. This is a project that I’m working on right now that I think you guys would be a great fit for.” Like you come up with the ideas, that’s your job as the influencer, and ask the blogger to come up with the content. Then you pitch them the content, and then it starts building the relationship. I mean, there’s exceptions when they come and they have specific campaigns in mind, but really, all of my like favorite campaigns that I’ve done and deals that I’ve worked on come from me creating the idea and pitching it to the brand.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s interesting when you think of making that connection, and then working with the brand. I think a lot of us think of the work being done from the point you sign a contract after, but really it’s almost in some ways the mid-point. Like there’s a ton of work that happens-

Mandi Gubler: Totally. That is the mid-point, yes.

Bjork Ostrom: … before, and I think most people think of it as like, “I need to get to the start, so then I can do this work with this brand,” but so often it’s halfway there. Like if you’re doing a mile, it’s the third lap when you finally sign that contract and it’s like, “Okay, now we’re going to do the actual content work as opposed to relational work.”

Mandi Gubler: Yep.

Bjork Ostrom: Last kind of question around the sponsored content area. Let’s say that somebody, we talked about kind of those early stages. It’s connecting with brands, it’s going to conferences, it’s reaching out, it’s working hard, even if you’re potentially not getting paid, to communicate that you’re willing to work hard, communicate your value.

Let’s say that somebody’s gotten to that point where they’re starting to get some traction, how do they then level up that to the next level? Maybe they’re making a decent income from sponsored content, maybe they’re even doing some of on their own or working with an agent. You talked about how, using InfluenceKit specifically, allowed you to kind of increase the asking price. How do people go about doing that, and when do you if you’re comfortable, and how do you communicate that to brands you’ve worked with in the past?

Mandi Gubler: This is like one of those things that’s there’s not really a specific formula for. It just, it like comes back to your gut feeling and how you feel about the value that you are offering. If you want to charge more, the first thing you should be making sure of is that you are adding value to what you’re charging. If you have done a sponsored post for this brand, this specific brand for, you’ve done three campaigns, and you’ve charged $5,000 each campaign and you’re like, well I’m charging other brands more, so I think I need to charge these guys more.

What value can you add to that? I mean InfluenceKit and reporting is the easiest way to add value, because it’s such a significant increase in value that no one else is doing. But aside from InfluenceKit, have you started taking better pictures? Did you learn how to do stop motion video? Can you create a 30 second video for the brand? Do you want to do a Instagram take over. Do you want to do five extra Insta stories? Figure out what you’re doing to add more value, and then confidently approach the brand, and tell them why they should pay you more.

And it can be so scary, because I think as bloggers, it feels so personal. It’s such a personal business, and maybe it’s getting away from that a little bit more, but for most of us, we are our business. We are the face of it, we are the voice of it, we are running it. It is us and we are like, and so it feels personal, if I ask you for more money, you have to like me enough to give me more. Well if you won’t then you hate me, and I just want to go cry in the corner and it’s not like that. You build the relationship, but when you’re building the relationship with the brand, you are demonstrating your value over and over and over, and if you’re doing a good job, they will happily pay you more for it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I love that idea of figuring out the additional things that you could be doing. And maybe it’s the same general relationship. We’re gonna work together to do a piece of sponsored content, whatever that might look like, but you might fold video into it or it might be a certain type of photography shoot that you do that’s above and beyond. One of the things that, I would say within the past year and a half or two years that we’ve started doing is we have the base of what we do. So an example would be, you could do blog posts and there would be one blog post, you could do three blog posts, you could do five blog posts .So more of a relationship that you have with somebody, if you’re doing more blog posts, but then there’s also these a la carte, add on items and it kind of sounds like what you were talking about, where it’s like, and if you also want to do video or if you want to do a post on Instagram, all of those things are above and beyond, so you can kind of layer this foundational element and then have those a la carte pieces above and beyond.

So I love that as a way to strategically think about, okay, what are the other things that I can be doing, not just do a blog post, not just do a video and then just say, hey, I’m going to assume that I broadcast this everywhere. But how do you segment that and assign value to each one of those things?

Do you have any advice for having those hard conversations with brands? Because that can be a really scary thing to talk about money, especially when, like you said, it’s so personal.

Mandi Gubler: So scary. Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Here’s how much you should pay me, even though it’s a brand or a blog, it’s still is a personal brand or blog.

Mandi Gubler: Yes, it’s hard. I mean really the only advice I have is to do it as much as possible, and then you get desensitized.

Bjork Ostrom: Exposure is therapy.

Mandi Gubler: Yes. You just have to do it. So just type it, make sure that the email sounds professional or sounds like you are sending email and shut your computer and just don’t worry about it and don’t stress about it and everything, I think it’s so easy to feel like everything is final. But everything is not final. Everything is always negotiable. And sometimes if a brand comes back and says no, it’s because they just don’t have the budget, not because they think that you’re stupid or that you’re not gonna create great content for them. It’s just they just actually don’t have the money, depending on the campaign or the time of year, whatever. And so that’s honestly, that is the hardest thing I think for people, and the only advice that I have is just to do it, and it will be fine. I never had a brand come back and say you are an idiot. Full stop. That never happens. It’s fine.

Bjork Ostrom: And one of the things that I’ve found to be helpful is as much as possible, without going totally overboard, explaining the context for it. So one of the things that we’ve been talking about is hey, as a team, what does it look like if we’re doing a video and we go through recipe development and then we send it over and they’re like, actually we have a different idea. We want to go this way with it. And the amount of time and energy it takes to truly develop a recipe that you feel good about, even if it’s not actually making it, but getting a general direction for it. There’s real time and energy involved with that. And so we’re thinking about, hey, what does it look like to explain to a brand that it’s not something we can just really easily change directions on. And we’re trying to wrap that in context and say like, hey, sometimes it can take a half day or a full day to fully flesh out what we want this to look like. And so if there needs to be a change, it needs to be built into the contract or there needs to be a payment for it, because of the amount of time that it takes to readjust and to change for that. So the context often helps in those kind of times that you are communicating with a brand.

Mandi Gubler: For sure.

Bjork Ostrom: So if people want to learn more about some of the sponsor content stuff, there’s a few more things with the InfluenceKit I would love to talk about, but with the sponsor content set of things, I know that Bruno actually put together a little sponsor content crash course. And we’ll link to that in the show notes, but can you talk about just kind of at a high level what that is and what people learn about that? It’s just a free little email course that he has.

Mandi Gubler: Yeah, it’s just a great little course, whether you are already doing a lot of sponsored content or not doing a lot of sponsored content. Sponsored content is one of those things that it’s harder to get information on. You can do a zillion SEO courses, and there’s a ton of information on how to make money from your ads, and there’s not a lot on sponsored content, because it’s such a personal thing, I think. So we’re trying to change that. So this course is a really easy quick email course that takes you through everything from finding the sponsor’s information to what contracts look like and how you can figure out your rate and working through the creative process and having stuff go live. And then the reporting part of it.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. We’ll link to that in the show notes, too. And anytime that you can kind of pick up those little pieces of information from people, it’s super helpful. So I would encourage people to check that out. The last thing I want to talk about, the InfluenceKit, is this idea of the editorial calendar. And I know that some people maybe don’t use an editorial calendar. If they do, they maybe use like a Google calendar or something like that, but that’s another part of InfluenceKit. That’s an important piece of the puzzle. So can you talk about what that is and why it’s important and the problem that that’s solving for bloggers?

Mandi Gubler: Yeah, so we’re in the middle right now of developing some really, really great teachers. I feel like Bruno would be super mad at me if I told you what they were, so I’ll just be very vague. But the calendar, so the way that InfluenceKit works, the user interface on it is a calendar based system, because that’s how we as content creators, we need to see the dates of things that we need to know when things are coming up and just all of these things. So it’s a calendar based system, and you can use it to create whatever type of calendar event you need. So, sponsor content, yes, 100 percent. You should be putting every bit of sponsor content into InfluenceKit for the reporting. But you can also do all of those same things with just your regular content.

So for example, with my InfluenceKit account, I have five different calendars on it. One of them is my editorial calendar, so content that I’m creating that does not have a sponsor associated with it at all, and when you get into InfluenceKit, the user interface is so easy. Everything is drag and drop. So in my sidebar, I have a whole bunch of ideas for posts that I want to write, and when I’m ready to actually sit down and flesh out what that looks like and write the post and publish it, I can just drag and drop those ideas. So it’s great for editorial planning.

Then I also have calendars for my general sponsor calendar, and specific brands that I do a lot of campaigns with, they each have their own calendar, and it just makes it really easy, so you can log in and your home screen just shows you everything that you have going on. All of your calendars, all color-coded, based on the color that you assigned to the brand. So for me Home Depot is orange, obviously because it would be sacrilegious if it was anything else. And so I can look and I can see it at a month’s view, every Home Depot thing that I have coming up this month. And it just makes it very visual and very easy to use and so that is how InfluenceKit works right now. We have a lot of other really great features that we’re going to be rolling out that are going to help with more than just … Right now the reporting is our favorite part. It’s the best part of InfluenceKit, but we are trying to fill in the other gaps in sponsored content, so that from start to finish, from length and theory, beginning pitching phases all the way through to invoicing and receiving payment, we really want to have a very easy system for people to use.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Mandi Gubler: Related to sponsor content.

Bjork Ostrom: It was great, because it’s been fun to see the development of it, because you early on had coffee with Bruno and we were kind of chatting about, hey, what could this be and what could it look like, how would it work? And actually connected him with somebody we interviewed on the podcast in the past, Leslie, from Her View From Home. And she has a bunch of different-

Mandi Gubler: I absolutely love her.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. She’s great. A bunch of different people that produce content for her blog, and so they have a very big complicated editorial calendar. So it’s been fun to see some of those pieces come together. And one of the things that we love about this podcast is being able to chat with people who are in the early stages of solving some of these really important problems for bloggers. And my hope is that for some of the listeners here today that they’ll be able to jump in and to use it, and that it will be something that solves that problem for them.

So hopefully we can do some problem solving, while also giving some exposure to brands and businesses that we’re excited about, that we’re connected with and that we want to cheer on. So for those that listen to the podcast, one of the things that you had talked about, being in the early stages, being a small and scrappy team, you are slowly doing welcomes, which is exactly how we’ve done a lot of our launches with WP Tasty and Nutrifox, where you don’t want to scale too quickly because that can be a problem.

And so you have this waiting list where you can request access, but you had mentioned that for anybody that listens to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, if they drop in a note in other, we don’t get any compensation or kickback or anything like that, it’s just a gift for them that they’ll be able to get access a little bit quicker. There’ll be prioritized.

Mandi Gubler: It’s like getting a gold star on your-

Bjork Ostrom: You’ll get a gold star for listening to Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Can you explain how to do that, if people are interested in checking it out?

Mandi Gubler: Yeah. So if you’re interested in InfluenceKit, just go to influencekit.com and you can right there at the top, it just says apply for access, and we just ask some really basic questions, and then it goes into a queue and we’re just going as fast as we can, getting people approved. We want to make sure that the people that are a part of the InfluenceKit are people who really will see the value in it and it’s one of those things, I think as a new company, we’ve learned a lot already, but we’ve learned that the people that understand the value of InfluenceKit, it changes their business. And the people that don’t understand the value of it, we almost have to convince them to use it.

And so we are doing tons of demos. We really want to make sure that when you guys sign up, that we can help you as much as we can. So we hop on a call and we do a walk through with your content and show you exactly how to do it. So we just want to make sure that people that we’re bringing in are people who really, really get the value.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. And my guess is after listening to the podcast, people will have a clear understanding of that and so there’s a question there, where did you hear about InfluenceKit? And you can just say other, and you could just say FPP Podcast or-

Mandi Gubler: Or my best friend Bjork sent me.

Bjork Ostrom: My best friend Bjork. My BFF Bjork. You can send a note, and you can say for your eyes only.

Mandi Gubler: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: when you open it, then you’ll say, Bjork asked me, so.

Mandi Gubler: It has to be folded, like, really cool.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, exactly. So great to connect, Mandi, thanks so much for coming on the podcast.

Mandi Gubler: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: For those that want to follow along with you, we can direct people to InfluenceKit. But for you personally, where can people find you online? We talked a lot about your blog. Where can they follow you on social?

Mandi Gubler: So I am just Vintage Revivals everywhere.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. It’s super easy to do and willing to vet as well.

Mandi Gubler: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Great. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast, Mandi, super fun to connect, and a huge congratulations to you guys on the team for a launching InfluenceKit.

Mandi Gubler: Thank you so much, Bjork.

Alexa Peduzzi: And that’s a wrap. Thanks so much for tuning into the podcast this week, friends, and this is where I typically read a reviewer of the week review. But instead of that, I’m going to ask that you become our reviewer of the week. Simply leave a review for us on iTunes. Leave your name and blog name in the review, and you can be featured in an upcoming episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. We’ll add your information to the show notes for the episode as well. And that is that. Thanks again for listening and from all of us here at FBP HQ. Make it a great week.


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