022: Sponsored Content from a Brand’s Perspective with Zach Tackett from DeLallo

Hello hello! We’re back at it this week on the FBP Podcast and we’re talking with Zach Tackett from DeLallo about sponsored content from the brand’s perspective.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork interviewed Amy Lynn Andrews. The interview covered so many things, but they really hit home with their discussions on time management. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Sponsored Content from a Brand’s Perspective

It’s the ultimate food blogger goal – to get paid to use a brand’s product in a recipe you post on your website. What could be cooler?!

The tough part can be actually finding the brands that you want to work with – and who want to work with you, too. Fortunately, Zach Tackett from DeLallo Foods met up with Bjork and Lindsay to talk about exactly what brands are looking for in bloggers, what the process looks like, and what to expect.

In this really insightful interview, Zach shares:

  • Where the DeLallo company got its roots
  • What DeLallo advertising looked like back in the early days, and how they tackle it now
  • What the DeLallo brand looks for in food bloggers for sponsored content
  • Whether you have to work with an agency to get sponsored content
  • What the actual process looks like for sponsored content
  • Why DeLallo works with “brand ambassadors” instead of paying bloggers for one-off posts
  • How to make your sponsored posts sound authentic
  • How to get brands’ attention

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Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to episode number twenty-two of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Hey, what’s up everybody? This is Bjork Ostrom, and believe it or not, you are listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Hey, today, I’m really excited because we have Zach Tackett on. Zach works for a company called DeLallo. We’re talking to Zach about what it’s like to be on the other side of sponsored content, because Zach manages and helps to organize all of the sponsored content for DeLallo.

He’s going to talk about what that’s like from their side, how they, looking out on the blogosphere, view those relationships with blogs, what type of blogs do they like to work with, what are the different ways that you can connect with brands if you’re looking to just get started? All of these questions that we get from people about the brand side of the sponsored content. I think it’s one of the most important things for you to think about if you are interested in doing sponsored content for your blog, it’s thinking about, “What is it for a brand? Why would they want to work with you?”

Instead of just thinking me focused, “How can I get more brand relationships,” think brand focused, “What is it that they want? How can you really cultivate those relationships?” Zach talks about what that’s like from the brand perspective. I know that you’re going to get a lot out of it, so I can’t wait to jump in. Really excited today as well because Lindsay is joining us on the podcast. Let’s go ahead and jump in. Zach, welcome to the podcast.

Zach Tackett: Thanks so much.

Bjork Ostrom: Excited to have you here. We also have as a special guest Lindsay on the podcast today. Lindsay?

Lindsay Ostrom: Hello, here I am.

Bjork Ostrom: We’re excited to have you here. We’re going to be talking about sponsored content. I think that with the conversations that we have with bloggers whether it’s on Food Blogger Pro or meet-ups, things like that, it’s a really interesting topic, and it’s a really important one because there’s a huge shift into the sponsored content world. Zach, I’m really excited to talk to you a little bit about that, but before we get into it, I was doing a little bit of research. Before this podcast, Lindsay and I jumped on Skype. We’re talking a little bit doing some research and we came across your Twitter account. We saw that you, at least yourself, is the marketer for DeLallo Foods. I know that marketer is a really huge umbrella, so I’d love to hear exactly what your role is at the company.

Zach Tackett: Here at DeLallo, we’re a pretty tight-knit group. Our marketing department is actually relatively small. It’s actually really small. We have the marketing director and then we have a copywriter and then there’s me and then our in-house graphic design team. Really, when we’re that small, you have to wear a lot of hats. Really, you have to be willing to come in every day knowing that you’re going to do something different, which to me is super exciting because I’m walking in every day and I am going to do something that I didn’t do yesterday or I didn’t do the day before.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s like you’re not just the Google Analytics guy. You have maybe Google Analytics and social media and blogger relationships. Are there some other things that you cover as well, or do you do those things even?

Zach Tackett: Yeah. I cover everything. If it’s online, usually, I have some hand in it, even if it’s just like a pinky finger. Whether that’d be social media, whether it’s Google Analytics, Google Advertising, all sorts of display ad campaigns even if it’s not through Google that we might buy through an advertiser network, the food blogger partnerships, all of that would fall under my umbrella.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. I want to talk to you a little bit about some of those specifically, because I’m really curious to know as a marketer online the decisions that you’re making as a company. Before we do that, let’s back up, is this way back, where I’d be interested to know a little bit of the history of DeLallo. Part of the reason is because I know that if a company survives a long time, it’s because they’re always evolving and they’re staying ahead of the curve or at least with the curve in terms of marketing and advertising and things like that. Take us way back to the beginning. What’s the story with DeLallo?

Zach Tackett: It’s actually a really cool story. It started out just as a mom-and-pop shop outside of Pittsburgh where we’re located right outside of Pittsburgh, where George DeLallo from which the company gets its name and his wife Madeline really operated the first food truck of its kind. We were way ahead of the curve.

Bjork Ostrom: Right, they were way ahead of the food truck trend.

Zach Tackett: Yes. This is back in the late 1940s, early 1950s, where they would just go from small immigrant neighborhoods from coal mines and that sort of thing, and they would sell cold cuts and sandwiches really on around lunch time to the people that they could find. Their business just really took off. As they grew, they decided, “Let’s start a retail location,” so they opened up a store outside of the gas station which is a really cool concept. I feel like that’d be something you see now in foodie sale like, “Yeah, we used to be a gas station.”

Bjork Ostrom: For sure.

Zach Tackett: Actually, I think there was one in Bon Appetit where one of their hot new restaurants is outside of a car garage.

Bjork Ostrom: We were talking to a friend this weekend and they had just been at a brewery, and it was a gas station and they converted it into this brewery where you could walk in and they did their own brews, so it’s kind of that same idea.

Zach Tackett: Yeah. It’s so funny. It’s like everything is coming back around. That store is still operating. It’s grown out of the gas station. Essentially, it’s an Italian supermarket. You go in, there’s fresh produce. There are Italian meats and cheeses, all sorts different varieties, not just your sliced meats and cheeses which we have, but also really specialty stuff like you can buy on Sundays like warm food that they’re making fresh in the morning. It’s super delicious. We have fresh breads being made every single day. We have a bakery. Then we also have a grocery section of every single product that’s available throughout the nation of our products.

Lindsay Ostrom: I have a really important question, interjecting here. This had happened last time you brought on actually, I think, I asked something out of order.

Bjork Ostrom: No, it’s good to have that. Yeah.

Lindsay Ostrom: Do you just get to eat that food all the time and is it amazing?

Zach Tackett: Yes. There’s like con-

Lindsay Ostrom: Just all day long.

Zach Tackett: We’re like constantly surrounded with food. Right now, there is out on the table, outside of my office, there’s a table with biscotti on it and it’s like killing me that I have not eaten one today. It’s like a feet of strength.

Lindsay Ostrom: Seriously. Wow.

Zach Tackett: I have a mug of coffee waiting for one, but …

Lindsay Ostrom: Oh man.

Zach Tackett: We’re constantly surrounded by delicious things. We have a catered lunch every something month which is awesome and everybody goes crazy because it’s always something that’s like a new recipe. We have a full prepared food section up at the store. Our offices are actually really close to the original store location, so they will cook the food at the store and then bring it down to us. It’s amazing food.

Bjork Ostrom: Nice.

Lindsay Ostrom: Awesome.

Bjork Ostrom: Job benefit for sure.

Zach Tackett: Yes, it is. It totally is.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the reasons that I asked about the history there with DeLallo is because I know that, how I prefaced the question that in order for a business to continue to thrive and operate, they need to evolve as people start to communicate differently. I’m guessing that the advertising or marketing that DeLallo did in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s looks a lot different than it does right now, and it always has to change. I’m excited to talk to you a little bit about what some of the focuses are right now. Can you talk in broad terms, and this is great because I think that you probably cover a lot of these things like you said, but in broad terms, where are the areas that DeLallo focuses and dedicates their advertising or marketing budget to at this point?

Zach Tackett: We’re a pretty small company and so we don’t really have the level of spending that you’re going to see at major like really big CPG brands. We have to be really choosy and really … We have to be really picky about where we’re putting our money and where we’re investing. Right now, one of actually our major initiatives is working with bloggers, forming really long-lasting partnerships for content creation. We just see that as like a major … That’s a major part of our strategy. We invest a lot in social. We actually do quite a bit of Pinterest advertising. We were in the original demo …

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, the beta group?

Zach Tackett: Yeah. We were in the beta group. We were lucky enough to get signed up for it.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool.

Zach Tackett: We’ve been experimenting with that. It’s still like a work in progress kind of thing. Mostly, the majority of our advertising spend is going to online initiatives. We don’t really do a lot of print. The way we see it is that a traditional print advertisement, a lot of times, its strategy is really just first in somebody’s mind, it’s just, you have to use a lot of repetition. That’s why you’re going to see an advertisement papered through every single magazine. I think it’s like on the back of every single major magazine for like two months or even longer than that was an iPhone 6 ad.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Zach Tackett: Every single time you turn the magazine around, there’s the iPhone 6 looking at you. That’s what you have to do. You have to have it everywhere so that customer remembers it. What we like to do and what we’ve always been about is really putting out there a reason why you should pick us when you’re grocery shopping. It’s creating a story, giving somebody a reason to remember us rather than just hoping that they do, just remembering our name.

That’s why we’ve really valued working with the blogger because they’re able to create content especially if they like our product a lot which is what we hope for and what we ask for when we start a partnership is that they’re really creating content that gives a customer a reason to go out and find something. If they say whole wheat pasta, there might be a couple of brands on the shelf, but they know that a DeLallo whole wheat pasta, I can make this recipe and I know it’s going to come out exactly the way I want it to because that looked delicious.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m curious with the move to sponsored content. I don’t know how long you’ve been with the company but maybe you know the history there. When did that start to happen and how has that decision made as opposed to more traditional advertising like maybe display advertising. Maybe the first question would be, as it stands right now, do you do display advertising like banner ads or things like that or like video pre-roll on videos or is it pretty much just social and sponsored content like working with partnerships with bloggers?

Zach Tackett: I would say the majority of it is the sponsorships with bloggers and that sort of thing and social. Then we do dabble a little bit in pre-roll. We do participate in Adwords and display campaigns. Usually we have to have a really strong initiative like usually around the holiday time, we have a really awesome gifts program with gift baskets. We usually do a really big campaign around that with sweet and savory gifts and Italian entertaining collections and that sort of thing. We’ll do a really strong campaign around that. When it comes just to general outreach and general education, really we see more value in creating stories.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. I think I want to come back to that story thing because I think that’s so important. The second part of that question that I’m curious to hear you talk about is, do you know when that shift to doing more the sponsorships or partnerships with bloggers or content creators started to happen or has that always been in some way, shape, or form part of the strategy?

Zach Tackett: The sponsorship with bloggers actually started I think maybe two or three years ago. What happened was that we were working, we always were creating content ourselves, coming out with new recipes. We have a test kitchen where we’ll go down and create recipes, making sure that our product is good enough to sell. We’ll create a couple recipes for us to put on our website. We’re always creating content. Then one day, we just started realizing and hearing the buzz of, “Oh, look at this food blogger, she really likes our product. She’s talking about this, we should reach out to her.”

It just started like that naturally where it’s just like, “We saw that you really love our product. We’d like to talk to you a little bit more about making this kind of more of a thing.” It just grew from there. It just naturally grew out of that about two or three years ago. It just grown. We started doing maybe like two or three a year to now, it’s closer to around five where there’ll be major brand ambassadors doing a year-long series of posts with us and we’ll have maybe a couple more that we’ll do a couple of recipes here and there on a specific product.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Maybe this goes back to the story piece, and I’m guessing this is a piece of it, but I’m curious to know, when you’re out there and you’re looking for people to work with, not saying this is the case, but let’s say you were to say, “Hey, we’re going to add five additional people to our team,” what would be the things that you’d look for in people that are building a food blog where you’d say, “This would be somebody that we would love to work with.” Are there commonalities in terms of what they post about or how they write or what their followers look like or how many followers they have? I’d be curious to know from the mind of a marketer what you see as positives in a food blogger.

Zach Tackett: It’s an interesting kind of struggle whenever we do a review every single year and then throughout the year, we’ll do many reviews with some people that have reached out to us. The general trend, I would say, after the past couple of years is that we’re looking for bloggers, we work with both big and small, like super big and then super small and just starting out. What we look for is one, just the passion for the category itself. We want to make sure that they’re not just writing about it because they want to write sponsored post, so it doesn’t seem like an ad. We look for bloggers that are more selective, they’re really curating the people that they’re working with.

Then, it also comes down to, “Okay, so what’s the …” Sometimes they take amazing photography that we … We spend a lot of time on these blogs ourselves just reading them. We’re not just like saying, “Oh we have our post up, let’s check it out today.” We’re constantly checking out bloggers. We’re reading over new people, trying to see who’s out on the new horizon, keeping a finger on the pulse. Sometimes it’s just like, we really love this blogger, they have really amazing photography, I think that they would be really great. Somebody that we’d really like to partner with on this.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. That’s fun to hear. One of the things that we talked about with Food Blogger Pro both on this podcast and also with members is this idea of who, not how many. Meaning, the really important thing as you’re starting to build your blog or produce content, especially in the first couple of years isn’t to be micro-focused on the number and the analytics, but to be super hyper-focused on creating really good content because what really matters is who is on your blog?

I think it’s important for people to hear that companies like DeLallo are in the mix and they’re going in and they’re reading blog posts and they have an idea for quality. That blogger might not have a million page views in a month, but they do have people that are visiting the site and looking at the content, and in this example, have the mindset of, “Would this person be a potential good partner or sponsor?” or things like that. I think that’s really good for people to hear, especially if they’re first getting started out, that no matter what, that content piece, that quality really, really matters. I think that’s cool.

I have another question here, one more, and then I’m going to pass it off to Lindsay. She’s going to talk specifically about some process questions for you. Curious to know, so you talked about working with bloggers and I know that some bloggers will individually work with brands and others will work with agencies. For DeLallo, do you have any stricter rules about like, “Hey, we only work directly with bloggers,” or, “We only work with bloggers that are working with agencies,” and how does that process differ?

Zach Tackett: We don’t really have a preference. We’re not going to say, “Oh, this person works from an agency, we can’t work with them.” We’re not going to say, “Oh, we have to work with another blogger on like a one-to-one. How stressful is that going to be, just trying to get a hold of them.” We’re truly open to all sorts of partnerships. We understand that depending on the blogger, depending on what’s going on in their lives, sometimes it’s easier for them to use an agency and sometimes it’s easier for them just to run their business as themselves. We don’t judge. I will say that what we always search for in a partnership is really this one to one, the ability to have one on one conversations in regards to the partnership and saying like, “Do I have to …”

If it’s hard for me to get through the gatekeeper, it’s disheartening to us where it’s just like, “Hey, we just wanted to share this message with you that we really liked this post. Hey, we have this new product coming out, would you want work with … Do you want to maybe look back at your agreement and then we can figure something out? We’d like to send you a sample of this.” We always like to make sure that our partners have as much DeLallo products as they want in their house. It’s like, “We want to make sure that you guys know what’s going on with us and we want to know what’s going on with you.” As long as we have that connection and that partnership, we’re cool with whatever. It just depends.

Bjork Ostrom: The ability to genuinely connect with the source of the content is what I hear you saying.

Zach Tackett: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: As opposed to an agency that would be kind of the brick wall where they say, “Actually, you can’t have a conversation with them. Everything has to go through us.”

Zach Tackett: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally makes sense. Actually I have one more question, because I know that a lot of people are thinking about it, specific to the blog post process, and then I’ll pass it off to Lindsay. If bloggers are just getting into it or they’re established, do you have thoughts or insight on pricing and what that looks like? How should people go about pricing? I know we chatted about this a little bit before we started the call and it can be kind of a touchy subject and it’s really hard to approach. Any insight to that or ideas around that?

Zach Tackett: It definitely is a touchy subject. Obviously, I can’t say everything just because I’m not allowed to disclose everything.

Bjork Ostrom: Right. Absolutely.

Zach Tackett: I will say that it’s best just to go in … We always go in with an open mind and we see the value in what every single blogger, individual blogger is bringing to the table that’s different from every other blogger. While one blog might be offering us this and this, another blogger might be offering us that, that, and that, that’s why our price might be different.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. Again, it goes back to the idea that it doesn’t necessarily always come back to page views. There are other factors that could go in to that; quality, engagement, things like that. Not to put words in your mouth about what those are, but point being that there are many different factors that go in to value in this relationship.

Zach Tackett: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s great. Actually, I want to pass it Lindsay to you to ask some questions because I know that you worked primarily with Pinch Of Yum that you do obviously all of the sponsored content and recipe development and things like that. That is outside of my wheelhouse so I’d love to pass it off to you to have some conversations around that.

Lindsay Ostrom: Great. Thanks. Zach, I would love to hear from you a little bit on the process for sponsored post publishing. Maybe even from the negotiation phase into the actual post has been published and now maybe people are submitting numbers to you after the posts publishes. Are there pillars to that process that stay the same for all of the agreements and partnerships that you have with bloggers?

Zach Tackett: I don’t want to use the businessy term like workflow, but it’s essentially we’re playing a dating game where it’s just like, it begins with a courtship where we’re just like, “Okay, let’s see who we think might be compatible with our brands. Let’s reach out to them and say, ‘Hey, we’d like to send you some products if you’re open to it and see if you like it, if you’ve never tried out stuff before. Let’s talk and see what we’re both thinking and let’s see if we’re on the same page.'” Then we go through the whole figuring out the agreement. Then once the sponsored posts are going up, usually we will just … We like to be a little bit more loose and we’ll say, “Hey, here are the products we’re going to work on for the year.”

Particularly with the big year-long brand ambassadorships, we’ll say, “Here are the products.” When you do that, you can decide for yourself because you know your audience. You know what’s going to be appropriate and we want to give the blogger the flexible to say like, “Oh, I have a perfect whole wheat pasta post for the fall, so I want to make sure that I have whole wheat pasta available in the fall. Pesto is perfect for summer, so I may do it in the summer.” Rather than us saying like, “We’re doing a campaign on this product right now, you have to get it done.” There are some products where we’re saying, like a product launch, where we say, “Hey, we’re launching this product. We’d like to do a couple of post in this set amount of time,” but it’s usually when it’s with one product. It’s mostly just back and forth.

Then once the post has gone live, then it’s really, we look for reporting. We’ll go and say, “Okay …” This is like the social buzz that’s going around it that we’re seeing. We’re trying to track as best as possible using a couple different analytics tools. We take a look at, “Okay, what’s the traffic that we got to our site? What are the kind of people that are visiting? What’s the quality like? Are they staying for a while? Are they bouncing right off? Who are they and what are they doing on our site? Are they exploring a little bit more? Just showing general interest in it.

Then sometimes we’ll even say, if there’s a blog post that we’re interested in, we might even reach out to a blogger and say like, “Hey, we checked out your social media pages to see what people were commenting on, have you heard anything back about a product?” We always like to keep that line of communication available where it’s like, “If the customer says something that you really want to show with us or you think that we’d really love to hear, we totally want to hear it. We want to here if one of your readers is interested in our products, we’d love to connect with them too.”

Bjork Ostrom: I’m curious, real quick, just what some of those analytics tools are that you use. Is that primarily Google Analytics or are there social analytics tools that you use?

Zach Tackett: We use Google Analytics. That’s a major one. We also will take a look at each of the social networks like their analytics. We know that there’s always going to be a margin there, but we figure because it’s their platform and they’re creating the analytics tools, they’re probably going to have really, they’re going to be able to pull really deep analytics, a lot deeper than probably a third party. Then we use some third party tools to get a social buzz going, like we’re currently using Curalate to … It’s like a scheduling tool but it also allows us some on the know to what’s going on on Pinterest and Instagram with people that are in our extended network. We’re able to say like, “Oh this is great.” I can pick up that this person is talking about our pasta. It’s because they might just have tagged it, #DeLallo. I can pick that up really easily and it kind of just brings it into one feed for me to really react to.

Lindsay Ostrom: That’s great. Curious on the actual writing of the post and publishing them because I’m just personally curious about this because for Pinch Of Yum, we do work with an agency and have been working with them for a couple of years. Part of my process in working with all brands is that I have to submit my post for approval, about a week usually, before they are published. I’m really curious to know as a company that does a lot of work with bloggers, is that something that happens when you’re working directly with a blogger or do you just give them the product and give them the parameters and hope for the best and then check it out once it’s published? What does that process look like?

Zach Tackett: It depends on the bloggers. Some bloggers, their style of operations is really just, “I just made this recipe in my kitchen last week. I’m going to make a post on it, and it might not happen until like 10:00 the night before, but it really makes sense because time is of the essence. I want to get this out while it’s still fresh in people’s minds after I post in Instagram and my kitchen is saying like, ‘Recipe coming soon.'” Some of them, it’s like that. Usually we will at the beginning of other partnerships say, “Here are the products you’re going to be working on. Here’s some information just for your knowledge of what we pride ourselves on with these particular products like a point of difference. Then here’s a link that we’d like you to use.”

Usually, a lot of it comes back to trust and a lot of the people that we’re working with, we have established relationships with them. If we notice after their first post we say, “Hey, there’s like …” Like you might have spelled DeLallo wrong, like, “Hey, can you just fix this really quickly?” Usually it’s just a really quick response because it’s like the morning of post going live, so it’s just like a quick fix and then we’re good. We haven’t really encountered too often. Usually it’s just like there might be a spelling error. Usually, the links are all right where we want it to be and everything goes really smoothly. It just depends on the blogger.

Lindsay Ostrom: I think that goes back to what you were saying before too just with that you guys are reading blogs and you’re looking at what people are doing which plays into the trust side of things and you know, by the time you have partnered with a blogger, ideally you know that what they’re going to post is going to be good and you can trust the quality because of how much you guys are actually in the space. I know for me there was a, this is unrelated, but just in terms of like with DeLallo being really in this space, we did a video for just a random, it was a creamy cauliflower sauce recipe.

I did the post, it wasn’t a post about DeLallo, it wasn’t a sponsored post. It was just this post about the sauce and we did the video but we used DeLallo pasta in the video. There’s like maybe a five-second clip in the video where I’m pouring the pasta into the pot of boiling water, and someone from DeLallo, maybe it was you, somebody from DeLallo tweeted at me and was like, “Yay, DeLallo pasta.” I’m like, “Oh my gosh, they’re actually watching, like they’re not only checking in on the post, but they’re actually reading the post and watching the videos.” I thought that was really cool. Anyways, going back to the trust and all that stuff.

Zach Tackett: We honestly are excited when we’re working with people. Even if we’re not working with people, if we see our products, we’re like, “Oh my gosh, thank you so much for putting us in there.” Usually when we’re working with people, usually it’s just small things like that that we’re really appreciative of. Just like, “Thank you so much for pouring that pasta into the bowl and putting that in. You didn’t need to do that.”

Lindsay Ostrom: That magical moment.

Zach Tackett: Right. It’s just like we know that you actually like our product. It’s authentic and that’s what we’re always looking for is that authenticity.

Lindsay Ostrom: That’s great. You’ve talked a couple of times about these long term, I don’t know, like the longer-lasting partnerships or the more of the ambassadorship type partnerships. DeLallo, I think, is really unique in that and I feel like there are a handful of brands out there that I see doing that more. There are still a lot of brands that are really, I don’t know, they maybe put their emphasis on the one post with a number of different bloggers. Can you talk a little bit about your rationale to really hone in on these ambassadors and what the benefits of that long-term partnership might be?

Zach Tackett: Yeah. We think that there are multiple benefits to having a long-term relationship with somebody rather than just like short-term like a bleep on the radar. One is that we think that whenever we’re partnering with somebody, we think that their audience really matches and they’re really interested in learning more about our products and they’re going to be open to learning more about us. There’s that. We’re communicating with an audience that exist, that is willing to it, so we’re not constantly searching for new audience. We’re talking to people that we think are going to be really open, like I said.

Also, there is that level of trust that you get whenever you’ve been working with somebody for a year and a half versus somebody that it’s their first post. There still is that hesitance. Like, “Oh, I really want this to be great. I really know that it’s going to be awesome,” but there’s always that hint of hesitance, where it’s just like, “I don’t know.” There’s this unknown factor. Whereas if you work with somebody over the period of a year plus really, it becomes this normal thing where it’s just like, “All right, let’s check out this new recipe post. Let’s see how awesome this one is because the last one was kicking and we know that this one is going to be over the top amazing.” It’s really fun for us.

Also, we always bring our brand ambassadorships to Pittsburgh and we take them out and wine and dine them. They meet the higher level Zachs of the company and we do a tour of the store. They find out a little bit more about us but it also gives us a chance to get to know them a little bit more on a personal level where it’s just like, “Hey, that’s really awesome.” Kind of get an idea what their thoughts are because bloggers in general are a really great resource. Like, “What’s the next foodie trends? What have you been seeing?”, because you’re operating in that space constantly where it’s just like I operate in content, whereas I’m working in content analytics, all of that, so I can keep a thing around the post but you guys are actually like in the bloodstream.

Lindsay Ostrom: Yes.

Zach Tackett: Those are the benefits that we see to doing long-term versus short-term. Not saying that short-term can’t be effective, but usually that’s why we tend to go long-term with people.

Lindsay Ostrom: For sure. I think that makes a lot of sense. In thinking about those, let’s say you come to the end of a year-long partnership with someone, how do you go about measuring the success of a campaign and this relationship and partnership? I know for me personally, I have worked with brands that have a lot of different … Like the goals that they have are really broad. Some of them, it’s all 100% about website clicks, so it’s like link every single thing throughout the post and you’re like, “No, that’s probably not going to work,” but that’s really what their focus is. Although I’ve had other brands that maybe they want an email sign-up or maybe they are just trying to raise awareness, but especially with something so vague as “raising awareness”, how do you actually tangibly go about measuring the success of these relationships and these partnerships?

Zach Tackett: I think it comes back to … It’s like half and half. It’s half analytics where it’s just taking a look and seeing what was the quality of the traffic like over the past year? Is the audience that they’re bringing to the table that are bringing to our website, are they spending time on our website, which to us, if they’re spending a decent amount of time in their website close to the average person that come to our website without going through a blog, that shows there’s a general consensus that that reader, that audience that that blogger has is going to work for us in the future.

Then we also take a look at, is the blogger growing their social media? Are they growing their web traffic? Are they actively engaged in growing that audience and getting new fans for us to reach? There’s that part of thing. Then there’s also, we take a look back through the content and we take a look and see if it clicked or if it didn’t click, if it’s authentic or if it’s not authentic. If it seems like the sponsored post are being written and they’re being written because they have to be written and less of because the blogger actually came up with the recipe that in her spare time she uses our product everyday and she just came up with it because she works with it and she loves us, usually we’re able to gauge the difference. It’s leaning toward that kind of partnership rather than partnerships that’s kind of forced a little bit.

Lindsay Ostrom: I think that’s super interesting. Just the balance of both of those, and like you said, kind of the half and half. The half numbers, the half almost I hear you saying more than anything kind of just the feel of the fit and the trust and the messaging and brand alignment and all that stuff. That’s interesting.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that one thing that’s interesting about it is it’s such a soft skill.

Lindsay Ostrom: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Like it’s definitely a skill, but it’s something that you continually come back to. With anything online, it’s this idea of trust and the reality that everybody that we interact with, whether it’s talking to Zach on a Skype call or somebody that comes to DeLallo and looks at something for two minutes or somebody that reads a recipe. The one commonality is that we’re all people, and in order to move things forward in a relationship whether it’s between blogger and brand or blogger and individual or individual and brand, all of those things that come into play with sponsored content, there has to be this underlying piece of trust. Like that people trusts what’s happening. They trust that the content is authentic. The brand trust that the blogger isn’t just doing it to do it. I think that it’s interesting to hear you talk about that Zach.

Lindsay Ostrom: With that in mind, thinking about the authenticity and the trust and all of that, one thing that I’ve really personally appreciated about working with DeLallo this year is just how much you respect the author’s voice and I think that’s probably been clear to people who are listening to this podcast right from the beginning. All throughout, you’ve been talking about story and authenticity and working with bloggers who really actually like the product and feeling that out.

How do you balance that? Because you probably have times when you have certain messaging that you want the blogger to be promoting. I mean, it sounds weird to say you have an agenda, but you do, like you’re a business, you’re just trying to communicate a message here. How do you balance that with giving the blogger the freedom to use their voice and the freedom to tell their story while still making sure that your messaging is covered?

Zach Tackett: It totally is this weird balancing act of … Our general opinion here is that we don’t want to infringe on a blogger’s creative purpose or essentially their creativity when they’re creating a recipe. Every blogger has their own style and so we don’t want to make them feel like you have to create this kind of recipe because that’s the kind of recipe that we’re looking for. We don’t want to infringe on that. We’re open in saying like, “Here’s some points about the products that you’re going to be working with. This is why a consumer in a grocery store should pick up our product. Use that as you may.”

Usually what we see though is that it seems a lot more … It doesn’t seem more, it is way more authentic for a blogger though to give their own personal notes about a product, like their experience with it, than just what we’re saying. Like our gluten-free pasta. For a long time, there wasn’t really a good gluten-free pasta or it was coming up with new solutions using zucchini noodles or coming up with new solutions, but for some people that either choose to be gluten-free or need to be gluten-free due to dietary restrictions, they were searching for pastas, so we came out with a gluten-free pasta. We really made sure that were creating a quality product. The response has been really great. People really do enjoy the product.

One of the bloggers we work with, Skinnytaste, Gina from Skinnytaste.com, she actually … We sent her gluten-free pasta and she … It was just like a simple sample, I don’t think we were even working on it with her. It wasn’t in our sponsorship agreement. She was like, “My bestfriend’s son has Celiac, so he needs gluten-free pasta and we made a gluten-free pasta salad and he ate it all.”

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome.

Zach Tackett: She put it on her Instagram and I think she just mentioned it whenever she shared the recipe which wasn’t sponsored. She just mentioned it. To us, that’s like, that rings way more true. It shows that she’s actually interested, that she knows that it’s a good product. It’s not just because she should know it’s a good product, it’s because she knows that it’s a good product. She knows that the gluten-free pasta can be trusted, that it’s not going to fall apart, that it is a really good quality and it’s worth your money. It rings a lot more authentic. We give bloggers the freedom to do that, to feel like they can do that. That they know, “Here’s some points that are important to us, but we want to know what you actually think of the product. We want to know what you think is important and what you think your readers are going to want to know.”

Lindsay Ostrom: Yeah. I just did a survey the other day that was basically asking influencers, how do you work with brands and how do you keep it authentic? Everybody; reader, blogger, and brand wants authenticity and I think the way to make it happen is to really make sure there’s alignment with the brands that you’re working with, and like you’re saying about Gina sharing that. It’s like, well, obviously she would probably share that regardless and was sharing it regardless, it wasn’t a sponsored thing, just because she genuinely loved it. That’s value for her readers because it’s genuine product recommendation and there’s true story behind it. For you guys as a brand then that’s valuable to you as well because there’s that authentic and genuine connection.

I know when I was just starting with Pinch Of Yum and thinking about working with brands, it’s hard to be in a place where you mentally prepare yourself to be choosy about brands because you’re just like, “I just kind of want to work with anybody.” Like somebody comes knocking with a partnership and it’s like, “Oh my gosh, I got to do it.” Or they’ll even, like I remember when we were first starting. Do you remember this Bjork? The frozen vegetables or something. Like, we got some bag of frozen vegetables in the mail and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing,” and it is really fun in the beginning and it’s like, you got to start somewhere and you got to … That’s part of the deal, but I think what I’m learning more and more and what I hear you saying Zach is just the authenticity and the genuine brand to blogger to audience alignment. When the product really lines up for everybody, it’s an all-around win. I think even beyond the business “sponsored post” type agreement and partnership.

Zach Tackett: Yeah.

Lindsay Ostrom: Bjork, I’ll maybe throw it back to you, I think, because I don’t think I have anything else I want to ask.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I actually have looked at this for a little tie in. This question is actually about authenticity. I want to speak a little bit Zach to the bloggers that are just getting started out or maybe in their first couple of years, and that are listening right now. This whole idea of sponsored content is a mystery to them. Knowing that the solution isn’t to inundate Zach’s email inbox with request to work together, so we’re thinking broader picture here for those that are listening. Brands in general, do you have advice for bloggers that are just getting started out that want to connect with brands? How do they do that in an authentic way? What are those emails or phone calls or conversations look like so they don’t seem spammy?

Zach Tackett: It’s like the cold calling, that whole salesman when you got a cold call to you house. It’s like, “I would like to offer you a service. I want to sell you a better phone line than you already have.” It is awkward and off-putting because it’s like, we know these are real people, we know that this is like mom who is just starting out her blog and she is looking for a sponsor for this sort of post, so we never just ignore people.

What generally tends to ring, like what makes us take notice is when we see a blogger maybe that just starts out by just showing us how they’re using our products, how they’re actually using our products in their day to day life. If they just tag us on Instagram or if they send us a tweet or they share it on Facebook or anything like that where it’s just like, “Hey look, I made this pasta salad. It’s freaking delicious and it’s made with DeLallo foods, their pasta.” Something like that goes way further for us because it shows like, “Oh my gosh, they actually have a genuine interest. They actually use our products.”

Bjork Ostrom: It comes back to that. I always think about relationships whether online or really anything, and I’m smiling as I’m saying this, if you can’t hear it. Lindsay maybe knows because she knows me well enough.

Lindsay Ostrom: I just know you so well that I can tell when you’re smiling.

Bjork Ostrom: Oh brother. The idea that it’s like friendships, it’s relationships. Much in the same way where you wouldn’t move into a neighborhood and knock on somebody’s door and then say, “Can you help us move our stuff in?” Like you move into a neighborhood and then you knock on a door and you say, “Here’s some cookies.” Then next time you see them, you ask how their day was. Maybe that happens for six months to a year before you say, “Hey, I have some stuff, can you help me move it?” Or they see doing something and they say, “Hey, can we help you move it?” I think the more that we as people in general, but also bloggers, can think about relationships in that way, the easier those relationships become. Sometimes it means nothing comes of it, right?

Zach Tackett: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: Like it’s not like then a partnership happens, but it’s just such an easier way to start a conversation to connect with people to give before you ask for something. There’s this great social media book by Gary Vaynerchuk who he’s written a couple of books, but he has one called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook and it’s a boxing analogy for … Like you have to do these little jabs, give, give, give, and occasionally, when the time is right, you can think about asking. But I think more people start off by just throwing right hooks everywhere instead of giving. I think that’s true for a blogger in brand relationship too which is I heard you saying which is cool.

I’m going to ask a different version of that same question. Let’s say there’s somebody that’s just getting started, they’re in their first couple of years. Maybe they’ve done some sponsored content but it maybe hasn’t been great or maybe they just haven’t done anything at all. What would you say to those bloggers? What would your recommendation be for them as they look to build their site or their blogging brand into a place where a brand can look at it and say, “I think this could be a good person to work with.” What would you say to those people?

Zach Tackett: What I would say first off is usually the best thing you can do is try to improve your photography because it’s a skill that you definitely can improve upon. That’s the first thing that any brand that’s going to go to and that’s what they’re going to see. They’re going to see the kind of quality of photography they’re doing but see how they work with brands. It’s just like a practice deal. Maybe looking for some education on photography. I know there’s like a ton of conferences that you can go to and workshops and that sort of thing, but working on your photography, I swear, that’s usually how I first stumble upon a blogger is like I find their photograph and I’m like, “Who took this?” because it’s awesome. It’s like this really beautiful piece of art that I want to learn more about.

That’d be number one, and then number of two is really, it comes back to the content game that it’s just like make sure everything you’re doing on your site is really working towards some purpose, that it’s not just like a mishmash of thing. Know what your brand is and make sure that you’re staying true to that. If your brand is about being a mom and cooking meals that are for busy working moms that they can cook when they get home, that they can get on the table really quickly, own it and create recipes that fit within that genre. Don’t try to fit yourself onto many different audiences, because that audience totally exists and they will find you if you’re working toward that.

Bjork Ostrom: The niche is a powerful thing and it’s sticky for sure.

Zach Tackett: Yes, it is. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. That’s awesome.

Zach Tackett: That’s what I was saying.

Bjork Ostrom: I feel like that is an uplifting and positive note to end on, but before we do, I want to give you a chance here Zach to talk a little bit about where people can find out more about DeLallo. Just really appreciate you coming on and talking about the brand and the process and opening that door a little bit. I think it’s really rare thing and speaks to the authenticity and how genuine of a brand DeLallo is. Then, if you have any personal areas where you’re online, Twitter or anything like that, if you want to share those. Then I have a couple last questions for you before we go.

Zach Tackett: Yeah. Sure. If anybody is interested in learning more about us, they can go to delallo.com. The site’s there. There’s recipes, blog post, articles. We’re always doing something new. Giveaways and that sort of thing. A couple, like maybe a month or two ago, we gave away a pizza maker that we fell in love with making pizzas with any pizza kits that just came out. Our social media handle for across the networks is AlwaysDeLalloFoods. You can check us out there and learn more.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. My two last questions for you, possibly the most important questions. Number one, this one, Iā€™m just curious. I know that you are a writer and you are into poetry.

Zach Tackett: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: I dove deep into my research.

Lindsay Ostrom: That is creepy Bjork. That’s creepyto be researching people that much!

Bjork Ostrom: This is one thing that I’ve been thinking about. I would love to start reading poetry and I haven’t. For those are in the same camp as me, what is the first poetry book that they should pick up?

Zach Tackett: Oh my gosh, that’s a really difficult question. I don’t know. I can tell you …

Lindsay Ostrom: You stumped him right here at the end.

Zach Tackett: There’s so many really amazing ones. I’m going to give you magazine that you should check out and then a website and then a book.

Bjork Ostrom: Great.

Zach Tackett: The magazine that you should check out is, just start with Poetry magazine because you can usually find it in any bookstore. It’s monthly and there’s usually really great content. There’s special issues about translation, a Q&A issue with writers. It’s really awesome. A website that I think is really great, you could go to the … I like using Poetry Foundation to find new things.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s PoetryFoundation.com?

Zach Tackett: Yeah. PoetryFoundation.org.

Bjork Ostrom: Great.

Zach Tackett: As well as maybe even like poets.org. Just sign up for a couple daily poems. I enjoy them because then it’s like a break from your day.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Zach Tackett: It’s awesome. Then a book that I actually just recently read which I stayed up all night long reading, it’s called Our Andromeda. It’s by Brenda Shaughnessy. It’s a really great book. It’s by Copper Canyon Press. It’s a really awesome book. It’s about her son who was born and there were some complications, so it changed her life and she wrote this really amazing book about it. Really playful but also really heartfelt and compelling.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome.

Zach Tackett: It’s a really great read.

Bjork Ostrom: Thanks for sharing that. I just saw that and I thought, “I should ask him about that,” even though it doesn’t have to do with food blogging. This last one kind of does. If you had to pick your favorite DeLallo food, which product would it be?

Zach Tackett: Oh my gosh. All right. Favorite DeLallo that we sell … We have so much stuff. I’m going to say that my favorite product is our … I’m going to go with the whole wheat pasta just because we have so many cuts, you can’t really find anywhere else.

Lindsay Ostrom: That you can’t find anywhere else.

Zach Tackett: Yeah.

Lindsay Ostrom: It’s so bizarre to me that no other companies are really making some of those cuts. I totally hijacked your answer, but I’m right there with you.

Zach Tackett: Yeah, it’s that.

Bjork Ostrom: Lindsay supports that answer.

Zach Tackett: Yes. I will have to say that, but you also can’t go wrong with some DeLallo biscotti in the afternoon with a cup of coffee.

Bjork Ostrom: For sure. Which you have in the office.

Lindsay Ostrom: Which is sitting over … Right. That’s right.

Bjork Ostrom: So accessible.

Zach Tackett: Which we have in the office currently staring at me. I would probably go get one after this interview.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Zach, thanks so much for coming on. Lindsay, thanks for jumping on the podcast too. Zach, really appreciate your time and insight. I know that it will be really helpful for people. We hope that some people discover the wonderfulness of DeLallo Food as well.

Lindsay Ostrom: Yes.

Zach Tackett: All right, thank you so much.

Bjork Ostrom: All right. Thanks a lot Zach.

Lindsay Ostrom: Thanks Zach.

Zach Tackett: Bye.

Bjork Ostrom: Bye. That’s a wrap for episode number twenty-two. One more really big thank you to Zach for coming on the podcast today and talking about what it’s like to do the brand side of things working with DeLallo. If you haven’t checked out DeLallo, I want to give a quick plug to them. Great company with great products. We’d really encourage you to check it out. Zach came on just for the sake of being helpful today, so we really appreciate that. One more thing here. If this is one of the first podcast you’ve listened to on the Food Blogger Pro podcast, I want to let you know that all of the podcast we’ve done, all the other twenty-one episodes are available for free on your podcast app of choice. You can find them in iTunes or the podcast app if you have an iPhone. Stitcher is another app. All you have to do is search for Food Blogger Pro.

One thing that I would ask is if you have time, we’d really appreciate it if you leave a rating. That can be in iTunes or the podcast app that you used. That’s fuel for our fire to keep this train moving and we really, really appreciate it. When I recorded this, we had sixty five-star ratings and we so, so appreciate that. It means so much to us, so thank you if you’ve gone on and left a rating for the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Our hope for these podcast interviews and podcast episodes that we do is that it helps you with your one percent infinity. What does that mean? One percent infinity means getting a little bit better everyday forever. Just one percent better everyday for a long period of time really can add up and we hope that these podcast interviews help you do that. We’ll be back next week, same time, same place. Until then, make it a great week.

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