324: Building Strong Partnerships – How Bob’s Red Mill Works with Content Creators on Sponsored Content

Listen to this episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast using the player above or check it out on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

An image of a person typing on a laptop and the title of Cassidy Stockton's episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Building Strong Partnerships.'

Welcome to episode 324 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Cassidy Stockton about how Bob’s Red Mill works with content creators on sponsored content.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Ansley Beutler from Peach Perfect Financials about optimizing your blog’s financials to set your business up for success. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Building Strong Partnerships

When we chat about sponsored content here on the podcast, we usually talk to creators and publishers about how they secure partnerships with brands. But today, we’re flipping the script and hearing things directly from a brand’s perspective!

In this episode, Bjork interviews Cassidy Stockton, the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Bob’s Red Mill, about how her team works with content creators, what she wishes creators knew about working with brands, and more.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about how to reach out to brands, how to negotiate your rates, or how to secure ongoing brand partnerships, this episode with Cassidy is for you!

A quote from Cassidy Stockton's appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'My most important piece is that they authentically love the brand...I'm looking for people who are already fans and use the products.'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What Cassidy does at Bob’s Red Mill
  • Why they invest so much into influencer marketing
  • What kinds of campaigns they find successful
  • What an employee-owned company is
  • What metrics they look at when working with influencers
  • What influencers can do to maintain a strong relationship with a brand
  • How they handle invoices and payments
  • How they initiate partnerships at Bob’s Red Mill
  • Why they consider video to be essential right now
  • How they’ve been experimenting on TikTok
  • How they negotiate rates with influencers
  • How Bob’s Red Mill works with various agencies
  • What you should include in your media kit
  • What she wishes creators knew about working with brands


If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

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Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: Hello, hello, hello, you’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, this is Bjork Ostrom, and today we are interviewing Cassidy Stockton from Bob’s Red Mill. Now, the interesting thing about this conversation is we’re kind of flipping the script a little bit. Usually, we interview creators, bloggers, publishers, people who might be experts on sponsored content in this category, and we’re talking about it from the perspective of the publisher or the blogger.

Bjork Ostrom: But today we’re going to flip that, and we’re actually going to talk to a brand or somebody who’s representing a brand and Cassidy is going to be talking about what it’s like for her, and for her team at Bob’s Red Mill to work with influencers or creators or publishers, whatever word you want to us. But she’s going to be talking about some of the things that really help people to stand out, why they would work with somebody on an ongoing basis.

Bjork Ostrom: She’s going to be talking about some of the things that you want to think about if you’re reaching out to brands. It was a really interesting conversation for me to hear what it’s like for a brand or a business, as they interact with influencers and make decisions around who they’re going to work with, and who they’re going to pay to sponsor and to promote their product.

Bjork Ostrom: So it’s a helpful conversation, especially if you’re interested in focusing more or growing the work that you’re doing in the sponsor content category, I think you’re going to get a lot out of it. So let’s go ahead and jump into the interview with Cassidy from Bob’s Red Mill Cassidy. Cassidy, welcome to the podcast.

Cassidy Stockton: Thank you so much for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: Cassidy welcome, because we’re going to be talking about influencer marketing, sponsored content. But usually, we talk about this with people who are producing sponsor content, bloggers, creators, influencers, but today we’re lucky because we going to talk about what it’s like on the other side of the coin for brands. So can you talk a little bit about who you are and then also the brand, which I’m sure a lot of people will be familiar with.

Cassidy Stockton: Well, Bob’s Red Mill we are a milling company, and that’s the short version we’ve been around since 1978. We’re an employee-owned company based out of Portland, Oregon, we make flours, cereals, baking mixes, and are moving into more ready-to-eat items now like oatmeal cups, bars, crackers. And I’ve been with the company for 17 years.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome.

Cassidy Stockton: I’ve worked a lot at different… worn a lot of different hats at Bob’s, from the customer service answering phones, moving into marketing, and then I built my career at Bob’s on social media and influencer marketing. So I started doing that about 10 years ago, maybe 11 or 12 now, depending on where we’re at in time, starting just some basic influencer work then. And then at this point now I’m our senior content marketing manager, so I manage our social media, our influencer programs, our design, our writing, our photography, and video.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you remember at what point you were like, hey, there’s this social thing? And this maybe could be something that’s really important, because I feel like really interesting for you to be a part of a well-known established brand. And to kind of have owned from start to today, a really significant thing that at the time was kind of fringe, but now it’s wow, this is really important. When was that first point that, that happened, and here’s what that transition looks like?

Cassidy Stockton: I’ve been saying 10 years, but now I’m thinking it’s more like 12. I think it was around 2008, when we started really getting into Facebook. I mean, we had played around with having a blog and it had a little bit of YouTube content, but that’s when we started picking up and focusing efforts on what we were going to do and put out on the different platforms available at that time. And that’s when we also started, we were looking for influencers that might mention the brand, and then commenting, offering to send them free product. It wasn’t as much of a pay to play space as is now, so.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And in terms of your day-to-day now, what does that look like? Day-to-day, week-to-week? I suppose every day is a little bit different.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah, I mean, a lot of my job now is managing my team and making sure they have everything they need, but in terms of what we’re planning and how we manage social media, we have two full-time folks that develop recipes, to put out recipe content there. They do everything from the recipe creation, to the writing and the photography and video, and then we share a lot of influencer content on our channels to bring more attention to those pieces.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. And when you think of sponsored content, so there’s a lot of different social media, right. Really big in terms of what that could be, or even just recipe development, you’re putting that on the site, you’re putting that on different social channels. When you think of the relationship with bloggers or creators, what percentage is that in terms of, hey, Bob’s Red Rill, here’s what we focus on from social and 25% of that is sponsored content. How does that fit into the pie chart of?

Cassidy Stockton: I’d say more of my dollars go into influencer marketing, that’s a big piece of our content puzzle, because we usually have an agreement that works out, we can share the content, we can use it on our channels. So I think just the way that the space is dollar-wise, that’s where more of the investment is. Time-Wise on my team though, a lot of the investment is in developing our own stuff and then supporting influencers, getting them the product, making sure they have all the talking points they need and that kind of thing.

Bjork Ostrom: So point being, part of the benefit is not just the exposure from an advertising marketing perspective, but also a lot of times it can be content that’s being created that then you can use and share. So it’s like usually you’d have to go to an agency, the agency would maybe produce content, but there’s no benefit in the agency creating it from an exposure perspective.

Bjork Ostrom: But with a blogger, with a creator, not only do you get content that you can potentially share, but then you also get the upside of exposure on this platforms to initiative to a campaign. If you were to say benefit of each of those things, would it be 50, 50, 50% of the benefit is the content, and then 50% is the exposure? I suppose it depends on the creator as well.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah. It does, I’d say 75% is more about getting the exposure on their channels, and then the 25% falls into, this is great content, it aligns our brand with these creators, it’s just a good picture all around.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That makes sense. So tell me about a campaign that you’re like, or creator or however you’d want to view it, where you’re like, this is awesome, this went really well. And the context for that question is, I think it’s important for us bloggers, creators, publishers, whatever term you want to use, to know what it looks like on the other side. When somebody says, wow, I have this and it’s exactly what I want, it’s really helpful, I’m able to take it and share it with my team or the people I report to. And they’re like, oh, that’s really awesome. Can you paint a picture of what that looks like?

Cassidy Stockton: Sure.

Bjork Ostrom: So we as creators can help the brands that we’re working with, do what they want to do.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah, of course. I mean, there’s two types of campaigns that I run, and one will be specifically around moving product, getting more eyes on fill in the blank product. And then there’re others, that are more socially impactful where it’s about positioning the brand in the right social space for us. So we ran a really wonderful campaign this year promoting our crackers, our newly launched crackers at Sprouts, which is a chain of stores all over the country, but not in Oregon.

Cassidy Stockton: But it was really great to help showcase, and these are my favorite campaigns right now, because as a brand, it’s hard to close the loop between you see it online and you buy it. So having these campaigns that are telling like-minded followers, that this product is available at this grocery store right now, and then we can see with swipe ups in Instagram now, we can see how many people took action and added it to a cart. So that is really powerful on the side of selling my program to the executives at Bob’s Red Mill, justifying the cost in why we want to keep doing it.

Cassidy Stockton: Because I can show we moved this many products off the shelf and I think that campaign, I think we moved about 600 units off the shelf, which is pretty impactful for a few weeks at a specific chain, that small specific item. But the other campaigns that I get the most excited about, and the ones that really energize me, are the ones that are more social causes. So we did a great campaign around pride this year in June, having people tell stories about their families and what they look like, and how Bob’s Red Mill fits into that.

Cassidy Stockton: And we’ve done a bunch of pieces for AAPI month, and that was really neat to see how we fit into their lifestyles and then also shows that we care. I mean, we do care about diversity in this world and try to support those social causes.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And AAPI for those who aren’t familiar kind of around Stop Asian Hate, and Asian American Pacific Islander is that AAPI? Okay.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah. So that was a neat one this year, that was our first time delving into either of those causes in those months of recognition trying to support.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And one of the things that you had mentioned that I think was really interesting is, Bob’s Red Mill is employee-owned.

Cassidy Stockton: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: And this is getting into kind of business structure, which I’m interested in, maybe not podcast listeners, but so would that mean that it’s a ESOP?

Cassidy Stockton: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. And can you explain, just like a fun little aside what that means and how that works in terms of an employee-owned company?

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah, sure. An ESOP means, employee stock ownership plan or program, depending on which way you want that P to go. But it’s a really confusing thing to a lot of people, but it means at Bob’s Red Mill, I think there’s about 7,000 employee-owned companies in this country. So it’s pretty small group and they’re run differently, but to be an ESOP there’s rules. So we as employees, we get a certain amount of shares, they were gifted to us by the company we did not buy them, and it functions as a retirement plan for us. So when somebody parts ways with the company or retires, those shares are paid out if they’re fully vested.

Cassidy Stockton: What I see on it, I’ve been at Bob’s long enough that I saw this rollout. So I started, it wasn’t an employee-owned company, but what we see is that people are more invested. You really genuinely have people loving their jobs, walking around talking to different people on the mill, and just kind of hearing how much they love working for us and love being part of this bigger thing and I think that is neat. So it’s different than some people think there’s not like we aren’t making a day-to-day decisions on the running of the company. We have a board that does that, but we are all individually invested in it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s cool. The idea being that, with the company there’s different exit options, so you could exit selling to Google, or you could sell to General Mills, or you could have an IPO or anybody could buy it. But I think what’s so cool about ESOP is essentially who was it that owned it at that?

Cassidy Stockton: Bob Moore, is the owner of the company.

Bjork Ostrom: So is Bob?

Cassidy Stockton: Is Bob.

Bjork Ostrom: And he was like I want to sell this instead of selling it to General Mills, or selling it to Land O’Lakes or Google, you know like Google wouldn’t buy it but that idea. Is like, hey, I want to sell this to the employees so which is, you don’t actually have to, as far as you don’t have to buy it.

Cassidy Stockton: No we were gifted the company.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, gifted.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah. He gave it to us on his 81st birthday and over the last 10 years, we are fully 100% employee-owned now. So it’s a process as you have founders get purchased out, and then that money is turned over, goes into shares and it’s complicated, but it’s a really cool thing. And what it ends up being is that you have people who are invested in the company, knowing that their jobs are secure, that the company is not going to turn around and sell.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s really cool. And here’s my bridge back to the conversation we were having before. The other thing that’s great about having an employee-owned company is that, everybody feels like they’re owning the metrics in a different way than you maybe normally would. Because you’re like hey, this impacts the value of the company, and the value of the company I get something tangible from that, this isn’t just any company, it’s a company that I own.

Bjork Ostrom: So when you look at the metrics around social and sponsored content, you shared a little bit. Hey, it’s really helpful if you can do swipe up, if you can have some type of purchase in store, but how much of it is hey, we just know that this is going to be generally a good thing. And we won’t be able to track it, versus we know that we need to track all of this stuff. And for creators, what are the most important things that they can be aware of that they can tell you, hey, here are the metrics. Whatever it might be, clicks, impressions versus, hey, this is a beautiful piece of content and you can use it in other places.

Cassidy Stockton: Sure. Yeah. It’s tricky, I think anywhere in social media, it gets into sort of in that PR world, it’s really hard to measure that stuff. And most of our work is around brand building and product awareness. So, what we look at to measure would be impressions, engagements, click-throughs if there is that data, it depends on what level of influencer we’re working on with whether they have a good tracker, and then we have other resources that we pay for to give us. That’s how I’ve handled it, this year I just pay for a membership to a tracking site.

Bjork Ostrom: What is that out of curiosity?

Cassidy Stockton: We use InfluenceKit, we’ve been really happy with it. It gives us a great report so I can break it down by the month of who’s posted for us and see all the stats, how many impressions and engagement rates, versus the year or the previous year that month. And it gives me something to measure against, but generally this is a feel-good space. We’re doing a lot of feel-good brand-building around telling the story of who we are, and trying to emotionally connect with people. So if we get good comments, I always love to hear those.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, it’s an art and a science it feels like it’s both of those things. It’s not just science, but helpful if it is and it’s not just art, but helpful if it is. And solution like InfluenceKit, my friend Bruno-

Cassidy Stockton: Oh, yeah they’re so great.

Bjork Ostrom: We’re having breakfast at Key’s Cafe in Roseville, Minnesota, or St. Paul it’s right on the line, I think it’s Roseville. This is, it must’ve been four years ago. He was like, I’m thinking of building this tool that will help creators with metrics. I was like, oh, that sounds awesome, we would use it. So fun to be at the beginning of that, and then fun to be at podcast interview.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah. And I remember seeing those… We’d get those reports from people and so finally I reached out to Bruno and was, how can we get access to this platform as a brand? So I think we were one of the first brands that started working with them.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s really cool. And so you then will tell any creative you work with to say, hey, we have this tool that we use, and that helps us hook into social to get an understanding of how this pin is performing or how this Instagram post is performing and it’s not like you need to log in to their account. You just need the URL.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah. They set up an account, we just pay for it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Cool.

Cassidy Stockton: And it allows us to compare apples to apples, to see, okay, well, and I know this person’s at this level of following, their engagement rate is here, this person’s a little lower, their engagements might be here. That helps me normalize the program.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s cool. And fun to make that connection. So how about creators where you’re like man, I just want to continue to work with this creator, they’re great, they’re consistent, they deliver good results. What are the other variables that you would consider to be important for creators when they’re wanting to do their best in terms of working with the brand?

Cassidy Stockton: Well, I think at least for us, my most important piece is that they authentically love the brand. I’m looking for people who are already fans and use the products, so that’s the first step because we are a lucky brand in that regard. I don’t know what is to work for some of the harder-sell brands where they have to find people to talk about it, but in the recipe influencer space, a lot of people reach out.

Cassidy Stockton: So we’re looking for people who communicate well and in a timely manner who have beautiful content, beautiful photography and videos or the recipes fit the niche we’re trying to hit. So we’ll take a little bit, if the photos aren’t quite as good, but that content is really, really good we’ll be more interested. But generally looking for-

Bjork Ostrom: If the content is really good meaning, if it aligns with an initiative that you’re interested in pushing at that point?

Cassidy Stockton: Right. Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Point being, if you’re doing made, sorry what’s the phrase that you use, the new initiatives that you’re having now with?

Cassidy Stockton: Oh, more around social causes?

Bjork Ostrom: No, not just ingredients.

Cassidy Stockton: Ready to eat?

Bjork Ostrom: Ready to eat, thank you.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: I was like, what is that phrase? But if you have somebody who’s maybe not a recipe creator, but they talk a lot about having a busy family life. They might be a better fit for somebody to talk about ready to eat, even if they don’t check some of those other boxes, but they’re just content aligned. Is that kind of what you’re getting at?

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah. And as we do more retailer-focused campaigns, we look for people who say they shop at Walmart, and post about that a lot so we’re looking for that kind of angle. And then the other types of things, if we have a real special, because our products fit almost every type of diet that you can follow. Sometimes we’ll promote with key to a focused person or there’s a couple other smaller diets that we might just pick one influencer to promote our products in that space for the year. But we’ll get more dialed in on maybe their photography isn’t as good, but those recipes meet that special need.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that you had said was, they communicate well. What does that mean and what does that look like?

Cassidy Stockton: Well, just in a timely manner and, sometimes I’ve had creators in the past where it’ll take them a month to get back to me. Or either they drop the ball and they don’t communicate about it, or they switch gears and switch to a totally different product and don’t communicate about it. But we’ve worked through a lot of those kinks as we’ve worked our program over the years, and how to get people paid on time, and how to get all the tax forms done on time, because those are other pieces to that puzzle that nobody thinks about too much.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s amazing to me, how much of an advantage something as simple as clear, consistent and timely communication can be, and that’s such a rare thing. And if you can have somebody and it doesn’t even have to be for people listening, this doesn’t necessarily have to be you, but somebody on your team who is always proactive or we’ll actually follow up when they say they do all of those things. It seems like a low bar, but my guess is that it goes a long way too, for you to make your job easier. If you know that you’re not having to kind of manage somebody.

Bjork Ostrom: Such is said they’re always going to be following up, and they’re always going to be communicating clearly, they’re going to be getting you what you need when you need it. So you’re not having to be hey, where is it? So maybe as another angle to look at it, how about some of the examples of working with certain creators where you’re, eh, I don’t think I’m going to renew this relationship again, because it’s just too difficult.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah. There’s a couple of ways that it happens will be, because we prefer to ship all of our products so that you have the right package with the newest packaging that looks beautiful versus sending someone to the store. So a few times we’ve had it where the person would request it and want it the next day. And that just gets really frustrating after six months of that saying, well, it takes us five business days, it takes that long to get it to them. I mean, we will ship overnight, it’s just when it becomes a chronic habit, it starts to lose its appeal.

Cassidy Stockton: And the same goes for any of those things invoicing, if you’re always late on an invoice or you send it to me and want to check on it three days later, it’s like, okay, we are going to pay you, but we are a big company. And I realize that people who are getting paid by us, a lot of them are small business owners. We’re talking about people who care about each check and are maybe working another job on top of that. So it’s important to us, but it’s because we’re busy, the longer a request takes and the more often you make the same request, it just starts to wear us down.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Totally. Usually what… Go ahead finish that last thought.

Cassidy Stockton: The last thing I was going to say, is just when they switched gears on a product too. Say, we’ve agreed that you’re going to promote Almond Flour, and all of a sudden the post comes out and it’s about Oats. Well, that’s fine, but I would prefer to know that ahead of time, and I could say, oh, well, make sure you do this, or this is the talking point there.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That makes sense. Can you explain what that looks like on the backend when somebody sends an invoice, number one, I’m just curious, what is your preferred way to get that? And then just for those who aren’t familiar working with a bigger company, what does that have to go through in order to actually get paid and what’s a realistic expectation there?

Cassidy Stockton: Sure. Now, we have really refined our process over the years because it was really bumpy when we started, and it was trying to pay people by check and pay them as soon as the invoice came in. But now we have it set up as we pay on a monthly cadence, so you have to have your invoice by that date to get paid at the end of the month, we pay by direct deposit now. Because a single check request requires, I mean it, I have to submit a request, I have to provide all of the paperwork, the W9 and or W2 no W9. And we have some other vendor forms that we have to have at Bob’s.

Cassidy Stockton: And because we’re often paying big companies for the products we ordered, or getting money for the things people ordered that these little smaller checks are harder to get through. So that’s why we built this process, and the way I prefer to get them, I don’t really care, it just needs to be an invoice. It could be a PDF, it can be through one of the QuickBooks options. I do get them sometimes where they’re just typed in an email and I have to send it back and be like, can you make this into a thing?

Cassidy Stockton: And something important to keep in mind that I think, I didn’t know, but invoices numbers are really important when you’re working with a bigger brand and they’re paying you over and over again. Because I learned the hard way, if your number is the same, they just don’t pay because they already paid that one.

Bjork Ostrom: The point being, if you are creating those in word or pages or whatever it might be, and sometimes people just use the same invoice. The accounting department will look at that and be oh, this is just a duplicate invoice one, which we already paid.

Cassidy Stockton: So now we’re good. Now we’ll catch it, because I’ll check all that ahead of time before I submit it after learning the hard way a few times, but it’s tough. And I think I just empathize so much with small business owners and how hard it is to not know when your money’s coming. Or no, you put out all this effort and now you have to wait a month to get the money for it, so we try to make it easy.

Bjork Ostrom: Pretty common for businesses to have, let’s say net 30, net 60, net 90. This idea of, hey, the invoice is due in 30 days and sometimes you’ll get invoices and we get these words due upon receipt.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah. I get those all the time.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay, great. But I’m not going to be able to pay this today, and we’re smaller, more nimble and still, it’s just not how our system works and even more so then with the bigger company.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: So how about on the front end of things, what does it look like when you are starting a relationship with somebody? What do some of those initial connections look like? And then at what point you’re like, hey, this makes sense, we want to work with this person. And how do you kind of formalize that connection with somebody, if you do decide to move forward with working with them?

Cassidy Stockton: Sure. We’re pretty personal at Bob’s, we run it pretty scrappy and lean. So either you’re going to talk to me or my coworkers, Serena. And typically what we do is, we get requests all day, every day, all year long for they want to work with us. So usually what we do is about this time of year, we start looking over who’s in our program now, evaluating and then start looking at who’s reached out and who might be a good fit. And if it’s somebody that’s reached out to us, that conversation is a little different, because it’s like, oh, it’s great to hear from you, what are your rates like? ? What products do you love, tell us a little bit more?

Cassidy Stockton: And then what we do on our side is we do a big dive into what is the content, who are they, do they align with our brand values, their social channels are they strong, are they posting regularly? Because sometimes you’ll find that they haven’t posted on Instagram in six months and that stuff matters. So and then these days we also are looking for videos, so that’s another key point. If they haven’t reached out to us, I just do a general nice, it’s really nice to meet you, big fan of your brand, curious if you’re familiar with us, curious if you’d be open to working with us next year?

Cassidy Stockton: And we have brands that are amazing, that decided to stop. Oh, I’m calling them brands, I’m sorry, bloggers, who decided to stop doing branded content. And so sometimes those relationships just end naturally that way, other times we’ve either that’s the harder side is the ending a relationship, is a lot harder, everybody wants to take money for work.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Totally. So you mean if there’s somebody you’re working with and you say, hey, actually decided not to work with you this next year, your point is that’s hard, that’s not easy.

Cassidy Stockton: I hate having those conversations with people.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Totally.

Cassidy Stockton: And it’s a true test of people’s professional strength and how they take those conversations to.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. And what does that look like for you, where you come out of it and you’re like, hey, that was super professional. How the person handled it.

Cassidy Stockton: You know, usually they’re really grateful for the relationship, they thank us for the work, they’re open to future conversations, because with me, the door is never fully closed at Bob’s. We will go back, it just depends on our goals for the year and what we’re trying to promote in align with. So we’ve gone back after time and picked up somebody we used to work with before, but I mean, I’m sure you can imagine how, when people are fired, how people react and it’s not like that. But people react poorly sometimes, and that kind of ends it usually.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally. It’s not a great way to leave a door open, it doesn’t leave the door open. It’s not, oh great, hoping we work together again.

Cassidy Stockton: But it’s hard.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Cassidy Stockton: This work is super personal, I get that. Where each creator we work with is very invested with what they make in their channel and who they align with. So I understand how it can be a hard thing.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Can you talk about, you had mentioned video, how important is that? And maybe within that conversation talk about different platforms.

Cassidy Stockton: Sure.

Bjork Ostrom: And where you see content being a priority across different platforms.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah. These days video is pretty essential, it’s rare for us to work with somebody who does not do video.

Bjork Ostrom: Why is that?

Cassidy Stockton: I Mean, I think it’s pretty normal knowledge now, that Instagram prefers video, so they promote the videos, and then as we’re trying to build more content that can go out onto different channels. So we wanted something that could go on Reels and TikTok, and it’s great. Especially we’ve had a lot of live sessions this year on Instagram, with a co-creator teaching along with our internal person and those have gone really well. So we’re really looking for people who are open to that, but we also realize, like it’s not, everybody’s strong suit and that’s not a real deal-breaker, but it’s just a more important content needs. So really where we’re trying to fill the need is on our own content calendar with video.

Bjork Ostrom: And so helpful to go back to that earlier conversation, helpful from an exposure perspective, because the creator will publish it to their Instagram, it might get exposure there. But what I hear you saying is, it’s also helpful because then you can take that on Bob’s side and to use Bob since it’s for shorthand. Does that?

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah. That’s how we call it.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay I just wanted to make sure that’s okay. And publish it to your different platforms and have it in different places where you want to be publishing videos.

Cassidy Stockton: Sure. And it totally depends on the agreement that we have with somebody like we don’t ever steal content, we only ever share it.

Bjork Ostrom: Outlined as part of the agreement. Yeah. You had mentioned TikTok, because that tells me from a behind-the-scenes brand, or you just as like for us, we’re like, do we do TikTok? How much-

Cassidy Stockton: That’s sort of where we’re at, I mean, what we’re seeing is like a super.

Bjork Ostrom: Or in a platform for that matter.

Cassidy Stockton: Right and really have worked here, I’ve watched a lot of platforms come and go. I mean like Google plus is just barely hanging on at all anymore, but it’s like, we’d want to try them. If there is going to be a space for us, we’ll usually test it out. But TikTok is, a tricky one, it’s super fun, it’s a written on incredible algorithm. But do people want to see videos from Bob’s Red Mill? Not sure. So we’ve been testing it out with more influencer content, branded influencer content that we can share on our TikTok channel and then a few pieces right now our primary focus is just to be there.

Cassidy Stockton: We’re not focused real heavily on creating content just for TikTok but it’s a space that we want to have our account. We want to be able to be tagged, we want to see what stuff is happening on those channels. And we’re seeing a lot of really fun stuff with our products, I think where we struggle is that we’re kind of an old fashion brand and that is a real cheeky platform. So it’s a harder sell on the cheeky content.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Right. There’s maybe more of a gap between perception of the brand as this established, reliable, trustworthy well-known, and like kind of fritzy, teenager.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah, I mean it’s an opportunity.

Bjork Ostrom: How do you reconcile those things? Very interesting kind of branding exercise on that platform.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah, it’s been. It’s fun, It’s a really fun platform, but when it gets into, how do we make this do something? We’re just testing about?

Bjork Ostrom: We have platforms like that as well, which is like, we don’t want to not publish there. And we want people, when people go there, whether it be a brand or a reader or whatever, it might be a customer, depending on which site it is to look and say, oh, they’re showing up every day or almost everyday, they’re publishing content they’re here. And that’s, for us the check box of like, hey, they’re here, they’re showing up they’re relevant in a way that they’re publishing content. It’d be like if somebody went to Bob’s Red Mill, Instagram, and you hadn’t published for eight months, it’d be like, oh, that’s weird. Even if you only had, 72 followers, there’s still something about just seeing somebody is actually showing up and publishing content.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah. And that’s how we tweet Twitter, that’s how I treat Twitter is it’s definitely like we post a few times a week just to have a presence still, but it’s not a great place to learn about our brand. It’s just not the right fit for us as a brand. Whereas Pinterest, we crush it on Pinterest.

Bjork Ostrom: And it’s a great fit for that, you shared a little bit about touchpoints and creators reaching out and saying, hey, be interested in working together? How do you do that in an elegant way where you’re authentically reaching out and making that connection, but not tipping over into the like, wait, this is getting kind of annoying category. How do people do that?

Cassidy Stockton: Well, It’s tough, I mean, typically if I respond to you, it’s usually often I’m interested if you’re getting a response directly from the brand we’re often interested in you. And I’ll usually tell you to check back in a few months, the people who I have turned down, who we’re now two years into them, checking in with me every month, it gets tough to keep hearing them and trying to be polite. Because sometimes it’s just not a good fit for the brand or there’s some other reason and we’re being professional and not sharing directly. Why?

Cassidy Stockton: Because it could be something else or it could be that the rates are just way too out of our range and no matter how much we negotiate, we’re never going to hit our budgets. I mean, what I like the best is to get an introductory email, why you love the brand, some examples of your work, and then depending on how they come back to you check back in three months and if you check back three or four times and you’re still not getting anywhere, it’s probably not the right fit for you.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That makes sense, versus not the right time. You covered a year, you’ve made connections, they know you’re there, which is helpful. So how about on, this is the one that everybody has questions about the pricing side of things. How do bloggers come to the table with something that a brand would look at and say, hey, this is a realistic price that we can work within? It’s not too cheap where the bloggers not getting paid for their work and the exposure that they get. But it’s also not so expensive that you’d look at it and be like, no, there’s no way we could do this. What does that speak for?

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah. It’s tough, I mean, it really depends on where everybody’s at. And as you know, because you’ve been in this space so long that the rates sort of have inflated over time. And so what we might’ve paid five years ago for a post is different now. So typically I think if you were just getting started and you didn’t know where to start with, what rates to ask might start asking other influencers in your space like people that you don’t feel like you’re in competition with. Because if you come to me without a rate in mind, my, I am going to get a rate from our agency based on averages. And then that gives me some idea of where to start from. It’s easier for me, and I prefer to start with your rates at Bob’s Red Mill. We don’t negotiate under 20% of asking price, if we can’t make it work within that 20%, then we will let you know. And then it’s your choice to go beyond that.

Bjork Ostrom: So when somebody brings you a rate there, you have an internal kind of rule that if somebody says, hey, it’s $10,000 for this, you wouldn’t come back to them and say, oh, we can only do 5,000. The lowest you would go would be eight.

Cassidy Stockton: And if, I couldn’t do eight, I would just let them know it’s out of our budget. We can’t do this, and then sometimes, they’ll come back and they say, well, what’d you do it for this? And then we’ve negotiated it, but because we’ve been doing it so long, I’ve had a lot of back and forth and been in situations where people felt we weren’t offering enough money. Like we were undercutting and it wasn’t our brand, but it was somebody representing our brand for us. And so we’ve just had to put those rules in place because we don’t, we value the work that creators do, it’s hard.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s really cool, and I’ve never heard of, or maybe it’s happened. I just haven’t been aware of it, it’s almost like in order to communicate respect for somebody, if you’re not going to come back and say, oh, that’s great, but we’ll only do this for 2000 when they quoted 10, because that doesn’t feel great. You would just say, it’s outside of our range, we can’t do that. Or if it was close, you’d say, hey, the best we can do is 8,000-

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah, and typically, It’s great. And I think it’s been a good move for us as a brand because both myself and my partner, Serena on the team, we come from a space of really, we are big fans of the work that’s happening out there. We understand how much work goes into it, not just the recipe or the photography, but like how much stress of running your own business, having to figure out your taxes and all of your insurance. There’s a lot that goes into running these businesses. And I think sometimes when we’re only talking about the budget, we forget all the pieces that it takes to make this piece happen, to be available, to create the content.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s really cool, one of the things you mentioned was an agency, do you think Bob’s Red Mill work with an agency kind of to help facilitate that. Can you talk about what that relationship looks like and how that works?

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah, so I manage two agencies that work for us, that do influencer work. One is our digital firm called power digital marketing, they’re based out of San Diego and they do most of our monthly campaigns and product campaigns, and retailer-focused campaigns. So they do what I consider our big blast campaigns where we’ll have 50 creators posting about a certain thing. And they do them a lot more on one-offs, so you might get a job from us in January, but then maybe not get until May. And then we work with a local company called Maxwell PR which we do, more lifestyle type influencers with them, registered dieticians, nutritionists, sports figures and we’re focused more heavily on the nutrition aspects of our brand. Whereas the other ones are more recipe and lifestyle focused for like, I’m going to take my kid to target and get the oatmeal packets.

Bjork Ostrom: And it sounds like with the kind of more nutrition-based lifestyle creators, would that be more ongoing relationships?

Cassidy Stockton: Yes, those are usually year-long partnerships.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. And the idea with that is they have followers who are following them for information about nutrition and potentially the significance of the information that’s communicated. It would be like, hey, this is more important because we got to hear it a few times in order to know these are trusted connections. Whereas the other types of creators would be more one-off like, hey, we want to do a campaign for the month of January for this healthy granola that we’re really pushing in the month of January. So we’re going to kind of blast it out to as many people as can to just try and get a push for this in one single season, is that broadly speaking how those…

Cassidy Stockton: That’s pretty, pretty accurate, and then the internal program that we run is we usually have about 50 folks that we keep on all year. And it’s a year-long program, we usually do, not more than every other month posting though. And that’ll be a variety of products, it’s a lot more free because we have a personal relationship with them by now. So it’ll be like pick the products that most appeal to you from this list. Talk about the recipe that you think will do the best. So that’s sort of how we divide it up, but I still, I approve all influencers, I approve all of our rates. So all of that still flows through my office, I’m just not doing the contracts on that side.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s a lot to manage.

Cassidy Stockton: But it’s good, I love what I do and I love working with influencers, they’re so fun.

Bjork Ostrom: It feels like if you wanted to, you could work 18 hours a day.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah, I sure could.

Bjork Ostrom: Maybe sometimes, so are all people that are doing sponsored content through Bob’s Red Mill coming through you. And then you’re saying, hey, connect to this agency. I’m even personally still learning, like how much of this is brand versus an agency just moving forward with this. And it’s obviously different for every brand, but I feel like it’s important for creators to know there are these different worlds you could work with the brand directly, or you could work with an agency who is kind of in the middle space between the brand and the creator. Can you explain how those work?

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah, It’s definitely tricky and it has taken us years to get to this mix where it’s working. Because you’ll get creators reaching out to all three of us and then a mess there. So typically when we get a lot of inbound requests, either through Instagram, DMS, or through our contact form on our site, most of those go over to the digital agency to vet for us. And they’ll respond and they’ll let you know whether you’re hitting the category or not. If I catch one that looks really cool, I might save them aside for me later, but most of them go over to the agencies depending on whether you fall into recipe creation or lifestyle. That depends on which one you go to, but we’ve worked with them to make sure that you’re always getting a communication back and that you’re getting the same situation.

Cassidy Stockton: We work so closely with them, I know a lot of people get, we feel like they’re not going to work with the brand or they’re getting passed off when they go to an agency. But we work so closely with both of them that it’s sort of like an extension of my team that allows us to do more. My two cents would be that I feel like an agency is a great route to go because there’s an opportunity for more work, I only have one brand to offer you. Agencies often have a lot, especially if it’s a food agency, the partners we work with at Maxwell, they primarily focus on fruit food brands. So if you get a relationship there, you might get other opportunities that come out of it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So advantage in that scenario is these people might say, hey, this is great, you’re a really good influencer, you’re a really good creator, whatever you want to use for the term we’re going to actually keep you on our list to potentially work with another brand or any that we have, that if it’s the match. Yeah, that’s interesting. How about on the media kit side of things? So a lot of people are like, what do I put in my media kit? And what is actually helpful? It’s not like a resume where it’s like, nobody’s really looking at resumes anymore, or is that different in that like, oh, this is actually an important thing.

Cassidy Stockton: I can’t speak for everyone, but we really prefer them. We like to get a kit that will showcase like three or four of your favorite pieces of content that either performed well, or you’re the most proud of other brands that you’ve maybe worked with and then your basic stats, I think the problem is to keep it updated is you’re always having to update. And then personally really also like getting a price list at the same time. But I understand sometimes that’s not the same document and sometimes people don’t prefer to send them that way, but I will usually ask for it right away because it helps.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah. On the price list side even for Pinch of Yum, we’ve talked a lot about how do we structure this? And I think how we have it right now is like we have blonde posts and then you can do like 1, 2, 3, 4, and then we have the video when you can do 1, 2, 3, 4, or five or whatever it is, six plus, or I don’t know what the numbers are. And then we kind of have this a` la carte area where it’s like, you can do retain ownership and it costs this much. You can do like share to all social and here’s how much that would cost on your side from a brand perspective, whenever you looked at rate sheets or a price list and been like, oh, this is really helpful. It’s easy to understand versus I’m sure you look at some and you’re like wait, what? I don’t know how to navigate what I’m actually looking at.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah. I think they’re the most helpful when they’re set in tiers, like you just described where it’s like, this is the rate for whether it’s a blog post or you’re putting them in, It doesn’t matter to me as much how you put your tiers. Although I prefer them if it’s bundled content, so if it’s a blog post plus social plus, then it’s like a little bit more if you want to add video. And then I’m always looking for discounts, if I do four, do I get 10% off? And so I prefer it when it’s bundled. It’s really hard when it gets to be a` la carte.

Cassidy Stockton: And then you start talking about making bundles out of the a la carte stuff. So if you have like a package A and then package B is everything in A plus video, like those are helpful for us to look at. And that’s just from the marketing side and you’re probably real familiar with this, but for other people who are not working in marketing as much, that’s how most proposals come, you get tiers with different budget dollars. And so it’s really helpful, it just gives you something to like, okay, well, I don’t feel good about that money, but this, it just helps you make a choice.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. And the more choices there are sometimes the harder it is to make a choice.

Cassidy Stockton: Yeah. I think keep it simple.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So on the package side of things, how much are you saying here’s what we need versus the creator saying here’s what I think would be most impactful and would be most helpful. Like who’s kind of making the decisions on those. And again, I know part of this is speaking about Bob specifically, but also part of it is curious if you have thoughts on this just in general from a brand perspective, but your thoughts on that.

Cassidy Stockton: I really like it when people bring ideas to me, I really like it if people have, this is what I think would be the most impactful because nobody knows your followers or readers like you do. I mean, it’s great, I have an idea, like one piece that surprises people that I still really like a blog post because it’s an evergreen touchpoint online.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about why that’s valuable to evergreen parts specifically?

Cassidy Stockton: Because it stays forever, so if an article, especially people who are more savvy and they’re focused on SEO, if they’re building in those key terms that post will continue to garner traffic and grow and be found over time. And at some point it’ll stop being relevant, but at first say five years, Bob’s Red Mill is part of this article that keeps coming up. It’s really great for us, whereas an Instagram post is here and gone, nobody’s coming back to that three years later.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s juicy fruit of content. It’s like-

Cassidy Stockton: So for us-

Bjork Ostrom: Really strong for a period of time.

Cassidy Stockton: That helps us hold on to that space longer.

Bjork Ostrom: And are you going back and looking at that? Are you checking in on those older pieces of content.

Cassidy Stockton: No, not too often.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s just this Knowledge of like-

Cassidy Stockton: With influence kit though, now I can start to track that better so I can look back at posts and see, and it’s not mostly that comes up when I’m looking at renewing, I’ll start looking at your past performance, but I know I’ll still see on either it’ll hit like a Google alert or something come through for old posts. And so I just like anecdotally from doing it for long, know that’s valuable.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the requests, this will be my public feature requests for Bruno on influence guests would be this, like you could set the option to have somebody emailed, obviously unsubscribed as a bit as an option. But like every six months to say, like here’s an update or you could just email the creator and the creator could reach out to the brand and say like, hey, a year later, just want to let you know, like piece of content is still getting 50,000 page views. Over the last year or whatever it might be to me that feels like a really great way to maintain a relationship with the brand.

Cassidy Stockton: Absolutely. And I have influencers that do that, they will send me reports six months a year down the line on their content. And I think if you have those pieces on your blog or your content channel that are still performing really well, there’s no harm in just sending that to the person that sponsored it and saying, look, I just wanted you to know it’s still doing great.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Right. And sometimes well, even like update a piece of content or republish it another great opportunity to say, hey, push this to the front of the blog, It’s getting more exposure.

Cassidy Stockton: We’ll sponsor those sometimes if it wasn’t our recipe previously, but it’s performing really well. You know, it’s getting lots of traction, but you really want to re-shoot it. We’ll come in and sponsor for a lower price than a normal post sometimes.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s super smart because you know, there’s a track record, it’s a little bit of a guarantee for the blogger. It’s not potentially not as much work, probably not as much work, so they go in, they’re going to re-shoot a piece of content and they would reach out to you and say, or any brand, this could be, hey, here’s what it’s looked like over the past six months, would you be interested in me re-shooting this? If I have some product placement, if I include whatever it is as an ingredient, is that kind of generally what it looks like?

Cassidy Stockton: Wow, yeah. And I think that’s great, I think those kinds of pitches work really well if you have a past and even if the brand that you are going after declines, try a few different ones that might work within that recipe or whatever piece of content it is.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. How about this? As we close out here Cassidy, what would be one thing that, you wished bloggers or publishers or creators would know about the sponsored content process? If you’re like, oh, it’d be really helpful if they actually knew this thing, what would that be?

Cassidy Stockton: Well, I think for my team, just that we’re really, really busy. And so if you don’t hear back from us right away, it’s usually because we’re really busy and not because we’re ignoring you, but we try to be really timely. But I think, I don’t know the space is so great, I just really love when people are authentic and are just kind of calm and be themselves in their emails. And we get to know each other a little and learn, that’s good.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, totally. It’s one of the things I’m constantly reminded of is like, oh, it’s people on every side of this, those people could be your neighbors and they could be your friends that you meet at a barbecue. It’s not companies, it’s people and companies are groups of people, and it’s a good reminder.

Cassidy Stockton: It is, and on every side of this, we all know what it feels like to be, not treated like a person through social media. So it’s, so remember there are people on the other side of that reading.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. So here’s the thing, Cassidy. I feel like a lot of people will be like, Bob’s Red Mill, Cassidy. Awesome, I want to work with them, I want to keep you from getting inundated with requests, but also give you the opportunity for those who might be a good fit to reach out. So, what would be the sweet spot where creators, who would or are you like, hey, maybe don’t reach out we’re at capacity. What would your preference be in terms of having folks reach out to you if at all?

Cassidy Stockton: Well, I mean, I think your best bet is to come through our website or through Instagram DMs. Those will cut straight to us, it’s a great time to reach out if you’re thinking about working for us for next year, or you’re really interested because this is we’re planning right now for next year. But yeah, the sweet spot, it’s just not, I don’t know man. It’s just so like we’re taking each of them individually and it’s just always a wild, messy space. So I don’t know, people could just be nice and come out and talk to us and we’ll go from there.

Bjork Ostrom: So relatable. And so understandable in terms of, hey, here’s the deal, we’re figuring this out day by day, week by week. If there’s one thing that’s true in social, I think the thing that was true yesterday is not going to be the same today that you need to potentially look at every opportunity kind of individually, because to the point of art and science, it’s like, there’s no hard and fast rules. It’s not like, hey, if you have a 100,000 followers, we’re, for sure going to work with you because some accounts might have that. It might not be a great fit at all.

Bjork Ostrom: And so totally understand that idea of like, hey, no hard and fast rules, not necessarily sweet spot to reach out and make a connection. And maybe kind of a good, takeaway there in general. So really appreciate you coming on Cassidy. I know that we have a lot of people that we know who work with Bob’s Red Mill and obviously a huge amount of respect for that company and the people who make up that company. And well next time we’re out at the grocery store as a thank you, I would encourage all podcast listeners. What would be the best thing for people to buy in the next month? That’s mine because that’ll be my last question.

Cassidy Stockton: Oh man, if you haven’t tried our oatmeal cups or we also have just came out with oatmeal packets, but I mean, it’s fall. Those are really good, we’re about to launch a peanut butter granola, so that’s super delicious coming out, but it won’t be on store shelves for a bit, it takes time.

Bjork Ostrom: For sure. We’ll keep our eyes peeled for it and I’ll make sure to pick them up. So Cassidy, thanks so much for coming on, I really, appreciate it.

Cassidy Stockton: Thank you so much for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s a wrap for this episode, thanks again to Cassidy for coming on. The big takeaway for me in this conversation is how important it is. Not only to have incredible content, not only how important it is to have beautiful photos or beautiful videos to be capable of all kind of the tactical things like that, but also how important it is to be professional, to deliver the things that you’re say you’re going to deliver when you’re going to deliver them to follow up, to communicate well, those things go a really long way when you have a brand that you’re working with and you have a relationship in a sponsor content capacity.

Bjork Ostrom: So for those of you who are interested in thinking about growing that area of your business, or really leaning into that a little bit more and hope that you’re able to take away a few little nuggets or action items from the interview that we had today with Cassidy, a big thank you to Cassidy for coming on and sharing those insights. It’s easier for brand not to do that, so if you have a moment, give her a little shout out. Maybe you want to take Bob’s Red Mill and tell them, thank you. And hopefully she will see that as a reminder, if you want to check out any of the other podcasts we do, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/podcast. We have a great searching kind of tool there that allows you to see different topics or interviews that we’ve done.

Bjork Ostrom: So be sure to check that out, if you want to learn more about Food Blogger Pro and just what a membership entails, you can just go to foodbloggerpro.com. There’s an easy way to sign up for a list where we talk through what’s included what you can learn, who it’s for. So if you’re kind of on the fence, if you’re wondering, that would be a good, next step is just going to foodbloggerpro.com to learn a little bit more. Thanks for listening as always. We hope you enjoyed the episode, but not only that, we hope that you got some actionable items from it. We will be back here, same time next Tuesday until then make it a great week and hope that you can get a tiny bit better every day. And we hope that this podcast helps you do that. We’ll see you next week.

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