260: Managing Sponsored Content – How Pinch of Yum Works with Brands with Jenna Arend

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An image of a computer on a desk and the title of Jenna Arend's episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Managing Sponsored Content.'

Welcome to episode 260 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Jenna Arend from the Pinch of Yum team about some of the systems they use to manage their sponsored content work.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Beth Le Manach about effectively creating and sharing content on YouTube. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Managing Sponsored Content 

Sponsored content is a great way to diversify your income as a blogger, and for the next two weeks on the podcast, we’re going to be talking about how you can manage your sponsored content work.

Today, we’re starting the sponsored content conversation with an interview with the Communications Manager of Pinch of Yum, Jenna.

She’ll give you a behind-the-scenes tour of how the Pinch of Yum team uses processes to handle their sponsored content work. Between establishing a system for initial conversations with brands to contract review, we’re hoping that you’re able to take some of the systems that the Pinch of Yum team relies on and use them to streamline your own sponsored content efforts.

A quote from Jenna Arend’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'You know your brand the best, so you have every right to make recommendations outside of their initial brief.'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What Jenna does for Team Pinch of Yum
  • What it was like when Pinch of Yum worked with an agency on sponsored content
  • How they decided to bring the management of sponsored content in-house
  • The kinds of systems the Pinch of Yum uses to manage sponsored content
  • How to communicate with brands
  • Tips for negotiating
  • What’s included in Pinch of Yum’s media kit and rate sheet
  • How contract review works
  • How the Pinch of Yum team works with a lawyer
  • How you can report on sponsored content campaigns
  • What it means to offer a la carte items to brands


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

Transcript (click to expand):

Alexa Peduzzi: Hello, hello, wonderful listener. Alexa here and welcome to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Today we’re going to be talking to Jenna from the Pinch of Yum team, and she’s going to be talking all about sponsored content and more specifically how Pinch of Yum manages their sponsored content processes. So, when it comes to implementing something as big and potentially fruitful as sponsored content for your own blog, I sometimes find it helpful to learn how other people are doing it and then implement the pieces that would work best in my workflow and in my day to day.

Alexa Peduzzi: So, that’s what we’re hoping you can get out of this episode. You’ll hear from Jenna about her tips for negotiating with brands, how contract review works, how the Pinch of Yum team works with a lawyer, how they can report unsponsored content, and so much more. And, Bjork will actually talk about an upcoming event that we have. We’re not quite ready to tell you all about it just yet, but we’ll give you more details for sure next week. But in the meantime, we hope you enjoy this episode with Jenna and we hope you get a lot out of it and that you can apply some of the Pinch of Yum processes to your own sponsored content work. So, without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Jenna, welcome back to the podcast.

Jenna Arend: Thank you for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: We’ve done a couple of events where you are on the literal other side of the wall from me in the office, but COVID has separated us further apart, but not too far apart. Do you want to give a quick update for people who haven’t connected with you before, or heard you on past podcast episodes of Food Blogger Pro interviews? What’s your quick story, your involvement, and your role at Pinch of Yum and where do you call home?

Jenna Arend: So, I have been at Pinch of Yum I think, man, four or five years. I feel like I should know this, it was in January, but I’ve been at Pinch of Yum for … which feels like quite a while now which is awesome and I am the communications manager on team Pinch of Yum, a little of communications and growth manager. So, I do a wide range of things, but I mostly focus in on communication with our readers and communication with our brands and then on the growth side of things, I also am part of thinking through our SEO strategy in finding ways to grow our traffic and then within those things as well, related to growth and communication is sponsored content.

Jenna Arend: So, I manage all of our sponsored relationships and that’s another large part of my job just in the day to day of speaking with brands and managing the editorial content for brands and the reporting from A to B to kind of cover that whole swath.

Bjork Ostrom: I feel like it’s a great example of there are people in the world who are good at different things and I don’t think I’ve ever recognized in the way that I have in doing business and working with the team and the things that you’re good at, I’m so glad that you’re doing those because you are so good at them and I would not be good at them. And, it’s funny to think back to that moment when you came and I remember interviewing … it was at the old office we had which was a super awesome office and if anybody ever went to a Pinch of Yum workshop to do the photography workshop, you know that it was just this beautiful space, but it was also huge and it was really cold in the winter and so we had sectioned off this little conference room area and we did an interview there.

Bjork Ostrom: And, I think the position that you came in at, started, it was a part-time position and then quickly we were like, “Oh my gosh, Jenna’s incredible and does incredible work.” And, we need to figure out how we can have you help with these areas that you’re good at, communications being the broad category, but like you said, some subcategories underneath that. One, being sponsored content, so can you remember back to the first time that you started to get involved with the Pinch of Yum sponsored content? What was that like early stages and I’m curious to know, did you come into it knowing, hey, here are some ideas, some things we want to do, or do you feel like for you personally and then also with Lindsay, was it building that as you went and building the system from the ground up?

Jenna Arend: So, when I first came on the team, like you said, I was part-time office manager, but my background is in communications, which is helpful and when I first came on, I think maybe Pinch of Yum had been doing sponsored content for one to two years, maybe more on the two-year end of things, and we worked with an agency that actually managed all of our sponsored content that did a lot of our outreach and also just managed the campaigns and gave direction to Lindsay from the brands. They’re a conduit between the brand and their PR agency and us.

Jenna Arend: And so, for really I think my first year, maybe year and a half, they were the ones that we worked with. And so at first, my role was mostly just to then be the communicator between this agency and Lindsay just to make sure that she had the deadlines that she needed and that we were meeting all the requirements for the campaign. And so, I had a pretty small role I would say at first just because this agency we worked with really did all of the heavy lifting for us which was great, but then again, I want say maybe a year into a year and a half, we decided for a variety that we wanted to bring our sponsored content in-house.

Jenna Arend: So, we wanted our team to manage it and not work with an agency. And so, that was the point where we had this experience, obviously working with this agency and how they did their processes, but there were some things that we maybe wanted to change, and just do what felt worked just the best and better for our team. And so, that’s the point where me and Lindsay sat down and I feel like it was just … because I think we stopped working with the agency at the end of the year, like in December, and we started planning to make the transition really I think in the middle of summer just to give us almost a six-month lead up to bringing it all in-house because it is just so many moving pieces and so many things … they managed our contracts, our reporting, all of the communication with the brand, all of our pitching, they did everything.

Jenna Arend: And so, to move it in-house was a bear of a project. So, that was our job for those six months was to put the things in place and thankfully, actually a lot of things that we put in place for that process are still alive and running today. We’ve done some tweaks along the way, but mostly what we put in place has felt like it’s worked really well for us.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting, so we’re doing a couple of these podcast interviews talking with you about the process for Pinch of Yum, we’re going to do another podcast interview with Bruno from InfluenceKit, leading up to this event that we’re doing with InfluenceKit to talk about sponsored content and Bruno’s going to be talking about three really important areas and the life cycle of sponsored content, so all leading up to this event. But, one of the great things is, as we get into it we’ve realized, hey, there are tools, there are solutions, there are things that we can use to put together to help us build our system for sponsored content. We’re going to talk about some of those things, but to fill out the picture a little bit, you’ve talked about working with this agency, the agency was called Sway and still around today.

Bjork Ostrom: We don’t use Sway, but at the same time where we decided because we had the bandwidth and the ability to bring it in-house … I think that was around the same time that Sway actually said they were going to wind down … I forget what the program was, but it was more of a boutique, individualized relationship with some bigger sites that they would manage those relationships into I think what they called Massive Sway which was more large, working with a larger number of people across a wider swath of sites. So, it actually worked out really well where they were like, “Hey, we’re winding this down.” We’re like, “Hey, actually interesting, we’re taking this in-house.”

Bjork Ostrom: And in doing that though, suddenly like you said, we had to create these systems around setting that up and it was important for us because sponsored content was a good way for us to diversify. One of the things you hear a lot in business is this idea of diversification and needing to think not only about getting revenue from one source. At the point when we started, it was really ads, but diversifying that out into other sources, so sponsored content was a natural first place for us to do that. What were some of the first big categories of areas that we had to figure out systems for?

Bjork Ostrom: So, an example being a contract comes in. Well, now suddenly we are having to look at contracts and review those. So, if you can think of as it relates to sponsored content, are there different areas that we need to think about and have a system for in terms of our process?

Jenna Arend: Yeah, so there a few big things that we had to put in place that weren’t necessarily things that Sway had done or just parts of their process that we didn’t know about. The first big thing that we had to put in place was finding a way to do intake for brands and with where Pinch of Yum was at at this point, and back then when we were doing this, a lot of our … we haven’t had to do a lot of pitching which is great. I’m really grateful for that, so that means we get a lot of brands that approach us and wanting to work with us, and we had to think of a way to just do an intake of that and what that process looked like from there.

Jenna Arend: And so, one of the biggest pieces we put together was an intake form. And so, when someone does reach out to do sponsored content, we are able to send this form and we thought a lot about the things that we wanted to put in the form, things like budget, what their goals are, the timing of the campaign, and things like that. And so, with that information, we’re able to make more of a decision on if we’re interested in continuing the conversation and moving forward. So, that was one of the biggest pieces was that-

Bjork Ostrom: If I remember right, is there a thread on Food Blogger Pro forum or maybe in an area within Food Blogger Pro, I should know this, but that outlines some of those questions that we ask? So essentially, when a brand reaches out, what questions are we asking them? I think we highlight that somewhere on the forum. We’ll link to it in the show notes for Food Blogger Pro members if needed. And then, use for that, just a surveying tool, we use Typeform to collect those answers, but one of the things that I love about that is it helps us to put some of the things on the table that otherwise would have been delayed to a phone call and maybe it’s a little bit weird to ask, can you talk about some of the most important elements with that intake form and why we include those?

Jenna Arend: Yep, for sure. One of the things that is an obvious one is talking about their budget which is an awkward conversation of who approaches who first about it, and so the nice thing about having a forum, and we don’t have a blank space for them to put what their campaign budget is, but we have some ranges of some rates and then we also have an option to say this is outside of my budget. And so, it’s nice to be able to just get a feel for where they’re at, and it’s never been, oh if they only had this much, then it’s a definite no, but that’s just something to take into consideration. There’s so many different elements that we think about when we decide to work with a brand.

Jenna Arend: So, that’s one big one that felt really essential, is the budget, and then I would say another one is the timing of the campaign because they might say it might be … it’s July 1st as we’re recording this today and they could say, “We’re looking at July 15th.” And in that case, we need to know that because that would either mean we can’t make that happen so quick or we have to charge more or whatever that looks like.

Jenna Arend: So, that’s another big one, and then I would say maybe the third one is just getting a sense of what products are looking to have us use in the recipe or in our content because we could get approached by a huge brand that has so many products, but we want to know exactly what products they’re looking for, and so those are the really specifics. We obviously ask about what are your goals, or how did you hear about Pinch of Yum, and those are super helpful as well, but having those specifics, the budget, the timing, the products, those are kind of big ones for us to have to start considering whether we want to keep moving forward.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about what that phone conversation looks like because let’s say we look at it, trade some emails back and forth, and it seems like, hey, this might be a potential fit. I think that’s a scary thing for people in general. Maybe they have done it before and it always is a little bit weird and awkward, especially if we’re used to communicating via email and social media and blog post to jump on a call and then talk about these really … things that we normally don’t talk about like money and how much somebody’s going to spend. How do you have those conversations in a way that feels natural and not only feels natural, but also communicates to the brand, hey, we have your best interests as well, it’s not just us doing and interview and saying, do we want you or do you not, but also us trying to say, are we going to be the best fit for you? Any advice that you’d have for people who are maybe a little bit nervous about doing that or tips or tricks that you might give them to have those conversations?

Jenna Arend: Yep, I would say it’s not every brand that wants to jump on a call, but I would say there’s quite a few that usually want to take you through a brief or they have specific questions and the biggest tip I would have and this is something I did at first, and I do still actually use it as a reference when I do have calls with brands, is I created a sponsored call sheet. And so, it basically outlines all the things that I would want to hit and ask about when I’m on a call with them.

Jenna Arend: And so, that would include just asking about their goals, do they want exposure, do they want engagement, direct sales, or sign ups, or something like that. And then, talking to them also about how they worked with influencers in the past for doing recipe development and what that process looks like, whether it’s very collaborative or more independent. And so, it’s an opportunity to hear from them but also tell them also what our process is and then also just some clarifying questions about key messaging and what their timeline might be, and then on this call sheet at the end, I typically have what is your budget, so not leading the call with, how much money do you have to spend here, but leading that, talk about the big picture goals and what that looks like, and then with talking about budget too I’ve always found that it’s helpful to just talk about or ask them, what is our range of rate that you feel comfortable with, and also asking, what’s a cap that you can’t go over?

Jenna Arend: So, it’s not throw out a number to us, but it’s just getting a feel for what the range is, and also it gives you an opportunity if you have a rate sheet and a media kit to just go over that and talk about how it’s structured and what that would look like.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about the difference between a rate sheet and a media kit and maybe how people can create a basic version of each one of those?

Jenna Arend: Yeah, for us our media kit and our rate sheet are combined into one and part of that is just for simplicity, and so it’s combined so that we can just send one file to the brand, and the first page of it is just a letter from Lindsay which I would definitely recommend for anyone creating one, just kind of a welcome to Pinch of Yum in a way and talk about how the brand got started and how the blog got started and where it is today and why we enjoy working with brands and then that part of the media kit also includes some of the stats of Pinch of Yum, our monthly page views, our Instagram followers, and followers on other social media platforms as well as email subscribers.

Jenna Arend: So, that is what I consider the media kit portion is this is who we are. We have a picture of Lindsay on it, so that’s the media kit portion, and then separate from that is I would say a rate sheet. And so, our rate sheet is rate sheets because we have three different categories because we work with brands on blog posts, but also doing recipe videos, and then also with Instagram stories. And so, we have a separate sheet for each of those and the way that we had it broken down is you can buy packages and so basically the more videos you decide to do in a campaign, the cheaper each of those individual videos will be.

Jenna Arend: And, that’s where we landed at the beginning of creating these and also consulting with Danielle Liss, who is our legal expert, but also has a lot of experience working with influencers and it’s served us pretty well, being able to offer a discount if they do a longer term campaign because that’s really in our best interest too is to work with less brands for a longer period of time. So, it’s an incentive that also serves us and our readers well too since there’s just consistent brands that appear on the blog rather than a smattering of so many throughout the year.

Bjork Ostrom: So, I think that was one of the things as we have evolved little by little the process for Pinch of Yum. A learning for me was this idea of a brand … I don’t think this is always how it works, but a version of this existing for Pinch of Yum and the brand saying, “Here’s our budget.” And us saying, “Here’s the deliverables that we can match up to that.” Versus, I think what I had always imagined was somebody saying, “I want this, a blog post, how much is it?” And, us as a blog guiding brands in saying, “What are you trying to accomplish? What are your goals?” Which, I heard you say some of those things, “What is your budget?”

Bjork Ostrom: And then, us coming to them and saying, “Here’s how we think we can help you accomplish that.” Would you be able to break it down in terms of 50–50, 60–40 percentage wise? How often does a brand come to Pinch of Yum and say, here’s exactly what I want a blog post and a video on Instagram versus a brand coming and saying, I want to partner with Pinch of Yum, what would be the best way to do that if we want to achieve this goal, and it being a little big more ambiguous and essentially asking us to advise on it?

Jenna Arend: I would say probably it is a 60–40 split with 60 being brands coming with an exact idea of what type of content they want to do and how many they want to do, and then 40 being the brands that approach us and just say, “We really enjoy Pinch of Yum and we would love to work with you. What would you recommend?” And of course, the 40% is really the sweet spot because I think it’s really awesome to see when a brand knows that you know your blog best and you know your readers the best and so you know based on the information they give you about their goals and their products and their budget what the best fit is because there might be someone approaching us who doesn’t have a huge budget, but their product is perfect for Instagram stories.

Jenna Arend: And so, being able to steer them in that direction that’s a lower rate to create a package and have that I guess trust from a brand of you know your readers the best, you know your recipes and your brand the best, so you tell us what you can make happen with this rate. That’s the sweet spot really in creating a package for someone.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk through if something isn’t a sweet spot or even quite a bit outside of sweet spot whether it be a request in the type of content or even the product, not that it’s necessarily a bad product, but maybe not a fit for Pinch of Yum as a brand or the audience, how do you know and what is that conversation like for you and Lindsay as you think through, hey, this proposal came through, this brand is interested, they have a budget, and obviously there’s a luxury involved in even being able to say no, acknowledging that, but I also think that there is strategy in protecting your brand and not just taking anything that comes in from a revenue perspective.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s great to have that, but then you are in some ways trading that for your brand reputation. How does Pinch of Yum go about those conversations and assuming it’s you and Lindsay thinking through that, talking through that? What are the primary considerations and how do you communicate that back to the brand?

Jenna Arend: It’s definitely something that does happen quite a bit and I feel like this has been … there’s been such an evolution of this for us over the past three years really since we started this where I feel like maybe at the beginning we were just more like, “Yeah, sure, that sounds good.” Not really realizing the fact that, oh no, we can … I hate to say push back, but kind of, and make a recommendation that feels more in line with our brand and I feel like especially even into this year, I feel like we really found our footing in that of one, again, it is a luxury, but being okay with saying no to something if it’s not a good fit, and also being okay with pushing back.

Jenna Arend: I can’t find a better phrase to say than that right now, but being willing to say, “You know what, we actually don’t think that product in your portfolio will be a great fit on the site, but we really think that this one will, and we found this also on your website.” Or saying, “We don’t think that that’ll be a great fit on a blog post. These are the reasons why, and this is why we think it would make a great Instagram video of Instagram stories.”

Jenna Arend: And so, I feel like it’s taken us some time to realize that we are the protectors of the brand of Pinch of Yum, and so being okay with either just walking away, which is really, really hard, it’s very hard, or being willing to see if you can find a compromise and I would say maybe 50% of the time we’re able to find that compromise with the brand of saying, “We think this might be a good fit.” And they say, “Okay, yeah, let’s do that.” So, the worst they can do is say no.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jenna Arend: I think it can feel like maybe you’re being pushy or being ungrateful or something, but you also know your brand the best, and so you have every right to make recommendations outside of their initial brief that they sent over.

Bjork Ostrom: I think it’s interesting to think about other professionals and if I think of what we’re doing, we are professionals in … especially you and Lindsay, professionals in speaking to a group of people about a certain thing. In our case, it’s recipes, it’s food content, and we know from 10 years of doing that what will go well and what won’t go well and not perfectly, but have a pretty good sense of that, and I think of the other professionals in my life, and a doctor for instance. I might come in and have my Google researched idea and present that, hey, here’s why I think I have knee pain.

Bjork Ostrom: He’s like, “Well, yes. Let me hear what you’re saying and give you some feedback on that.” I’m not going to take that as the ultimate answer of what would be best. I’ll evolve that a little bit, or go into a store and I say, “Hey, I know these. I want these running shoes.” And they’re like, “Hey, those are good shoes, but let me hear a little bit about what your overall goal is and maybe we’ll refine that a little bit.” I can imagine for brand, coming to a publisher and doing the same thing, presenting what they think would potentially be the best idea, for a blogger or a publisher to come back to them and say, “Hey what’s your overall goal? Let me propose to you something that I actually think will help you accomplish that better and will fit in to what we do better as well.”

Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s really valuable. That, in and of itself, offers value to the brand without an official relationship and I think it’s helpful to develop that skill and to be confident in doing that, so I think that’s a great point. Let’s say that it moves-

Jenna Arend: Definitely.

Bjork Ostrom: … moves to the point where we say, “Yeah, this works out. The brand is interested in working with us.” And, we go into the next phase which is probably some sort of contract. Can you talk about what that looks like? Is it always the brand sending a contract or are we ever sending a contract to them and how do we go about looking through that and making sure that we’re not also including our dog Sage in the agreement as a part of the exchange?

Jenna Arend: As a part of the compensation or something.

Bjork Ostrom: Exactly.

Jenna Arend: I feel like this is the part that we started out knowing absolutely nothing and we still know absolutely nothing, but we’re grateful to find a way to make it work by bringing someone else into the fold. And so at first, when we were doing contracts, and again, Sway, the agency, used to do all of our contracts. And so, this was completely new, and so at first … and to answer one of your questions in it, I’d say 99.9% of the time, it’s a brand sending the contract to us and not us sending one to them.

Jenna Arend: I can literally only think of one instance we have ever sent a contract to a brand. And so, we were receiving these contracts and understanding maybe 50% of it because we are not lawyers or legal experts, and so a lot of it was done by googling or just really making our best judgment based on what we thought we understood about it. And so, it definitely works, and understanding that that was just the resources we had at the time and that was what worked for us, and overall it was totally fine, it worked.

Jenna Arend: And, I think it was maybe a little over a year ago that we got connected with Danielle Liss, who’s the legal expert on Food Blogger Pro and we decided to start just outsourcing that, and now the process is instead of it coming in and me and Lindsay scratching our heads and making our best judgment, I’m able to do a first pass and look at the things that are most important to us from a big picture stance, but then I’m able to pass that off to Danielle and have her look at really the second half of the contract, which is all of the legalese and the jargon that we don’t necessarily understand.

Jenna Arend: And so, that has been … I feel like that was one of our best decisions that we made because it’s a lot of pressure on yourself to make sure you’re fully understanding what you are signing and committing to, especially if it’s a long term contract for a year. It’s a lot to process and a lot to do, and so it’s been helpful to have her. One of the other things that we have done is create a checklist for ourselves of things that we need to see on a contract and so instead of looking at a contract and feeling dazed, we know going into it exactly what we need to look at, and so we can take that first pass and know … and even if we weren’t using Danielle and it was still just us doing it internally, it was so helpful to have a checklist to go through whenever a contract came in. So, we had some sense of direction and we knew at least these big things that are most important to us are covered, so that was also really helpful as well.

Bjork Ostrom: It makes such a big difference when you can start to bring those people in and it’s part of the business growth process where inevitably there will be a stage where you’re in the early stages, you’re doing it all on your own, and you’re reviewing a contract, and maybe the contract isn’t enough to justify having a lawyer review it, so you’re trying to do it on your own and google it and we’ve definitely been there and get that, but it is one of those great feelings to once you have grown to the point where you can justify paying somebody to help out, it’s super helpful to take that wait off, to take that burden off of whether it be you or Lindsay or me, none of us really looked forward to doing that and also none of us really had the background to understand a lot of what the contract was saying.

Bjork Ostrom: And therefore, had to do a lot of work to fill in the picture for that. So, I think also of the example … I love doing IT support type stuff, and that’s my background and what I did in a previous life, but realize, okay, we have a team, 13 people, 13 computers, there are issues that come up, and so we hired an IT company that can help out with that and do that remotely. So, over time you start to realize these are the different functions and components that you can outsource, but another thing that you can do is … this isn’t related to contracts, but it’s related to systems, and trying to figure out ways to alleviate work, and one of the ways that we were able to do that in a pretty significant way is on the reporting side of things and using InfluenceKit.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m going to have a conversation with Bruno from InfluenceKit to talk about that. Obviously, we have that event coming up as well. Can you talk about why reports are important and then what we used to do and then what we do now for how we communicate with brands?

Jenna Arend: Yeah, definitely and this is, again, a big thing that has evolved since the beginning. I feel like I’ve started the same … most of it is the same since when we started, but as I’m talking I feel like that’s-

Bjork Ostrom: In spirit, it’s the same, but it’s kind of like Pokemon where it’s you get a … have you ever done the Pokemon game?

Jenna Arend: Like Pokemon Go?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, like the iOS game, like the app.

Jenna Arend: I don’t know if I have actually, but I know what it is.

Bjork Ostrom: So, the neighborhood that you’re in, we used to live in the same neighborhood, is a great Pokemon neighborhood, so if I have one piece of advice for you, Jenna, coming out of this call is to play Pokemon, but I feel like it’s the Pokemon that we picked for our sponsored content team, all of those … this is a terrible analogy. I just want to call myself out on it. It’s the same things, it’s just they have evolved into stronger, better, more capable versions of the original things that we have picked.

Jenna Arend: Yes, for sure and I feel like so much of it … I don’t know if I’ll also go along with your analogy or not because I have not played the game.

Bjork Ostrom: Please continue to build on it, yes, please do.

Jenna Arend: But, I also feel like … and I was thinking about this when we were talking about the sponsored content checklist for the contract is that that was really built from trial and error. We would realize halfway through a contract, oh, we didn’t realize this was in there and we don’t want to do this again. And so, it got added to the checklist, so that the next time we go through a contract, this does not happen again.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you have an example of … I think people would be curious to know one or two of what those things maybe were.

Jenna Arend: Yeah, definitely. I feel like I have it just pulled up right now, and one of the biggest things that we didn’t think about at first was being very explicit about editorial control. And so, a thing we were running into was we would start on a campaign with a brand and realize that they had a very different idea of the control that they would have over the writing and the photos and the videos, and so we shifted to create a list of all the language that needs to be included to say that it will be in the Pinch of Yum style in writing. They can’t make any changes beyond factual or grammatical changes. The voice of Pinch of Yum stays intact and then even just some of the editorial control as far as being completely specific about the number of concepts that we send, the number of rounds of edits, the number of photos that will have the product in it.

Jenna Arend: We just found that the contract is what you can fall back on, and so we needed to be so explicit about things. And so, I feel like our list started with maybe 10 things and it’s grown to … I’m looking at it, it’s 20 to 30 items that we slowly added based on, like I said, trial and error where we’d get through a contract and say, “Oh, it’d be really nice if this was made more clear.”

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. I think it would be worth gathering those and posting those. We can work with Alexa to post those in the Food Blogger Pro forums. Obviously, kind of boring through all of them, but worth pointing out the ones that are generic enough to apply to everybody. Here are some of the things that we’ve learned along the way for Food Blogger Pro members. Anyways, we’ve diverted from our Pokemon Go conversation around reports.

Jenna Arend: Reporting, yes. Again, this is something that’s changed quite a bit over time, and so at first, we created a templated report that we would send to each brand and I have also a design background, which is really helpful. And so, we created this really cool PDF design that we could just plug in the numbers and plug in the photos and the brand’s name, and that worked really well for quite a while. It was tedious to have to do that each time, just working with in a design frame instead of a spreadsheet, that was pretty simple, but we wanted it to be really visually appealing.

Jenna Arend: And so, we would send the PDF usually a week or two after the campaign ended and then we would send another one as a conclusion of the full year long campaign. And so, those were our two touchpoints when we would send reporting to brands, and I think it was maybe last fall or later last year, we did get in touch with Bruno at InfluenceKit and we transitioned our reporting over to there and that I feel was another excellent decision because it saves us so much time.

Jenna Arend: I’m able to just take the Instagram photo link and plug it in and it populates all of the stats that I need, which is just amazing, and so the time saving for us was amazing, but I think honestly the biggest thing was that the stats are all updated in real time. And so, when I send the link to the report to a brand it’s not … when I used to just the PDF it was a snapshot in time, and it wasn’t a long term view of how the post was doing, and so now they can reference it any time, and they can see how many likes the Instagram post has, or how many views the video has.

Jenna Arend: And so, it’s able to take in and even more than we were able to share before. We can connect our email campaign or our email service and our web notification service, and we’re able to bring it all together. So, it ended up being a really good fit for us because it saved us a lot of time, and it gives a fuller picture view to brands and it just has more longevity to it. So, it’s been really, really helpful to be able to manage it in that way and I feel like brands have been really excited by it too because sometimes they would contact us a month after we sent the PDF report and say, “Can we get an update?” And so, we’d have to go back in and change the PDF and print it again, so it created a really smooth process for us.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great, and Bruno actually talked about … I recorded earlier today the session that we’re going to do for this event, so it’s fun to be recording these two things on the same day and he talks about with the reports, to go back to that rate sheet, one of the things that he had mentioned was, hey, as a value add, if you are going above and beyond just the report, if you’re doing it once a quarter, or multiple times, to say, hey, we can continually send you updated reports.

Bjork Ostrom: Here’s the line item for that, which is one of the things that we didn’t talk about, but is worth mentioning is for those rate sheets for Pinch of Yum we have this a la carte area and I feel like that’s been important development for us too where it’s not like we just say one blog post and then we assume, hey, that also means post to Pinterest, and Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram, and an email, building those out as a la carte items, so people can add. There’s an additional cost for that because there’s additional value that comes with it, and even the potential … we don’t do this, but even the potential as a place for creators to think about adding in the report as a way to add an a la carte item or additional reports.

Jenna Arend: Definitely.

Bjork Ostrom: We covered a lot, and there’s a lot more that we could cover and obviously, as you talked about at the beginning, Jenna, this is one area of the many things that you do for Pinch of Yum, of which you do such a great job. We’re so lucky to have you on the team. You’re active in the Food Blogger Pro forums when questions come up. So, if there’s any members, they can leave a question there, and we’ll see if Jenna can jump in and answer that question.

Jenna Arend: I’d be happy to.

Bjork Ostrom: Jenna, I want to end by asking you a couple of questions. Number one, when the world isn’t in a state of shutdown, and somebody comes to the Twin Cities, what restaurant would you point them to? Where should they go if they’re going to be in the Twin Cities and a restaurant that they should check out?

Jenna Arend: So, of course I can’t just mention one, I’m going to mention two. So, a classic, which if anyone listening has come to a workshop, you’ve maybe gone to a restaurant called Bar La Grassa.

Bjork Ostrom: I love it.

Jenna Arend: In Minneapolis, in the North Loop. It’s Italian, it’s pasta, and bruschetta, and it’s just so good. So, that’d be one that’s been there a long time, but a new restaurant across the river in St. Paul is a restaurant called Estelle and we actually during these COVID times, my husband and I have been getting take out from there. So, we’ve gotten take out from there three or four times, and I forget what kind of … I want to say it’s South American influence, but they also have amazing pasta and when it’s not COVID times they have an amazing bar, a cute little tucked away bar, so both of them are pasta which is pretty predictable.

Bjork Ostrom: For Lindsay and I, you are our restaurant review editor, writer, not that you’re actually … it’s just for our team internally. I feel like you’re so well researched around where to go. We just come to you to figure out where that is, so I trust your opinion and insight on that entirely. Jenna, thanks so much for coming on and for talking through this stuff. Thanks for all that you do.

Jenna Arend: Thanks for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: And, maybe have you back on here in the near future.

Jenna Arend: All right, sounds good.

Alexa Peduzzi: And, that’s a wrap on this episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in this week. We appreciate you listening whether this is your first episode or your 260th episode, we just love that you’re here and we love connecting with you in this way over the podcast. If you have any questions for us or for Jenna or for the Pinch of Yum team about their sponsored content processes or just some of the things that Jenna talked about today, you can head over to the show notes for this episode actually and drop a comment in the comments area and you can find that at foodbloggerpro.com/260, those are all numbers the two, the six, and the zero, and we’d love to have some conversations with you.

Alexa Peduzzi: Sponsored content can be such a great way to diversify your income as a blogger, and it’s fun to connect with brands that you really love and share recipes using those brands’ products. It’s great, I love sponsored content. It’s the main way that I make money on my food blog, and it’s just a very valuable way that Pinch of Yum monetizes their blog as well. So, we hope that you learned a lot from this episode. We’ll see you next time, and until then, make it a great week.

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  1. Best episode yet 👏🏼👏🏼 this was the most helpful, tangible, resourceful episode I’ve heard and I’m excited to hear the episode with Influence Kit.