261: Managing Sponsored Content – How to Work With Brands with Bruno Bornsztein

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An image of a computer on a desk and the title of the 261st episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Managing Sponsored Content.'

Welcome to episode 261 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Bruno Bornsztein from InfluenceKit on how to understand the value of your sponsored content work.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Jenna Arend from the Pinch of Yum team about some of the systems they use to manage their sponsored content work. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

How to Work With Brands 

It’s Part 2 of our Managing Sponsored Content series here on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast! Bruno from InfluenceKit is rounding out this mini series in a conversation with Bjork about how to create awesome sponsored content.

Creating sponsored content is like creating your regular content. You already publish an awesome recipe with great pictures on your blog or on social media. Sponsored content just allows you to continue to make the content that you love to make…and then get paid for it.

There are parts of the sponsored content process, however, that are different. You need to build relationships, negotiate for your rate, sign contracts, understand the brand’s goals, and report back on your post’s performance.

And it’s there where you can hunker down and optimize your work to create more value for brands, more value for your audience, and more revenue for you.

If you want to learn even more about maximizing your sponsored content revenue, be sure to get registered for our free workshop with Bruno this Thursday, July 16 at 1pm ET / 12pm CT!

A quote from Bruno Bornsztein’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'I think what helped me succeed and what helped me sell $100,000 of sponsored content that year was that I was ready. I was organized.'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Bruno got his start creating content
  • How he moved into sponsored content as a source of revenue
  • How his following correlated to sponsored content revenue
  • How to increase the probability of working with a brand
  • What it looks like to work with a brand
  • How content ownership works
  • What “work for hire” means
  • How to negotiate with brands
  • Why you should report your post’s performance
  • What metrics are most important 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: Welcome one and welcome all to this episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. I’m Alexa, and we are so excited that you’ve joined today to tune in and listen to part two of our Managing Sponsored Content series here on the podcast. Last week, we talked to Jenna from the Pinch of Yum team about how the Pinch of Yum team produces awesome sponsored content. It’s pretty simple but she gave a ton of awesome tips and we actually got a comment on the show notes about that episode and they said, “Best episode yet, this was the most helpful, tangible, resourceful episode I’ve heard and I’m excited to hear the episode with InfluenceKit,” which ironically, not ironically I guess, is the episode that you are going to be hearing today.

Alexa Peduzzi: Today Bjork is going to be talking to Bruno from InfluenceKit. Creating a sponsored content is like creating your regular content. You already publish awesome recipes with great pictures on your blog or on social media and sponsored content just allows you to continue to make the content that you love to make and then get paid for it. There are parts of sponsored content that are different than creating your normal content. You need to build brand relationships, negotiate for your rates, sign contracts, understand the brand’s goals, and then report back on the performance of your post and it’s there where you can really hunker down and really optimize your work to create more value for brands, more value for your audience and more value AKA revenue, for you.

Alexa Peduzzi: That’s what Bruno and Bjork are going to talk about today and they’re also going to be talking about a workshop that we have, completely free and public to anybody. It’s coming up this Thursday July 16th at 1:00 PM Eastern or 12:00 PM Central. You can learn more and get registered, again, it’s for free, at foodbloggerpro.com/workshop. I’m not going to talk about it too much right now. I’ll see you at the end of this podcast to give you a few more details. Without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Bruno, welcome to the podcast.

Bruno Bornsztein: Awesome. Very excited to be here. Thank you for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: Yup. I usually ask or talk about this before. This is your first time on the podcast, right?

Bruno Bornsztein: That’s true. Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. I feel like for the number of times we’ve talked, the number of times we’ve connected, the number of breakfasts that we’ve shared at Keys Cafe specifically, that I’m really surprised this is the first time you’ve been on. But now I’m remembering back, we have had somebody on talking about InfluenceKit and sponsored content. It was a business partner of yours and so maybe that’s the connection I’m making. That was an older episode.

Bruno Bornsztein: Yeah, that was Mandi. My Co-founder, Mandi, was on back in, I think it was 2018 so it’s been a little while.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. I remember I reached out to you. I said, “Bruno I’d love to have you on the podcast.” At that time, you said, “Hey, how about Mandi?” But now I’ve insisted and successfully press record with you on the podcast. This is going to be great. Would be interested to hear your story a little bit before we jump in and talk about sponsored content and actually share some really specific numbers about your experience with sponsored content but leading up to that, can you talk about your journey as a creator, business builder, entrepreneur, because you’ve been doing this for a long time?

Bruno Bornsztein: Yeah, so I went to school for journalism at the University of Minnesota and after school I got out and I was working in public relations at a local corporation here in the Twin Cities and I was teaching myself to do programming on the side just for fun. I had friends who, somebody wanted a website for their band or whatever, so I was doing that kind of thing. Before long, I was able to get a job actually doing freelance work as a web developer. This was back in ’04, ’05, and as part of that, I helped this local company that was building essentially like a Facebook clone at the time, which is a whole another story. Pretty interesting one actually.

Bruno Bornsztein: But when that got done, I had a little bit of money in the bank. I wasn’t married yet. I didn’t have any kids so my living expenses were pretty low and decided to start this thing called Curbly. The idea behind Curbly was to be essentially a community site for people who are into design and into DIY and making their houses nicer and so that was the idea. It was meant to be user generated content, which was a big deal in 2006. We had really no idea about anything else. We didn’t research the market, we didn’t really know how we were going to make money, but that’s what we did.

Bruno Bornsztein: Curbly just really did better than we realized at the time. I often tell people, it’s really hard to distinguish success and failure when you’re just starting out. If you had asked me in 2007 if Curbly was succeeding or failing, I probably would have said failing, but that’s only because I didn’t really have any perspective on how things should do. The reality was, Curbly went from zero to about 250,000 page views in two months, partially due to things that we did right and partially because we got lucky in a few areas, but yeah, so that was actually a really good start, although I didn’t realize it. Then over time-

Bjork Ostrom: I’ve heard you share that concept before, this idea of not really being able to distinguish. Do you feel like that’s still true today? Even with new projects you’re working on or things that you see other people working on, the idea of not being able to truly distinguish is this going well or not? Is that still true?

Bruno Bornsztein: I think it’s definitely still true. I think as you get older and more experienced, you just get better at it. The more times you’ve done these things, I think the better you get at, maybe not necessarily knowing for sure whether you’re failing or succeeding, but at least giving yourself the benefit of the doubt.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Bruno Bornsztein: I think I was 24 or something, I had never really done anything like this before. I just had no perspective, no context to know if this was actually good. The other thing was, starting a content-based site in 2006, there wasn’t really somewhere I could go Google, is this good enough? Am I doing the right thing? I would just advise people who are getting into any kind of business endeavor to just be aware that, it’s really useful to understand the limitations of your experience. If you really haven’t done this before, to understand that you don’t know. Well, it might feel really hard and like a slur and like it’s not working, might be a lot different than what you think at the time.

Bjork Ostrom: At what point on the Curbly journey did you realize, actually this is going well?

Bruno Bornsztein: I went full time on Curbly in 2008, mid–2008, and at that point I realized that I had an actual business. It took that long, two years almost before I realized and in the meantime, we were making, Curbly started making some money pretty early on, mostly from AdSense at the time, Google AdSense but it wasn’t enough for me to live off of so I was still doing some side projects and freelance stuff. But yeah, when I was able to… my daughter was born in ’09, when I was able to be home and have a full-time income from just Curbly, at that point I knew for sure.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. We’re going to talk a little bit about Curbly. We’re also going to talk about InfluenceKit, which is what you’re focusing on now as your main endeavor, but a lot of people who listen to this podcast are content creators, they’re publishers and one of the areas that they’re interested in, in creating revenue from their business is sponsored content and you have a lot of experience with that with your work for Curbly. One of the things that I love about your story and interview on the podcast is it’s actually not food-related.

Bjork Ostrom: I think it’s super helpful to talk to people who aren’t in the industry, because sometimes there can be an echo chamber in how things are done or the way that we talk, and it’s good to get outside perspective. On the Curbly journey, at what point did this idea of sponsored content come about in the early stages and how did you move into that as a source of revenue?

Bruno Bornsztein: Around, I think we did our first actual sponsored content post in 2009 and I remember it because it was for a fabric company that sold fabric online. It was really a complete disaster. I mean, we convinced them to pay us to do this post, but then actually producing the content was just grueling. We decided that we would make curtains for our whole house, which is just not a good idea anyway. How did it come about? I mean, I was just really working hard to figure out… I knew that I wanted other revenue streams besides just programmatic advertising, which is what most people think of as just AdSense.

Bruno Bornsztein: That revenue stream was doing pretty well and it was growing. It was tied very closely to traffic, but I was just looking for new places to add revenue to the business. I started reaching out proactively to brands that we wanted to work with and I also just started responding to inbound leads with this possibility of like, “Hey, do you want to pay us to do content with you?”

Bjork Ostrom: It’s a combination, both intentionally reaching out to brands that you feel like could be a good fit and then also being intentional when people reach out to you just to have some type of system that you’re following to make sure that you don’t just let those warm leads, so to speak, fall off. As you think about the… Well, and one thing I want to point out, I think it’s important for us as publishers and business owners to be strategic about what you talked about, which is diversifying the sources of income and a great way to see that play out is in the midst of a pandemic something happens like, advertising getting cut in half, which depending on your industry, that might not be the case. But in general, you saw that happen over a two week period with the ad networks where all of a sudden…

Bruno Bornsztein: Yeah, with COVID.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, with COVID. All of a sudden, all these advertisers and companies were pressing the brakes on ad spend and not that that didn’t happen in some way with sponsored content but when you diversify, you strengthen your business because you’re not relying on one source of income. The hard part is that it’s not as “easy” as ads which are just plug and play, but you do have more control and you can own it in a way that you can’t with ads and maybe it’s not even as closely correlated to traffic, which we’re going to talk about in a little bit. I think just important to point that out is, as we talk about this more, kind of justification for it, and it sounds like what you were saying is that was part of your thinking early on was, wanting to diversify and also own some of the ability to close deals or build relationships. Is that true?

Bruno Bornsztein: Yeah. I mean, you can do direct ad sales as a content site. It’s just pretty hard at the size that most of us are at. I mean, Curbly, I think in the time period we’re talking about, we were doing maybe 500,000 page views a month and even that’s pretty big but that’s still really small if you’re talking about trying to do direct ad sales. If you try to… if you find the ad agency for IKEA or something, and then you go to them and say you want to sell them like a hundred thousand leaderboard impressions or something, it’s just not going to be a big enough number for them to really care about.

Bjork Ostrom: They are thinking multiple millions in a short timeframe. Yeah.

Bruno Bornsztein: Exactly. They’re buying like a 250 by 300 banner on every DIY site on the internet or whatever. That whole space is just all dominated by networks and platforms now anyway. But, I was trying to do that. I mean, I remember there’s a door company I tried to sell them a banner ad on our site for $500 or something like that but pretty quickly realized that actually being more tightly integrated into the content was a way better value for them, especially because most of them weren’t huge companies that wanted just gigantic impression numbers. What they wanted was something a little more subtle and in some ways, more intangible. They wanted to see their product in a story or in a series of photos or their messages getting across in our content. It grew organically out of that like, “Hey, we’ll sell you a banner.” “Well, actually, how about we write a blog post about your product?” That’s a pretty natural progression. That’s the way it went for us.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Your focus right now is on InfluenceKit, that’s really what you’re focusing in on, but for a while it was squarely on Curbly. Can you take me back to that timeframe? Let’s say it’s 2016, 2017, 2018, and then 2018 InfluenceKit came into the picture because of the work that you’re doing with sponsored content, but let’s use that timeframe as a case study for the potential for sponsored content. Can you share a little bit about the numbers, whether it be page views, which you just shared about, revenue and it doesn’t have to be exact, but if you were to say, hey, during that time period where you were really focusing in on Curbly doing sponsored content, what was the general ballpark range of the revenue that you were making at that point for Curbly?

Bruno Bornsztein: Yeah, so in that period of 2016, 2017, we were doing probably close to $125,000 a year in sponsored content, which-

Bjork Ostrom: In terms of traffic or following or general numbers around that, what did that look like?

Bruno Bornsztein: 2016 Curbly was probably around, probably between six and 700,000 page views per month. Our strongest following has always been on Pinterest actually for that site, so around a hundred… over a hundred thousand, maybe 120,000 Pinterest followers. We were never super strong on Instagram so really in terms of social, it was Facebook and Pinterest where we were stronger. I mean, I should also point out that I’m really talking about two sites here so that number encompasses Curbly and ManMade, which is the other blog that I am the publisher of. Yeah, you can take that, keep that in mind that we were able to sell deals, sell sponsored content on both of those sites.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it, but the revenue, the page views, that encompasses those two?

Bruno Bornsztein: Right. Yes. It would be ebb and flow throughout the year. I’m looking at my stats from that year. There were months that were as low as a thousand and other months where it looks like we sold almost 20,000. It did come and go. There are period… January is always a really tough month for advertising and for sponsored content so it wasn’t that consistent throughout the year. But yeah, and our sponsored content package size was on the order of three or $4,000. That was where I would start. When I was pitching to somebody I would say, “We will do a blog post. It’ll include social media posts on these four platforms. We’ll include you in our newsletter that goes out to X number of people.” I think it was probably around 30,000. “We’ll give you permission to use some of the photos from the shoots, from the content that we produce,” and my range for something like that was around $4,000. That’s where I was trying to get.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. That is incredibly helpful because I think not a lot of people are willing to share those numbers, but you’re in the unique position where your focus now is on helping people to do this better, to get better at sponsored content as one of the things that InfluenceKit is doing, which we’re going to dive deep onto some of the systems, the processes you use for this in this workshop that we have coming up and I’ll just plug this. We’ll talk about a couple of different times, but if people are interested in attending that you can sign up for free. It’s foodbloggerpro.com/workshop and Bruno and I recorded, it was probably like a 45 minute session, talking about three different areas that are really important with sponsored content.

Bjork Ostrom: But those numbers are super helpful. I think it gives people some goal markers, some idea of where they could potentially get to and not that it’s the same for everybody, but let’s say that somebody is at a hundred thousand page views and they are thinking, “Okay, if I can get to 300,000,” they can start to get an idea of maybe what potential would look like. It allows you to play the numbers game in a way that maybe you can’t if you don’t have any idea, like you were saying, in the beginning stages you couldn’t just Google what’s successful for a publishing site because it just didn’t exist, that material and that course content or those people who are willing to share that didn’t exist so I think it’s fair enough.

Bruno Bornsztein: Yeah. I don’t think Food Blogger Pro existed in 2009.

Bjork Ostrom: It wasn’t a thing.

Bruno Bornsztein: … I would have signed up.

Bjork Ostrom: I wish it was because we would have been ahead of the curve. But let’s talk about a few different specifics that were involved with that. What I’d be interested in hearing is, what allowed you to do that? During that phase, what were… we’ll start with this, if you were to split between people that were coming to you and saying, “Hey, we would love to work with you,” and you doing intentional outreach, would you be able to put a loose percentage on what that look like?

Bruno Bornsztein: Yeah. I mean, I would guess it was probably 50–50 and it depends a little bit on you’re look at it because earlier in the 2010s, people weren’t really coming to you asking you to do sponsored content because they didn’t really know what it was. They would mostly come to you with a PR pitch. They would just send you a press release even. You’d get a press release from some brand that you see at Home Depot saying, “Hey, we have this new product,” and eventually I figured, well, rather than just ignoring those press releases, which was usually what I did, I would reply and just say, “Hey, this is cool. I’ll pass it along to our writers to see if they want to cover it. By the way, here’s our media kit and here are the kinds of sponsored content we can do.”

Bruno Bornsztein: We get into this a little bit in the webinar, but this gets down to, I think what helped me succeed and what helped me sell a hundred thousand dollars of sponsored content that year was that I was ready. I was organized. I had my media kit ready to go. When somebody pitched me, sent me a press release, I could reply and have something ready to go where I could at least give them the opportunity to buy sponsored content from me. Then definitely later on, as more and more brands started even knowing what influencer marketing was, you would just start getting more direct pitches like, “Hey, we have this influencer marketing campaign and we want you to be on it,” and that’s obviously a lot easier.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. What were, if you were to say percentage of your time or maybe hours a week, do you have a guess as to how much time you were spending doing the sales part of the sponsored content?

Bruno Bornsztein: I would, I mean, probably at least a day a week. It’s hard to break out time like the least organized person when it comes to how I work, I work on four things at the same time. I’m a big multitasker, which I know is not hip these days but yeah, I mean, a day a week for sure, where I was just replying to emails. I would set aside some time each month to just cold email people that we hadn’t worked with, follow up with brands that we’d worked with in the past and then there’s a lot of time that goes into actually producing sponsored content but not counting that, just the outreach and the follow-up.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep.

Bruno Bornsztein: I’ll usually take a day.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. What were the things… my guess is that over time you started to realize even if it was from intuition, “Hey, these are the things that have a higher success rate and these are the things that aren’t really worth it?” Would you say there were things that you started to learn that were really important to do to increase the probability of working with a brand or to increase the probability that they would say yes and if so, what were some of those things that you started to learn?

Bruno Bornsztein: Oh, that’s such a great question. For one thing, ask questions about the brand, things like asking what their objectives are. Because if a brand comes… if they contact you and you reply and you ask them what their objectives are and they say, “We would like to sell 132 of our thing and therefore if… we want to know exactly how much we have to pay you to sell that many of those things,” that’s a huge red flag for me, because that’s not what sponsored content is about. That’s affiliate marketing. If you think you have a good chance of selling millions of widgets or whatever product they’re selling, that’s great.

Bruno Bornsztein: You can get yourself an affiliate cut of that but sponsored content doesn’t work like that. You’re trying to help them position their brand in the market, you’re helping them communicate a message about their product and you’re lending your credibility with your audience to their brand. They’re not necessarily going to sell 12 packs of spaghetti because you used it in a pasta recipe. That’s just not what influencer marketing is about. That’s one, is asking questions about the brand, what are they trying to achieve? Does that line up with the value that you can actually provide as a content creator, is super important.

Bjork Ostrom: In those conversations, how often are you able to educate, to say, “Hey, that’s not really exactly what we would be good at, but we would be good at this,” and then redirecting and having success with that versus saying like, “Hey, not a good fit,” and then that not happening, like that relationship not continuing? Were you able to convince people to focus on a different thing or if somebody knows what their KPI is, for lack of a better word, key performance indicator, that they’re just set in that and then they’ll move on to find somebody who can execute on that?

Bruno Bornsztein: I think it’s across the board. There were definitely… there were times where you’re working with somebody who gets it and is interested in learning and willing to hear you out when you tell them, “Hey, a blog post about this is really going to perform better with our audience than what you thought would work.” But then there were also times that that didn’t go that way, where they were just dead set on what they… they had some number that somebody had come up with that they wanted to meet. It’s great when you can say, just say no to those people and I highly encourage you to try. I know that we all live in reality and there are months where you have to say yes to those people because you have to pay your mortgage or you have to pay whatever expenses for your business. There are times when you have to do that, but hopefully not too often.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think that’s a really important step, something that we’ve learned as well. We use a form actually when anybody ever reaches out. One of the questions that we ask is this general idea of what are your objectives, so we can get an idea, we can gather that information from a brand as we kick off that relationship. Can you talk through the steps that you would go through? I know it would probably depend and it would ebb and flow, but if you were to say in general, where you go from having not worked with a brand to delivering a piece of sponsored content and getting paid for it, what is the general outline of what that looks like to progress through that relationship?

Bruno Bornsztein: Sure. I mean, I’ve done it so many times. Depending on where the first contact comes from, obviously that could be different, but generally you get to a point where you’ve convinced the brand that you can send them a proposal. You say, “Okay, we’ve talked, you guys want to work with us, we have a sense for what you’re trying to accomplish.” Then I send them a pitch and it’s simple. It doesn’t have to be fancy or in a PowerPoint deck, it can just be an email but that’ll explain… it’ll start with an intro that is meant to show them that I get their objectives. I want them to know that I understand what it is they’re trying to achieve and that I’m going to try to help them do that.

Bjork Ostrom: In some ways you’re probably reflecting back to them the things they told you which their-

Bruno Bornsztein: Totally.

Bjork Ostrom: … objectives are which you know you can accomplish.

Bruno Bornsztein: Yeah. I’m just saying it. Yes. Yes, I’m just saying it back to them, but it’s important that they know that. You want to be their partner. You’re not just taking money from them. You’re trying to help them achieve something and you’re trying to give them as much value as you can.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally.

Bruno Bornsztein: That would be just a line like, we know that brand X has this new product coming out in August and that they want to achieve higher awareness among women in this demographic or something like that and we’re going to do that via these things. Then you just outline the deliverables really clearly. That’s super important because they need to know exactly what they’re getting. That would be like, you would list out one blog post, three Facebook posts, a Pin, an Instagram story, an Instagram post, a newsletter inclusion and a video. You just list all those things out. I like to itemize those so put a number by each one so that they know what there are per thing cost is and then I-

Bjork Ostrom: Why do you like to do that?

Bruno Bornsztein: I just think it gives me some negotiating leverage because inevitably what sometimes you’ll hear back from them, they’ll say that’s too much. Then you can say, “Okay, well we can take out this one thing or we can add in for free four extra things,” or maybe, “We’ll do the video for free,” or something. But it just gives you a little bit of control as opposed to just like, “Here’s the package and here’s what it costs.” Now if they don’t like the price, you’re a little more stuck, you can just make it cheaper, I guess or whatever. I like to do it that way. I don’t know if that’s the only right way of doing it, but that’s how I got used to doing it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep, and the idea being that to fill out the picture of all the different things that are included, if they come back to you and say, “We can’t make this price work,” then it’s not just you saying like, “Okay, I’ll do this for less.” It’s saying, “Okay, let’s get to a point where the price does work, but in doing that, either there will be less content that we’re producing or less exposure that we’re giving it on the different platforms,” so it’s broken up into bits and pieces so you can subtract or add as necessary to meet their budget.

Bruno Bornsztein: Yeah. I mean, because again, you do want to try to work with them where they are. They have real budget constraints and just because they are a big brand it doesn’t mean they have unlimited money. I know maybe it seems weird to people like, “Well, why would you just take stuff away?” But the reality is, it’s all part of pricing because the next time they come back, you want to try to increase your revenue or make more money, or at least make the same amount of money so you can’t just keep adding and adding and adding more stuff. The reality is, these things do… each thing, it seems small like, “Oh, you can just throw in another pin, what’s the big deal?” But each thing takes time. It takes time from somebody on your team or whether it’s you, or a VA or a social media person, a video. Videos are extremely resource intensive and take a lot of time. It’s just important to not get in the habit of giving away your stuff for free.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Bruno Bornsztein: I think it just comes down to that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. We’re going to talk about, actually, one of the things you mentioned was all these deliverables. One of the things we talk about in the workshop or webinar or whatever we want to call it, is some methods for tracking those. We won’t get super deep into that. We talk about some manual methods and then obviously InfluenceKit, being a tool that you built to solve a lot of these problems, it does that in a really great way, but just another plug there for people to check that out, who want to learn more and dive deep and also see some examples of exactly what that looks like. You go along, you have some deliverables, you come to an agreement, you sign that contract. Are you reviewing the contract? Do you bring in an attorney to do that and then anything that people should look out for with those contracts?

Bruno Bornsztein: These days most brands will have a contract. Back in the day, they often didn’t so I would send my own. I still think it would… it’s a cool idea for you to send them your own construct. Half the time, they’ll just say, “No, thanks. We’ve got our own.” But, I still… I think it makes you look good. It lets you set the playing field a little bit in terms of what the parameters of that are. I would encourage people to have just a boiler plate thing that they can plug the different variables into and send that over.

Bruno Bornsztein: In terms of reviewing it, I don’t know that you need to have an attorney review every single contract. They do tend to be pretty standard. I would maybe just get a little bit educated on what they should and shouldn’t include. Maybe if you’ve never done one before, go over one with a lawyer friend or somebody who can just… they’ll say… there’ll be legalist terms in there that you might not understand. Just till it get to the point where you can read a contract, they’ll have things like force majeure in there, which basically just means like force majeure, like act of God. It means that you can’t fulfill the contract.

Bruno Bornsztein: Things to watch out for, definitely content ownership. You should retain copyright to your content. This is not work for hire. You’re not a freelancer creating content that belongs to them. Be very, I think, I mean, unless they’re paying you a ton, so it all comes down to what you’re going to get paid but, so make sure you know who’s going to own the content, who’s going to have a right to use the content. I don’t remember Bjork, if this was you or somebody else, somebody… a friend of mine was walking through an airport once and saw her face on the side of some advertisement.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. It wasn’t us, but that was one of the things I was going to mention is, using your likeness and that oftentimes will be included by a brand like, “Hey, by entering into this agreement, we have…” I think we’ve even seen this like, “We indefinitely have the right to use the likeness of you in Pinch of Yum.”

Bruno Bornsztein: Forever.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s like, “Well,” probably not a good idea.

Bruno Bornsztein: I would watch out for that. Not only because you just may not want it, but also because that’s something you should be charging for and so if they sneak that in there, into the contract and you’re not getting paid extra for it, then you would just undervalue yourself. If they’re going to include something in there like using Pinch of Yum’s likeness for all the time, that’s fine but you want to charge them a lot for that or charge them whatever you think is the right amount.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. Another important point to call out, you talked about this idea of work for hire. One of the things I think a lot about is if… and work for hire being attached to this idea that, we’re hiring you to create something that then we own internally. We have the copyright that we can then use on social media or our site, or we can publish it wherever we want. If you think about what it would be like for them to go to an agency to do recipe development, a photo shoot, a video, that would be many multiple thousands of dollars to hire an agency to do that.

Bjork Ostrom: I think it helps to give some perspective on the value that you are creating if you do enter into that in a relationship in a way where you’re essentially creating that, not only for you to publish to your site and to mention the brand, but also then for them to own going forward. That’s a really expensive thing if they were to go out in the open market and hire somebody to do that.

Bruno Bornsztein: Absolutely. I’m sure a lot of your listeners have worked in other industries or maybe have been around an agency photo shoot or something but if you haven’t, just picture you’ve got to rent a studio, you’ve got to schedule a photographer and a photographer’s assistant and catering, and everybody’s got to come in and there’s probably got to be like a legal person there to make sure somebody doesn’t burn their hands or whatever. Just think about how much it costs to produce this type of content.

Bruno Bornsztein: One of the amazing things about bloggers is that they are incredibly efficient at producing content. I mean, your average food blog produces content, photos, video, recipes that are on par if not close to on par with what magazines are producing and yet they do it in their kitchen most of the time. That’s why I love this industry so much, because we’re dealing with people who are doing it in their kitchen while three children run around screaming in the background-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Bruno Bornsztein: … and yet you look at these photos-

Bjork Ostrom: It’s a huge validation for content creators.

Bruno Bornsztein: It’s huge. I mean, I say this all the time but Google any recipe, Google Thai red curry and you’re going to see a food blogger, another food blogger, and then like Epicurious or something, or like the New York Times. That’s amazing. It’s incredible and you probably won’t be able to tell the difference between the photos. Food bloggers in particular, but also all kinds of content creators, stop undervaluing yourself. You are creating amazing content that’s really valuable that would be very difficult for these companies to produce on their own.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s great.

Bruno Bornsztein: You need to know that.

Bjork Ostrom: I think it’s, like I said, really important for people to hear and validate it because it… I think for almost everybody, it feels like an incredible amount and it’s because it is. It’s the job of many people that you are doing on your own, oftentimes in a part time capacity. You send over essentially a proposal, which is outlining the deliverables, the price attached to it. In the Curbly example, a lot of times that ends up being in the three, $4,000 range. What happens after that?

Bruno Bornsztein: Well, there’s a period of negotiating that sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t and that would just be if they come back and tell you it’s too much or I mean yeah, they would never come back and tell you it’s too little. If that happens, I don’t know. There’s no formula for negotiating. It’s a conversation. It’s a relationship that you’re building with the brand. It’s understanding what they want to achieve and seeing how you can help them do it. I don’t have any like, “Well, this is how you do it.” I would just say, don’t undervalue yourself. Most people start out charging way too little and don’t be intimidated to just go in there and ask for what you think you’re worth.

Bruno Bornsztein: But beyond that, it is really an art, I think, that you just learn over time. But yeah, so there would be a negotiation which would be a back and forth where you would eventually come to some agreement hopefully that maybe I would start at 4,000 and we end up at 2,500. I’m okay with that because we’re light on sponsored content, it’s February. That same deal would not go through for me in November because we have tons of sponsored content and there’s no way I’m going to discount my package that much.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, kind of a supply and demand situation.

Bruno Bornsztein: Yeah, for sure. I mean the other one that’s I think really important for people to remember is, there are some brands that you want to work with more than others. We all know who they are and if it’s a brand that you’re a little on the fence about, then that’s the brand that you’re less willing to discount. If it’s a brand that you love and you really want to work with more, obviously there’s more leeway there for giving them a break on the price.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah and I know some creators who are like that with sponsored content in general. They’re like, “I really don’t want to do sponsored content, but I don’t want to be dumb about the potential to earn extra revenue from this so I’m going to start my prices really high.” On the opposite end, I know some people who were in the early stages and they say, “I really want to do this. I think this is important for me. As almost like an internship to get started, I’m okay getting less than what I think of that I want to be at in order to build a portfolio and to have some experience and to get some relationships.” A lot of variables go into that number.

Bruno Bornsztein: Yeah. I mean, and what you see a lot of, I’m sure our listeners will have this question is, what about product? A lot of brands will start testing the water with a new content creator by just doing product and that’s their way of essentially just testing them out without investing too much and that might be fine. With Curbly, we got to a point where we didn’t do sponsored content for product because we didn’t have to, but if you’re just starting out, you may not have that opportunity so it’s fine. I mean, product is a perfectly good place to start as long as it’s not… you don’t get stuck in that spot.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I’ve told this story a couple of different times but the first official piece of sponsored content that we did was these Paula Deen frozen vegetables. It was 2011 or something like that and they sent us this big box of frozen vegetables and it felt like Christmas. We were opening it up and we’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is free and they sent it to us. All we have to do is post a blog post.” I think-

Bruno Bornsztein: I never associate Paula Deen with vegetables of any kind, which is funny.

Bjork Ostrom: I don’t know what it… I’m trying to remember what it was. If it was a vegetable mix or-

Bruno Bornsztein: It was probably mayonnaise. That’s probably what it was. It was just a big tub of Paula Deen mayonnaise.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Looking back on it now, it’s so obvious that we should have asked for compensation, but it’s part of the learning process. Even if it is, the curtain example for you, you get into it and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is so much work.” There is value in doing something that you realize wasn’t worth doing, which is moving forward, you will then realize that and you wouldn’t have discovered that unless you did it and that’s the best way to improve is to actually jump in and to do it. Would you say, “Hey, if you’re in the early stages, don’t be afraid to do sponsored content for product,” or what would your opinion be on that?

Bruno Bornsztein: Oh yeah, absolutely. If you’ve never done anything… if you’ve never worked with a brand before, you almost inevitably start with just product and that’s totally fine. But it’s the same kind of… some of the same rules apply. Don’t be afraid to ask for more product. Just, don’t be afraid. It’s like I just think, we would work with paint companies a little bit at the beginning. I remember one time asking a paint company for 30 gallons of paint and thinking, “Oh my gosh, they’re just going to laugh me out of the room or whatever,” and they were just like, “Okay, that’s fine. What colors?” Just ask for what you need, ask for what you deserve. Another thing that I think is important-

Bjork Ostrom: My follow up question is, what did you use 30 gallons of paint for?

Bruno Bornsztein: We painted our house. Yeah, and this is what I’m getting at is that, in 2012 we bought a house and we put an offer and I’m sitting in it right now, we put an offer on this house at the same time as I was pitching a bunch of different brands on doing sponsored content in the house. This is a great example where a sponsored content can be more than just about money. In our case, it helped us remodel our whole house. Yeah, if we’re getting 30 gallons of paint from a company, then we… in that case, I don’t think we did get any cash because 30 gallons times, I think they were $70 a gallon, paint gallons, pretty nice paint, it does start to add up.

Bruno Bornsztein: The cool thing about sponsored content and you mentioned some people just never want to do sponsored content, the cool thing about it is that it’s still content and content is what you love to do as a content creator. It does give you an opportunity to do content that you love to do and also get paid for it or also get product for it. I’m a super amateur woodworker but occasionally I get an itch and I want to do a project. I’ve had times where we did little woodworking projects that we either got paid for, or I got some free tools for and it’s pretty great. It helps you produce content. It is adding value to the content on your site because you’re staying true to the type of content that your readers appreciate. You do have to search for those opportunities, but they are there.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally. We’ve kind of walked through it. We’re at the point now where, we’ve maybe signed an agreement, let’s say we’ve delivered that content, a few pieces that are important to point out, which we talk about in the workshop that we do is, you need to make sure that you’re actually delivering the content that you outlined as deliverables and track that, whether that be with a spreadsheet, a tool like InfluenceKit that allows you to put those in so you’re actually delivering on those. How often as you’re delivering are you following up in real time? Another piece to that, how much are you letting the brand weigh in on the evolution of the content?

Bruno Bornsztein: I think I’ll take the second part of that first. This is all part of the negotiation in the contract phase as you know, a lot of times the contract will say that you’re required to send them a draft or that they have final say or whatever. You need to just make sure that you’re comfortable with whatever the parameters are there. In our case, we would usually be fine with sending them a draft and that just lets… with the understanding that we weren’t necessarily going to accommodate every request that they might have, but there might be times when you spelled the brand’s name wrong, or you talked about a feature of the product that isn’t quite right.

Bruno Bornsztein: It is helpful for them to be able to look over it and help you get that content right. The best collaborations are like that. They don’t want to micromanage what you do. They just want to make sure that the message is getting out clearly. How much do we let them input? I think certainly them wanting to review a draft of your content before it goes live is very reasonable. They’re very careful about how they position their brand and what is said about their brand and so it is important to them that things are just right.

Bruno Bornsztein: Beyond that, I don’t like to get into situations where they’re dictating the actual tone and content, or they’re saying what the project is going to be or what it’s not going to be. We’ve stumbled into those situations here and there, and it’s bad. It doesn’t allow you to do what you think will work best for your readers.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you have a way to write that into a contract?

Bruno Bornsztein: No, I don’t. I mean, I think that’s one of those things where, as long as it’s not in the contract you should be fine. In other words, as long as the contract doesn’t say something like, “And then you will use red paint to paint one half of your bathroom or whatever,” then you’re fine. This is one of those things where the omission is good enough. Then also, influencer marketing is all about relationships. The more you can build a strong relationship with that other party, the more comfortable everybody’s going to be, they’re going to trust you to do a good job and represent their brand well.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and part of that is the nuance of communication and clearly communicating, which you get better at over time as you realize what you do need to communicate, what you don’t need to communicate. Also, part of it is in you delivering something to the brand that validates their decision to work with you. There is a piece after you’ve gone through the… pressing publish isn’t the last thing that you do, it’s still really important to follow up with the brand and say, “I press publish and here’s what happened as a result of that.” Can you talk about why it’s important? What happens after you press publish and how you continue to stay connected with a brand and show them how your content has performed well?

Bruno Bornsztein: Yeah, I mean, you said it. It is really important because these brands are doing a lot of sponsored content now and so they just have this constant stream of collaborations that they’re doing and it’s very easy to have you fall through the cracks if you don’t stay on top of it. In our case, we would press publish, we would let them know. I mean, I can’t tell you how often people just don’t even let the brand know that the content went live. They aren’t following every single platform. They maybe aren’t watching your Instagram stories when they go live.

Bruno Bornsztein: It’s really important to just let them know, “Okay, here’s what we did. We published this. We did all the deliverables that we said we would do. Here’s the links to them or the screenshots of them.” Because again, you’re delivering, this is what you got paid for so you want to show them that you’ve delivered everything. In our case, we would do reporting on how this content is performing. Initially, we would do that all manually then later on I just couldn’t stand that anymore so I built InfluenceKit to help us just do it automatically, but either way-

Bjork Ostrom: We… Yeah, I was just going to say our story is the same. Jenna, on our team would put together a PDF that had all the information on the performance of it. We’d send it over. Our story differs where we didn’t build the tool, we just use the tool that you built, which is much easier-

Bruno Bornsztein: That’s awesome.

Bjork Ostrom: … than building it. But, we use InfluenceKit to send over reports. That’s another thing that we’re going to be talking about in the workshop is, how to do that and how to do that well. Both, if you want to do it manually, we don’t want to say that it has to be a tool that you use and I’m going to be talking about some ways to do that, but also if people have the budget to use a tool, a tool like InfluenceKit does a really good job with that and saves a lot of time.

Bruno Bornsztein: Well, I mean, you have to think about what the reason is for doing it. I don’t care so much as the how, like how do you do it but the why. Why should you do it? The why is that, there is somebody on the other end of this transaction who has to justify that they spent this money with you or that they gave you those 30 gallons of paint. You can never forget that because there is somebody over there and they’re a nice person, they probably love your blog because they found you or wanted to work with you in the first place. They maybe have only been in that job for like a year. There’s a lot of turnover at these places, but they are going to have to go up the line and show their boss or the rest of the marketing team there, why they were justified in making the decision to work with you.

Bruno Bornsztein: You want to make that as easy as you possibly can for them and they will love you for it. I mean, as a part of working on InfluenceKit for two years now, I’ve gotten to talk to tons and tons of people from brands and agencies. The best thing that happens is when they say, “Oh my God, I got this report from so-and-so from InfluenceKit,” or, “I got this report showing how the content performed and my jaw just dropped.” It really like, any kind of reporting makes their job so much easier and it will really make you stand out as somebody that they want to work with again.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about the things that you’ve seen consistently bubble to the top that are the, “Oh my gosh, this is awesome,” type things that you hear from brands or agencies? Is it-

Bruno Bornsztein: Sure.

Bjork Ostrom: … like impression is it… what are the things that are important as creators to highlight with our content?

Bruno Bornsztein: Yeah. It’s funny. I mean, you do some… yes, there is some talk about, well, this person performs better than that person or this person’s engagement rate is higher. They’re definitely aware of the numbers and the numbers matter and they will be comparing you against other people they’ve worked with. But, I would say for every time I’ve heard a brand or agency person talk about how a particular influencer performs, just as many times I’ve heard them talking about, “Oh, they’re so easy to work with,” or, “They always do everything on time and they always follow up.” Those soft touch things are, I think, just as important and from what I hear.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. You think about that in any industry and we’re going through this process right now where we’re having some projects done at our house, everything from figuring out what we’re going to do for… we moved in this new house and it’s like this super extensive garden and neither Lindsay and I are gardeners. We want to make sure to care for it, but we know that we’re not going to do it, so reaching out to all these different people who do gardening. It’s like, if somebody does an email back or they say they’re going to do it, and then we need to email back to confirm what time they’re going to show up multiple times or they say they’re going to do a quote, but don’t show up at that time or don’t send a follow-up to it, all of that stuff has a really big impact. We understand that. I think sometimes we forget when we’re on the other side that we are that person that needs to deliver-

Bruno Bornsztein: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: … in a timely fashion.

Bruno Bornsztein: It’s customer service. We forget that we need to provide good customer… I’ll give you a funny example. It just happens to be up on my email and maybe you’ll just cut this from the podcast, but I think it’s so funny.

Bjork Ostrom: No, we’ll keep it in.

Bruno Bornsztein: I got an email from amazon.com telling me that they processed a refund of $1 and 46 cents on Quilted Northern Ultra-Soft toilet paper because for some reason there was a billing error and they charged me a dollar 46 extra. Now, mind you, I never knew because of course I didn’t notice that they charged me-

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, totally.

Bruno Bornsztein: … a dollar 40 extra and this is Amazon, the biggest company in the world and they are taking the time to refund me a dollar on toilet paper because they know customer service is just that important even at their scale. If it’s important for Amazon, it’s definitely important for us and that’s what I’m getting at. You have to be following up. The analogy to a refund would be, “Hey, we did this Pin for you and it’s just not really performing.” We’re going to throw in an extra two Pins on our next collaboration,“ or, ”Hey, we said we’d do an Instagram. We just forgot. We’re really sorry. We’re going to make it better for you the next time.” That’s the kind of customer service that really does matter when you’re working with brands.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. These are all things that we’re going to dive into and talk about on the webinar or workshop, the event that we’re doing, coming up. Can you talk, can you give a little plug for that, some of the things that you’re going to cover and the areas that we’ll focus on, and again, the URL if people want to check that out. If you listen to the podcast in real time, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/workshop. But what would your promo for that event be if you were to share with people what we’re going to be talking about?

Bruno Bornsztein: Yeah. Bjork and I spent about an hour talking about what I think is the best way to run your blog so that you can increase your sponsored content revenue and it really comes down to a cycle of three things, plan strategically, create efficiently and report consistently. We go through each one of those steps and why they’re so important, how they tie into the next step after it and how once you start doing those things regularly it’s going to lead to an increase in your sponsored content revenue.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. What I love about that is you are speaking from experience. You’re not somebody who started this software company and then share about how other people are doing it. It’s like, this is literally how you did it, you saw a need, you created this company in order to solve the needs that you had, and you have a lot of traction and success with that and our business is better because of it, because it makes our job easier.

Bruno Bornsztein: That’s really good to hear.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. If people want to check out InfluenceKit before the event, what’s the best way to learn a little bit more about it and see what you guys are up to?

Bruno Bornsztein: You can go to influencekit.com. That’s got a breakdown of why we exist and what we do. Interestingly for a company that’s about helping content creators, we are not doing a lot of content ourselves on social media, but we are on all the social media handles @influencekit and getinfluencekit. You can find us there.

Bjork Ostrom: Nice, and doing podcast interviews. That counts. It’s a type of content creations.

Bruno Bornsztein: Yes, exactly. We’re too busy building the thing and trying to help other content creators and yeah, we’re just hoping that people find us and tell other bloggers and other content creators about us.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. We’re excited about what you’re up to and excited to share that with other people and Bruno, when we can sit down at a restaurant and not have to worry about breathing on each other, I will be excited to do that. Looking forward to that and thanks for coming on the podcast.

Bruno Bornsztein: Well, likewise. It was great.

Alexa Peduzzi: That’s a wrap on this episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, and part two of our Managing Sponsored Content series. We hope you enjoyed the series. I know I did. I love talking about sponsored content. It’s the main way that I make money from my food blog and it’s just great because creating sponsored content allows you to create your regular content and then get paid for it like I mentioned at the beginning of this podcast. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this podcast and that Bjork and Bruno mentioned throughout the podcast, we do have a free workshop coming up this Thursday July 16th at 1:00 PM Eastern or 12:00 PM Central. You can get registered right now at foodbloggerpro.com/workshop. That’s all one word.

Alexa Peduzzi: It’s all about learning how to maximize your sponsored content revenue and prove your work’s value to your sponsors. It’s going to be about an hour and a half. In the webinar, in the workshop, you’ll learn how to build a better, more strategic editorial calendar, how to organize and execute your sponsored work in a way that’s effective and streamlined, which, oh my gosh, doesn’t that sound amazing to have a bit of a process when it comes to creating sponsored content, because it is a lot, a lot of work. Last, how to understand how valuable your content is to sponsors so that you can be confident in your rate. If you’re interested in learning more and getting signed up for this webinar, like I mentioned, the registration is open right now, completely free and it’s at foodbloggerpro.com/workshop.

Alexa Peduzzi: We hope to see you there. During these events we have a live portion and then a prerecorded version, and then a live Q&A at the end. I actually edited the prerecorded version last week and I think it’s safe to say that this is going to be one of the most helpful and powerful events that we’ve ever had. When Bjork and Bruno talk, as was very evident from this podcast episode, it just makes you excited and confident and ready to get work done and I think you’ll feel the same way at the end of this workshop. I’m so excited about it. We hope to see you there and that’s a wrap for this episode. We’ll see you next time and until then, make it a great week.

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