As we gear up for 2011 blog and social media conference season which is approaching almost as fast as the holidays are, the topic of gaining conference sponsorship continually pops up. Earlier this year, Blog Conference Newbie Guide published various posts on the topic of conference sponsorship:
- Personal Sponsorship Guidelines
- What Companies Want in Sponsorship Pitches (viewpoint from a brand)
- A blogger’s experience with getting conference sponsorship
- A blogger/marketer’s perspective on sponsorship
- Creating an Advertising/Sponsorship Kit (important step in marketing yourself/blog)
Even with these resources, there are still tons of questions and confusion regarding what to offer potential sponsors in exchange for sponsorship and what conferences will allow when it comes to personal sponsorship. Hence the need for this “Sponsorship 101″ series, which will include 4-5 posts on this very topic over the next week.
Let’s start the series by delving into how to get a sponsor. That is, how to approach them, what to say, and where to go from that point.
A Few Tips To Begin With….
- The earlier the better when it comes to pitching for sponsorship. Why? Because you want to give potential sponsors time to think about the proposal without being rushed. Plus, many companies set their budgets in the fall/winter for the following calendar year. But don’t freak out if you haven’t started pitching yet….that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck!
- Consider partial sponsorship options. Many times, companies can’t provide full sponsorship because it’s simply not in their budget. Instead, consider pitching to a couple of non-competing companies for smaller sponsorships, which together may cover all of your costs.
- Twitter shouldn’t be your only method to finding a sponsor. Sure, you can use Twitter to help you identify and connect with one, but unfortunately, too many rely solely on sending tweets to get sponsorship. When conferences are approaching, you’re bound to see zillions of tweets saying something such as “Want to get your product in front of ### women? Sponsor me to attend ____ conference!” Your tweet is being sent out there in the sea of saturated sponsorship tweets. I’m not saying it can’t happen via this method, but why not utilize Twitter in a better way: create a sponsorship package page on your blog & tweet out the link rather than just a generic sentence. Better yet, direct message (DM) that link directly to a brand you’d like to connect with. Or start by simply using Twitter to start a genuine conversation with a brand which then can move over to an official pitch via email or phone. You can also DM a company to find out who to email your pitch to. Deb Ng said it well in her post on this very topic called Why You’re Not Going To Find Conference Sponsorship on Twitter.
- Do what you say you’re going to do when it comes to sponsorship. I recently heard of an example of a sponsorship gone wrong. At one of the conferences this year, a blogger who was attending thanks to a sponsor did not follow through with what she promised she would do to promote the brand at the conference. When the brand found out, they decided not to sponsor anyone for any conference in the near future. If situations like this happen frequently, it can impact whether or not brands will even consider sponsoring bloggers at conferences. So be sure that what you’re agreeing to is something you can actually execute.
- Don’t pitch to just any company. Think about it; you’re asking a brand to invest money so you can attend a conference, so why would they even consider doing so if your blog/brand doesn’t fit with their philosophy? If you’re someone who only eats organic food, then don’t pitch to fast food restaurants. Step back and think about whether or not it makes sense to work with the company you’re approaching because if you can’t figure that out, they definitely won’t see the need to sponsor you.
- Think of sponsorship differently than others. Most people are focused on how to “sell” the conference or trip to the potential sponsor in order to get sponsorship. Instead, focus on different aspects of sponsorships or partnerships. Think less about the exchange of money and more about the potential partnership and benefit not only for YOU, but also for THEM! Per @VelveteenMind’s tweet last week: …Rethink sponsorship: Cover EXPOSURE not expenses. Invite sponsors of your BLOG not your trip.
Where To Begin?
Who: Start brainstorming which brands you’ve worked with in the past and obviously start with them. If you’ve never worked with a company before in any capacity, then think about brands you’ve conversed with via Twitter, Facebook, or email, even if it was merely a simple and brief exchange consisting of a few words. Also brainstorm products you already love using and consider reaching out to them. In addition, consider reaching out to local companies who may be looking to gain more exposure nationwide via social media. Another tip: don’t always go for the biggest brands. If you’re a “smaller” blogger (and I dislike that term), try to find a brand that might be newer to social media or isn’t huge. While they might not be able to cover all of your conference expenses, they might be able to provide a partial sponsorship – plus a new, budding partnership!
Like I mentioned above, start thinking of sponsorships differently. You will come across desperate and overly focused on money if you try to approach just any brand that comes to mind. Work on starting genuine conversations with companies versus making your first (and possibly only) interaction all about sponsorship.
How: Once you’ve decided on a company you’d like to officially pitch to, you need to decide how you will do so. Here’s the truth: there is no right or wrong way to pitch for sponsorship. There are many methods and not one works for everyone. Your main options are….
- Send a link of your “sponsorship package” blog page to the potential sponsor via a DM on Twitter
- Email the potential sponsorship with your official pitch and possibly even your advertising/sponsorship kit
- Give the company a call. You can utilize Twitter to connect with the brand and find out who you can contact to talk in more depth. Sometimes it’s someone at the company or it might be a PR person.
- Create a vlog instead of a written sponsorship pitch
What To Include In Your Pitch
Again, you need to write a pitch that works for you, so copying someone else’s won’t come across authentic. Here is an example blog conference sponsorship proposal email from Deal Seeking Mom. Keep it brief and to the point, at least initially – many companies receive tons of pitches, so don’t make them read pages upon pages. Here’s what you should include in it:
- Introduction. This includes introducing yourself and your blog, stats on your social media reach/influence, other sites you blog for, groups you’re active in online or have started, and any other information that illustrates how you can help increase exposure for their company. Even if the company is familiar with you, you’ll want to provide this information again.
- Costs associated with the sponsorship. Now, this is where you have to decide what you feel most comfortable including. Some people don’t include any figure in their initial correspondence and instead focus on connecting before naming the price. Others break down and list the costs (i.e. travel, ticket, hotel). Still others give them the grand total of costs up front. Another option is to create a tiered-package with details on what the sponsor will receive in exchange for various price points. If there is anything else you require from the company (i.e. promotional products for a giveaway or Twitter party, etc), you’ll want to state this up front as well.
- What you’re offering the company in this partnership. The goal is to offer your sponsor as much exposure and promotion as possible. Get creative and let them see that you’ve researched and are knowledgeable about their company. List what you will do to promote them before, during, and after the conference. (The next couple of posts will get into more detail on this topic). You can list out a generic list of promotional options and tailor a package with them once you’ve connected or you can decide what promotional techniques you will offer specifically in your pitch without discussing this with them. In the tiered-package option, you can show how your promotional efforts depend on the sponsorship amount.
- A brief description of the conference you’re hoping to attend and why it’s valuable to attend. Many brands aren’t aware of all of the blogger conferences yet, so inform them with details and a link to the conference website. Also inform them why it’s valuable to attend the conference, both for you and the potential sponsor.
- What insights will you provide the company after the conference? Companies want to know what their return on investment (ROI ) is for sponsoring you. Let them know up front that you will provide them with stats, pictures, and any other relevant information in a follow-up report. Within it, you can include stats from the bit.ly links you used to show how much traffic you drove to their site, screen shots from tweets pertaining to them, stats on how often their personalized hashtag was used on Twitter, and pictures of promotional efforts. Include whatever you think will illustrate how you’ve enhanced their exposure. This information may help the company decide if they want to continue working with you in the future.
- Closing section. Include your contact information, and any closing statements.
What To Do After Your Send The Pitch
If you don’t hear back from the company right away, don’t panic. You know how hectic your inbox can get, so it may take a few days for them to get back to you. If a week to ten days has gone by without any word from the company, feel free to contact them again to follow up and ask if there are any questions you can answer to help them with their decision.
There may be many emails or phone calls exchanged during the discussion process, so don’t be alarmed if a decision isn’t made immediately.
What If You Don’t Find A Sponsor?
Don’t take it personally! The reality is that not everyone will find a sponsor. Most of the time it’s a financial issue – the company may want to sponsor you, but just can’t afford to. In the meantime, start saving to attend a conference! Sell items on Ebay or via an Etsy or Opensky shop. Sell ad space on your blog. Ask for a ticket for the holidays or a birthday present. Make sure to stay on top of when early bird rates end in order to save money on the ticket and track good travel rates – any way you can cut back on costs if you have to foot the bill yourself. In addition, some conferences ask for volunteers in exchange for a discounted or free ticket. Whatever you do, don’t let it discourage you from trying again for other conferences.
Tomorrow’s “Sponsorship 101″ post will address how to promote your sponsor at blog conferences while adhering to conference guidelines.
How did you structure your sponsorship pitch?
What insight would you offer those pitching now?
What are your thoughts on the info listed here?