Free stuff can’t be the only reason you want to work with brands
Anytime I speak with people interested in blogging the first questions they ask involves working with brands: “how much do you make?” “How much free stuff do you get?” “Can I get contact information?” It never fails.
When we first started our site our main focuses was on brands. Co and I both thought that the more brands we could say we worked with the better our site would look to potential readers. We also thought that it would make us look better to bigger brands that we wanted to work with in the future. Both of these we found to be false, and unfortunately, it was later than we’d care to admit.
Agreeing to work with almost any brand that came into our inbox made us look confused. Promoting and reviewing so many products from different brands made us look like we had no loyalty. At one point we legit were writing about a different natural hair product every week. It was uninsightful, boring, and honestly just fluff.
We were providing these brands with all of this attention on our blog and were doing a disservice to the people who were most important, our readers.
As we became more solid in who we were as bloggers and what our readers wanted, we realized that quality was WAY more important than quantity. So, we backed off brands and really tried to focus on bringing quality content from brands we had real experiences with. From this we started making real connections with brands and working with them in ways we didn’t think were possible so soon.
One of the connections we made going this route was Cantu. Cantu is a brand I’ve used for a long time. It really got me through when I first started out trans.
For the past few years I’ve had the awesome opportunity of working with Cantu at the Doller General Day of Beauty here in Nashville. I was super geeked when THE Maria Antoinette slid in my DMs to ask if I’d be interested in working the event again. Uh, hell yeah. I couldn’t wait to get back out on the floor and connect with Nashville’s thriving natural community. This year I was way more comfortable and got to be way more hands-on with Cantu. I also made sure get my time in speaking with the brand manager and letting her know how much I love the brand. Because of this was able to receive so many amazing, free Cantu products AND Cantu helped me in a way that I will never forget.
As I’ve mentioned before, outside of blogging, I wear quite a few different hats. One of my favorite of these hats is my job as a program manager for a youth residential facility. It feeds my soul. I work with a group of 16-20 teens who have experienced different traumas and life struggles that caused them to be removed from a living situation. This job allows me to be a constant for these girls and show them that they are more than what has happened to them.
But, I digress, back to Cantu..
This year, (by the wonderful grace of all things beautiful in the universe) I was able to use my blogging connection for more than just myself and the blog. This year Cantu donated to my entire facility.
When I pitched the idea to Cantu’s brand manager I honestly thought we’d be luck to get a few samples. What Cantu did, however, was beyond my imagination. I arrived to work one afternoon to find boxes upon boxes with my name on them. They outfitted each resident, female AND male, with a full line of hair products. In addition to hair products, they provided body washes, lotions, body butter, and shaving material. It was so much I truly didn’t know what to do with it all. ( I mean seriously, I gave all the kids one of EVERYTHING and still had so much trouble finding storage for everything).
To some, this may seem like a trivial gift, however, the boost it gave to the children’s confidence was magical. They smiled so big and were so grateful. I was smelling and complimenting curls for days on days. All the kids were so happy to give their appearance a boost. They walked differently. They talked differently. They acted differently. It was such a beautiful moment and it made me so proud of myself.
Sometimes as a blogger I get so caught up in what working with brands can do for me I forget what I can do for others by working with brands. Being able to help my residents in this way and make their life a little better changed me in a way that can only be described as humbling.
Cantu provided me something I had never gotten from a brand before. I wasn’t questioned or made to prove my worth by providing a list of analytics. I didn’t have to fill out an application and compete with other bloggers. I literally was asked for nothing in return. The brand manager simply said, “give me a head count.” I was floored.
Because of this, I tell every blogger who comes to me with brand questions to be selective about who they choose to work with. Every collaboration won’t be mutually beneficial and many of them will not be long term. You are in absolute control of your site and the material it promotes. Work with brands who align with your message and will help you provide your readers the best experience. Find brands looking to connect with bloggers on a level deeper than simply reviewing their newest products. Though blogging can be a great resource for getting free stuff, if you truly want to be successful you have to be in it for more than that.