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Last week the blogging world was rocked by scandal, trending on Twitter with its own hashtag. I don’t want to get into a huge argument over who was right or who was wrong because I saw fault on both sides of the argument. Basically, a blogger wrote a pitch, the company responded with a snarky public response, and the whole thing became ugly. As a blogger, pitching companies comes with the territory if you want to get paid. You can never control how the people on the other side of the proposal respond, but you mitigate the damage to your brand through professionalism.

Address your pitch to a specific person.

This very first tip is the most important. No one wants to get a pitch addressed to hey, hi guys, or hello {company name here}. If you don’t know the name of the person you are sending your letter to within a company, you are not ready to pitch that company!

Research the company.

You must know the history of the company, the values they hold, and most importantly, their philosophy. When you collaborate with a brand, your name becomes intertwined with theirs. If their values and philosophy do not line up with yours, the mismatch could end up hurting your brand permanently. Everything that company does, becomes a reflection of your brand.

Anticipate how the company will respond to you.

This is a difficult thing, but with some social media sleuthing you can find this information out. Check out their Twitter feed – do they respond with a humorous comment that may be borderline offensive? Pay close attention to their reviews – do they respond kindly to negative or low reviews? Do they ignore them? Do they try to justify their actions or validate the customer’s complaint? These things can guide you to how the company is likely to treat you.

Ask for nothing.

This is hotly debated in the blogging world, but I’m prepared to tell you why I recommend this. When you are pitching a company for the first time, there is no established relationship to garner good will. Instead, I recommend offering the company something first. Tell them what you can deliver that will have benefit to the company. Give them concrete ideas on what your services can deliver – such as weekly Instagram posts for an entire month, or a 20 minute YouTube video that you promote on Twitter every day for a week. Instead of rattling off your follower count, tell them the statistics of participation with your various media. Having 10,000 Twitter followers means nothing if only 20 people are retweeting or commenting. Also avoid generalities such as working with another company that saw a great benefit. Offer them the name of the employee within the other company and let them be your reference. (Always ask before giving out someone’s name as a reference.)

Know your worth.

But allow the company to set the minimum bar to open the negotiation. This gives the company time to research you and decide your worth to them. For instance, instead of asking for a free hotel room for a week, give them the dates of when you’ll be in the area. Leaving it open allows the company to offer you a freebie, or an upgrade as long as you book a standard room. Companies receive pitches from bloggers everyday – if someone offers even a single night less than you do, you have potentially lost the deal.

Remain professional.

You cannot control what a company does once they receive your proposal. Some companies will make it public as a method of embarrassing you and/or getting a few laughs and free publicity. Others will respond to you with disdain as if you aren’t even worth working with. You may get no response at all. You cannot control any of this. By crafting a professional proposal, you have ensured that your brand will come off looking great in any of those scenarios. And please, no matter how a brand responds, do not jump into the muck. Remain professional and give no excuses or explanations for your proposal should things become public. Remember, future companies will look to see what happens when you get rejected and they won’t risk getting tarnished if you or your followers got nasty in the past – they move on to the next person.

I am by no means a marketing expert. I’ve gathered this information through my own experience and the experiences of others. As a freelance writer, I make pitches to clients on a daily basis, usually competing with several hundred other writers (or more!) for each opportunity. Pitching to a company usually boils down to the fit of the two brands, but following these steps will give you are professional starting point if you are new to marketing yourself. Leave any suggestions you have in the comments, we can all learn from each other’s failures and mistakes.

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