How to Deal with Brands that Take Advantage of Bloggers

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Not long ago, I wrote a post about a brand that offered to “collaborate” with me–but in a way that didn’t benefit me at all.  They wanted me to put together a post to promote their product, but they wouldn’t give me anything in return.  It’s not fair, and it’s so frustrating when this happens.  Us bloggers pour our hearts and souls into this work, and it’s not right for a company to try to take advantage of our drive and passion.

So what should you do when this happens?  Well, there are a few options.  Let’s dive in.

  1. Ignore it or say no.  If a brand reaches out to you with a collaboration proposal but doesn’t include any mention of compensation or a gift, there’s nothing wrong with deleting that email or responding with a polite “No.”  Write a template so you can have it readily available for this kind of thing.  All you need to say is something like, “Hi, Brand.  Thanks so much for reaching out.  Unfortunately, I don’t think this would be a good fit for me.”  Fluff it up however you want, but keep the sentiment the same.
  2. Explain how it’s unfair.  You can also choose to explain further about why you’re declining the brand’s collaboration.  This is the route I normally take because I want to inform brands that their practice harms bloggers.  Be tactful!  You never know when this brand could become a good partner, and you don’t want to burn any bridges.  If you go this route, you can say, “I’d love a chance to work with you, but since putting together this post requires a bit of work on my end, I would ask that I’m compensated in some way.”  It’s polite, but it’s assertive.
  3. Ask to get in touch with the sponsorship team.  Something I learned about the bra company (referenced in this post) is that their marketing department–the folks who sent the original collab proposal–is separate from their sponsorship department.  The marketing team may have no control over your compensation or freebies, so see if you can get in touch with the right people!  In this case, you can build off of step 2 and ask for some contacts on the brand’s sponsorship team.  You also might want to link to your media kit if you have one.

The only thing I’d strongly caution against is actually taking up the brand’s offer.  Doing so means you will be putting in hard work and getting absolutely no payout.

What do you guys think?  How do you respond to uncompensated collaboration proposals?

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18 thoughts on “How to Deal with Brands that Take Advantage of Bloggers

    1. Thanks! It’s always been that brands reach out to me first, so unfortunately I don’t have any good advice. However, I bet Independent Fashion Bloggers (heartifb.com) has some good articles on that!

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  1. Great advice! I totally agree it’s unfair! I went to uni for music and we face a lot of similar issues when it comes to venues. Many owners expect musicians to play for “exposure” with no pay. It’s not fair, but it’s unfortunately what many people expect us to agree to. I don’t think a lot of brands understand how much work goes into a post!

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    1. I had no idea the same thing was going on in the music world–that’s terrible. 😦 I hope that if enough people push back on the practice, brands will think twice about offering these “collaborations.” In the meantime, I guess it’s just a lot of saying no to them.

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      1. It’s really unfortunate, lot’s of people get taken advantage of like that 😦
        I hope bloggers do say no, It’s not really a collaboration if it’s one sided!

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  2. This is a great post! Glad I’m not the only one that’s had to deal with collaboration offers like this. I typically do what you said you do and respond explaining why I am declining so that hopefully they don’t offer the next blogger an unfair offer.

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    1. Unfortunately, it seems like a pretty common occurrence. 😦 I’m glad you’re responding back and explaining to these brands that it’s an unfair practice–there’s power in numbers!

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    1. Thanks! Just today I got another “offer” like this. This time for a men’s clothing company! I sent that one straight to the trash.

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  3. I’ve never had this situation come up yet, but this is very helpful for the future. It is totally unfair to bloggers for brands to expect them to create content using their product for free. I didn’t know that this was so widespread!

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    1. It seems like it’s pretty common these days. In fact, today I got another one, but this time it was for a menswear company. It’s like these brands don’t even check to see what kind of blog you have before getting in touch! So dumb.

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  4. This is such a good post Devinne. This is very helpful if I do get approached by brands which is pretty seldom. On a rare occasion I have been lost at words to decline a particular brand on collaboration when I’ve looked into their company and discover that their marketing concept does not fit well with the themes or styles I currently own.

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    1. It can feel kind of awkward when that happens,but as you continue to be approached by brands, you’ll quickly develop easy responses. And speaking of brands that don’t fit well–a menswear company asked me to do a collaboration last week. 😛

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