Q&A: Recipe Girl's Lori Lange on Working With Brands

Jan 292013
 

Lori Lange of Recipe Girl is in her 4th year of writing sponsored posts. (Photo by Amy Boring)

Lori Lange‘s food blog, Recipe Girl, made last year’s list of one of the top food blogs in the US, according to The Daily Meal. Upbeat and energetic, Lori never seems to run out of easy meal ideas.

One of the things that interests me about her blog is the way Lori works with food companies. As you know, I’m a hard nut to crack on the subject of sponsored posts. I’m no longer opposed to writing them, but I get frustrated by how few food bloggers write about products well.

Lori takes a professional approach, writing directly to potential clients in a “Work with Me” page, and creating straightforward, non-advertorial posts that always disclose she’s been compensated for products and spokesperson work.

This strategy has paid off. Last year, about a third of Lori’s income came from working with companies. The rest came from her five (!) ad networks, a forthcoming cookbook, and affiliate links.

I met Lori and her family at Food Blogger Camp in Mexico in 2010, and we’ve kept in touch. Recently we spoke about how Lori works with companies and her advice for food bloggers who want to do the same:

Q. How long had you been blogging when you decided to start doing sponsored posts?

A. I started my site in 2006 as a recipe database, and started blogging in 2008. In 2009, a major brand contacted me to develop three recipes at $350 per recipe.

Q. Do you sign contracts that spell out what you agree to do?

A. The major brands offer a contract and terms about what you can and can’t say. The larger the company, the more detailed the contract. At the very least, they want a product mention with a link, and a mention across my social network.

Q. What about disclosure?

A. Sometimes it’s spelled out in the contract. I always include it in the post. I haven’t been in the habit of saying it’s a sponsored post on social networks, though. If I do think to do it I put #spon at the end. Sometimes the contract specifies it.

Q. What kinds of sponsored posts and spokesperson work do you do?

A. Typically it’s recipe development. Sometimes it’s for a kitchen gadget, where I link to the product and show photos. Sometimes there are contests.

Q. Sometimes you put their ad directly in your post, like this McCormick post, or you insert a video. Did you have to do that?

A. There was no contract for an ad to appear in my content. They wanted an announcement about the partnership and it was up to me to share. It has to feel natural, that I’m talking to my readers and they have to be interested.

McCormick was one of my biggest projects. It was part of the contract to share the videos we created.

Lori’s Butterfinger Brownie Cookies. (Photo courtesy Lori Lange)

Q. What do you tell people who ask what you make?

A. I can’t tell someone what I get paid because that’s not necessarily what other people will be paid. You have to start somewhere.

Two hundred is an okay amount for developing a recipe, just to get your foot in the door. A lot of companies will say they don’t have the money in their marketing budget, but there are also companies that will pay $350 to $500 for the first time. It’s okay to ask for more too. The worst that can happen is that they say no.

Some bloggers get excited about coupons and $100 gift cards as payment, or exposure. But it’s okay to respond to a company and tell them what you want and what you will do for them, if you’re not willing to take a coupon. You might find that companies will pay you. Or ask for more money to develop a recipe. I’ve had really good luck with that and I know other food bloggers have too.

Q. How do food bloggers know what to charge?

A. People have to know their value. They have to look at their stats and figure out what they’re worth. People who are new to it get so excited and want to make a decision right away because someone has contacted them, but it’s important to do a lot of thinking about what’s believable for your readers. Like, are you comfortable hosting a Twitter party, or creating a Pinterest board for a brand?

Q. Have you done work that you wouldn’t do again?

A. I created a Pinterest board and it felt really wrong. Several of us did it, and we talked about it and it didn’t feel right. It’s not an exact science.

The same with Tweeting. I’ve had companies tell me what to tweet and I’ve said no way. I tweet what I want to tweet. Also if a company asks for overpromotion, like four posts in a week, that’s not believable to my readers.

Q. Will you do sponsored posts if a whole bunch of bloggers are doing posts on the same product at the same time?

A. I have, yes. I don’t prefer that. I prefer a more exlusive relationship, but that doesn’t always happen. If it’s duplicate content, then it’s a little odd. Sometimes I don’t know who else was hired and I don’t find out until we write about it. Sometimes we talk behind the scenes after we’re hired and then we find out who got paid what. Often we find that it differs quite a lot.

Q. Is it always the same group that gets the offers?

A. It’s the people who attend the blogging conferences, who are active in the community and active in their blogs. They’re the people who get themselves out there and get to know the brands on Twitter.

Q. Do you follow brands on Twitter as a strategy?

A. Sometimes I see a brand follow me and if I’m interested in them, sometimes I’ll follow them back. I do think that is a good strategy if bloggers are trying to get relationships going. They could respond to their tweets and develop a relationship.

Q. How do you distinguish between advertorial and promotion in your writing?

A. You want to be careful that you don’t sound like an advertisement. I might have fallen into that earlier on, as I’ve written more of them I’ve learned to be more personal. Some contacts ask for talking points, where they want certain language, like “cream cheese is not just for bagels anymore.” The best thing to do is get the product in your hands and use it, and that’s where that natural voice is going to come in.

Q. For what reasons would you turn down a sponsored post?

A. There’s a lot of talk about bloggers being offended by an offer. I think you just ignore it or give a polite no. You need to think about your future with this PR person who could be a more senior PR person at a big company later.

If I like the brand, but the offer’s too low, I always say something like, “Your brand is a great fit with me and my readers, so if you have a bigger budget in the future I would love to work with you.”

Q. What has come to you as a result of these relationships?

A. Bigger, more expanded lucrative projects, not just one-post offers. I’ve had brands approach me with PowerPoint presentations about why they want to work with me. I’m being taken more seriously with all the experience. Now I feel that I’m at the point where I can have a minimum fee.

I got to go on a cheese-tasting trip to Europe. That was pretty cool. And I’m speaking at BlogHer Food this year on growing your audience on Facebook and Twitter.

Q. Any final advice for readers who want to work with companies?

A. Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t let people lowball you. Come back with a better offer. People are afraid to do that, and they’d be really surprised that the brand will negotiate. Several of us were working with a brand recently, and we all found out we were getting paid vastly different amounts. Then you’re upset that you didn’t ask for more.

Talk with other bloggers to find out what their experiences are like and how they are handling working with brands. See who’s working with brands and email them to ask if they’d like to talk.

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  95 Responses to “Q&A: Recipe Girl's Lori Lange on Working With Brands”

  1. Thanks for your candid interview, Lori! I agree that many people sell themselves short. The more people that develop recipes for next to nothing (or for free, just for the ‘exposure’) does make companies think that others will do the same. So I applaud you for holding your ground, knowing your value, standing strong and for encouraging everyone to do the same. And to ask for more :) As they say, everything is negotiable!

  2. I have always been curious to know what these companies want to and expect to get out of these kinds of relationships. How can they measure the “payback”? I mean, if a blogger like Lori posts about loving McCormick Spices and puts up a couple of recipes, how does McCormick know if their money has been well spent, if her writing about them actually makes more people go to their grocery store and purchase the product?

    I think Lori has been extremely successful in turning her blog into a business – a very successful business and the dream and goal of many bloggers – but does she ever have any remorse, any nostalgia for the early days when she was posting just for herself? I am with Dianne on the topic of sponsored posts, giveaways and working with brands/companies…kind of on the fence. On one hand, so many of us would love to actually make a living from our blog, the kind of living Lori actually makes. On the other hand, many feel like it is selling out, no longer an “honest” blog. Sorry, I don’t want to make this sound bad and I thoroughly respect what Lori and others are doing, but I know many bloggers look at it this way and would love to hear Lori’s thoughts on this.

  3. Hi Jamie- I’m not sure how success is measured. I’m guessing they view it as a paid advertisement, just as they would pay for an ad on the internet or in print (the success of which would also be tough to measure).

    I write sponsored posts 2 or 3 times a month, and I post 2 or 3 times a week, so I have plenty of time for posting on topics of my own choosing. If my site was saturated with sponsored posts, that would be kind of icky, and it definitely wouldn’t be very interesting.

    When I was 1st contacted to work for a brand back in 2009, I was extremely flattered… “What? They want ME to create a recipe for them…for a brand that I already have in my kitchen? But I’m just an elementary school teacher!” I have to say that I’ve always found it rather fun to work with brands and create recipes for them. I don’t take on any projects for brands that I don’t already use in my kitchen. And some of the best recipes I’ve created have actually been for brands! If I feel weird about it in any way- like I’m selling out or not being honest- I don’t do it. It’s very easy to say no. I love my blog and the decision to add in a sponsored post now and then for a brand that I love is a natural one for me. I really do enjoy blogger/brand collaborations. And you know what? If at some point I decide I don’t like writing for anyone else anymore, it’s pretty easy to back off and just do my own thing.

    • Lori – I just have to say, I’m so glad you did this interview. You and I have almost identical approaches to brand work. I’m of the same mind, I don’t work with brands I don’t already use.. and the couple of times I did, it made me feel icky. And recipe development for a brand that you love is SO fun. I hope more and more people read this interview and realize they don’t have to take every offer God sends (even when their blog is small), and no matter what – if you’re getting comments and traffic, you have an audience. Value yourself and your audience enough to not be coerced into something that doesn’t feel authentic.

      • Great post Lori!
        I do have one comment to Amber’s reply though. – I have accepted offfers to work with a few brands I did not already use, or know and became a big fan simply because I was introduced to them in this manner.

        You still have to be really cautious, and only agree to something that sounds like it would be a good fit for you and your readers. But I’m thrilled with some of the products and brands I would have never tried or found had I not been approached to work with them. So in turn, I hope I was also able to introduce those products to some of my readers as well.

    • Thanks, Lori!

  4. Thank you so much for this Q&A, Lori & Dianne. I’m going to keep checking back on the conversation in the comments!

  5. Loved the interview ~ Lots of good, sound advice :-)

  6. Enjoyed your interview with Lori, Dianne. Well done. Informative for me as my blog is still a personal adventure, not for profit. But I do mention my fav brands in recipes and show photos :)

    The Souper

  7. I totally agree…that some of the best recipes I have created have been for brands, especially if it’s a good fit and it definitely gets you thinking creatively about a product. Greta interview answers and questions.

    And always negotiate, I almost think it’s expected and is always well received.

    • Absolutely, Cathy! I find that having a task to attend to- a promise to create- and getting that product into my hands… I sometimes can come up with some really fun and creative ideas. I once had a brand tell me (about a recipe I created for them) that no one had ever done anything like that with their product before. How cool is that?!

  8. This is a great post! I’ve been working a lot more with brands, and I turn down a lot of sponsored posts for fear of sounding like a commercial. Can you send some of your favorite links to successful sponsored posts you have done in the past?

    Do you always disclose that your post is sponsored?

  9. Thanks for this insightful post. I appreciate Lori’s candor and honesty about fees and the type of endorsement she does. I attended a panel last year on how to make money out of blogging, but the panelists were really hesitant to give a figure, which was quite frustrating from my end as part of the audience ( I paid a lot of money to hear them speak). That said, thanks once again for generously sharing this valuable info with us, Dianne. The benchmark of sorts on prices & site stats will give the rest of us an idea how to value ourselves next time we’re approached by brands. Happy Hump Day!

    • Panelists are always a little weary of talking numbers- partially because of privacy, but probably mostly because numbers for each person are going to vary quite a lot. I figure if brand approached me four years ago (mind you… in 2009 my blog was not well known or even well traveled) and offered me $350 per recipe, I figure that’s as good a place as any to start negotiating if you don’t have much experience yet. And $500 is a nice, round number too. Just make sure it seems like the right fit for both you and your readers, and don’t let the numbers sway you too much.

    • The thing about giving a figure is that you have to be careful when in print or online. I can’t do it on my blog posts because it might be considered price-fixing. But if someone calls me or if client wants counseling on the subject, then that’s no problem.

  10. This is very timely for me. I’m a newbie at all this but I want to get into the game. This was very helpful guidance for me. This tells me it’s possible. I’m bookmarking this for future use. Thank you. :)

  11. Dianne, you couldnt have picked a better person to talk on this subject! Lori does a great job of not only pursuing the income and relationships she desires, but sharing her experiences so other bloggers can learn. Have to miss blogher food this year (as it falls on my due date!) but I am sure Lori’s room will be packed and the people will walk away better for having heard her and Kristen of Dine & Dish.

  12. Interesting subject and an informative interview! I say, whatever feels right to the blogger, then go ahead and do it. The only issue I have, which you both mention, is that people sell themselves short, just for the sake of having been asked or because they want exposure, which diminishes quality in the industry. Sure, there are lots of average (and awful) writers out there, but the good ones should set the standard. Not always easy, I know!

  13. Great interview! Lori, you have always been candid and willing to share what you have learned. You have encouraged me to attend the big food conferences, but I truly can not make it BlogHer Food because of my kids’ school schedule. I can’t drop everything and fy across the country to attend another conference on the east coast. Do you really feel that the big conferences are a must?

    • Hey Laura! I’d love to get you to BlogHerFood one of these days! I just think it’s great to get involved in the community in general, and if you can do that through social media and attending some of the more local conferences, then that’s okay too. I enjoy hitting the big conferences now and then… it’s really great to finally connect w/ people you’ve known on the internet for years, and you have the opportunity to come in contact w/ some of the brands at the big conferences too.

  14. Love this interview Dianne, and that you featured a blogger like Lori who is forging the way in this still-new media outlet called blogging. Lori, thank you for freely sharing your fees and the behind the scenes process of working with brands. The process is somewhat like the illusion of the Great Oz, often veiled behind the curtain that only a select few have the opportunity to see but so many are curious about.

    Like Betty Ann, this past week I attended a conference with several bloggers who were all discouraged at the lack of transparency from the speakers, who would tease with just enough info to be credible, but didn’t divulge many real stats or advice to absorb into our own lives and business lessons.

    Sponsored posts were one of the main topics everyone talked about after the conference. What do you charge? How do you create content so it doesn’t sound like a martian came down and took over your blog to hard sell a product just for a the Benjamins?

    Earlier in the week I was following a Facebook conversation with a few food bloggers about sponsored posts, discussing whether they’re good, bad or indifferent. Some bloggers were on the fence, some thought of them as offensive with zero credibility, and some were perfectly accepting of them if the content was authentic and fit the tone of the blog.

    I’m of the latter opinion and like Lori, believe if working relationships are done the right way, with the right fit of company & blogger, with the number one goal of the content authentically delivered, readers in the end will reap the benefits. WIth compensation to help support all that goes into running a blog from grocery shopping to software and hardware updates to conference attending, added income allows bloggers to devote themselves to growing their business. In turn they can create more products that benefit the reader, ranging from ebooks, video how-tos, cookbooks, magazines, curating Etsy shops, speaking at or creating workshops and most importantly creating more original content on their blogs.

    Similar to other media outlets like radio and television, a blog’s content is free for readers and like NBC vs. HBO vs. PBS, happily there are many blogs that have chosen to remain ad-free so every reader has a home to visit and be comfortable with. Readers/consumers are conditioned to seeing advertising in multiple formats from magazine ads to logos on sports team’s uniforms to even simple bus benches. Adding sponsored advertisers to editorial is nothing new (magazines and newspapers) but since blogging is still considered an emerging media outlet, its start was pure and uncluttered, free from ads, and many will prefer it to remain that way and I give them a big pump fist for their philosophy. But with so much good content that’s created’97for free’97advertisers have taken note of the power of these authentic voices, and are trying to figure out the best way to capture and expand both their’s and the blogger’s brand to reach to an emerging, profitable and devout demographic.

    It certainly isn’t a science with brands and bloggers testing the relationship waters, doing some things right and some things wrong. I can’t imagine how the “norm” of blogging and compensation will change in the next few years, but rest assured, it will.

    However, I do firmly believe consumers and readers appreciate the work that goes into creating content and they are happy to support their favorite bloggers who make money from their blogs. If they didn’t, bloggers like Lori wouldn’t be riding the wave of success they are, influencing and giving hope to the little guys that we too can be successful in our own businesses as content providers and influencers in this mystical land of blogging.

    • Heidi, thanks for this long comment. I’d rather have a display ad than a sponsored post, but that’s just how I do it.

      Re the conferences, I get mad too when people won’t give figures. People attend to get that kind of information, but maybe it’s a question of contacting the person privately afterwards. I also get mad when a huge blogger throws out a figure and it’s so far from what the rest of us could ever ask for that it’s not helpful either.

      Lori has relationships with other bloggers who write sponsored posts. She can ask them what they are charging and they can exchange information. That’s really valuable.

      • see how different everyone is – I much rather see a sponsored post that is organic (not all full of technical lingo the brand gave you to use) and hear from my favorite bloggers on how they used the product. That is much more likely to get me to go out and try that product than I would from seeing an ad in a sidebar.

        But it is a big turn off when the sponsored post is not done authentically. That’s why it make such a big difference when you work with brands and products that fit your site. – I would love to hear about what cookware you like Dianne, even if it was sponsored, because I value your words, and trust that you wouldn’t write about cookware just because you were being paid.

        Personally, I also write non sponsored posts about products I use and love, because I really DO love sharing what I love with my readers (not only because I’m being paid to share it)

        As for the speakers sharing what they get paid, besides a privacy issue, it can really vary so greatly it’s hard to give a set figure. I’ve shared numbers with bloggers that I’ve mentored and some times they get discouraged instead in encouraged because they say they don’t get those offers, or are turned down when they try to negotiate for more. Like Lori said, it’s great to have a support system of other bloggers that are getting similar offers where you can discuss numbers with.

        • Hi Cheryl,

          Yes, I agree that it helps to be able to ask people about price, particularly those at the same level. That is a benefit of being a member of an organization, an attendee at a conference, or someone who has forget good relationships through social media.

          I think it’s great that you write about products that are not sponsored as well. I particularly like your tagline: “This is NOT a sponsored post’85’85’85I just love my DC35 so much, I had to share!” You may want to put it earlier in the post, in case people don’t read all the way to the end.

    • Thanks for your input Heidi! You’re an inspiration to me since you do some pretty creative things with your blogging business that others have never thought of… EBooks and an online magazine!… love it.

  15. I loved reading this interview Lori. While I’m not a newbie blogger, I haven’t really put much effort into developing business relationships before. I think I’ve been too intimidated to try, but this is great information for me to get the ball rolling. :)

  16. Dianne, Thank you so much for this informative interview. I’m new to the world of blogging and this is an area that I don’t have much knowledge of. Lori, thank you for being so candid about fees and endorsements. I’m going to refer back to this article many times I’m sure. You mentioned food blogging conferences were important to attend to establish contacts, are there a couple that you’d strongly recommend for a beginner? Thanks again.

    • Joanne, I’m not sure whether you’re asking me or Lori about food blogger conferences, but for a newbie, I’d recommend the smaller ones like IFBC and Food Blog South. BlogHer Food can be a little overwhelming, with 500 people, but it’s excellent.

    • I agree w/ Dianne. I’d start with some of the more intimate gatherings- maybe something that is regional or closer to where you live. The big conferences can definitely be a little overwhelming if you don’t know a lot of people, but they’re also fun for meeting those folks you’ve been chatting up on the internet for quite some time. I always really enjoy BlogHer Food.

  17. I was so excited to see this interview in my email box this morning! Last year I worked with 3 brands to develop recipes and I LOVED IT! Each time I was contacted by the company. It was a fantastic expereince and would love to do more. I felt it was a win win win situation. Win for my readers to learn about a new recipe with a great product, win for the company to get some promotion, and win for me for getting paid. When it is done correctly sponsored posts are a great fit for a food blog. I don’t think it is selling out AT ALL – especially when done the right way.

    My question is how to go about pursuing more of these opportunities. I know you said to build relationships on Twitter and other social media outlets but what are your thoughts on joining different networks like blogfrog, foodie blogroll, etc. Do you feel it is better to work with these networks or to seek out the partnerships on our own?

    Thanks Lori!

    • You’re exactly right- when done right, a sponsored post can be a win-win situation for everyone. I too get excited about working with a new product. Often-times it turns into a fun family discussion, and we all talk about possible ideas for what to try with the product that has just arrived in our kitchen! I don’t know anything about joining networks to develop brand relationships. And I’ve never actually approached a brand myself! My relationships with brands are developed organically- sometimes I’ll link to a brand that I use in one of my regular posts, and someone will notice it and contact me. Or sometimes I’ll chat the brand on Twitter or FB and someone will take notice there. If I were interested though, I would definitely let them know!

  18. I love Lori’s blog and have always felt that her posts are honest and I do not feel like she is selling anything, but sharing her experience. As a consumer, I love to hear about new products from blogs, because I can get a feel for what it is and if I would want to try it. As a blogger, I am new to working with companies so this information is very timely for me. Thank you for sharing this interview Dianne & congratulations on your success Lori!

  19. Great, informative interview, Dianne. A question I have for Lori is if she ever identifies a company or product she wants to work with and approaches them first. For example, let’s say she’s a huge fan of Hershey’s Cocoa for baking, would she ever contact them and propose working together?

    • Hi Katie- I’ve never actually approached a brand, but I’m not adverse to that idea at all! If you use a brand frequently or if there is something that you absolutely love, go for it! Come up with a proposal- a plan for how exactly you’d like to collaborate with the company, find the right contact person, and send it along. I think companies appreciate creative suggestions for partnerships.

  20. Generic Sildenafil Citrate does not 50mg cialis cure.

    This was a very thoughtful interview. I appreciate that Lori mentioned that there is no “one size fits all approach.” I’ve been to many panels at conferences on this topic where the well-established bloggers have shared what works for them and then people feel like they HAVE to do it one way or another. I agree that what works for someone, might not work for someone else. In my opinion, the people who will rise to the top – in any industry – are the ones who are business savvy and professional.

    • Thanks Maris. I do agree in general that there shouldn’t be just one way to write a sponsored post, but there are 3 standards to uphold, in my view: Selecting a product that’s appropriate for your blog, not writing advertorial, and being transparent to your readers about payment or freebies in the post.

  21. Some of my favorite recipes from your blog, Lori, are ones that you created for brands. And you don’t sound like an advertisement, it’s obvious you LOVE the product. Thank you so much for your candid interview! I can’t wait to hear you speak at BlogHer Food :)

  22. Love this, Lori! Thank you! Have you ever tried a new product from a company (expecting to develop a recipe with it and/or write a sponsored post) but you ended up not liking the product? How did you handle it with the PR rep or company?

  23. Great interview, Diane. Thought provoking as always. As much as I admire Lori’s panache, I have had to question the entire idea of sponsored posts in general. From one perspective they’re no different than the glossy sections in magazines that have “advertisement” printed at the top of each page (which I skip), and from another, a commercial I might see while watching TV — and hopefully not the “sponsored” sort on a cable channel. If done well, then I’ll watch. If not, I won’t. Ultimately, I’d just like to know there is a recipe I might be interested in trying with products I’d normally consider and that’s more about personal preference than anything else. As much as I know that blogging, like so much else on the web, continues to evolve, I think I would be disappointed if the personal aspect of it all disappeared because of the turn to commercialism.

    Brands should be comfortable paying for something less blatant than a sponsored post. Think about it. Television shows “sponsor” brands all the time on their sets — as do films. It is up to to the viewer to recognize the product. Subtlety is everything to me, I guess. Lori has provided excellent information for those interested in working with brands and I admire her for that!

    • Subtlety might turn into subterfuge. Which is even more inmoral and also illegal. I want to know upfront that the blogger was paid and I can make an informed decision on wether to use the product or not depending on the blogger’s credibility.

      My third most popular recipe in 11 years was for an avocado brand. I am sure people are smart enough to know that they can use another brand of avocados, should they wish to do so.

      I prefer Lori’s honest approach.

      • I just reread what I wrote and don’t believe I implied even the slightest bit that anyone should be dishonest with respect to being sponsored. Nor did I suggest that anyone should avoid declaring that he or she is being paid to write a sponsored post. In much the same way that athletes wear brands they are being sponsored by, it would make sense that a food blogger be paid to use certain products, brands clearly displayed in photos. And yes, that should be disclosed.

        • Sorry if I misinterpreted this: “Brands should be comfortable paying for something less blatant than a sponsored post.” This is what I was referring to. I don’t want any kind of subtlety when it comes to advertising. I want it to be as open and blatant as possible (blatant might be the wrong word though). I resent “placements” in movies. For example, Stephen Colbert is always going on and on about how much he loves his Apple gadgets, and I can believe that, I am an Apple user myself, and I like that he is open on his being paid for it. That is good placement.

          Placement in movies are quite dishonest, even if we all know about it.

          I have turned down offers because the sponsor wanted to be “subtle”, like a link that stays unmentioned, or a picture of their product in my pictures, I find that deceiving, and possibly illegal. Not that I am saying that you are suggesting this, but this is a slippery slope that I will not want to get on.

          Trust me, I know where you are going with this. In a perfect world the user will pay us for our work. Sort of like many European countries have channels free of advertisement supported by taxes on TV sets. Or subscriber-based channels like HBO. Alas, this is far from a perfect world, some of us have to find a way to support ourselves when we are investing many hours of our day and a bunch of money doing this.

    • Yes, I understand. I am not a fan of sponsored posts in general.

      You brought up the issue of advertorial in magazines. But in that case, someone else writes the copy. In blogging, you’re wearing all the hats, so you have to figure it out yourself.

      Companies know that a feature in the blog post itself is more valuable than a display ad. That’s why they’re going for it. It’s up to bloggers to be professional. Lori posts 3x per week and most of her posts are not advertisements for a product. If she did that, she’d have many fewer readers.

  24. Thanks, Lori and Diane, for the candid interview.

    I also write sponsored posts, and I am also very picky about the brands I work with. They have to fit the theme of my blog, my commitment to good, healthy food, and it can’t sound too much like an informercial. I have turned down incredibly lucrative offers because the product had nothing to do with the theme of my site (glasses, baby product, even a bed). In some cases because the product is not something I would use or even recommend in good faith. I also space out the posts to no more than one in 8 posts.

    I agree with Lori that some of my best recipes have come from the challenge of working with a brand. Some brands I love, and recommend in real life all the time.

  25. Great interview and great tips! I am getting contacted more recently, and am actually putting a price on my time. It is surprising what companies will do. But like you said, you have to do it with a brand you love, or it just isn’t genuine!

    • Companies are going to try all kinds of techniques to get what they want. So the trick is to learn what you’re comfortable with, what is ethical, and why your readers trust you to do the right thing.

  26. What a valuable, nuts-and-bolts post.
    Thanks to both of you, Dianne, and Lori.
    I’d really be interested in learning more about how I can better use Twitter to promote my blog.
    Facebook, I rock. But Twitter is such a chore, and I really am not utilizing it in such a way that it is either enjoyable or valuable.
    I would love to read any posts you know of on that subject, Dianne. I’d also love to hear Lori’s input, but I’m not sure I can afford to go to BlogHer Food.

  27. Wonderful interview with Lori, as the other comments mentioned it’s refreshing to have her share what’s she has learned with everyone!

  28. Thank you, Dianne! This has been yet another outstanding interview to spark further discussion with food bloggers. This interview with Lori of Recipe Girl ranks right up there with the David Leite and Melissa Joulwan interviews’97my favorites thus far. And, this one is now a favorite as well.

    Lori, you had me at 1) bloggers should know their value (although this is difficult for beginners in any given field), 2) knowing what is believable to readers and drawing the line with what you are willing to state or not state in your sponsored posts to keep your established branded natural voice alive in order to maintain the trust of your readers and 3) your thoughts on negotiating. People tend to forget it is actually expected. It is a dance, or volley back and forth, similar to when salary negotiating. The offer being extended is just the starting point to find middle ground where both parties are happy and satisfied.

    I also appreciate your example of how to politely say “no” if an opportunity is not a good fit for whatever reason. Politeness in business relationships is essential’97even when you must say “no”. You never know what may come your way in the future or if that particular contact moves to another company. Each contact should be treated as a future contact down the road. People will always remember how you treated them and handled yourself’97whether professional or otherwise.

    Lori, I also liked how when you decided that when something just didn’t feel right (felt wrong) you immediately changed course as cited in your Pinterest board example. I applaud your decision and you for sharing the story with us.

    Meanwhile, Lori, I look forward to your social media talk to grow audience & brand presence at BHF in June and meeting you in person. Again, thank you for sharing as well as for all your support and outstanding leadership.

    Dianne, thanks again for yet another terrific interview. I don’t know how you manage to always top yourself!

  29. Great interview Dianne, I am sure many bloggers will find it valuable. I think every blogger has to find out what they feel comfortable with, and be upfront with the fact they are recieving a product for reveiew for free, or that the post is a sponsored one. Lori has been very successful with her sponsored posts but at the same time does it with integrity. After almost 12 years of blogging I am often approached to do sponsored posts, or product reviews, but if it isn’t something I love personally I turn them down, no matter what the compensation.

    It is difficult to know what your value is, or what you should charge though. Years ago I was approached by a brand to create 4 recipes at $400 each and did so. It was easy for me from that point on to state that is my price which has worked well for me. If the brand allows me to use the recipe as well, I decrease the price.

    • Agreed, Deborah. I am definitely not comfortable doing them, and of course I think there is a right and a wrong way.

      Re knowing your value, the best way is to talk with other people who do the same thing. That is the value of getting to know them on social media or attending conferences — you can form relationships where you feel comfortable picking up the phone.

  30. Thanks for the candid interview, Lori. I really appreciate how upfront you are being. These are the things that few know about, but nearly everyone wants to.

    I have a related question – I don’t get approached by brands who want to pay me, but I mostly consider my blog something to support my cookbooks, so I’m not looking to do sponsored posts. My question is – at what level of traffic can I expect to stop getting approached by cheeky companies looking to have me do a giveaway for them for free (despite my explicit language that I don’t do that)? It’s not just the bother (although it is annoying), it’s also the audacity!

    I’ve wondered this for quite a while. Do you think there is a threshold of traffic where the tide starts to turn?

    Thank you so much again!

    Best,
    Nicole

    • “at what level of traffic can I expect to stop getting approached by cheeky companies looking to have me do a giveaway for them for free..Do you think there is a threshold of traffic where the tide starts to turn?”

      My short answer: no. I get ridiculous offers every single day- all day long! I suppose we’d have to ask Ree or Elise to be certain, but I’ll bet these things come through to all of us, regardless of how many years we’ve been blogging or how much traffic we have.

      The problem is- I don’t think some of the PR folks take the time to learn anything about you before approaching. They spot your email addy and shoot off a request. It’s a bummer that we have to weed through all of the crud to find the nice offers.

  31. […] creating sponsored blog posts has been showing up everywhere I look lately. Dianne took a stab at exploring the topic of sponsored posts with Lori who shares her successful recipe for working with brands. While I could have made […]

  32. Very interesting post.
    I literally love the “Work with me” page. It’s correct, transparent, clear. It helps readers, bloggers, and companies. I’m thinking about my “Work with me” page. I’ve already updated my profile after your previous post on transparency. That’s helped a lot. One firm mentioned to have read it.
    I appreciate also the Recipe Girl position on “People have to know their value”. It isn’t just a matter to get paid. And great is the advice to “fight” for a better offer and ask other blogger what amount charge. I did that way for my 1st brand blogger experience.
    Till now I’ve had just one continuous and paid experience with a brand, quite big. I’m writing a weekly column on a bread blog managed by a multinational brand. I’m the only blogger and I hope to continue that experience.

    With spot collaboration, I admit to find difficulties in critize a product. I prefer to select it, to think about its quality before to become a brand blogger even if just for a single post. I pretend full indepence in the choice of recipes.

    • Yes, Lori did a great job with that page.

      It sounds like you’re doing well with your weekly column, Rosella. And criticizing a product adds value for your readers, if you are writing a review. All-positive writing get pretty dull after a while.

  33. So happy to see this positive post about working with companies! Back in my early years of creating online content, I didn’t want the influence of companies to affect what I was doing. Now I have many readers who say that they come to my site to actually find out about new products, check my ads, and see what I recommend. As long as it is a product and company that I stand behind, I now realize that these types of relationships can be beneficial for everyone.

    Thanks for doing such a great job in representing this side Lori!

  34. I have an honest question for both you and Lori, Dianne. It was sparked by Alisa, the commenter just above. At what point did companies stop calling themselves that — “companies” or even “corporations” and instead start calling themselves brands? The word “brand” has a much softer edge, and I do feel like there’s been an intentional linguistic shift. Somehow, working for a big conglomerate sounds less cozy than working for a “lifestyle brand” or a “culinary brand,” which sounds appealing in a very different way. Am I splitting hairs?

    Again, no judgment here whatsoever. Lori’s a tremendous businesswoman. Just an observation/curiosity.

    • Lori calls them “brands.” I call them “companies.” No, you’re not splitting hairs, Cheryl. I don’t think a brand (ex. product) can hire you, but a company can.

  35. Loved this interview, Dianne! Lori, such a wealth of information for everyone. You are amazing and a true inspiration to so many of us! I can’t wait to see you again this year at BlogHer Food. Keep up the amazing work; you are incredible and I truly love reading your posts and making your recipes for myself and my family! One of my favorite parts about BlogHer Food last year was meeting you and having so much fun with you! Love what you are doing- you deserve it.
    xoox

  36. Just in the middle of reading your book and can I say my eyes have been opened and my brain filled with some great strategies and information. Great interview and I cannot wait to explore you blog some more.

  37. More valuable advice for bloggers, thanks Dianne.
    I think it is very important that those who chose to work with brands to know what to charge. It’s all very well encouraging bloggers to make sure they charge for their time, but they need to have some idea of the market rate. And thank you Lori for being so open and sharing some of the secrets to your success.

    • I’m not sure there are market rates, Amanda. Some companies pay well and some pay next to nothing. Remember that getting a $25 product constitutes payment, and there are lots of bloggers willing to write hype in exchange.

  38. Great post. I, too, have been curious for quite some time about how this whole sponsor thing works. It also helps to know how you deal with them in terms of ethics and personal integrity. Thank you.

  39. Well done! Thank you Dianne for interviewing Lori and to Lori for sharing such great advice from years of experience and wisdom gained. Good one to bookmark and refer back to. Appreciate her insight on knowing and establishing your value, and standing up for it in a polite way. “Your brand is a great fit with me and my readers, so if you have a bigger budget in the future I would love to work with you.” Nicely said.

  40. I love Lori’s honest and straightforward advice. This is wonderfully written and so helpful to me. I’ve only recently decided to begin working with brands and feel baffled by the process. I’ve run a business for fourteen years, but the business of blogging seems to be something else altogether. Thank you so much for this post!

    • You’re welcome Caroline, and good luck. Having a blog is a business for many people. They need skills I’m sure you’ve already developed, particularly marketing and sales!

  41. […] Q&A: Recipe Girl’s Lori Lange on Working with Brands […]

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