Collaborating with brands

On the longest day a few years ago I was in a conference room at The Brewery in London.   I was asked to co-chair a session on collaborating with brands.   On how working together is great for bloggers.

I didn’t prepare.   I thought it would be an interview and chat type session.   And then as I watched the sessions before me my heart sank.  My stomach churned.   It wouldn’t be like at all.   I actually had to speak.   To have some clear thoughts.

So I grabbed a notepad and wrote down ten bullet points on my “top tips for collaborating with brands”.   People came up to me afterwards and thanked me, saying they got alot out of what I said and had learned a lot.  Which was lovely.  I didn’t get to say all I had scribbled down as I was so flipping nervous.   So I have decided to write them up here for you in the hope you might also find them useful in the future if you ever want to do some collaborating with brands of your own.

Remember to read up on the ASA / CMA rules for bloggers before you start so that you are clear on disclosing ads, and then in no particular order of importance:

One voice

Is very quiet.   It is hard to get one voice, or blog noticed in the noise that is the internet.   But join those voices together, create your own campaign and noise and you will get noticed and seen.  And importantly supported.    Ten people all posting about the same thing on the same day, in their own words, gets noticed.  Create a hashtag.   Even think about creating your own campaign blog with all the background and info on it so you can ask all your Twitter followers to go there and not have to hunt through all your personal blogs to find out what #AmazingCharityThing it is you are doing.

Don’t worry too much in advance about the end

As I said on Saturday, if we had worried about the end of the Team Honk Relay when it set off in Cornwall, we never would have started.

We didn’t even have the rest of the week complete but we figured once it started it would build momentum, and boy did it?

In fact when we started Team Honk in the beginning with that Tweet that said “have you ever thought of working with bloggers” we didn’t have a plan at all.   Literally.   Just a belief that bloggers could help.   If we had sat and planned a campaign we would have never done it.   We have no idea how to form a proper plan, we just do things.

Have roles

When you get a group of people together to do things there is a tendency to have too many people all trying to do the same thing and then nothing gets done.   Or people feel they are being overlooked in favour of the louder people in the group.   It is important that everybody feels their role is important.  And if one person has a strength allow them to use it.

In the triangle that is Annie, Penny and I we had pretty clear roles.  Annie did the bulk of the website/technical stuff.   She is good at that, and enjoys it.  I am clueless.   Penny was great at saying “we need to do a video tonight of what we have learned today” and making us do it, even though we felt shattered.   I am good at emailing/tweeting celebs or just generally organising stuff and keeping an eye on what is happening.   None of resented the other, we all pitched in but we also knew what each other’s strengths were.

Also importantly on a sustained campaign we were able to pick up the slack when somebody was away / working / dealing with a sick child.   There were days when one of us said “do you know what, I have had enough of this right now, I need a day off” and we took that on board, and covered, knowing all too well it would be our turn to feel that way next week.   Recognise that this happens when you are working on something for months.


People need deadlines.   Tell them you need it next week and it won’t happen.   Tell them the following Thursday you need it tomorrow and it happens.    We had to go into over forty Facebook groups fairly regularly and chase people because there were deadlines, ie the baton arriving.    Set deadlines of when you want stuff returned / raffle prizes collected / posts published.


A bit like the playing to strengths thing above.  Listen to what people have to contribute and be open to the idea of changing how you do things based on that person’s ideas.   For Team Honk the three of us really batted ideas about and when one of us said “I think we should do this, this would be brilliant” if one of the others said “sounds great but how about we do it this wasy because then we can do this” we listened.   And invariably it worked better.


Don’t be afraid to ask.   What’s the worst that can happen.

This is actually happened in a pub during a team meeting that the Milton Keynes gang held when they were planning their part of a Team Honk fundraising route:

I wish we could have something ridiculous like an elephant

Why don’t we phone Woburn Safari Park?

cue team member picking up phone and calling them

Hi yeah, could we borrow an elephant for an hour for a charity thing we are doing?

You need public liability insurance?  For five million quid?  Hmmmm let me come back to you

cue staring at other members of the team

I run a photography company, I have public liability insurance for a million, let me call my insurer and increase it.

cue phone call and payment of £30

Hi Woburn.  About the elephant, can we come next Tuesday?

Job done.    If you don’t ask you don’t get.   We found that time and time again on the relay.   We asked and people fell over themselves trying to help us.

Hi Honda, this is a really cheeky question but we met at Mumsnet and I am doing this charity thing next month which means being away from home for a week and leaving my husband and two children without a car.   In return for masses of social media love is there anything you could do?  Love Annie

Hi Annie, sure, we can give you a car for a week with a tank of fuel, drop it off at your house and pick up.  Love  Honda

Now if you had said to me a year ago that companies would work that way I would have laughed in your face.   But honestly that is what happened.  We asked.  They helped.

Elephants in rooms

Talking of elephants.   If you are talking about raising money for breast cancer research, you sort of need to talk about breast cancer.  Or your friend that died.  Or the member of your group that has just had a mastectomy.  Or is having chemo.   Of if you raising money for Sands, you need to talk about your friend that has had the miscarriage.    With respect obviously.   But you need to talk about the issue and why this means so much to you.   As I said at the time, don’t be afraid to talk to Jennie about Matlida if you are helping her and the Lullaby Trust.   We have to talk about this painful topics as it makes what we are doing real, and make sense.

And my final piece of advice?

Don’t sit on a panel with some notes you have scribbled and then half an hour in,  when listening to one of the other panellists,  think “oh no, is the note I scribbled in an earlier session in this notepad now visible to the audience?”:



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  • Can I have that note made into a stamp? Both cyber and real???

    As you know, I run Brownies and without the collaboration it would be a mess – and on the asking front, ask people if they have skills or knowledge you don’t know about. Avoiding the awkward “but you never asked” conversation is so worth doing x

  • Oh I missed this session so thank you very much and I am hoping to join up with some local bloggers to make a difference.
    Nat x

  • Great post with great tips! If I ever need an elephant I know who to ring 🙂 Sorry I didn’t get a chance to say hi at BritMums x

  • Haha! I saw you writing that note (think it was to me?) and chuckled! LOVE that it made it to the stage! Fab post. And great tips xx

  • I came to your session because I have a couple of ideas in my head that won’t go away and thought this may help me decide whether they were worth acting on. From my point of view I found your tips the most helpful because they were things I can action.

    I wrote a fair few notes from the session, but I’m sure I didn’t write anything like your note 🙂 Thank you for speaking and sharing what you’ve learnt.