Sponsored Content Creation – The Timeline of Content Creation
Sponsored content creation: It may not be the end-game for some people, but it is exciting territory to explore. If you’ve worked hard on your blog or social media outlet of choice, to have a business or PR firm each out to you for a paid collaboration is encouraging. Do not let Imposter Syndrome bog you down: You have clearly produced stellar work that has caught someone’s eye, and you are of value to them. Don’t fret about your follower numbers on Instagram: If you are producing great content on your blog + social media platforms and have great engagement with your followers on said platforms, that is what they are eying.
It is easy to think that the life of a content creator is simple. Shoot a photo, throw on the Clarendon Filter on Instagram, expect hundreds of likes, and call it a day.
Any content creator that has done sponsored posts (or even free product posts) knows that it is not that simple. It take a lot of work, time, and energy; if you split that with a full-time job – common among most content creators I personally know in New York City – you definitely have to balance, whether it’s carving out dedicated time on a weekend to bang out your work or photographing a recipe on your lunch break that you cooked the night before. Most times, there will be ample back and forth between businesses or PR firms with edits or suggestions of what will eventually be the final content shown, so factor that into the equation.
In this post, I’ll share the lifecycle of a sponsored content I posted in December 2020 for a well-known hard seltzer brand. From first outreach to day of posting, 47 days elapsed: October 16th – December 2nd. (Did I do that math right?) Let me take you through the abbreviated steps! (Well, abbreviated in Allison terms. I’ll always be long-winding even when I’m trying to be succinct. Ha!)
NOTE: As always, I am speaking on behalf of one of my personal experiences, and similar experiences will vary from content creator to content creator. Take this post as guidance only!
Sponsored Content Creation – Outreach From Business or PR Firm
On October 16th, I received an e-mail in my inbox from a PR company with offices in NYC and out the the Plains. Its subject line about their holiday product campaign involving a well-known hard seltzer brand piqued my interest, so I scrolled through the body of the e-mail.
I’ll be frank: Since I currently work in health care in the midst of a pandemic, I’ve been very selective of sponsored content, and I did not create any between the end of May through November 2020, despite pitches. But this particular pitch grabbed me because it involved the holidays, recipe development, and it showcased a product I would purchase & consume of my own volition. More importantly, I know many of my followers would gravitate towards it because I’ve seen them post about this product on their respective social media accounts; this could provide those interested in trying a hard seltzer incentive to purchase this, and it could provide my followers that already consume it with incentive to buy more for the holidays or try out newest flavors. (A collaboration that is mutually beneficial – a partnership, if you will! – is key!) That PR pitch checked of a lot of boxes at once for me! I responded back that I was interested and would love to learn more about how the campaign, and a phone call with my PR representative was set up for three days later.
Sponsored Content Creation – Contracts & Price Negotiation
I was in grad school from 2012 – 2014, and I hold an MS of Communications & Information Management. One class I had to take was Business Law, which I both loved and loathed. While the content of the class was interesting, I failed to see how Business Law would have any bearing towards my future career goals. Mind you, at this time, Seek Satiation was merely a Twitter account I’d post my food photos on, not the sole proprietorship I have now. (<— See? Business Law words. Ha!) But wow, when it comes to looking over contracts, I am grateful I got that course under my belt.
As I spoke over the phone a few days later with my PR representative, she gave me a fuller pitch of the sponsored collaboration and drove more deeply into the finer details, especially legal details. Upon finishing up our phone call – which lasted roughly 20 minutes – I immediately received the contract and any other related legal documents in my inbox.
This is important: Ask your PR person for clarification on any contract details, and never sign blindly! Some contracts are long, but you want to read through them completely to suss out anything that may be confusing or nebulous. If you are not used to reading legalese, do not be embarrassed to ask your PR Representative, “Could you explain *this* to me in further detail?”
Many content creators may have multiple sponsored posts within a month, or even within the same week, though clauses in respective contracts may butt heads. I had a clause in this hard seltzer contract in which I could not post any competing brand’s hard seltzers within X amount of time from my original post. Two days prior to my hard seltzer posting date, I posted sponsored content for a gin brand out of Canada; luckily, promoting other alcohols that weren’t hard seltzer left me in compliance with this contract. You never want to get yourself into that tight spot where you may do something to nullify your contract, so read read read!
When it comes to price negotiation – and this comes before signing your signature on that final contract! – it can be easier for people that have produced sponsored content before. Everyone has their first sponsored collaboration in which they are asked, “Okay, what is your price?” Do your research if you are curious or unsure of what to ask for – and definitely look back at my previous post which touches upon this subject! – and just ask when it comes time to! Worst case scenario? They say “no” to your ask and counteroffer. If you don’t like their counteroffer, you haven’t signed a contract and can politely decline; even offer for them to get back in touch with you at another point in they think their budget will change, because you never know! No harm, no foul, in my opinion.
In addition, make sure your payment time is clear as day in that contract. Whether your contract says immediate payment upon posting of content or Net-60 (i.e. they have up to 60 days to pay you after posting date), make sure there is no questions about when you will be getting paid. Especially for projects that are in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, make sure their end of the deal for payment is held up.
Sponsored Content Creation – Creating Content!
Eventually, you do need to create that content, doncha?
(Did the title of this post give that away?)
Pay attention to deadlines in your contract, schedule ample time to work on whatever elements you need to work on, and reach out to your PR Representative if you think you may have issues abiding to your deadline if an issue arises. Though I’ve always made my deadlines, I know other NYC-based content creators that have had issues arise – life happens! – and even with a deadline firmly in place in their contracts, reaching out to ask for an extra day or two for unforeseen circumstances is better than ghosting them and delivering them their content two days late without explanation. You will not be in good standing. The content creators I spoke with said virtually all businsses and PR firms appreciated them contacting them and were not penalized.
For me, I had a few tasks to handle for this particular hard seltzer campaign:
- Write out / sketch out photo concepts for one photo that could be used on both Facebook and Instagram, three Instagram Stories photos that were different than the Facebook / Instagram photo, and one final photo for Pinterest that was different from all of the aforementioned photos. In addition, I had to shoot two completely different photos featuring the hard seltzers with a shopping bag from an internationally-known chain store that they were going to use in said store’s paid Instagram and Facebook advertising. *phew*
- Figure out a simple holiday recipe that would match with the flavors of the seltzer I was promoting while also promoting the campaign’s general “stay home and safe due to this pandemic, but still whip up some amazing food in your kitchen to eat along with this hard seltzer” theme.
- Buy the seltzer for photographing + buy the ingredients for the recipe. (I was given the money up front to purchase the hard seltzers and food.)
- Test the recipe.
- Photograph according to contractual obligations.
- Edit photos.
- Create captions.
- Send photos and captions to PR Representative for approval.
Everything mentioned above took a cumulative 6 hours spread out among various weekend days in late October and early November, as I had a November 15th deadline to submit to my PR Representative for approval.
Granted, there have been times when I have spent as little as two to three hours doing all of that for smaller campaigns, especially ones that don’t need pre-approval from a business or PR firm before posting. Back in November 2020, I even did a paid campaign with a bread company in which I spent about 90 minutes TOTAL on. 😆 But this hard seltzer collaboration was the biggest one I had done, so it’s a prime example of how much work can go into a campaign that has so many moving parts: Recipe development, various different photos for different social media platforms, and the fact that I was technically shooting content for two different brands, the hard seltzer brand and the chain store brand.
Sponsored Content Creation – Posting Sponsored Content
Finally! The posting date! That first e-mail arrived on October 16th, I worked my butt of on weekends in late October and early November, the November 15th due date arrived, and on November 28th, I got the “This is a-okay to post!” e-mail to wrap it all up. On December 2nd, I was able to post my long-worked on content across various platforms, and I also got to see my photos appear in Instagram and Facebook ads for that chain store later that night.
I also learned on my posting day that Pinterest has a 500 character limit in its pin description box, which required some same day copyediting, but nothing like a small emergency to get the heart racing. Ha! That’s a fuller story for another time.
Sponsored Content Creation – Payment
In your contract, as mentioned above, there should be an agreed-upon payout date for your work. Make sure that is held to. If you do not receive payment by the date listed in your contract, reach out to your PR Rep or their finance team to make sure your contract is being adhered to. A contracted payout date = you should have no issues simply asking.
Sponsored Content Creation – In Conclusion
Like I said in the beginning of this post: Content creation looks so easy online. A few snaps and its online. The reality? The entire process of sponsored content creation can take days, or it can take weeks and months before all is said and done.
I used this example of my hard seltzer / chain store experience because its the most extreme I’ve had to deal with; that being said, it covers so many bases that fellow content creators have had to deal with and is the most comprehensive experience that I can share with you, my readers.